Dangerous nihilistic postmodernist that I am, I’m still comfortable stating a few points as plain facts. Fact one: everyone errs, makes mistakes, misjudges, slips, blunders. (I know this in part because our progeny listened so often to Big Bird sing “Everyone Makes Mistakes” — and if Big Bird says so, it must be a fact).
Fact Two: You can’t win ’em all. At the very least, in the end, you’re going to lose your mortal life; but between now and then, you’re going to lose some little things, some very great things, maybe a lot, maybe not very often. Athletes and teams lose; lawyers and litigants lose; politicians lose; regular folks lose (frequently, which is why those who take victories from us think of us as ‘losers’).
Fact Three: There are times when the right thing to do is to yield. We encounter lots of reasons to not-yield: longstanding wounds, pure old vanity, self-absorption, the confidence that our cause is just and our hearts are pure and our minds are clear, but sometimes even when we are in the right, the right thing to do is to yield. For lots of reasons.
Erring, losing, and yielding are unpopular experiences — but you can’t avoid them. You can’t avoid making mistakes; you can’t avoid losses; you can’t avoid circumstances where the right thing to do is to yield.
And here’s the barb at the end of this already unwelcome hook — other people can’t avoid these things too, and they don’t like erring, losing, and yielding any more than we do. And if we ever try to resist acknowledging error, or struggle futilely not to lose, or refuse to yield willingly, then we can’t blame others for doing the same, even when they do it more, even when they do it gracelessly. Other people may have greater, deeper, less visible wounds than we; or they may have an obscure stake in prevailing on a certain point, a stake we (or even they) aren’t aware of; or they may sense themselves to have an urgent necessity that takes precedence over yielding. Whatever the cause, other people face the unpleasant necessity of erring, losing, and yielding, too — and they often respond cluelessly, inappropriately, gracelessly, boorishly. Or they just insist tenaciously that this case in particular isn’t one of the times they’re in error, or one of the disagreements/conflicts/manoeuvres that they’re going to lose, or that they should yield. I do that; you do that. We do it to other people (if I’m not mistaken, then they must be wrong; if I’m dead set on prevailing, then they must lose; if I’m not going to give way, I will make them yield.)
A great part of our character depends on how we deal with error, loss, and yielding — our own, and that which we require of others. The more patiently and deeply we consider why our interlocutor is so fervently resisting, the more we consider the likelihood that their determination might arise out of the possibility that we really are wrong (or we are destined not to prevail, or we ought to yield), the more we allow for the possibility that circumstances in question are in the long run less important than is dwelling in humility and gentleness, the more likely we will be to err, lose, yield gracefully, in a way that makes room for others to admit their error, to mitigate our loss, to yield, in turn, to us. No guarantees; then we’d have a ground for supposing that this time it’s our turn, we can’t be wrong, mustn’t lose, absolutely will not yield. But if we make room for others to be right, to win, to not-yield, there’s more room also for them to let us have those opportunities.
But of course, I could be wrong about that.