Just a thought: Being right and wrong at the same time

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Perception is reality to the holder. Good or bad, right or wrong, our perceptions control us. They drive our world. And once we grab hold of a perception, it is often hard to change. 

We make decisions based upon our view of the world. We each have our own unique view of the world and we have no choice but to see the world through the glasses we wear. Unfortunately, many times our view is wrong because we don’t have the entire picture. 

We arrive at a conclusion and then we become defensive of our perceptions. We are confident that our perception is accurate. What we don’t realize is that we don’t see the entire animal.

We need to be careful jumping to conclusions. We need to take what we observe and seek additional information before entrenching ourselves in a hard and fast position. We think we are so smart, yet in reality all we know is a small part of a bigger picture. 

Without all the information, we arrive at a false conclusion. Let me illustrate this with the story of the six blind men.

There is a fable that has been told in India for many centuries. Many versions of the story have developed over time. American poet John Godfrey Saxe, who lived from 1816-1887, wrote a poem he titled The Blind Men and the Elephant that explained the fable and is recognized for bringing this story to the United States. 

His version of the story is as follows:

“It was six men of Indostan to learning much inclined, who went to see the Elephant (though all of them were blind), that each by observation, might satisfy his mind.

“The First approached the Elephant, and happening to fall, against his broad and sturdy side at once began to bawl: ‘God bless me! but the Elephant is very like a WALL!’

“The Second, feeling of the tusk, cried, ‘Ho, what have we here?, So very round and smooth and sharp? To me ‘tis mighty clear. This wonder of an Elephant is very like a SPEAR!’

“The Third approached the animal, and happening to take the squirming trunk within his hands thus boldly up and spake: ‘I see,’ quoth he, ‘the Elephant is very like a SNAKE!’

“The Fourth reached out an eager hand, and felt about the knee. ‘What most this wondrous beast is like is mighty plain,’ quoth he: ‘Tis clear enough the Elephant is very like a TREE!’

“The Fifth, who chanced to touch the ear, said: ‘E’en the blindest man can tell what this resembles most; Deny the fact who can, This marvel of an Elephant is very like a FAN!’

“The Sixth no sooner had begun about the beast to grope, than seizing on the swinging tail that fell within his scope, ‘I see,’ quoth he, ‘the Elephant is very like a ROPE!’

“And so these men of Indostan disputed loud and long. Each in his own opinion exceeding stiff and strong,

“Though each was partly in the right, And all were in the wrong!”

Six different conclusions from six good men all doing their best to assess the truth. Six men who couldn’t understand how the other five men could be so wrong.

I think this fable is illustrative of the lives we live. It is a great example of how we jump to conclusions without knowing the entire picture. Each blind man accurately and innocently shared his own perspective of what an elephant was. Each one was confident in his opinion as he knew what he experienced when he felt the elephant. At the same time he was perplexed as to why the other five were so wrong in their assessment of the animal. 

These six men could have argued their lives away back and forth and back and forth believing their perception of the elephant was the only one that was right. 

Yet to truly understand what an elephant was like, it would take all six of the men sharing and pooling their own unique and important perspective with the other five. Each one of them had an important attribute of an elephant that needed to be shared if they were to ever determine what an elephant really was.

My challenge to you today is to understand that some perceptions you have may not be accurate. You may be reaching a global conclusion based upon a small part of what you need to know. Be careful to learn the entire picture before you entrench your views.

Maybe you need to listen more before you speak.

Don’t be prideful or defensive in what you think you know. There may be others who have experiences and wisdom you need to learn before you jump to conclusions and then defend an incorrect assessment.

Combine your own perceptions with an open mind to learn the wisdom of others in order that you can accurately assess what the animal is that you are truly dealing with.

Just a thought...

Rick Kraft is a motivational speaker, a syndicated columnist, a published author, and an attorney. To submit comments, contributions, or ideas, e-mail to rkraft@kraftlawfirm.org or write to P.O. Box 850, Roswell, New Mexico, 88202 - 0850.

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