Saturday, August 15, 2009

Don’t Hold Your Views Too Firmly

Let’s take this advice on realising release from the ignominy of stubbornness from the master, Balthasar Gracian, in two chunks:

"Every fool is fully convinced, and every one fully persuaded is a fool: the more erroneous his judgment the more firmly he holds it. Even in cases of obvious certainty, it is fine to yield: our reasons for holding the view cannot escape notice, our courtesy in yielding must be the more recognised."

We are not apt to think of people as fools if we’re honest. It’s just not good copy. But someone who stubbornly holds the wrong or even a slightly incorrect view is behaving foolishly. Likewise, if you can be talked around by simple rhetoric and not be contained by fact, it doesn’t look good. Truth can’t be contested. That’s why it is called ‘fact’. Why be talked around the truth to conform to a lie?

It is fine, however, to yield even when we’re in the right. If someone won’t let go of the issue what point would there be in maintaining your (truth-filled) view? In these cases, no matter how right we are, we can still relent to protect a relationship--if we choose. It all depends on our reasons, for they will be more memorable to onlookers than whether we were wrong or right. We can be 100 percent right and still look like a villain. For trying to ‘champion truth’ leads too easily to ‘rudeness’ instead…

"Our obstinacy loses more than our victory yields: that is not to champion truth but rather rudeness. There be some heads of iron most difficult to turn: add caprice to obstinacy and the sum is a wearisome fool. Steadfastness should be for the will, not for the mind. Yet there are exceptions where one would fail twice, owning oneself wrong both in judgment and in the execution of it."

Quirkiness is fine for a change and even adds to the humour of a funny situation; folk would not be ‘folk’ without being quirky. Yet, add quirkiness to pigheadedness and inflexibility and it drives people nuts. We’re right in being steadfast when it is right, when ‘all the planets are in alignment,’ but a fixed mind for the sake of it is a solution to no problem.

There are times when we’ll inevitably get it wrong, either from the way we judge a situation or via our handling of it. We need not give up. We do need to be flexible in our approach and perception of things. Being changeable is a great wisdom.

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