The Beautiful Discomfort of Being Wrong

May 4, 2017

Yesterday, I clicked "submit" on what is probably the last paper I'll ever write as a student. I'm almost thirty-eight, so it's about time.


Some of the best parts of this degree program have been realizations that my assumptions or understandings were just plain wrong...or at best, pretty uninformed.


That got me thinking about this as a concept in general: the simultaneously humbling and invigorating realization that we've been wrong about something, but now understand it more deeply. And the best part--the ironic part--is that maybe this deeper understanding has come precisely because of our initial misunderstanding. Maybe it wouldn't have come otherwise. We had to be wrong to truly understand why. 


Sure, it's disconcerting. But it's kind of beautiful, too. Because it reminds me of our capacity for change. I don't just mean change of opinion on a given subject. I mean the sort of change that occurs more deeply, when we come to a deeper understanding of the very big world that exists outside of our sometimes fairly provincial opinions. 


A few years back, I disagreed with a colleague about a program and how it would be managed. I was convinced that this colleague was wrong when it came to one aspect in particular. Ultimately, this colleague said, "Just trust me on this and watch what happens." Well, it turned out that my colleague was right. The subsequent years have proven it. And what's more, since then, that realization has continued to deepen my understanding of about sixty-three other interrelated things. So far. 


This week, I'm engaging students in subject matter that inevitably evokes strong feelings and reveals some fairly entrenched opinions. I'd like to think that some of them might be encountering the "beautiful discomfort of being wrong" in terms of some presuppositions and assumptions about the world and other people. And as I prepare for each class, I make it a mantra to remind myself of something a teacher has to keep in mind: I'm not done learning. And therefore, I'm not done being wrong. 




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