Wrong isn’t the Same as Bad

People disagree a lot. We like to assume that when someone disagrees with us, it’s because he is stupid, ignorant, or even evil. Really, most of the time, it’s about having conflicting priorities. Why are there people who are pro-life? They value the life of the unborn and want to protect it all cost, even at the cost of certain rights for women. People who are pro-choice value the rights of women and want to protect them at all cost, even at the cost of the unborn. It is probably the case that pro-lifers and pro-choicers both value the life of the unborn. It is also probably the case that both value the rights of women. I wish there was a way to have a conversation that encouraged the protection of both, but, instead, we assume that people who disagree with us are stupid, ignorant, or evil.

I majored in philosophy. I am pretty good at it. One of my first philosophy professors recruited me into the major because he thought so too. There are people who are a lot better at it than I am. There are people who are worse at it. Mostly, though, there are people I disagree with.

One thing you end up getting really comfortable with as an undergraduate student in philosophy is being wrong. You change your mind about the existence of souls or God or universals three or four times. You think that Cartesian Dualism makes no sense, even though, fifteen minutes ago, it was the only theory you knew existed. You take metaphysics and become a compatibilist just to cover all your bases. You learn that the most famous philosophers can also be the most wrong; they’re famous because they redefined the box, not because they were right.

None of us is perfect. None of us is right all of the time. We don’t have to agree about what contributes most to human flourishing, but being open to being wrong is so very important. It is extremely likely that you will be wrong about some things, so listen when people tell you they think you are. Listen past their wounded pride and their offended tone. Listen past the condemnation and condescension. Listen past their tropes and their emotionally distant wall. Listen for kindness and understanding. Listen for common ground. Listen to learn.

Then, call your mom and talk about nonsense. Cuddle with your someone. Drink some cocoa. Drink some tea. Watch some fluff about hipsters in Portland or a bad nineties mystery put out by BBC. Play a video game where you get to be the hero. Put on your favorite footie pajamas (because you definitely have more than one pair). Relax. Even when you’re wrong, you’re still OK. You are still loved and accepted. You are still human and capable of good things. It isn’t about being right, and being wrong isn’t the same thing as being bad.

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