By Steve Klein
I don’t know if this is a universal trait, or if it has something to do with American culture, but for many of us, it seems very important to be right. This extends all the way from important things to the most trivial. If I disagree with someone about who starred in a movie made in the 40’s and I find later on that I was right, I always receive this news with tremendous satisfaction. And, quite often, I can’t resist making a point of sharing this information with the person who had disagreed with me.
Conversely, if I am unjustly accused of doing something wrong, I am filled with righteous indignation. Even if what I am accused of is relatively unimportant, I chafe at the injustice of it and am eager to assert my innocence.
But Baba’s definition of “right” and “wrong” seems to be very different from the world’s. To bring this point home Baba would, at times, rebuke His mandali for doing something wrong when He knew perfectly well they were innocent. I would have defended myself by trying to prove that I hadn’t done what I had been accused of. What Baba wanted was for the accused simply to accept His criticism.
One time when Baba had been criticizing everything Rano did for a period of time, she felt so bad at her inability to please Baba that she told Baba He should send her away if everything she did made him so unhappy. (It can be noted that unlike me, Rano didn’t even bother trying to defend herself, or prove that she had been right, she was just upset that Baba was unhappy with her. Which is one of the many reasons why Rano spent her life with Baba and I am writing columns like this.) Baba gave her such a look that Rano realized that leaving would be a type of disobedience. Her concern was merely to do whatever Baba wanted and if it made Him happy to express annoyance and displeasure with her, well then, so be it.
Whenever I was in India, I was fascinated watching the way Eruch handled conflict. Time after time, couples or groups would come to him to resolve some difficulty between them. Eruch would always listen very patiently to both sides. And he would usually ask both sides to give in, to compromise, to reach some agreement, seemingly paying no attention to the actual details of the conflict, with who was “right” and who was “wrong.” And to me, in many cases, it seemed clear that one party was definitely way out of line and that if they could just be made to behave a little more reasonably the whole problem would be solved.
But almost every time, the unreasonable party, the party that was, from my worldly point of view, in the wrong, was also the party that was more firmly entrenched in their unwillingness to admit it. Having counseled both sides to give in, and seeing that the “wrong” side refused to do so, Eruch would ask the party that was in the “right” to give in. Of course I was surprised at this, sometimes even outraged as it was so ingrained in me that being “right” counted for something. But for Eruch, the way to be “right” was to be the one to apologize, to give in, to give up on one’s insistence on being right.
Because for Eruch, the only way to be right was to be right in Baba’s eyes, not the world’s. When we are concerned with being “right” that means being right by our standards, by the world’s standards. But the only way to really be right, is to forget about being right, and to focus simply on being His.