As a young person living in the age of Trump, social media, increased narcissism, and quite possibly a second civil war, there is one trait that is increasingly becoming what I consider to be one of the most important in a person: the ability to admit fault within oneself. More simply put, the ability to say sorry.
Think about it -- the last time you said, “You were right. I was wrong.” As we all know, it is not as easy as it sounds, but can go a long way in any relationship. How exasperating it can become, dealing with someone who knows they messed up, but will not own up to it or apologize under any circumstances. Some psychologists, such as Dr. Susan Krauss Whitbourne of the University of Massachusetts, considers infallibility to be an expression of narcissism as well as disrespectful to the victim(s) of the transgression.
Surely, accountability and humility have always been valued attributes, but now more than ever -- in a society where partisanship is on the rise and national political quarrels are sparked by single tweets. Our self-righteousness is transcending our personal relationships and seeping into our politics. It is becoming an epidemic.
Why do we invest our time in political debate and discourse? Is it because we genuinely seek to see positive outcomes for our country and society? Or is it because we want our side and our ideas to win? If you’re like me and want to believe the former is true, ask yourself if you have ever admitted that the candidate you didn’t vote for has done something right.
We celebrate the failures of our political opponents because this gives us a chance to be right, a chance to say “I told you so.” Better yet, we refuse to search for the good in our opponents -- if everything they do is wrong, I will always be right! As a result, our capacity to openly converse with one another is dwindling. Discourse with an opponent might lead to us being proven wrong, and that is what we fear. We are willing to compromise our country’s progress to accommodate our egos. If infallibility can ruin our personal relationships, what can it do to the state of our country?
Change is hard to come by. But in the case of infallibility, the first step toward change is -- ironically -- admitting you might be guilty of such behavior. Start with your personal relationships and ponder if there is any room for you to take more accountability or to issue an overdue apology. Then consider your contributions to political discourse and determine what you can do to help detoxify our current climate. We owe it to our loved ones and our country to be better humans. Let’s start with being honest with ourselves.