Let’s Become Better By Being Wrong Together
Why it is right to be wrong… and how it can bring us together.
If it’s been a long time since we were last proven wrong, chances are we are not questioning our beliefs enough, chances are we are surrounded by yes-people too interested in our status and not sufficiently concerned about what we have to say. A couple of years ago I wrote that I had no interest in being right, because I was too keen on being truthful. Now I want to take it further: I want to be wrong.
Yes, let us be wrong together. Being wrong is a sign that we are doing something right. Being wrong is not the same as being in the wrong. The wrong — with its definite article — is static. Being wrong is always on the move. It means we’re checking and changing and checking some more.
Back at university, a lecturer once told me my low mark was due to my experimentation with language. Up until then, I had got top marks on almost any other subject, but he barely passed me. I think what I wrote for him must have been the best writing I did in my late teens. It didn’t conform, it didn’t comply, it broke things. Since I was feeling quite pleased with myself, a friend reminded me that that was all very well, but that the system I was in was ruled by marks. Of course, he was right: full marks would give you free credits, which meant that, effectively, you could graduate for free if you got full marks on every single subject you took over the course of four years. Still, late teens and early twenties are fertile territory for mistakes, and I don’t think I made nearly enough of them.
These days, I actually find pleasure in raising my hand to tell everyone who will listen that I was wrong. Indeed, there probably is something wrong with me. I love it. And it’s satisfying too because you make people feel good when you tell them they were right. At a deeper level, if we are surrounded by semi-intelligent people like ourselves, we will find that this is something the wise have always done and will always do: telling you they were wrong and that you were right. It takes the confidence of someone who knows they have been often right to boast when they are not. Being wrong is an opportunity to refine our wisdom and to make others feel worthy.