My husband Bill used to say, “I’d rather be happy than right.” I’ve had the great good fortune to have had teachers like my dear husband who entered my life, opened my mind, and changed the way I looked at the world. I could say I was lucky, but I know it’s more than that. I was blessed.
That mantra, “I’d rather be happy than right,” has given me a lot of peace. It also made a happy marriage. When I think about it, when I did win an argument with someone, when I was “right,” I don’t ever remember feeling good about it. Because it got me nothing.
Oh, I have opinions. I have viewpoints. I believe that racism is the ultimate ignorance. I think science will save our planet. I think people should love who they love. I believe that a government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from the earth.
But what I think the mantra teaches me is that nothing I believe should be used to make someone else feel small.
Not that I haven’t done it in my lifetime. I have. I am not perfect, but I am a lot better than I used to be. As I’ve grown older, I’m more likely to think before I say or do something that will do harm to another person’s spirit. We are fragile, we human beings. Our souls are perfect reflections of God, but in our conscious minds and our human bodies, we are bundles of ego, fear, and insecurities. It doesn’t take much to hurt us; that is, if we have the capacity to feel. Some of us, hurt once, carry it with us until the day we die. If the hurt is significant enough, a person may act or speak in awful ways. When I encounter such a person, do I need to add more to his or her burden?
I think my purpose here is to constantly strive to be more like the spirit I truly am, instead of the ego or the fear, or the insecurity that drives me to be “right.” All-knowing. Above others. As if.
It helps to be older. It really does. I don’t have the energy I used to have, the energy that drove me to conquer things, to be triumphant and righteous, to stand with my foot on the body of the giant, his head by the hair in one hand, my slingshot in the other. I need to rest more. Maybe that’s why some of us old people seem “wise.” The truth is, we’re just tired. Maybe God has blessed us with fatigue. Slowed us down.
Because we’re slower, we have a little more time to think before we act or attack. It gives us a minute to ponder the Buddhist admonition: Before speaking, ask yourself three questions: (1) Is it true? (2) Is it necessary? and (3) Is it kind?
An aversion to hurting other human beings doesn’t mean that I should stop living by the principles I have adopted. I will not be walked on. I will not turn my back when I see things or hear things that will hurt others. But. My minute to ponder will give me a little more time to choose how and when I take my stand. If I have to take a stand, I want to take a stand against things, not people.
This is not an easy time to choose to be happy. But that’s the side I want to be on.