Wrong to say others are wrong?

We live in a world where people have varying viewpoints, some that seem acceptable to us and some that seem utterly unacceptable or even unconscionable for us. In the latter case, we may feel tempted to tell them that they are wrong.

Assuming that we are factually right, still, if we tell them that they are wrong, and especially if we do so dismissively or derisively, then we will most likely trigger their ego. That will either lead to an endless argument or to an abrupt end to the interaction, which will effectively leave them without any guidance hurtling down the wrong track. 

Does this mean that we never tell them they are wrong? Not exactly; it means that we recognize that our rightness alone doesn’t give us the right to correct them; we need to first connect with them. We need to develop a relationship with them whereby they gain trust that we are their well-wishers and know what we are talking about. 

Pertinently, the Bhagavad-gita (17.15) urges us to discipline our speech by speaking in a way that is non agitating, truthful, pleasing and beneficial. This means that we develop a reasonable relationship with them and the emotional deposit from that relationship will act as a buffer when we speak something which challenges their present ideas. To speak effectively means to not just word what we say sensitively, but to also create a relational buffer so that what we speak doesn’t come off as an attack on them, but is seen as our assistance to them in choosing wisely. 

Thus, by remembering that we have to earn the right to speak what is right, we can speak in a way that is likely to be productive, not counter-productive. 

One-sentence summary:

Just because others are wrong doesn’t give us the right to tell them they are wrong.

Think it over:

  • What’s wrong with telling others they are wrong?
  • What does the Gita say about disciplining our speech?
  • Consider a relationship where you see someone doing something wrong. What can you do to earn the right to tell them what is right?

***

17.16: Austerity of speech consists in speaking words that are truthful, pleasing, beneficial, and not agitating to others, and also in regularly reciting Vedic literature.

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