23rd Elul 31st August
Most of us find it hard to admit to being wrong. We have what is known in psychology as “error blindness”
This may be because we have long internalised that making an error demonstrates our incompetence, or inadequate morality, or even our stupidity, so we prefer to be blind to our own mistakes and often double down on them rather than acknowledge them.
We know that “to err is human” – that as a general principle human beings are fallible, we make mistakes. We know that learning follows a pattern of getting things not quite right until we get them right. But as individuals, we tend to take our own subjective position and weave stories around the inconvenient parts until we can defend ourselves and what we “know” to be right.
Kathryn Shulz asks in her Ted talk “On Being Wrong” “how does it feel to be wrong? The answers show an interesting disconnect – people will generally say “it feels bad, or embarrassing or uncomfortable”. But these are not answers to the question – instead they are answers to the question “how does it feel when you realise you are wrong?”. When we are wrong, and haven’t realised it, we simply don’t notice. We assume it is the fault of the other person that they disagree with us. And because we assume there is a problem with the other, then we find it hard to connect with them.
Shulz argues that our ability to see things other than with complete objectivity is inherently human. We expect something to happen, and if something else happens we either don’t notice it or we generate stories about it that keep our expectation safe. We bring forth our own reality and so stay in our comfortable space.
“For good and for ill, we generate these incredible stories about the world around us,” she says, “and then the world turns around and astonishes us. . . . If you really want to rediscover wonder, you need to step out of that tiny, terrified space of rightness, and look around at each other. And look out at the vastness and complexity, and mystery of the universe and be able to say, ‘Wow. I don’t know. Maybe I’m wrong.”
If we really want to rediscover wonder, we need to step out of our tiny space of being right, and look around us. Notice what else – and who else – is there. Notice other realities. Be able to say “I might be wrong” without any of the judgemental aspects we are often so afraid of. Owning our mistakes can take us to wide new spaces, open us up to experiences and understandings and relationships we may otherwise think unimaginable.
Our liturgy for this time contains a number of ritualised confessions. Ashamnu, Bagadnu, Gazalnu – I have been guilty, I have betrayed, I have stolen, I have been hypocritical….. Maybe we should add another vidui line – “I was wrong, I am wrong, I will be wrong about so much – and now is the time to stop defending my view and think about it again.