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Wise people fight for the blame. Stupid people fight to be right.

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In the past few weeks, I had a few misunderstandings with my mom that led to me explaining myself, which only worsened the conflict. It's quite ironic how the more I try to explain myself, the more others think I'm wrong. Although I know that explaining myself usually did not lead to good results in the past, it's just so hard to resist that urge, otherwise I'd feel wrongfully treated.

After each time, I reflected on how to prevent the same problem next time. I've tried things like

  • "Treat others the way you want to be treated", but I think if I unfairly criticize someone, I would want them to tell me. So I start explaining myself, and then it goes downhill.

  • "Be strict with yourself and lenient with others", but it's quite hard to happily accept the feeling of being wrongfully treated.

  • "Remember karma. If you argue with others, others will argue with you." But I tell myself that I'm not arguing, I'm just providing a logical explanation, and I don't mind if others critique my logic calmly. So then I start explaining myself, and things get worse from there.

Eventually, I went on the Weekly Wisdom Blog to look for advice from past blog posts, and I came across Why Bad Guys Get Along. In it was a quote that sparked hope in me:

"Wise people fight for the blame. Stupid people fight to be right."

(Original text: 贤人争罪。愚人争理。)

I want to be a wise person, not a stupid person. I realized that I am quite stupid for thinking that explaining myself this time will be different from the previous times where it has never worked. I told myself I have to remember this quote the next time I feel unfairly criticized, and I indeed had some success.

The Incident

One time, my mom put some clothes out to hang dry in the backyard. She had an online class from 2PM to 4PM, and I told her that it might rain around 4PM according to my weather app. She said, "Oh? My app says it won't rain until 8PM. But anyway, my class will end at 4PM, so if it rains before then, can you get it?" I said, "Sure."

I finished going for a run, showering, and washing my clothes at 3:50PM. It was still sunny outside, so I thought maybe my mom's app is more accurate, so I put my clothes outside to dry in the sun. Then I started working on my computer at a desk near the backyard door.

Around 4:30, I was very focused on my work, and then my mom passed by my desk and went to the backyard. I thought she was checking out the garden. Then she started bringing in the clothes. I thought she was just bringing in the clothes before it rains, so I continued focusing on my work. After a short while, I saw a pile of stuff by the door, such that it might be hard for my mom to come back in the house, so I went to help out. Then I found out it started raining already.

Later, she complained and said, "I know it's good to be focused when you work, but I was kind of annoyed when you ignored me bringing all the clothes and blankets in. Why didn't you take initiative to come help me bring all the stuff in?"

I was really tempted to say, "What! How am I wrong here? I was going to bring the stuff in at 4PM, but it was sunny, and you said it wouldn't rain until 8PM, so I even put my clothes out. I didn't know it was raining at 4:30, so it's not like I purposely did not want to help. Why do you assume I don't want to help? Plus, you were already finished class at that point, so I thought I could leave it to you if it did rain, so I focused on my work."

But I stopped myself and reminded myself that only stupid people argue to be right. If I want to be a wise person, I should just take the blame. I really had to swallow that uncomfortable feeling of taking the blame when I really didn't think it was fair, but I did it.

I said, "OK. Well, I saw the sun at 4PM, so I thought maybe it won't rain for a while like your app said, but it's my fault for taking a risk like that since my phone said it would rain at 4PM. Next time, I should be more cautious and not take unnecessary risks."

Then my mom said, "OK I guess I shouldn't have said that it would rain at 8PM."

Then the matter was over. If I had explained my whole strain of reasons, I would be blaming my mom, which would make her feel defensive, and we might get into a whole dispute about who should bear the blame. I've been through that routine many times in the past, and I never felt happier afterwards. This time, although it was very uncomfortable for a short moment to swallow my logic and just accept being misunderstood, I was relieved that no argument arose.

When I became calmer later, I tried to imagine things from my mom's perspective. In her mind, it was obvious that it's raining. It didn't occur to her that maybe I didn't see it was raining. Given that assumption, her complaint seems reasonable. I've also made wrong assumptions in the past, so I shouldn't be upset at her for making the same mistakes that I make.

Later, my mom also apologized for criticizing me instead of calmly asking my perspective first. I guess she calmed down and reflected on herself too. Isn't it so ironic that when I no longer desire to be right, the other person apologies? But if I kept insisting that I'm right and they're wrong, then they would feel defensive and would never admit it. Indeed, taking the blame was the wise thing to do.


We'll probably all face situations where others unfairly criticize us or misunderstand us. Trying to defend ourselves or argue that we are right rarely ever yields good results (unless the other person wants you to debate with them). Despite knowing this, it is still quite hard to just accept the unfair treatment.

If you are able to be considerate and humble and see things from their perspective in the moment, then that's amazing. I'm not at that level yet, so I need some way to help stop myself from arguing, and I found this quote to be useful: "Wise people fight for the blame. Stupid people fight to be right." It might feel hard to swallow at first, but we'll be relieved afterwards because a conflict was prevented. Once we are calm, we can reflect on the situation better and see things from their perspective.


Weekly Wisdom #246

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