Being happy VS being right

Friday, 1 June 2012

being happy VS rightSally Brampton, an international Agony Aunt, gives her opinion on why she’d rather happy than right…

I’ve been thinking a lot about anger recently, mainly because it’s been hammering hard at my door. Somebody is very, very angry with me for not being the person they want me to be, or the person they think I ought to be. They want me to fall into line or, rather, to fall into their line.

I am angry with them for precisely the same reasons. After a few toxic exchanges, when I spat from my corner like a cat, I thought, what’s the point of this? All I was doing was defending my need to be right, when at the same time I knew there was nothing I could do to persuade them they were wrong and I was right, just as there was nothing they could do to persuade me they were right and I was wrong.

Sure, we could have won a few battles and landed verbal bullets like sniper fire, but in the end both of us would have lost the war. If somebody is that angry and you are that furious in your resistance, it’s a fight to the death. Of such things are bitter divorces and custody battles made.

I’ve never really believed in the rightness of being right (although it’s sometimes intensely difficult not to clamber on to that particular high horse) because right can only ever be subjective, just as there is no such thing as the truth. Truth is not a fact; it’s an interpretation, so all we are actually fighting about is our right to inflict our version of the truth on each other.

The bedfellows of anger are resentment and self-righteousness. Both are corrosive, eating away at us to the exclusion of everything else. As the Buddha put it, rather more elegantly, his voice resounding down the centuries,
‘You will not be punished for your anger. You will be punished by your anger.’

To put the Buddha’s words into neat, modern shorthand is to say, ‘I’d rather be happy than right.’ Meet anger with civility and suddenly, the war is over. It’s not capitulation, compromise or even an emotional decision. It’s an intellectual choice and the reward is peace of mind.

It may sound very Zen but actually it’s plain common sense. If you keep hitting your head against a brick wall, you get brain damage. If you walk around the wall, you are free to go your own sweet way.

The most dangerous word in the language of self-justification is ‘but’ – a small word that carries a powerful punch. When it comes to anger, the moment you say ‘but’ you’re on a losing streak. I would forgive him… But he said this. I would let it go… But she did that. Long after an argument is finished, we keep it alive by playing it over and over, encouraging indignant resentment to settle on our shoulder like a pack of monkeys, chattering so loudly in our ear we are deaf to anybody else’s point of view. Where, in truth, is the argument now? Nowhere except in our heads. Where is our happiness and peace of mind? It’s lying in ruins at our feet.

It takes a conscious decision to let go of righteous indignation, to issue a sharp rebuke to the chattering monkeys and send them scampering off into the trees. It’s not easy and they will come back, but patient determination will force them to loosen their grip.

Right or happy? When it comes down to it, and it always does, I know which one I’d rather be.

Originally written by Sally Brampton, this article appeared on Psychologies.co.uk.

Image: Aaron Amat/Shutterstock.com

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Written by

Megan Kakora has helped launch the websites of, and been the online editor for, some of South Africa’s biggest glossy magazines. She believes in less-is-more, except when it comes to her collection of nail polish colours.
Megan on Google+

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  1. Sam

    I’d choose happiness over being right anytime but sometimes its hard not wanting to be right!

    6 years ago •

  1. Tanya

    I think nothing can ever beat happiness

    6 years ago •

  1. Zu

    If i know im right then it makes me happy, if it makes me happy its right for me

    6 years ago •

  1. Mpoyif

    I think it depends on the situation – sometimes you just cannot compromise on certain principles & values

    6 years ago •

  1. diamond

    Great article, a must read for a lot of people i knw

    6 years ago •

  1. Charles

    Sometimes it’s just better to let it go…

    6 years ago •

  1. ODENDAAL

    I have been angry with my father for so very long. And I have been right to be that angry. BUT. I’ve decided to just be with him in whatever way we can find to be with each other. I’m happy and he’s happy. He’s still in the wrong, but I’ve moved on.

    6 years ago •

  1. ricebunny

    lol agree with you rochelle being right makes me happy too

    6 years ago •

  1. honey_child

    This article really made me smile as I’m experiencing a similar situation. I know I want to be happy above all else but then I also want to be right. Why can’t we have both?

    6 years ago •

  1. Bella

    Happiness is much better than being right. Most people still stuggle with that. I learned it in the last few years and its not that difficult at all

    6 years ago •

  1. Rochelle Stewart

    Being right makes me happy!

    6 years ago •

  1. landman

    Happiness is far better than being right, something i have to work on, i always want to win an argument, being like this has a negative effect on u, and sometimes causes depression, etc is it really worth it a big NO people start avoiding u, they don’t want to be friends with u anymore, think before u say anything nasty just Zip your mouth and for once in your life keep quiet and think before u Yada Yada.

    6 years ago •

  1. Debsie

    This is something I must learn. Always want to be right.

    6 years ago •

  1. Michelle Powell-Marinus

    Id much rather be happy than right.Happiness feeds the soul and releases endorphins which not only makes you feel good but aids to you being a healthier being.Even though what most of us yearn for is to be RIGHT ALL THE TIME,many of us will go to great lengths to prove this…and whilst intent on doing this it reswults in destruction on harmony and peace which once prevailed. Proving your view is usually the cost of happiness and peace between yourself and other beings and results in you being consumed by anger and guilt.

    6 years ago •

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