Three Words That Make You Crazy
You are wrong.
There’s a visceral response when you read those three words, right?
And it happens instantly.
You can barely finish reading the word wrong without feeling like that lethal injection is already coursing through your veins.
Your experience or reaction to those three words is an infinitesimally small but very real, push back.
Because “You are wrong,” is an assault.
Feels like it doesn’t it?
Here...read it again. In case you have any doubt about how lethal that injection was.
You are wrong.
It doesn’t say why or how or what.
It doesn’t need to.
But something about those three words just doesn’t sit well with you.
With any of us.
So why is it that you feel this immediate repulsion---this immediate push back when you read those three words?
I mean, it didn’t say why you were wrong.
It didn’t say you cheated on your taxes and you are wrong for doing this.
It didn’t say “I think it’s wrong you lied to me.”
It didn’t have any qualifier at all.
You are wrong.
So what’s the dealio?
If you take a minute and just inspect what you are feeling, you will most likely feel it’s something almost ancient inside of you.
You know. Like this goes all the way back to the Aztec Civilization when your neighbor Aztec made you wrong for throwing their news tablet on the wrong side of their dirt path while doing your paper route.
Well, I could have said this feeling was “deep seated,” but then there are those who will say:
“I’d rather not have to confront anything too deep.”
Well, let’s check your oil light again then.
You are wrong.
Whatcha feel now?
Yeah. It’s in your gut, isn’t it?
It’s somewhere deep inside of you even if you’re not a deep sea diver looking for emotional fingerprints left in the depths of your immortal soul.
But whatever that reaction is, it’s got a “No Vacancy” sign across the residence of your soul, that’s for sure.
You don’t want any visitors that come bearing these words:
You are wrong.
“Sorry, we don’t have any rooms left. I’ve been made wrong and have been told I was wrong so many times we’re plum out of any more rooms here. You’ll have to go down the road a bit. Knock on the Johnson’s door. They might have some rooms left. I doubt it though. Most people in this town don’t have any more rooms. Not for being made wrong. Good luck though.”
“Scuze me,” I say with some intention.
“Yes?” as the man turns around and glares at me.
“Before you close the door, I’m not here to make you wrong,” I say with neighborly politeness and confidence.
“That’s what they all say, he replied in expressed resentment. They all come here nice and smilin’ and shit. Get your hopes up. Then when you’re talkin’ ‘bout the weather over an ice tea, they sneak it in on you. Tell you you’re foolish if you think you’re going to get top dollar on your bushels of wheat. You know, they’re fast talking city boys smilin’ at you while they slice you up like a fresh tomato.”
“Sorry, best be on your way,” he says with an ornery tone.
“Give me five minutes,” I replied simply.
“You’re a persistent fellow. I’ll give you five minutes. And then I’m runnin’ you off my property, you understand?”
“I totally understand.”
“Can we sit down?” I ask.
“Sure. Pull up that porch chair over there. I’ll sit here.”
“Alright young man. Go ahead. Say your piece. I’m listenin.’
“ First of all, you were never wrong.”
“Goddamnit! Don’t you be trying some slick city bullshit with me. I’ll run you off this porch right now.”
“You said I had five minutes. Do I get my five minutes or are you going to keep runnin’ your Jed Clampett Beverly Hillbillies crap on me?”
EYES WIDE OPEN.
He turns and yells back through the screen door.
“Betsy! We got us a live one out here! Bring us a pitcher of lemonade and come sit down. This boy’s got some fire in his belly.”
“You got some spit in you. Go ahead. You got your minutes comin’ to you. Proceeeed.”
“Okay listen up Gramps. See if your cornfield brain can fathom this:"
“Did you ever knowingly take any action on anything in your life with the intention to be wrong?”
Gramps is looking at me with bewilderment and shock. And I’m looking him dead in the eye like some fox he can’t believe is sitting cool and calm on his porch.
The only sound is the occasional creaking of his wooden rocking chair going back and forth.
And then thank god, the creaking silence is broken by Betsy bringing out a tray with a pitcher of lemonade and three glasses.
She smiles. Sets the tray down. Pours three glasses of lemonade and sits next to her husband smiling at me.
“You better say that again and don’t be thinkin’ you can give me some trick question cuz I just as soon shoot your ass as lookin’ at you.”
Betsy puts her hand on her husband's knee and says softly but sternly.
“Now, Harold. You let this young man speak.”
I take an immediate liking to Betsy.
“Okay, let me say it again:”
“ Did you ever knowingly take any action on anything in your life with the intention to be wrong?"
Gramp's was squinting his eyes like that was going to help his mind somehow comprehend the question. You could feel all of his barnyard cogwheels screeching to a halt.
And then he spoke.
“Can’t say as I have come to think of it.”
“So then everything from the first girl you dated to the car you drive to voting for the President, you did with the intention to be right. In other words make the right decision, correct?”
“Well, that’s where you’re wrong sonny boy. I made a wrong decision about the first girl I took out on a date. So there goes your city slickin’ college-ass logic.”
“ Okay, well hold your horses Buffalo Bill.”
“When you asked this girl out on the date did you say to yourself, “I’m going to ask the wrong girl out on a date. I’m knowingly going to pick the wrong girl.”
“Hell no! I only knew that afterwards!
“So when you chose to date her you were making a decision that was the right thing to do at that exact moment.”
AND THE FAMILIAR CREAKING OF HIS ROCKING CHAIR.
Betsy looks over at him and puts her hand on his knee again.
She looks up at Harold and speaks.
“Harold, there’s something different about this man here. He’s right isn't’ he? We never knowingly choose wrong.”
Gramp's puts his hand on top of Betsy’s.
He’s still looking steely eyed at me.
“I’ll be a son of gun. Maybe you ain't like all the rest. Maybe you ain’t a bullshitter.”
“So you’re sayin’ that every decision I’ve made my entire life, even when I lost my money in the stock market, that at that exact moment I was doing what I thought was right.”
“That’s exactly what I’m saying.”
“So therefore I’ve never been wrong.”
“Well I’m be a jumpin' jack rabbit,” he said cautiously.
“Then why in the hell to I hate like a hen stuck on a fence when people make me wrong?”
I looked at Gramps and then over to Betsy.
Betsy’s eyes lit up like a Christmas tree.
She looked back at me and spoke.
“Because if you are basically right, and are made wrong, you of course will take offense. It’s like someone shooting at us for no good reason. If we are basically right, then we fill want to fight back.”
Harold looked at Betsy and then back at me.
“I’ll be damned.”
“But there have been many times I did do wrong things. I go to Church and confess. I tell my priest my sins,” Harold said matter-of-factly.
Betsy looked back at me with raised eyebrows and without saying a word telepathed to me, “He’s right...what about that?”
“I understand. We have all done bad things. And it’s right to go confess or tell your partner and come clean.”
“But when you kissed a girl you weren’t supposed to Harold, and while leaning in to kiss her, were you thinking “This is wrong, I shouldn’t be doing this?”
Harold took a noticeable pause to think about that one.
Besty's looking at Harold thinking but not saying: ‘What girl was this???’
Harold then spoke.
“Yes...yes, as a matter of fact I did think that.”
“So you leaned in to kiss her and knew it was wrong, yes?”
“Then you were right. You were right that it was wrong to do that,” I looked at him directly.
Gramp’s face got red like he was going to blow a gasket. He leaned in close to me pointing his finger about two inches from my eyeballs, and angrily replied.
“Wait a minute. Now you’re slidin’ in some city slicker bullshit.”
I reach up and grab Harold’s finger smoothly but with authority, and put his finger on his knee. Like I was putting back a book from the library.
Gramp's was all like WTF is going on here?
And I then replied.
“Not so fast Colonel Sanders. “There’s no city slickin’ sleight of hand going on at all.”
I looked him dead in the eye all calm and shit.
“Were you right for knowing it was the wrong thing to do?”
EYES WIDE OPEN
CREAK. CREAK. CREAK.
“Damn. I don’t know who the hell you are or what your sellin’ but you’re right. I was right about knowing it was wrong.”
"And here’s the kicker.
Why did you feel you had to go tell your minister?”
“Because I knew it was wrong.”
“Because you were originally right. You always have been. And you were right to tell your priest.
"And how did that make you feel?”
“At peace with myself,” he replied with certainty.
“Because you want to be right with yourself."
"And when you are right with yourself, and you have communicated your missteps you are in truth acknowledging that every intention from day one, came from you. It was yours.
And when you took a wrong turn or misstep it was still yours. And when you can admit to and take responsibility for the fact that it was in fact your action and you did it, at that exact moment you are free."
Harold looked at me like a field mouse just looked up in the sky and saw a hawk.
“I did not come here to sell you a damn thing Harold," I said with assurance.
"I came to deliver a message.”
I looked at both Betsy and Harold and continued.
“Your rightness is your basic goodness, I said calmly.
“You and Betsy and everyone taking a breath on this planet are basically good.”
"We act from our basic goodness."
"Our mistakes come from misunderstanding, no understanding, and moments of unconsciousness."
“If you clear up misunderstandings what happens?” I posed to both of them.
They both turned their heads and looked at each other.
Then Betsy spoke.
“It sets everything right.”
“That is your personal integrity. You are once again whole. You are right with yourself, the other person, and the world are you not?
They both looked at me and nodded.
Betsy began to have tears roll down her face. Harold looked over and held her hand.
Betsy then spoke.
“We do have a room here for you. We were afraid of being made wrong so we lied to be right. We have been lying about having no rooms in order to be right. We didn’t know what else to do. I hope you will forgive us.”
I looked back at Betsy and over to Harold and smiled and then spoke.
“No need to forgive you because you just did the hardest thing there is to do.”
“You stopped having to be right in order to make another or others wrong.”
“That just keeps all the rooms in people’s hearts with “No Vacancy” signs.”
“You cannot make another wrong and be right,” I said calmly.
“That math does not work.”
“What do we do? The whole town is like this. No one will trust what we say. They will think we have been brainwashed or tricked. The rumors about you preceded you.”
I drank the last of my lemonade, set my glass down, looked over at them and spoke.
“Were the rumors right?” I asked.
They both shook their heads, “No.”
They were still a bit shocked at what was happening on their front porch.
Truth has that effect I have found.
“Then what is the right thing to do?” I posed to them.
Betsy looked up at Harold. Betsy is from another time. She admires and respects her husband. She let him lead.
“I have to admit, I was ready to bring my shotgun out here to show you who’s boss. To get your ass off my property. To be right.”
Harold’s voice was shaking. Betsy gripped his hand more firmly.
“But when you started talking I knew in my soul that your words were true. I have become so hardened to the truth that I ‘bout didn’t recognize it.”
A single tear came down Harold’s face as he continued to speak straight forward. Like he was testifying in front of Congress or something.
“At first I was not able to admit that I have been part of this false face we’ve been putting out there. I thought I was right. It was others who were wrong. I see that I was just being stubborn. My wife reminds me of this and even then it is hard for me to admit to.”
Harold’s lip was trembling. Betsy reached up and gently put her other hand on his arm. Her tears were streaming like a slow river down her lightly sun-tanned face.
“But you fella, you brought a message that has broken that spell. You are not a city slicker. But rather some kind of wizard. How you broke through I have no idea.”
Damn if Harold wasn’t having himself a cognition.
“The truth is clear. We need to stop trying to be right by making others wrong. We need to take responsibility for our own actions, those in this town, and go spread this message.”
Betsy hugged her mans arm and smiled. Her eyes glistened.
“And like you, at first we may not be welcome. Even though we are neighbors.”
“Any helpful advice on how to break through that spell?” Harold asked in earnest.
Harold was calm. Betsy wiped the tears from her face. She was radiant. She was so proud of Harold.
They both looked at me while they were holding hands like high school sweethearts about ready to confront the unknown.
I looked back at them and smiled.
“Yes, I do have some advice for you.”
“Ask them for 5 minutes.”
“And get them to bring out lemonade and some glasses."
"Trust me," as I smiled broadly.
“The magic is in the lemonade.”
And suddenly tears just burst out of Betsy and Harold like a small rainstorm. They looked over at each other and then hugged each other as their bodies shook from so much relief.
My eyes got watery as I watched the wonder of it all.
You could just feel the years of wrongness and relief pouring out of the both of them like a cool summer breeze.
They eased out of their embrace.
Harold turned and looked at me and spoke.
“I apologize for my behavior. My wife and I thank you for what you have done to help us today.”
Then Betsy spoke.
“We would be grateful if you’d take one of our rooms for the night before you move on.”
I looked at her and then at Harold as he nodded affirmatively.
I looked at them and spoke.
“Okay. But I have one last important question.”
I emphasized the word important while looking right at them.
They looked at each other like, “What now?”
They both looked back at me and Betsy spoke.
“Please, what is your question?
I asked with neighborly smile...
"Your room got WiFi?"
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