The Certainty of Being Right

By Anthony Gold

The traveler arrived at the airport eager to get home yet lamenting the long wait prior to boarding.  To help pass the time, she purchased a short mystery novel and a bag of cookies from the mini bookstore.  Upon returning to the crowded boarding area, she found an open seat next to a middle-aged man.  She placed the bag of cookies under the arm of her seat, propped the book open on her lap, settled in for the wait, and began reading.

Within a few minutes, the man next to her reached into her bag of cookies, took one out, and ate it.  The woman was a bit surprised at the man’s poor manners, but decided to let it go and went back to her novel.  She ate a few cookies herself, rather loudly, just in case the man didn’t realize they were her cookies.

But the inconsiderate fellow did it again.  He reached right in, took a cookie, gave the woman a curt smile, and began chewing.  Once again, she reached in and ate several more, audibly clearing her throat and making it known she wasn’t happy.

Back and forth this went, with the man clearly demonstrating no regard for the woman’s property.  And with each passing minute, the woman became more and more enraged.  It came down to the last cookie.  The man reached in the bag, pulled it out, and smiled shyly at the woman.  He cut the cookie in two and offered half to the woman, now visible stunned.

The woman was so furious she jumped up, grabbed her items together, and stormed off.  By the time she boarded the flight, her anger had barely subsided.  She got to her seat on the plane, buckled her seat belt, and opened her bag to take out the book.  And in the bag was a full container of cookies.

It turned out that the man in the boarding area had his own bag of cookies.  And she had been eating from his bag.  And she had kept on eating from his bag.  And not only did he never utter a complaint, he even offered to split his very last cookie with her.  The woman’s fury instantly turned to guilt and shame.

It’s a tale that’s been told in many cultures with very relatable implications.  How often have we been so certain of being right only to find out we were completely wrong?  And how frequently do we feel our emotions are perfectly justified – only to learn that our understanding was incorrect?

A Course in Miracles challenges us with the concept that we choose the entire interpretation we give to events, and as such, we fully opt for the emotions we experience.

Do you prefer that you be right or happy? (T-29.VII.1)

Beware of the temptation to perceive yourself unfairly treated. (T-26.X.4)

Being certain we are right in a disagreement, or perceiving ourselves as unfairly treated often leads to various forms of frustration and criticism.  From this state it is very difficult to consider the other person’s point of view.  And even more impossible to contemplate that we are actually choosing to feel this way.

But we can make another choice, we can see from another perspective, and we can be happy.  In the immortal words of Abraham Lincoln, “with malice toward none and with charity for all” we can truly experience the joy that unites everyone.

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