We need to start learning how to fess up when we are wrong. It's good for us, and it's good for our children.
I used to hate being wrong.
When I was younger, I used to do everything to try to argue my way (or Jedi mind trick) my way into making someone believe I was right even though I already knew I was wrong.
I'd like to blame someone for that. But, that would probably be wrong.
I'm not sure when the big turn-around happened for me. I can't think of a particular moment or time or event that made me realize I was doing something different. I just notice when it happens.
In one of my signature workshops, I ask participants to think about "a first or early message about.... Was it a positive message, negative message or neutral message (ie was it missing)?" In my case, this would be "What is your first or earliest message about being wrong? Was it positive, negative or neutral?" Mine, I guess, was neutral.
I didn't learn how to grow up being wrong. I don't actually even remember any conversations in my life about being wrong or how to fess up or how to tell someone they were right. In a family of five siblings, I was told to "say sorry" or "be nice to your brother", but I was never taught how to admit I was wrong.
There are lots of examples from parents about things they do differently from their own parents. Mine? I have learned to tell my children when I am wrong. (NOTE: oddly enough, my own parents have figured out how to do that now, too -- with their grandchildren).
In my house, I'm famous for losing my temper. And, each time, I've apologized for the horrific things I have said and used the words, "What I did was wrong." I encourage my children to use that same language, too. (We're still learning...)
The other day, one of my children's teachers told me that I was late paying a fee. I answered, "I didn't know that there was a fee." He replied, "It said so on the letter." I replied (and continued down the road) with "What letter? I didn't receive a letter. I don't have the letter...." In the back of my mind, it was vaguely familiar -- I wasn't exactly lying, but I certainly wasn't sure of the truth. I'm not sure what he was thinking of me at that moment. Maybe he thought I was losing my mind. Maybe he realized that I'm far more disorganized than I let on to be. Maybe he wondered if I didn't have the money to pay at the time.
Regardless, I made him second guess his own work.
I drove home a few minutes later, rustled through stacks of paper, eventually asked my daughter to go look in her room, and, sure enough, there was the letter. The letter with the fee. The letter with all of the information. The letter he had, indeed, sent and that I had, indeed, received.
I had choices.
I could say, "Well, by golly, there it is", crawled into my pajamas and hunkered down for the night.
I could have waited a few days until I was back in the area again to say hi and to bring it up.
I could have joked about it. I could have shifted the blame somewhere else. I could have done a number of things to make me feel better about the letter.
Instead, I told my 7-year old that we had to get back into the car and drive back to the studio.
When I arrived, the teacher was already in class. I grabbed a piece of paper and a pen and sat down with my 7-year old. "What are we doing? Why are we here again" my son asked.
"We are here because when we do something wrong, we admit it. Timely."
My son watched me write the letter:
I owe you an apology. I was wrong. You did indeed send a letter. I did, indeed, read it. I then put it away and forgot about it. But, worse of all, I doubted you. Please know that I'm very sorry.
I realized that was much harder than I thought it would be. And, it was much harder than it should have been. When did I (we) become someone who could not admit wrong doing? When did I learn that being wrong was so casual?
There is a lot going on in our world. And, perhaps some of us don't admit our wrong-doing because too much time had passed. I assure you, admitting we are wrong never has an expiration date. Maybe we don't admit we are wrong because we feel like it won't matter. It does. Maybe admitting we are wrong shows our children that we are weak. It shows them we are strong.
I ended my letter "With peace, Liza."
But, that apology didn't just bring peace to our situation.
It brought peace to my heart.