Tuesday, May 31, 2011

The Right Words

I used to say my favorite three words to hear were, “You are right.” No matter what the circumstance or relationship, hearing I am right, used to give me great satisfaction. I didn’t care about the cost of being right or the benefit either. I needed to be acknowledged as the right one, the only one.

The problem with wanting to be right all the time is that you aren’t right, you are just you with your point of view, feelings and life experiences. There is not a universal truth committee reviewing all sides of every situation determining who the ultimate winner is…there is not one truth, there are many.

I learned this the hard way in my relationship with my sister and I lost a few years of time holding my ground and fighting for acknowledgement of my “rightness.” Even after my father died, after we had reconciled and worked through a lot of our issues, I could not give up my need to be right.

The turning point came a few years ago when a small incident became a large one and soon we were in conflict again and not speaking. The longer we were separated the harder it became for me to believe in the value of being right, and after realizing how much I had hurt her feelings, it didn’t seem important whether or not I had a point, it seemed stupid and petty.

It became clear to me I was giving up a vital connection to someone I loved to be right. And in wanting to be right I was choosing not to see my own culpability. I was choosing to be the righteous victim.

I remember the exact moment when everything changed for me. I was sitting in my living room listening to a bird singing and I felt a great sadness take over me. I wanted to speak to my sister. I wanted to be connected to her again more than I wanted to be right. I decided I would do whatever it took to make it right with her.

I started with an apology and I listened and acknowledged her hurt. I made room for her perspective and I worked at understanding her point of view. What struck me the most was when she said, “I knew why you were so mad, and I wasn’t upset with you for that, I just didn’t understand why you couldn’t see it from my perspective.”

I told her the truth. I told her that it was more important for me to be right than to understand.
“How’s that working for you?” she said. We both laughed.

The great gift she gave me that day was making room for my feelings, and acknowledging that I had a right to my anger and reaction. It was only fair for me to do the same for her and then, something incredible happened, I heard three words that have become my new favorites.

“I love you.”

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