The title is a well known phrase, something I’ve asked myself in situations many a time and one I often hear being contemplated by others.
“Happy” is often the first thought when responding to this question, especially in current times where so much emphasis is placed on seeking happiness at every available opportunity. Life is too short for anything else. But there have been studies done which show that the more value people place on happiness, the less happy they become. Interesting stuff.
A study was performed in New Zealand which caught my eye where a husband, who had expressed his preference to be happy rather than right, agreed to agree with every opinion and request his wife made without complaint. The wife was not privvy to the details of the study outside of monitoring her own quality of life. Needless to say, things went rapidly down hill with the situation becoming intolerable by day 12…the husband reporting “severe adverse outcomes” including the fact his agreeableness had led to his wife becoming increasingly critical of what he did and said. (The researchers concluded that humans need to be right…and acknowledged as right, at least some of the time to be happy. )
It appears, in the case of the amenable husband, that to be happy one must be right – but does being right always make one happy? I read of another instance whereby someone decided to report a couple of her coworkers who were behaving in a dishonest fashion. She felt it right to do so but was uncomfortable nonetheless. Perhaps she was concerned about how others may perceive her actions…ratting on her coworkers, or perhaps a touch of misplaced guilt. Whatever she was feeling, it wasn’t happiness. It appears that living a life of integrity isn’t always easy.
Thinking on. What is right? We each view life through our own unique pair of perception glasses…right can be highly subjective. Pushing a point to be right can be construed as pushing home one’s own version of what is right. Perhaps, with this mind set, it’s easier to walk away from certain situations. Furthermore, can electing not to be right so another will be happy be considered a form of people pleasing? And what about the lessons that can be learned from someone accepting that they are wrong eventually?
Questions to mull over. Is it ever better to be right and process the feeling of unhappiness rather than go for the quiet life and say or do nothing or little? If you are pretty sure about something being wrong, does it make you happy by saying or doing nothing? Have you ever been in the situation of saying or doing little and regretting not taking a stronger stance? Conversely, have you ever stood your ground and regretted it? And of course there’s always that horrendous, ongoing stalemate situation….it happened in my house last year. Different views about the right way to train our newly acquired, hyper, one year old dog led to each person doing their own thing for a while…not ideal, resulting in one (albeit seemingly happy) very confused dog. For me, applying this phrase to a situation can bring about a certain acceptance and perhaps a better perspective thus allowing for clarity of thought to enter the equation. Whether or not I proceed with the notion of being right is determined in part by my checking my motives, who the other(s) involved are and the importance of the issue at hand. Often, this is not a black and white question, the answer lies in the grey.
Curious, what are your thoughts on this phrase? If relevant, how has it played out in your life?