Let me never fall into the vulgar mistake of dreaming that I am persecuted whenever I am contradicted.
Ralph Waldo Emerson
One of the first signs of emotionally healthy individuals is their ability to accept a viewpoint that is different from their own. When someone holds a view that is contradictory to ours, it means nothing more than a difference of opinions. Viewpoints are judgments individuals make based on their understanding of an event, a situation or an idea.
If someone airs an opinion contradictory to ours, it defines them and their values. In the same way, our reaction to another’s opinion defines us. Where our locus of control is, determines how we react to contradictory viewpoints. If it is inside us, we can choose to react in a self-enriching manner. But, if our locus is outside us, and depends on other people’s judgments, then we allow our lives to be governed by those others.
Sometimes, we are criticised for our thoughts or our actions. Emotionally healthy individuals accept criticism with grace. When someone criticises them, they do not accept the criticism itself as true. They choose to examine the criticism from a neutral perspective, accept it if it agrees with their understanding or reject it if it disagrees.
In the above quote, Emerson is saying that when we are contradicted, we must resist the temptation of labelling ourselves as victims, and others as victimisers. Self-righteousness can be self-defeating if we are closed to other people’s opinions. Every individual experiences life in a different way and, consequently, has a different perspective to offer. By being open to other people’s views, we enrich our lives. It is worth repeating that being open to alternative views does not mean accepting them. In the world of individuals, absolute rights and wrongs don’t exist. What is right for one may be wrong for another. Therefore, being open helps us to evaluate alternative views without judgment, accept them only if they happen to agree with our values and beliefs.