Rights and Wrongs

When a couple approached a rabbi with a request to resolve their domestic conflict, he offered to meet the husband and wife separately.

The wife complained about her husband, “Because he is the bread-earner, he thinks that he can live like a guest at home. He pays for the expenses as if paying for meals and rent. He offers no help in household chores, grooming the child, or mending the garden. Am I wrong in expecting a helping hand and some loving care?”

The rabbi said, “You are right!”

In came the husband as out went the wife. “I toil through the day, every day, except the seventh day of the week. When I come home exhausted in the evening, a whining wife assigns me a series of errands. Am I wrong in expecting some appreciation, understanding, some rest and peace at home?”

The rabbi said, “You are right!”

When the couple left, the rabbi’s wife asked him, “You told the husband that he is right and told the same to his wife. Both cannot be right. Who is right?”

“You are right!” said the rabbi to his wife.

Teacher T at AVS asked me, “teacher H says that I am wrong in forming a question in a particular style… Who is right – he or I?”

Both the teachers are right. Discussing work and seeking opportunities to learn is very encouraging and reassuring habit in any profession. None is wrong as a person. However, it is more important to know ‘what is right’ than who is right. When we are stuck with proving who is wrong, we lose sight of the subject and strive to prove ourselves right. Instead of critiquing the subject, we criticise the person, often disturbing the harmony and distorting the issue or cause.

“I was right in my judgement that this person was unfit for the post. However, as the rest of the board members considered him fit, I did not give my opinion.” Being right, but not acting right does not right something. Proving it post-facto does not help the situation.

Proving others wrong does not make me right. It stops me from inquiring further, resulting in opportunity costs. If I accept the current reality and consider ways to improve the situation, I can act constructively. Root cause analysis is good to the extent that the cause can be corrected or prevented from recurring. Many people do cause analysis to blame-storm and absolve themselves of responsibilities. A system won’t improve by our observations alone; we have to be part of the solution.

Many of us wait for an opportunity to prove the other person wrong so that we are absolved of our responsibilities. It is easier to correct something wrong than correcting someone who is wrong. To blames we react with emotions and not with reasoning. “You are wrong” statement invokes series of excuses, white lies and slanted truths – or the person retorts simply “you are wrong” or “you too are wrong.”

Over the past three months I have worked intensely to discover errors in electoral rolls of Bangalore City. When I discuss the situation with various people, often arises a question, “who is responsible for this mess?” It is more important to know what is wrong and how to correct it, irrespective of who has created the mess. We want to help the people who have the responsibility and authority to maintain the rolls. Many tell, “I am sure that some political parties have their hand in this.” I do not know and do not want to guess. It is not an issue until it affects our efforts in improving the quality of the system.

It is more difficult to accept that “I’m wrong” than to feel “I’m not OK” and easier to say “You’re wrong” than “You’re not OK.” Let us leave the debate of who is right and who is wrong to the courts. Let us work objectively on what is ethically and scientifically right and what is wrong. We would thus create more harmonious communities.

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About pgbhat

A retired Naval Officer and an educationist. Has experience with software industry. A guest faculty at different institutes and a corporate trainer with software development companies.
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