In a discussion, I overheard the words: “It’s not that you’re bad. It’s that you’re wrong.” It lit off a little spark in my mind, having to do with the divisiveness in our country that makes it so difficult for us to advance as a society. Bad people may be beyond reform, unless they carry a seed of good inside. People who are merely wrong, on the other hand, can become right as long as they don’t go on the defensive when someone accuses them of being bad.
Basically, when I accept the possibility that I am not bad but simply wrong, there is an easy remedy for that: open my mind, investigate the facts, and adjust my opinion accordingly. I’ll still be the same person. I won’t have had to admit any wrongdoing or see myself in a shameful light. I’ll just have gotten my facts right. We all can get some facts wrong at times, and putting in a little effort to get them right is no big deal.
As a good person, you gain from obtaining a better grasp of reality and basically lose nothing. As a bad person, on the other hand, you risk losing the justifications for your badness and will therefore resist truth with all your might. So, if you’re bad, your only chance to change may lie in finding a core of goodness inside you that has long been buried, and winning the fight of good over bad inside yourself. Then you will be free to face the truth and join all the other good people in making our world good.
If these musings have any merit, then the conclusion would be to meet people on the other side of the divide with a “it’s not that you’re bad, it’s that you’re wrong” kind of attitude and be the better able to make them see their error. An exception might be people who can be shamed for having adopted a position with evil consequences for others.
This idea may even play out in practice. When I have political conversations with strangers, I usually look for the things I believe to be correct or nearly correct in what they say, voice my agreement, and then lead from these points to areas that were either missing or less well thought-ought in what had been said. This tends to get agreements coupled with perceptional growth in at least some of us. Since this is a non-confrontational approach, the focus can remain on the issues, rather than the discussion becoming heated and personal; and since, in my experience, it seems to produce progress in the participants’ thinking it may confirm the musings in the preceding paragraphs. What do you think?
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