being right

February 5, 2001

It snowed again today, which seems appropriate. That’s the wonderful thing about the weather: it always seems to be appropriate. What I mean is that there really are things in life over which we have no control, like the weather. We can either accept those things — and even try to love them — or be miserable most of the time.

Why so many people choose to be miserable most of the time is beyond me. You either go with the flow or spend your life swimming against the current and getting nowhere but deeper in debt.

Last week, I was out in Seattle. What a wonderful city! I know it has a reputation for being damp, gray and chilly all the time, but that’s just a matter of attitude. I find its spirit warm, embracing, almost Midwestern — truly a delightful place to be.

And man, did I drink a lot of coffee while I was there! That was part of the reason why I didn’t get a whole lot of sleep while I was visiting. The other part of the reason is a whole other story that I won’t go into.

Let’s talk about relationships today. Those of you who are married or have a significant other, how are you doing in them? I’m just curious. What makes it work, when it works at its best? And where do you screw up your relationships?

I was thinking about it the other day, and it occurred to me how often our need to be right can screw up our relationships. How badly do you need to be right? How many arguments do you get into that seem to be about something, but are really about nothing other than the compulsion to be the one who is right? The argument essentially breaks down into a case of “I’m right” versus “No, I’m right.”

At one time in my life, I got so tired of being right that I just decided to stay out of relationships for the rest of my life. But I don’t feel that way anymore. I finally grew up and decided that I really don’t really care whether I’m right all the time or not. I think I grew up and finally became a real human being.

Think about your relationships. How often have you argued during them? What percentage of them really, in the end, achieved a thing? I’ll bet you can’t remember what most of them were about, but you do recall whether or not you came out of it feeling right. I’m saying that, ultimately, life is too short to worry about this kind of thing.

I was thinking about all this stuff and reflecting on my two marriages. Both of my wives were really fine women, but they were also women who were wrong for me. Being married to them was my mistake, not their fault.
So I was remembering those days and, in my memory, those relationships seemed like I was engaged in two prolonged arguments, punctuated every once in a while by periods of actually getting along. Now, you can all understand why I was single since 1982. Finally, I grew up and I’m not single anymore. More importantly, I’m able to be in a relationship that isn’t about winning an argument. Life is just too short.

One of my deepest beliefs is that our greatest gift is our capacity to give to each other. That’s where the real joy of the ballgame is. As a matter of fact, I think that the door that opens us to being able to receive love is the act of giving it. The wonderful thing about giving is that it’s a reservoir that never empties. But when you’re taking all the time, well, you’ve got a reservoir that never can get full. The more you take, the more you seem to need, so you always feel empty.

So try giving more than you take, and put aside your need to be right all the time. You may find that you’re a better, happier person for it.
This was for you, Kat.