Quora Question: I was raised that it is better to be kind then to be right. Sometimes this goes against standing up for what I believe in. Does this happen to you, and what do you choose?
If what you believe in entails being unkind to someone who differs from you, then it might be time to re-examine your belief. Unfortunately, most people are so attached to their own beliefs that they find it difficult to examine them in light of reason and evidence much less change them.
But, beliefs are ultimately tools for helping us to see the world. Like eyewear, sometimes they help us see better. But, they can also cloud our vision. In cases like that, it usually means that the belief is not very well aligned with the best reason and evidence. In such cases, the belief is what should be changed.
Another good indication of the need to examine and perhaps change a belief is if that belief is compelling you to treat others unkindly. We see several examples of this in the political world. People differ about all sorts of issues but in many cases, their beliefs about the issue in question seem to be compelling them to insult those who differ with them.
What’s interesting is how often this happens on both sides of a contentious issue. For the participants in such debates (or downright fights!), they see this as evidence that their view simply needs to be more forcefully defended while the other view needs to be more forcefully resisted.
But, what it probably suggests, in reality, is that both sides have some flaws in their beliefs and are ignoring important pieces of the puzzle. Neither side is engaged in an effort to arrive at the best possible explanation for how the world works and together they are certainly not engaged in a cooperative effort to arrive at the best course of action.
Too often, beliefs hold their adherents hostage and prevent progress on difficult issues. They also seem to compel people to believe that those who differ from them are not simply wrong but evil. As such, they feel justified in treating them unkindly.
Of course, this is a mistaken view of what is really going on. In reality, people are struggling to figure out how best to proceed and are working from imperfect premises and incomplete information. Neither side can solve these problems by themselves and arrive at a truly informative set of beliefs. But working together to achieve understanding, as opposed to the goal of winning, would allow everyone to hold more accurate beliefs, treat others with kindness, and make real progress in solving the issues in question.
KEVIN J. BROWNE
Philosopher / Educator
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