My husband and I were having a conversation the other day. It was in reference to a difference in opinion between he and a friend, and he kept saying, “I’m not sure that’s the right way to go about it.” I reminded him that in this circumstance neither he nor his friend were right or wrong – that they were both trying to make a good decision based on their values. Both of their ideas were good ideas, and that what he was trying to figure out is which way was best, not right.
He sincerely asked, “well what’s the difference?”
I’ve been thinking about this ever since our conversation. My husband is more of a black and white thinker than I am. And while I absolutely believe that there are times when there is a right or wrong answer (I am not referencing issues of morality or justice here), most of the time our decisions are not between something good and bad, but something bad, good, better or best. The best car for our family with two young children and my needing to regularly transport a decent amount of photo equipment is not going to be the same as the kid down the road heading off to college who is trying to pay insurance with her part time job on the weekends. Or how you choose to spend your free time on a weekend is often a choice between a right or wrong activity, but how to best rest or recharge or tackle home projects or _______ (whatever it is you want/need to accomplish on your time off).
I find so many of our disagreements about what we think are right and wrong are really disagreements about better and best. And this distinction makes a huge difference in how we approach those who disagree with us. If we are using a right/wrong dichotomy than we are then saying that anyone who chooses differently than us is wrong. If we approach problems instead with a bad/good/best angle, we can see that our values are simply different from people choosing differently from us and that is ok. Someone who values freedom and flexibility will approach a situation differently than someone who values structure and stability.
Do you find yourself thinking of things from a right/wrong perspective when really what you’re working through is better looked at as a better/best situation? How does that change your approach to your problem? How does that change your views of someone choosing differently than you?