meaningofstrife

Seeing the best in life's challenges

Stuck in the Details of Right and Wrong

on May 9, 2014

Deciding who is right and who is wrong is pure judgment. Period.

IF you’re a Christian, it’s very clear that we are not to judge. Period.

So how does that work?

Step back, and let’s look at how “deciding what’s right or wrong” works, forget the mandate of “no judging” for now:

Take any argument that centers on what was right or wrong in the past. First, what is done is done. So what is the purpose of labeling something right or wrong? You could call this just semantics, but it’s not just that. If your true focus is on determining right or wrong, what does this really accomplish? Why do people spend so much time arguing who or what was right and who or what was wrong?

Even if we all agree on which label fits which party or situation, that label doesn’t fix or change anything.

When we don’t agree on where the labels should be placed, these “discussions” are usually attempts to convince others of our viewpoint, which can lead to anger, insults, and intimidation to convince others that we are right. So not only is there the question of whether the issue we are discussing is right or wrong, but we take it on personally to be which person is right or wrong. You may become a bad person if you end up on the wrong side. So the stakes in this game are high. Each person wants to win – this is really a competition.

I think most people approach things this way because this has been the prevalent way in the past. It’s just the way it is, and that way hasn’t been questioned. It’s the default setting.

alwaysdoneit

There are people who enjoy playing this game of right and wrong just to stir people up and see them squirm and see how much emotional reaction they can get. A friend of mine knows he does this – he calls it “hunting bear.” Are you tempted to decide he’s “wrong” for doing it for this reason? Hey, it’s just his choice. Who am I to judge?

Some people are very invested in being right and knowing all there is to know about whatever they are discussing. It’s a self-worth thing. They need to be right, and they need to defend that, otherwise they would be wrong. (If you are wrong then you are bad, and nobody wants to be a bad person.) People want to feel good about who they are, and they can get very emotional when threatened with a label of “bad.”

So it depends what your goal is. Are you just having fun messing around with people? Do you think you know more and are better than all the other idiots? Are you invested in being superior?

If someone is playing the judgment game, you can’t really discuss anything with them, because they are not as interested in digging in and understanding the issue or problem, as they are interested in being right. They may know lots of facts and background information, but the purpose for knowing all this is to be right.  So you have to understand where they are coming from. And they may never have thought about why they take the approach that they do.

This can be tricky to figure out, because those who are really good at the game (but aren’t aware they are playing it) use approaches that lead others to believe that they are really trying to solve problems. They know lots of details and could argue the finer points until the cows come home.

Look, they may really truly want these problems to go away. I am not saying people don’t have good intentions. I think most people do. I just think most people haven’t thought through what I’m talking about to the extent that they understand where it’s possible to get stuck.

 

And I don’t even expect others to agree with me on what I’m saying here. Really this is only my one perspective. What I am interested in, is non-emotional exploration and discussion of ideas. The only way you can understand anything, and especially the nuances of anything, is to hash it out and explore every possibility. Without getting emotional and defensive.

If a person gets triggered by someone who disagrees, that probably indicates that they are stuck in the “right and wrong” game. If they can agree to disagree, even if they are passionate about their perspective, then they have probably moved past that stage.

IF your goal is about understanding complicated issues, or trying to do the best you can with whatever the situation is, or trying to decide on policy or who to vote for or how to improve whatever it is, THEN you have to set aside the game of judgment. You don’t waste time arguing right or wrong.  And you don’t feel the need to put other people down.

Instead, you frame your discussions around what works to get to the goal and what doesn’t work. You talk about goals, what they are, and how sometimes two important goals can conflict.

You realize that life is complicated, each person and each situation is unique, and to make the best of anything, you have to think about it and do your best, and adjust the next time.

 

Some examples to think about:

Fear Porn

We all see lots of information about situations that exist in the world that cause pain and fear. A certain amount of this is really, really important, because we can only solve problems if we are aware of them.

To be aware of all the problems in the world can be overwhelming. No one person could possibly have enough time or energy to tackle more than a few. But how many pictures or posts do you see where the primary purpose seems to be to trigger feelings of guilt or horror at these types of situations? There are a lot. Their underlying message seems to be “Don’t You CARE????” So, is the purpose of a post to promote awareness, or is it to promote what is right?

ANYTHING that uses fear, guilt, or shame to motivate people, will only promote more of the negative. Because the motivation is to avoid being WRONG.

Are you a terrible person if you don’t rescue all the abandoned dogs on the world? If you don’t write your Congressman about every single problem that needs attention? If you don’t repost the picture of the girl/boy/men/women who have been mistreated? If you don’t feed the poor? If you don’t stand up for human rights?

I’m talking about issues that are ALL important, of course they are, and I can be aware and care and have compassion for all of them. I can also be aware of who I am and my place in the world, and I can do all I can to use my individual talents and situation to make the world a better place. Fear porn isn’t going to support me with that. In fact, fear porn only contributes negative energy. It doesn’t solve anything.

Of course it’s a balance. Sometimes we want to get people’s attention. Something that looks like fear porn to me, might be exactly what the next guy needs to see. My point here is to make people think about it. If all you are doing is posting sad, terrible stories, but you never get involved in a real-world sense to make something better, then maybe you are stuck trying to showing everyone else how wrong they are.

The Crime and Punishment Model of Parenting and Schooling

Talk about a subject area where people are obsessed with being right or wrong…

We motivate kids with fear all the time. Follow the rules or else. Zero tolerance.

When a child makes a mistake, we can’t wait to say “Gotcha!!” We are obsessed with making kids who slip up know that they are wrong, while we reinforce being right with praise.

This results in kids who are wonderful actors. They figure out what behavior gets them praise, and they hide (not always so skillfully) any behavior that will get them a “bad” label. We teach them to be superficial, rather than supporting them in building character, making smart choices, and learning to navigate the world.

Or, they see how it goes and they give up, because they realize there is no winning with this game. Kids are smarter than you think.

Look, everybody makes mistakes. When Mistakes = Wrong instead of Mistakes = Opportunity we miss our chances to understand and learn and grow.

Politics

I’m not sure that any of our problems are more rooted in the Right vs. Wrong paradigm than politics.

You know, it doesn’t have to be this way, by the way.

Politics in the US is all about us vs. them, being on the right side, my way is right, your way is wrong. If you operate within this paradigm, it’s a great place to exercise this way of being these days. What a thrill ride!

Doesn’t our current day political situation seem insane, unproductive, unworkable, inefficient, etc etc etc? Do you notice that cooperation between sides seems to be treated like a terrible threat? This mindset has a stranglehold on politics, and the only way out of it is to abandon the mindset.

If you spend all of your time arguing which President was good (right) and which was bad (wrong) you will never get anything done. If you keep arguing about which policy was good (right) and which was bad (wrong) you will never spend time creating a new policy that might work better, much less will you actually learn what you can from previous experience.

You might  discuss the very same issues, but the mindset and the goal that you have will determine whether you get stuck in an endless loop of competition between good and bad, or whether you think and learn and understand and contemplate better solutions for the future.

Details Don’t Really Matter

This is why I don’t really care about the details of what happened.

So yes, I know there are lots of situations in the world where we need to come together and tackle situations and help each other out. I already know that. So I don’t want to spend my time talking about how terrible it is and all the gory details. Let’s put that energy into cooperating and finding solutions.

I don’t care whether the kid drank at a party or skipped class. I want to talk about what’s important, about making smart choices, about knowing what is important to that particular kid, and understanding how they found themselves in that situation. I want to use the opportunity to think things through and help the kid learn.

We might have almost the exact same conversation about who was there and who did what and what happened then. But instead of trying to convict the kid and make sure he knows he’s WRONG, the goal is instead to support decision making and learning how to do better next time. Build her up, not break her down.

And please. Just please. Politics is not a sporting event. You don’t root for your team. We are supposed to be trying to find the best people we can who will be creative and find solutions and try. We can’t expect our elected officials to change the system, WE have to initiate that change by letting go of the ego’s need to be right and make others wrong. We just need to drop it and work together and know that nobody is perfect and put our ENERGY into solutions.  We need a new mindset.

THAT’s where I’m coming from.

THAT’s why I just don’t have much patience for fear porn, constant negativity, attacks on individuals, belittling others, scare tactics, condemnations, etc.  I am no better than you.  You are no better than me.  We are each unique, important individuals who contribute to the fabric of humanity.  Even the “bad guys.”  Even the other guy.  I will respect the other guy no matter what the perspective.

If you want to play that game, hey, it’s your choice.  I want to change the world, I want world peace, and I don’t think the competitive mindset of determining right and wrong will get us there.  So I will tell you that.  If you try to convince me otherwise, I will stand up and say “no.”  I will be clear.  I will not argue with you.  You have as much right to your perspective as anyone.  But you can’t intimidate me into feeling less than you by hurling insults.  Sticks and stones, bro.

Just don’t be surprised when we go our separate ways.

Let’s agree to disagree and leave it at that.

Isn’t it interesting that “don’t judge” is an important concept we get from Jesus?   Maybe he knew what he was talking about.  But the difficulty is this:  those who are in the judging mindset, will feel judged by my little rant here, where no judgment is intended.  Just another example of how with “right vs. wrong” we can never win.


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