If you’ve ever found yourself doing some research into something you knew very little about yet had many unfounded assumptions about, you’d probably stumble upon something quite extraordinary. That being that you’re usually wrong about it. A lot of it. For the sake of argument, let’s say that you always held some assumptions about your religion, but you’ve never quite read your scripture thoroughly or delved much into the history of it. One day you finally do, and discover an ocean of information you didn’t know, as well as realised (hopefully) the many errors of thought you had carried around with you. I’m here to tell you that when something like that happens to you, it’s actually a good thing.
Whether it applies to religion or the rate of violent crime in your country or some scientific theory or whatever it may be that you think you know something about and carry around assumptions about, doesn’t really matter. You see I find that people have this sort of irrational fear of being wrong about things. To the point that many actually choose to live in ignorance of the truth, because the alternative would mean admitting to being wrong, and to perhaps years of being wrong in the worst of cases. Fair enough, no one likes being told that their thinking is wrong, and it is especially difficult to constantly question everything, seek out answers and acquire knowledge, but I wish that people could see it as a positive opportunity to learn and grow rather than something to feel ashamed or embarrassed about, or as an effort.
Touchy subjects like these work best with examples, so let’s work with one. In this year I have taken a huge interest in religions in general, and have actively engaged with my own, because I feel that religion is a fascinating topic since it encompasses peoples’ beliefs about the world, their morality and their way of living on a day to day basis. Yet I didn’t know my own religion that well. I just held many assumptions about it and the contents of the scripture, like many people do. I value spirituality more than religion, but I find the latter deeply interesting. Anyway the point is that I realised how pretty damn wrong I was about dozens upon dozens of things, and personally I felt it to be a very refreshing experience. It drove me to want to learn more and correct the errors in my thinking and eliminate the false assumptions I had.
As you may know I write for the gaming website EGMR, and there I’m friends with a pretty fantastic group of people. If I want to have the best discussions to do with gaming and the industry behind it, these are the first people I’d turn to. One of the things I like most about it is how constructive it is, in the sense that despite how strongly some of us feel about our opinions, when one of us is wrong about something we usually concede and take in new information. There’s no feeling of shame or sense of being ostracized as if some evil crime had been committed. We all are, to some extent, after personal growth and learning.
I understand that many people don’t quite have friends like that or opportunities to learn in a productive way, and if that is the case I’d encourage you to make a change within, in terms of perspective. No one you meet is going to be absolutely right about everything, but there’s always an opportunity to learn from someone else or from your own research. You really can learn something new everyday if you open yourself up to it and let go of any fears you may have of being singled out for asking questions or challenging your existing knowledge. Ignorance about something shouldn’t be a reason to feel bad, it should be an indicator that you need to learn more, if it’s something of importance to you.
If there are two things in this world that I often get frustrated with the attitudes towards, it would be asking questions and, of course, being wrong. In an ideal world people would be able to ask any questions they have, no matter how silly they may seem to others, and not be afraid to discover that they’ve been wrong about something all along. It is absolutely crucial to a positive and productive learning environment that people aren’t afraid to ask questions or to be corrected, and honestly the quickest path to stagnation or willful ignorance would be the absence of the aforementioned ingredients. Complacency is often a very bad thing to have, but one of the worst areas you can apply it to would be that of knowledge acquisition.
Drawing to a conclusion, I would like to ask one very simple question: what is so wrong about being wrong? The world won’t stop turning. You won’t be cast out into exile. You won’t be punished. At worst some irritating people may make you feel bad about yourself, but the positive is that you can go out and learn something, and become better for it. To me knowledge is one of the most important things in the world, and you should never have to feel ashamed or afraid or hesitant to seek it. If people around you choose to be ignorant about things or don’t care enough to rectify their lack of knowledge, it shouldn’t affect your own efforts. I’m not saying you need to become knowledgeable about everything, but at least if something is important to you and affects your way of thinking and the choices you make, you would do well to take it seriously enough to want to know something about it. That’s all it is.
The greatest crime would be to shy away from the questions you have or stop trying to gain knowledge out of fear of being wrong or being judged. If it isn’t possible to surround yourself with good people, at the very least you can make the change within and learn for yourself. Being wrong about things should not be a crime, but rather the beginning of learning something, asking the right questions and ultimately personal growth and development. At the end of the day, no one out there has it quite all figured out, and neither do you.
With all that said and done, I ask again: what is so wrong about being wrong?