This is a guest post. The writer wishes to remain anonymous.
I grew up in a family where it was considered important to always “be right;” we were often corrected for any mistakes in speech or behavior. This bred a strong fear of failure and of making mistakes. I became anxious and defensive when criticized or corrected. My primary reaction was (and often still is) to argue or defend my opinions, because to be “wrong” was considered to be stupid or inferior. Being unaware that this belief was false, I set myself up for a life of conflict and difficult relationships in my family and friendships, not realizing my part in creating conflict and hurt feelings.
I love my two sisters and we are still emotionally close even though we live far apart. However, our need to be right creates conflict and competition to “win” arguments, even petty ones.This has caused dissension and hurt feelings during the last few years as we face difficult decisions in caring for our mother who has Alzheimer’s disease. It is harmful to all of us, including to my mother who senses the tensions even as her mind and memory slip away. Things got so bad we even stopped communicating for a while, and it almost tore our close family apart.
I knew something had to change. I finally realized I had to change. So I am learning to say things like “I see your point” and “You may be right”. I can choose when and how to respond in situations when there are disagreements and conflicts. I am learning that we cannot change or control anyone but ourselves, and we can’t even change ourselves without God’s help. We need to let his Spirit guide us and teach us. The Twelve Steps teach that our addictive behaviors (like my need to control and be “right”) have made our lives unmanageable. We must surrender our will to God’s will in order to grow and change our destructive behaviors. That’s very hard for a control freak because it feels like losing. Surrendering to win (as both Jesus and the Twelve Steps teach) is a difficult lifelong process. I am making slow progress on this journey–often veering off the path but inching along with God’s help.