Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

“I’ve looked at life from both sides now
From up and down and still somehow
It’s life’s illusions . . .”

– Joni Mitchell

As I said in my last post, being willing to disagree, facing conflict squarely and not hiding is a difficult thing to do for most of us.  But as Maddie pointed out in a comment from my last post:  You have blogged in the past – “Would you rather be right or happy?” This post seems to contradict that. Does it?

I don’t see the two as being contradictory or exclusive.  I have learned to stand up for myself, learned to be willing to disagree, to not just “paper-over the conflicts as I used to in my old ‘peace-maker’ days” as Rosalie so aptly put it. But I have also learned that it is sometimes ok to let things go and not push doggedly to be RIGHT above all else, at the expense of harmony in a relationship. I think of that kind of right as the “Ego Right.”

The idea of being right or happy comes from A Course in Miracles.

The main benefit I see in correctly interpreting “Do you prefer that you be right or happy?” is that it allows the line to be a challenge to our egoic insistence on being right at the expense of real rightness and of our happiness. Stubbornly clinging to a wrong position no matter how much pain it causes us is a virtually universal human phenomenon. This line is both a challenge to us to seriously question our way of seeing things and an invitation to accept a new way of seeing things that is both right and happy.

This also reminds me a bit of The Serenity Prayer –

Grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change;  courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.

I don’t see that as a Christian prayer so much as asking that part of me that is beyond my Ego, to have courage to face conflict, be willing to disagree, but to also accept some things and some people and not try to change them so I can be right.  It is subtle sometimes, but not a contradiction in my opinion,  just perhaps seeing things from Both Sides Now!



Thank you Maddie and Rosalie for taking the time to comment on my last post, it prompted me to think through this and clarify it for myself. Please tell me about how you have learned to balance this subtle difference.  And as always thank you for taking the time to visit, I appreciate it.

11 thoughts on “Right or Happy . . . or Facing Conflict . . . isn’t that a Contradiction?

  1. I just handled placing an order for a class I’m taking… 144 pencils imprinted with “To know the truth, only cease to cherish opinions” by the 3rd Zen Patriarch, Faith Verses. As I’ve thought more about that idea, the advice isn’t to not “have” opinions, but to not “cherish” opinions. I think that to have opinions is natural, and often they are, or may be, appropriate and beneficial…as you write, being ethical, exploring the opinion and being able to see both sides…and acting upon them, when needed. (can you believe that Joni Mitchell had such insightful wisdom at such a young age?…amazing!)


    • Thank you for your comment Kathy. What a great quote – thanks so much for sharing it and seeing the connection to my post. Just out of curiosity – what was that class that the pencils were for?


      • Sylvia Boorstein’s Wednesday morning sitting group, at Spirit Rock. http://www.spiritrock.org/page.aspx?pid=443 (There’s another helpful quote we were discussing… “The Great Way is not difficult for those who have no preferences”. ) We sold all 144 pencils this past Wednesday, with money going to a homeless shelter in the area. A second shipment of pencils is arriving, with another quote Sylvia suggested/requested…”Everybody is doing the best they can” imprinted on it. (btw, I have little reminder cards with the preference quote…I’m going to make a post of/with the quote, pencil photos etc, one of these days. )


      • I miss the Bay Area. I live in New Zealand now. I live in a gorgeous spot by the beach, and the area is beautiful. But I really miss the vibrancy and the diversity and the pulse of the Bay Area!
        Your class “5 Key Questions” sounds really interesting. I’d love to hear more about it.


      • Oh, I would LOVE to go to New Zealand, and hope to soon! I love mountains, ocean, green hills, rainforests! (a definite “preference” there! ) Do you live on the north island or south island? A close friend, Jampa, a Buddhist monk, grew up in the Christchurch area and his whole family is still there. (We met in Berkeley, when he was visiting a few years ago.) Yes, there is a wonderful pulse in the Bay Area. I can type up some of the questions we’ve been thinking about…similar to teachings, but we ponder our own answers, based on our own experiences with our own minds, senses of/about time, thinking about what is thought/thinking/the thinker etc. I can’t believe I’m this “age” and haven’t really thought about or deeply questioned those ideas/concepts from this perspective…and my husband hadn’t either. It’s actually quite exciting and freeing to be pondering such topics! Mostly what I’ve figured out is… “I don’t know”…about so many of those topics…a nice, freeing feeling, actually.


      • I live on the North Island, on the coast of the Cormandel Peninsula, just north of Thames, about 1.5 hours south east of Auckland. You are most welcome to visit when you come to NZ.
        I would love to hear more about these questions. Perhaps you can post a few of them and get your whole readership doing some deep pondering.


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