We may have heard this word tons of times from our childhood. You are wrong! That’s the wrong answer! You have wronged me! that’s the wrong way to do it! I have many times wondered about the meaning of this word. What impact does this word have on our lives? What impact does this word have on our relationships?
There are specific activities that need to be done in specific ways. An aircraft has to be flown in a specific way and needs to follow a specific flight path and altitude. If the pilot deviates it can put the passengers in danger. A surgeon has a specific way to perform a surgery. If the surgeon deviates it can put the patient in danger. A driver has to drive on a specific side of a road. If the driver deviates it can result in an accident. In this case it may be appropriate to use the word ‘wrong’. That the wrong flight path, that the wrong leg you are operating and that the wrong side of the road you are driving.
On the other hand there are other situations where new discoveries makes the older way look wrong. In the olden days medical professionals used ‘blood-letting’ as a method of curing disease. However with the discovery of other methods such as surgery people felt the older method was wrong. In education it was required to memorize remember every little details in the past and if the detail was different to what was on the textbook, it was considered wrong. In modern education, educationists have realized it is more beneficial for students to think creatively and experiment so that they can come up with their own concepts and ideas, making the old method seem wrong.
Looking at behaviours, attitudes, rituals of a particular culture from a different paradigm can make the former culture seem wrong. Consumption of any form of alcohol is considered wrong from an Islamic paradigm, but from a Christian paradigm, wine, which consists of alcohol, is acceptable even for religious rituals. While a doctor of western medicine would consider a surgery the only option for a particular orthopaedic condition, an Aurvedic doctor would have methods not involving surgery for the same condition. Each of these doctors may consider the other doctors method as wrong. A marketing expert might consider the best way to enhance profits is to reduce price and increase advertising spend while the finance expert might think the best way to enhance profits is to increase prices and reduce advertising spend. Each of these professionals may consider the method of the other professional wrong.
One partner in a relationship may consider the other partner had wronged him or her by not spending enough time together. He or she may feel neglected and not cared for. The other partner in the relationship may have been working extra hours to find the required finances to provide the partner a comfortable life and he or she may feel wronged by not been understood. This concern may remain until they agree to understand each other’s thinking and exploring their history and background that may have resulted in such thinking and behaviours by having a conversation about it. A lady coming from a culture where it is considered inappropriate for a married man to be close friends with other females may find her husbands closeness to a childhood friend inappropriate, annoying and even suspicious. She will consider his behaviour is wrong based on her philosophy, culture and paradigm. The husband who may have been bought up in a culture where it was considered appropriate and even psychologically beneficial to have friends with anyone without considering their gender may find his wife thinking on the matter as wrong.
While I do believe it is futile to look for a ‘right’ answer, it may be useful if we reframe the word ‘wrong’ as ‘a different perspective’ or an ‘interesting point of view’. I have found this attitude helpful in understanding other peoples benaviours, not to be offended by behaviours that I earlier considered ‘wrong’ and to have conversations that are educating, value-adding, growth-giving and relationship-strengthening. While what worked for me, may not work for you, it is worth giving this approach a go. Perhaps you may gain similar or different benefits.
We don’t know enough to judge if something is right or wrong. Therefore it might be more beneficial to use the differences of opinion to enrich our perspective and knowledge about the world around us and strengthen our relationships rather than allowing such differences to damage or relationships and extinguish our passion for life.