Monday, September 29, 2014

Engaging in Controversy

I know I shouldn't do it, but sometimes the appeal is there: the act of defending one's honor, the adrenaline, the irritation and self righteousness that surge through the body. Sometimes I just want a fight. The entire interaction is covered in my other blog: Grateful Girl Goes Vegan. I will not get into it here, other than saying that I engaged in controversy, and it felt good - until it didn't.

Self righteous anger, sometimes it can be delicious. I believe that it is a human trait to need to be right. After all, so much violence is perpetrated because of disagreement; wars are fought and millions of people have died because some people think that they are right; that their way is the only way. Self righteous is defined as "confidence of one's own rightness, especially when smugly moralistic and intolerant of the opinions and behaviors of others." The word originated in 1670-80, Good thing, as the Salem witch trials were right around the corner.

Why the need to be right? Mel Schwartz wrote an article entitled "Why Is It So Important To Be Right," in Psychology Today. He said:
Our educational system is rooted in the construct of right and wrong. We are rewarded for what are deemed to be correct answers and the ensuing higher grades, which generally lead to more successful lives. Being right affirms and inflates our sense of self-worth. As students we learn to avoid as best we can the embarrassment of being wrong. Getting the right answer becomes the primary purpose of our education. Isn't it regrettable that this may be inconsistent with actually learning?
We go through life being either right or wrong. Education reformers spout the standardized test movement, reinforcing this black / white mentality. Is it any wonder that we grow into either Democrats or Republicans, Pro Choice or Pro Life, for gun control or against it, and on and on. If we are not right, then we must be wrong.

I wanted to, I needed to be right. After all, I had compassion in mind when I began the argument. He was being mean to other people. What ended up happening, was that I engaged in the same behavior, I needed to be right, and he needed to be right. In the end, no opinions were changed. I am still a vegan and he still eats bacon and hates Muslims. There, I have continued the controversy by judging another human being. What happens when the ego steps aside, and I listen to another person? Maybe I can see that we are really the same, we are both afraid, afraid to be wrong, afraid to go against our own ethical code, afraid of being judged or excluded. My opponent is really just a mirror image of myself. And he is taking up too much space in my head without paying rent. So for today, I will let go of this controversy. I cannot make anyone abstain from eating meat, nor can anyone change my mind about the vegan lifestyle I follow. For this moment I will accept the world as it is, flaws and all.

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