Do You Wanna Be Right Or Do You Wanna Be Happy?

Posted on August 11, 2016


This question rings in my head over and over as I look at my Facebook feed and the comment sections of many articles. There’s so much injustice going on in the world right now. People are shocked and outraged, feeling helpless, disillusioned and confused about what they could possibly do to make it better. In many cases, people’s emotions get the best of them and sarcastic comments are made. What started out as pertinent discussion points, devolve into a litany of logical fallacies. I’m just going to leave these links to the definitions of logical fallacies right here for reference:

I really hope you read this list. It’s empowering to be able to spot these fallacies and not get drawn in and steered off topic. But honestly, that’s not why I’m writing this. I’m writing this article to really ask you “do you want to be right or do you want to be happy.” You can’t have both; “have your cake and eat it to” is not a choice.

Now is a crucial time in history where we really need to understand where the other side is coming from. Believe me, I know that can be insurmountably difficult. When someone’s saying all kinds of shocking, offensive things, what kind of person stays calm, even rational? When the discussion reaches an impasse what kind of person detaches with love and compassion? Ghandi? Mother Theresa? I don’t know about you, but I’m neither one of them. I’m some ordinary lady from New Jersey.

But let me tell you something, now’s the time to start trying. No one’s going to be a pro right off the bat but when you give it a try, people notice.

I wrote a book called “Charm School For Men.” The reason I wrote it is men were behaving in a lewd, aggressive manner toward me every time I left the house. No one I knew could understand why. I wasn’t the kind of lady who was trying to use sexuality to attract attention. Quite the opposite was true in my case. I was always a studious kind of lady who expected to be regarded for her intellect over all else. The harassment started when I was about 12 years old. I’d walk by construction workers and they’d yell some really disgusting things at me. I tell you this to give you the context of why I could have turned out to be a rather guarded, kind of angry person toward men.

One day I got a particularly in appropriate note from a guy on I was furious. I wrote him a very concise and to the point response about how appalling his behavior was. Just as I hit send, I lost my dial up connection. I didn’t have time to write another response and it gave me time to think about things. I somehow managed to look at the situation from another person’s perspective. I said to myself ‘I know this guy reached out to me in a way that was really rude and horrible, but do you think he did that because he wants women to be repelled by him.” I decided that people want other people to like them and there was some kind of disconnect going on.

I tell you this because when people have views that make absolutely no sense to you, many times there’s a context that you have no access to. Here’s an example: I have friends who think all guns should be outlawed. I have another friend who lives on top of a mountain and all police officers are a half an hour ride away at best. She lives in a yurt and uses a gun to defend her livestock from wild animals. I have other friends who live in neighborhoods where home invasions are an ordinary occurrence. In these neighborhoods, when you call the police, they don’t bother showing up at all. These friends live with the daily possibility that someone with very serious untreated mental health and substance abuse issues may break into their house, rob them and commit grievous bodily harm to them and their children. There will be on one to defend them and no one to uphold justice when this occurs. They don’t have the money to just pack up and relocate. These are people with money invested in their living space and have jobs with pensions they can’t afford to lose. There are many people who don’t realize that our fellow citizens are living under these conditions.

When there was discussion about building a pipeline to ship oil from Alaska, I couldn’t imagine why anyone would support this, given all the grave environmental hazards it would create. I asked a dear friend to help me understand. She told me to imagine some guy living in the mid west working at Walmart. It’s the only job available to him after all the farms and small businesses had been shut down. He’s making just enough to get by. One medical emergency, one unforeseen mishap would set his family into destitution. That oil pipeline would make gas a little cheaper for him to travel to and from work, thus giving him a couple extra dollars to buy food, or medicine and maybe put a couple extra bucks towards his credit card debt. When it was put that way, I was able to understand. This person was thinking about his immediate survival. The days of plenty are gone and people are worried about meeting their most basic needs. As simple as this sounds, there are many in this country who are not living this reality and don’t know anyone who is. How could they understand something they have no exposure to?

As I mentioned, I come from New Jersey. To give you a visual image, my town was actually part of the HBO TV series, The Sopranos. When I left my home in 1995 to move to the west coast, I thought everyone was pretty much living the same basic reality as I was. Just imagine my utter shock when I ran into the Hollywood 7-11 in the morning and there was no giant stack of buttered hard rolls wrapped up and ready for all the commuters. The guy behind the counter had absolutely no idea what I was talking about when I asked him where all the hard rolls were. I shared this story with a good friend of mine from the mid west. Her life looked a lot more like Fargo than the Sopranos. I said, “can you believe when I left NJ, I thought your life was pretty much just like mine.” She answered, “I thought Your life was just lie MINE too.” I guess that’s an illustration of the saying “you don’t know what you don’t know.”

There have been times when I really wanted to understand something that seemed completely horrible and outlandish to me. I have to be honest, it wasn’t always easy to keep my mouth shut and witness a point of view I did not agree with at all. But you know what? As a dear friend’s therapist used to say “good to know.” When we know, we can begin to understand. Right now understanding is the key. You can be right all day long but that’s not going to change anybody’s mind. At least when there’s understanding, we can begin to move toward the goal of not ranting and insulting each other while the world goes up in flames.

Look, I know I’m not telling you anything new. I think it’s really important to keep this conversation in the front of our consciousness during such interesting times. We’re seeing things that have never happened before in history. It’s easy to freak out. So please join the stay calm campaign and repeat the mantra “no freaking out till it’s freak out time.” That’s going to be another blog post altogether. In the mean time, maybe you’ll wind up, not necessarily agreeing with a different point of view, but at least being able to see how the other person wound up thinking that way.

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