Based on a thought-provoking lesson from Rabbi Miller: the story of Abraham and Lot
If we take a moment to think about how we react to others, we will immediately notice that our first reaction is usually one in which we are trying to prove that we are right. If we are honest and look carefully, it is obvious that the way we see a situation is the only way we think the situation should be seen. Most of the time, we think we are right. In our own minds, we are right. It may be right for us. It is surely the way we see it. It is crystal clear to us. We are convinced that this is definitely, the only way it should be. As we try to prove our point, all that really happens, is that we become more involved in a conflict. We don't realize the other person feels the same way and is certain they are right, too. A battle for "being right" continues. Before long, we are stressed, getting nowhere and feeling miserable. No one side was able to convince the other side that their way was the right way. All that's left is distress, discomfort and discord. We walk away feeling angry, resentful and misunderstood. In addition, societal behavior condones standing up and fighting for what's right. What has that really accomplished? More conflict, misunderstanding and distance in our relationships.
Was there ever one moment throughout our attempts to prove we are right, that we were able to step back from our position to see that maybe, the other person feels the same? Or better yet, could it be possible that we are not right? We have such an impulsive need to prove that we are right, that we lose sight of everything else. In fact, we lose so much. Think about it.
First, we lose our dignity. We lose the ability to be respected. When we get caught in the trap of "being right," we are not acting according to our goodness. We are not acting holy or with loving kindness. We are only involved in our self. The evil inclination is controlling our every word. Before we know it, we are harming the other person, as well as ourself.
Second, we are causing destruction to our relationship. When we realize this, it becomes clear that is certainly not what we intended to do. Most probably, it is someone we love dearly. Someone we would never want to harm. Yet, that all disappears when we are trying to "be right."
Third, we see our loved ones from a negative perspective. This is not a loving way to view our loved ones. The fight for "being right" causes us to look at others and see only their negative traits. This triggers negative vision which causes us unhappiness.
Fourth, they see us from a negative perspective. Is this really how we want to looked at? Isn't that the opposite of what we are trying to accomplish? We are trying to look intelligent and all-knowing. We know what's best (or so that's what we think) and all we are achieving is what we have become... bossy, controlling and pushy. We do not honor or respect another other human being. Sometimes, we dress it up in a masquerade. We fool ourselves, as we think we are fooling others. We manipulate situations and are caught in the web of self-deception. We may fool ourselves into thinking we are being altruistic and caring, when all we are doing is fighting to prove "we are right."
Fifth, it just doesn't feel right! As much as we fight to make our points clear, once we are caught in the trap, we can't get out. We become so involved in the "fight" that we lose sight of the harm being done to others...... and most importantly, to ourselves. So, let's say we win. Maybe, we bullied the other person into believing we are right. Does that really feel good, deep down inside? Not really, because our nishama (soul) knows the truth. When our words are rooted in loving kindness and goodness, we can immediately feel the goodness, comfort and peace.
The Path to Peace
Once we realize the negative effect "being right" has on our souls and the souls of others, we can move away from it and begin the healing process. Our souls need to heal. We have been living with damaged souls. So many factors have caused this. They don't need to be named. Sadly, we know it is true. On our journey towards healing our souls (by improving our character traits) it becomes clear to us..... being right just isn't important. It interferes with peace. Just because we think we're right, doesn't mean we should push our way through to prove that we are. Peace is the priority.
How often have you been involved in what you thought was "doing the right thing" and ended up feeling discomfort afterwards? The soul knows goodness. Peace feels good. We have been trained to think acting peacefully is wrong. Speak up, stand up for what you believe in, fight for what's right. Words we've heard so many times before. We may feel good momentarily, but if we are looking for long-lasting internal calm and peacefulness, the only path that leads to peace is being able to give up "being right." When you value your loved ones and yourself, you value peace over "being right." The path to peace is filled with wisdom, health and blessings.
In addition, fighting for what's right causes harm to the physical body, as well as the soul. The body becomes tense, blood pressure rises, hearts may pound. A healthy body is one that is free from the pressure of "being right."
The highest spiritual level a person can reach is to become a man/woman of peace. All paths we take should lead to peace. All paths of Torah are peace. If we live it and apply peacefulness, we can also be blessed with peace. Our soul yearns for peace. All we have to do is walk away from the "fight for who's right." Our first reaction can be to offer peace and avoid entering into the fight for who's right."
We live yearning for connection in relationships. It is the goodness of our nature. Yet, sometimes all we do is cause distance. Goodness is oneness + harmony = peace. Living peacefully is living healthy. Our bodies are calmer when we give up the fight. When we fight to prove what's right, we cause ourselves stress. Stress harms the body, the mind and the soul. Value peace as the ultimate value. If we internalize this process, we can sacrifice "being right" for peace and awaken peace in the Heavens.
*Of course, it is always important to remember to use common sense in all situations. There are certainly times when it is important to manage personal, business or legal matters in a way that may seem to go against this lesson. It is always important to consult a Rabbi or professional consultant when legal or professional help is required. Mussar is learning to improve our character traits and for use in regular daily inter-personal relationships. Professional advice is necessary in extenuating circumstances.
*Even when resolving a situation with two differing opinions, it is always best to move through it peacefully, with respect and honor to each person involved. A more positive, successful and peaceful outcome will result.
Lessons of the text-Abraham and Lot
After Abraham settled in the Land of Israel, he was blessed with abundant flocks and herds. His nephew Lot, who accompanied him, also had a large number of livestock. In time, a dispute broke out between the shepherds of Abraham and Lot. A disagreement ensued over which fields the flocks should graze on. Abraham and Lot parted ways. And Lot chose the live with the immoral people of Sodom, who would not be concerned with his policy on grazing.
All Abraham wanted was peace. Our Sages said, "If there is no peace, there is nothing."Abraham became beloved in the eyes of G-d. As he pursued peace, his life was blessed with peace and tranquility.
From this we learn to pause before we enter into conflict and realize how often we can make the turn and go in the direction towards peace. Many situations are filled with unnecessary harm just because we need to "be right." In fact, most of the conflict we enter into is probably unnecessary. We can see how easy it can be to walk away from "being right."
Then, we can experience...
how good it can feel
to not have to prove
that we are right and
enjoy the experience of peacefulness.
Pause before entering into a conflict, take the turn towards fostering peace. Think for a moment and ask yourself, if I say these words could they be interpreted as antagonistic.
Go towards peace instead of towards antagonistic behavior.
May you be blessed with a peaceful week and experience the joy of not being right.