Why Can’t You Admit That You’re Wrong?

Alabama voters just elected a DEMOCRAT, choosing not to go with the Trump-favorite, anti-homosexual, anti-Muslim, anti-everything-except-sex-with-young-girls Republican candidate Roy Moore for the U.S. Senate.

People, this is huge.

I forwarded everyone I knew in Alabama a tweet earlier this week: Alabama would vote for a Dixie cup full of chicken shit if you draped an American flag around it and scribbled John 3:16 on it in crayon (credit: Left Coast Lucy). I honestly had no faith that they would do the right thing.

BUT THEY DID.

So I messaged all of those people back and told them how proud I was of their state.

It’s such a beautiful thing when people do the right thing. It takes so much guts and character to dig deep inside of yourself and do something that feels uncomfortable, but you did it anyway because it was the RIGHT thing to do.

For those of us in California, the Alabama election seemed obvious. But for people raised with the Confederate flag and in an environment of racism and bigotry, they had to on some level swallow their pride about voting for a Democrat in a very red state and say “the other candidate is wrong, no matter what party they belong to.” They had to do this even when their family and friends and neighbors weren’t willing to do it. Brave.

But it was the African American voters who came out in full force tonight for this victory. African American voters who have battled disenfranchisement for so long. They were brave enough to fight even harder to assert their political rights and cast their ballots. They were brave enough to say YOU ARE WRONG. And that is so, so, so brave. It’s not always easy to stand up to other people and tell them they are wrong. Our first inclination is to usually avoid sticking our necks out.

Why can’t we admit when we are wrong?

It’s hard to do, and we don’t do it nearly enough. This stupid, foolish pride of ours ruins relationships. All because it feels taboo to be vulnerable with other people.

I admit that I have my own difficulty admitting when I am wrong. I’m a little bit of a know-it-all, not in the “I’m-going-to-argue-every-point-and-show-you-how-smart-I-am” way like some people I know. More so in the sense that I have strong convictions about everything. Admitting I was wrong in my marriage was the worst. In hindsight, I wasted time and energy battling stupid things that meant nothing in the grand scheme of my short time with my husband. But I try to be more vulnerable and transparent as I get older. I’ve been making an effort to do better. There’s nothing more nauseating (in my opinion) than living a life of fakery. At the very least, we should strive for better.

As a parent and as a teacher, I try to make it a point to admit when I am wrong.

The other day I told Ellie to go do something and called her a brat.

“You’re a poopy-head,” she said.

“Don’t talk to me like that,” I shot back.

“You called me a brat.”

I stared at her.

“Say sorry for calling me a brat,” she pressed.

Oh she’s a handful, that one. Actually all of my kids are. Probably because they learned from one of the best.

My dad would argue that I need more discipline in my house. I run my home a little too democratically for his liking. (Yes, I got in trouble all of the time for my opinions growing up. The parentals will still claim they were right and I was wrong.)

Which may explain my method of parenting.

I said sorry to Ellie. And I agreed with her that she had a point. If I didn’t want to be called names, I shouldn’t call her names. She accepted my apology and told me she wanted to say nicer words to me too.

I don’t know whose parenting is better, or if there is even a right or wrong approach, but I have to live in a way that feels authentic to me.

I run my household the way I think is most fair and respectful to all family members, regardless of their age. I try (operative word is “try,” I’m not perfect) to treat the kids the way I would want to be treated. I constantly reflect on my own behavior in front of them by telling them “I was wrong” or “I should have handled it this way” or simply telling them that I made a mistake and this is how I’m going to fix it. I want them to know that I am an imperfect human, not a robot. I make mistakes, and I’m committed to working on my mistakes. That involves them giving me a lot of feedback, and me listening, even when it stings.

A child won’t take your feedback if you show them you aren’t receptive to feedback.

I firmly believe that as a teacher you should be able to admit to your students when you are wrong. Your first inclination is to dig in your heels. You’re the adult, you’ll think. You’re the professional. Who are they to tell you what to do?

But would you want your bank or insurance company or anybody who has made a mistake with you to not fix it? If you got overcharged at the grocery store, wouldn’t you want the money that was rightfully yours back? And probably with a smile and a sincere apology too? Being defensive in the classroom or at home might help you save face in the moment, but in my mind you chip away at the relationship, and you undermine respect. Real respect.

Not obedient respect.

Obedient respect is built on fear.

True respect is built on love. It is earned.

I guess that’s why I don’t rule my household with an iron fist. I don’t believe in using fear to bind my family together. Fear isn’t long-lasting. Fear is what drives people apart. Fear breeds resentment and makes ugliness rot inside of us. I want my children to be friends. I want to have healthy relationships with my children when they are adults. I believe this needs to be built on love.

Why is it so hard to say you’re sorry?

We would rather hurt the people who care about us than admit when we are wrong.

I don’t know how I can encourage growth mindset and healthy relationships amongst my children and students if I myself don’t model the ability to say “I was wrong. I’m sorry. Let me fix this.”

It’s not actually about the word sorry. I don’t think it necessarily has to be said. Sorry can be such a shallow word, to be honest.

Your actions speak louder. Fix it. Show people from the depths of your heart that you want to make it better. There has to be an attempt to resolve an issue.

I tell my own children: if you make a mistake, fix it.

It isn’t about admitting defeat. It’s about whatever you did or didn’t do–address it. Resolve it. Find compromise. Don’t leave it alone to fester. Show the other person that you care enough about them to resolve it, rather than just leaving them wounded.

Real relationships are built on trust that comes from both sides who show they are invested in each other. Trust comes from proving to people that you don’t intend to hurt them, and that if you do (which we all inevitably do at some point), then you will work to make it better.

It doesn’t always feel good. Nobody wants to be wrong. Nobody wants to give in. But you do it because the other person is worth it.

As a teacher, and as a parent, I have to show the young people that they are worth it. I’ll admit when I’m wrong because I’m invested in them, and if I want them to learn from me, I have to let them know that they can trust me. And they will only trust me if I show them that I respect them through my actions. That I genuinely care how my actions impact their lives.

Thank you, Alabama. Thank you, to everyone who has ever been brave enough to say they were wrong and that you want things to be better. It takes courage.

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