Being wrong can transform us. Errors present hope.

Being right is not a constant companion for any of us.

We all make errors, but often we still think we are right. This is at the basis of many arguments - the family argument about the Vegemite being in the, fridge rather than the pantry for instance.

Feeling right all the time stems from our self-belief that our views are considered and beyond reproach. This confidence is of enormous benefit and enables us to take risks and succeed in so many areas.

The question is how much do we learn from being right? My view is that we learn little, apart from reinforcing our self-belief that we are right all the time. Then how do we learn?

The view is that, when we make mistakes, we learn. Reflection is at its highest when we make errors. That reflection allows for change. To change, we reflect and then imitate others if we cannot determine our new pathway.

The capacity to err is crucial to human cognition. It is not a flaw, it is inextricable from some of our most humane and honourable qualities like empathy, optimism, imagination, conviction and courage.

With errors, we revise our understanding of ourselves. We all prefer not to err, and we all work hard to do things well - to be correct. Our intent is nearly always pure of thought, and so it might be the delivery that errs. A natural reaction to making a mistake is to be defensive, downplay or ignore it, or blame someone else.

We often have trouble saying the words: “I was wrong”. We attach shame to being wrong rather than the opportunity to improve. Seeing this through a different lens means that the outcome is so different. 

The interesting aspect of this topic is we are very good at pointing out the mistakes of others. The reason is that we feel better if we pick up a mistake.

I am of an age that I remember when the popular game 'Trivial Pursuit' was first became popular. The general knowledge game allows a question to be asked and for others to get in first with the answer. The game created many arguments among friends, for it brought out competitive or aggressive qualities we often did not know we had.

The feeling of power in letting others know, that we know, is quite addictive. We enjoy letting others know of our knowledge. This reinforces our reluctance to admit our own errors. Our challenge is to improve ourselves.

I believe this is possible if we admit our mistakes, show humility to others and reflect on our own mistakes. That reflection enables us to better ourselves.

Graeme Dent

Head of Senior School


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