Marriage Minute # 12 Right or Wrong or Rude
These articles come from my collection of 200 such articles found in my book, Marriage Minutes, available at Amazon.com
It was back in the sixties, in a college classroom, that I heard a great statement about becoming a young adult. There was a dispute going on among the students around the campus, and some strong things were being said. The issue was crucial, after all, so didn’t it deserve a winning presentation, and didn’t the end justify the means? Our professor, an interesting but quiet gentleman, had a heart to heart talk with us one day and told us something I will always remember. He said, “It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong, if you are rude, you are wrong.” Word of this advice spread around the campus, and I suppose he had the same discussion with other classes. Soon, the tenor of the discussion began to change. Other cooler heads began to speak up, and the truth didn’t suffer at the hands of its own advocates.
Deborah Tannen talks about this lesson in her book, The Argument Culture. She suggests that our culture is presented with arguing more now than it was in previous generations. Because of television and the quest for ratings, we watch news programs and documentaries and “talk” shows in which people talk over each other, scream, accuse, and malign, with the blessing of the show’s producers. Tannen tells of an experience where she and another psychologist were invited to participate in a show about some prominent issues. The producer assumed that they disagreed on the issues, but it turned out that they didn’t, and even if they had disagreed, they were not going to argue about it. The show was almost cancelled. The people running the show were aghast. How could they have a show without a big fight?
I have observed a mutually destructive philosophy in many marriages. One or both spouses may believe that they have to attack the other in order to establish their point of view, even if their spouse doesn’t disagree. If their spouse isn’t as angry and as loud as they are, then their spouse “just doesn’t understand.” Like the proverbial hunter who goes squirrel hunting with an elephant gun, this person goes for the jugular of their spouse almost every time.
Roy Masters said, “Loving what is right, is not the same thing as hating what someone thinks is wrong, and feeling right about it.” Well said.
A recent study has suggested that the relationship mothers and fathers have between each other may have more influence over how the child turns out than the relationship each parent has had with the child. It also suggests that a verbally abusive parent will have more influence than the non-abusive parent, because the child may see the abusive parent as more powerful. The child may like the kindness of one parent, but they may be more likely to adopt the lifestyle they think to be strongest, and reject the kindness of the other, thinking that kindness is weakness.
So, thank you, Dr. Norman Fromm, for the class discussion one day that was not about the course material. It taught us something about human relationships. It doesn’t matter if you are right or wrong, if you are rude, you are wrong.