“There ain’t no sin and there ain’t no virtue. There’s just stuff people do. It’s all part of the same thing. And some of the things folks do is nice, and some ain’t nice, but that’s as far as any man got a right to say.”― John Steinbeck, The Grapes of Wrath
Hitting another person in anger is wrong.
Loving your parents is right.
Running a red light is wrong.
Holding the door for someone is right.
Saying “Yes, ma’am” is wrong (in the north).
Saying “Yes, ma’am” is right (in the south).
Worshiping their God is wrong.
Worshiping your God is right.
I know people who see life’s situations as black or white. They have no room for gray. They tell me “This is wrong because it doesn’t make sense any other way.” They ask “How could the Bible be wrong?” They proclaim “The news documentary said it was so, so it must be the truth.” I used to be much more black and white than I am today.
Some of my friends are extremely conservative, while others are much more liberal. Some of my friends are devout followers of different faiths, while some have chosen to not follow any faith. I am glad that I have a diverse group of friends, though my head spins sometimes as I try to ascertain who and what is right and wrong. Whoever is speaking believes he or she is right, but can we all be right?
There are some hot topics discussed in social media, in coffee shops, and in break rooms. I’ve recognized that reading about and hearing heated arguments is uncomfortable for me, and I’ve learned to turn the page, walk away, and change the channel. I find it difficult to listen to newscasters and their guests argue passionately about why one point of view is the only truth–the truth is always the one belonging to whomever is speaking. One day, I was reading information about a topic that another person had shared and could see that the information backing up their point of view was well-researched, and I said something to myself that really changed my life: “I might be wrong.” It wasn’t an easy thing for me to say in the beginning, though. I won’t tell you which topic I was studying for now, though; that would take all the fun out of things for me with some of my friends!
Those four simple words that give you the win are actually more empowering for me than you might think. Has it ever happened to you, when you suddenly think that you could be W-R-O-N-G? Spelling it makes it a little easier than actually speaking it. It’s a pretty serious revelation to realize that our way might not be right , or at least might not be the only right.
“You might be right” is one of my favorite statements. It diffuses many arguments because it immediately takes the hostility out of the conversation. When I first heard that phrase (I did not come up with it, after all), I was encouraged to use it in conversations with people close to me. You should try it. What? You don’t think you could be wrong? You don’t think I might be right? Oh, but are you positive? Two things happen when someone says “You might be right.”
1. It’s difficult for an argument to ensue when you give the other person some of your power.
2. It’s just possible that there is more than one way to look at things, and you’ve just opened yourself up to another view.
This one statement could be used in a classroom, by the teacher; in a church, by the minister; in an office, by the boss; and in a family, by the parents.
In the book Seeing Gray in a World of Black and White: Thoughts on Religion, Morality, and Politics, Adam Hamilton says “Our desire for certainty, our need to be right, and our tendency to miss the point have conspired to keep Christians from experiencing unity and instead have led to endless divisions within the Christian faith.”
You can take the word Christian out and still have some really good truth for all of us. If we follow the earlier thoughts of what happens when you utter the words “You might be right,” and join that with Hamilton’s words, it is clear that in our admission of the minute possibility that our thinking could be wrong, we just might find that there can be unity and an ending of divisions within life’s relationships, regardless of the place. With 84 % of the people in the world practicing some type of faith, it’s fairly easy to see how quickly arguments could end, bonds could form, and change could happen if people chose to allow for the possibility that they might, in fact, be wrong and that a friend, neighbor, family member, or stranger just might possibly be right.
It might not be the answer to world peace, but if solving problems really does begin at home, perhaps that would be a good place to start with this philosophy. One of my favorite musicians is Billy Joel, and I can hear him singing even now “You may be wrong for all I know, but you may be right.” I think he’s onto something there. Just like the folks in twelve-step programs and just like Adam Hamilton, You might be right could be the beginning to finding peace. Give it a try, and you might discover that I’m not wrong and might even be right!