Being right is not always productive

James Randi has said, “Those who believe without reason cannot be convinced without reason.”

Recently I have seen a lot of behavior by people are so invested in being right, they can’t let go—even when it might hurt them or their cause. In the olden days this was called “cutting off the nose to spite the face”—an expression to describe a needlessly self-destructive overreaction to a problem—a warning against acting out of pique, or against pursuing revenge in a way which could damage yourself more than the object of your anger.

There’s a whole new level of pique today with the political environment, and social media doesn’t help. I know I should ignore it, but that’s something yet to be achieved. Speaking of which, and I’m not sure if this quote is attributable to any one person, but I recently ran across it as well. “It’s almost impossible to change someone’s mind using facts. This is due to “motivated reasoning” a psychology term that refers to the bias toward a decision that conforms to what a person already believes or knows.”

I’ll admit I spent a lot of years taking pride in being right – usually. I, and probably some other people, have a sense of integrity that just won’t allow me to accept, promote or condone anything less than factual—which probably helps me as a journalist.

Sometime in the last 10-15 years though, something shifted. I began to realize this was rigid and now, mostly, I think, “The only thing anybody knows for sure is nobody knows anything for sure.” I think the older we get the more we realize things like that are important; which is perhaps why George Bernard Shaw said “Youth is wasted on the young”.

The older we get, the wiser we get, I guess. Recently, a friend of mine posted a meme which said, “The attitude of ‘That’s just how I am, take it or leave it”, is really immature and inconsiderate of others.

I have to confess, I am a big fan of the ‘take me or leave me’ philosophy and even have gone so far as to possibly have perfected it. But lately I realize it’s not doing me any favors. Although circumstances and moving around contributed to the fact that I have no one close friend from my childhood, that attitude probably helped as well.

But I spent a lot of years, being the only person I could really rely on, too. The meme goes on to say, “If you truly believe you don’t have to change anything about yourself, even the worst parts, then sorry, you are still a child”.

As much as I hate to admit it, that’s pretty spot on. I know, even as I approach 58, I still have some maturing to do. So be patient. I guess like the rest of you, I’m still a work in progress. And recognizing that is half the battle, right?

Paula Schmidt is a reporter for the View Newspapers. Contact her at

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