Being wrong about something, whether it’s a math equation, the location of our shoes, our religious beliefs, or the person whom we loved, well, it sucks. How does it feel to be wrong? When I’m caught mistaking the answer to a question, or purporting some political factoids that turn out to be entirely incorrect, I feel deflated, ashamed, and maybe even like I’ve backslid on the moral scale. Personally and societally, wrongness is seen as coming from satan himself. How could I have been mistaken? Oh Lord, I’m a hideous wretch! Ok, perhaps it’s not always so dramatic. But in reality we are terrified at the prospect of not being “in the right”. This is why we argue with erroneous facts, bet on our correctness, and dog someone out if we prove them wrong. We feel elated when we’re right, and nauseated when we’re not.
One of my classes this semester has begun with the reading of Being Wrong by Kathryn Schulz. In her text, Schulz defends a different way of looking at being wrong. Rather than hanging our heads or denying we were wrong to begin with, Schulz challenges her readers to see wrongness as an opportunity for growth. In her optimistic model, she describes how in the realm of science, we get stuff wrong all the time. And each of these disproved theories or ideas leads scientists in a new direction and a new way of discovering the truth. Perhaps we can do this in our own lives. Perhaps next time we screw up and humiliate our selves after losing a bet on the artist of the song or the position of a constellation in the sky, we can learn from our mistakes and be better off for them. We often brush off our wrongness, because, well it feels lowsy being wrong. However there is much opportunity to be had after screwing up. For example, after realizing you’ve been doing your math homework all wrong and have been incessantly bragging about how right you were, take a look and reexamine your methods. You’ll be a better mathematician for it and your peers will greatly appreciate it.
On a personal note, I can barely add 2 + 2, however I know that after a break-up with the certain someone I thought I was going to marry, I realized I was completely wrong about what love is supposed to be. This epiphany shattered everything I thought I knew and I was deeply depressed for some time, but I slowly began to examine my mistakes and transform my views on relationships and love. This confrontation with my wrongness was a completely awful experience, but in the end, I grew from it. If I had gone and found a new boyfriend right away and ignored my mistakes, I would have learned nothing and continued life in my ignorance.
So while confronting our wrongness feels like a diss to our individuality and moral being, if we challenge our selves to look at our mistake and grow from it, we may have the opportunity to grow and maybe even come closer to the truth.
When have you realized you were wrong about something when previously you were so sure you were right? How does being wrong make you feel? When have you grown from a situation of utter wrongness?
For further investigation, visit http://beingwrongbook.com/