Rather be right than happy?

I have friends I respect a great deal who ask those they teach, “Would you rather be right or happy?” I understand the question as they mean it, and the point they are trying to make, but it has always rubbed me the wrong way because it seems a wrong question. Right is important to me, and on one level the question sounds to me as if they are saying, “You must choose to agree to wrong things if you want to be happy”.

So let me offer a modification of this that I think addresses what they mean without the unintended slight to being true to what is right. Is making sure everyone knows you are right, or knows what is right, more important to you than having a good relationship and happiness? Are there times when the “rightness” is just not that vital? Does it really matter if a story one of you is telling happened 12 years ago or 13 years ago? Is the fact that you took the trash out more times than she did last year important to prove?

In particular, I think this is an issue when you both honestly think you are right. If you can prove you are right, have you gained something? Is what you have gained more important than how you made her feel? If you cannot prove it, but keep at it until she says “Fine, you are right” just to shut you up, is it worth it?

Sometimes the truth cannot be proved, and sometimes it is not necessary, loving, or useful to prove it.

4 Comments on “Rather be right than happy?

  1. Years ago, I attended a training session where we discussed a model of personal value systems that had concentric circles containing components of increasing importance. At the center, was Biblical Absolutes. To me, that is the only level of my value system that is worth a serious argument. But I need to be prepared for the potential that I may still be wrong in this situation. Other levels, such as family or ethnic values need to be tempered for the sake of unity.

  2. I once heard someone say that it you are trying to prove you are right you are just being selfish. I’m not sure how you come to this conclusion, but being right is closely related to doing right. I’m not sure how being wrong makes us unselfish or becomes a virtue. Apparently I missed that part of the Bible.

    This actually touches on a foundational question of “Can we know the truth?” If we can’t arguments are selfish and pointless and we might as well become extreme pacifists. But if we can know truth we better try to be right or else we’re all doomed.

    Of course the people that are right most often are the ones that are willing to listen. Being right isn’t a virtue but it is a discipline. We can find truth if we listen and think and search. I believe this is what the Bible teaches.

    The other alternative is relativism, something that Christians should have no part of. We can know truth and we can live it. Anybody preaching otherwise, good intentions and all, needs a firm rebuke.

  3. @Take Two – I’m not talking about the right and wrong but the need to correct others or to prove you are right.

    In the past my desire to correct and/or prove that I was right was not really about the truth or caring for others – it was about something that was missing/broken in me. Now that I don’t need to prove I am right to feel good about myself, I can speak up or not based on how important it is, my relationship with the person, and a desire to honestly help rather than making myself look important or smart.

    It seems to me that motive is critical here (and in many other places). I’ve come to understand that doing the “right thing” for the wrong reason is not acceptable. When the motive is wrong, the action is wrong.

    All of that said, some get hung up on the “rightness” of things that are opinion. Others get hung up on things that are really a result of our memories not being nearly as good as we think they are. In both of these cases “right” is not something that can be determined, or even exists. Those who argue about the right and wrong of such things are really wasting everyone’s time.

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