Search This Blog

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Needing To Know & Needing To Be Right

"Some of us have tried to hold on to our old ideas and the result was nil until we let go absolutely."
Alcoholics Anonymous, "How It Works," p. 58.
I've often heard it said that two of the hardest things to do in life are: (a) to admit we were wrong, and (b) to admit we do not know. Doing either, it seems at first, threatens our instinctive drives for security, sex and society. If we don't know, or if (gasp!) we're wrong, what will become of us?

The first of these challenges, admitting that we were wrong, is explicitly dealt with in Step Ten. When we are wrong, we "promptly admit it." In time, and with practice, admitting we've made a mistake and/or acted wrongly becomes much easier. It is a valuable discipline which leads directly to ego-deflation and self-abnegation (i.e., the "forgetting" of "self").

Dr. Wayne Dyer
'Letting Go and Letting God', as spiritual teacher, Dr. Wayne Dyer, observes, "involves relinquishing ego’s attachment to, or fear of, something. The single most pronounced attachment for most of us during the morning of our lives," he points out, "is the attachment to being right!"

"There’s nothing (the) ego loves more than to be right," Dyer notes, "which makes it an important and satisfying attachment to practice letting go of."

The second proposition - admitting that "we do not know" - is not as explicitly addressed in the Twelve Steps, however. But it is an integral part of the Step One admission that our lives were, are and will remain unmanageable. After all, if we rather than God were omniscient, omnipotent and all-knowing our lives would not be unmanageable, and we would be just fine, thank you. But that is decidedly not how it is.

In his many talks, A.A. pioneer, and author, Chuck C. ("A New Pair of Glasses"), would point out that he was brought up to believe he must "out-think, out-smart and out-perform" all comers in order to get what is needed out of life. He, like all of us, had fallen victim to the "delusion" that all would be well and we could "wrest satisfaction and happiness out of this world if (we) only manage well." ('Big Book,' page 61.) It is this delusion, our pride, and the fear of the unknown that grips us when we encounter the unfamiliar that makes it so difficult to admit, even to ourselves, that we are not all-knowing. 

If we admit that "we do not know" what to do in a situation, "we do not know" the answer to a question, or, perhaps, "we do not know" some key information we think we really should know, how does that make us feel? How does it affect how others will think of us? Are we not somehow diminished in our own eyes and the eyes of others? Isn't such an admission shattering to one's self-confidence? Do we not need to know in order to manage life?

Andrew Cohen, Editor-in-chief,
EnlightenNext magazine.
Paradoxically, as ever, and as counter-intuitive as it seems at first, the admission that "we do not know" is a sign of inner strength and an honest admission of our powerlessness. No one person is omniscient and knows everything he or she might wish, and this despite what he or she wishes to convey to the world. After all, as spiritual teacher, Andrew Cohen, points out, the reality is that "beyond a certain point we do not know, we cannot know, and we do not need to know."

Our readiness and ability to let go of this "need to know" is, thus, like our ability to admit it when we are wrong, a good indicator of our spiritual growth. The ego has a fierce desire to know everything and be right all of the time. In facing, accepting and admitting to others the truths that "we do not know" and/or that "we were wrong" we take giant strides towards curbing our self-righteousness and moving beyond the "small self" of the ego towards the "Authentic Self" which is the core and essence of our Being.

1 comment:

  1. ...a very relevant topic for me Bhuddini..i've always had a problem with this area(ego)of my psyche..i tend to relish a sense of superiority over others by always(in my own mind) being 'right'..or seen from another perspective,that everyone else is 'wrong'..the solution for me that seems to work best is to repudiate the dichotomic notion of right/wrong and to view each one of us as unique individuals progressing along a sliding scale,our position on the scale depends on the Light and the willingness we have been GIVEN by the Higher Power..for instance,Thats why i now hesitate to speak badly about the antics of sincere fundamentalist Evangelicals anymore,...because i myself was once there and it was part of my journeying to get where im at now(which is'nt saying much)..... grateful for you rabbi..