It’s OK to be wrong, if…
When I was young, I was told/taught many things that were simply not true. Thankfully, most of these things were inconsequential such as the undeniable fact that, yes, girls do have cooties.
In my late teens, one by one, I started to unravel many of the fallacies, the first of which I can remember was, “You put salt in water to make it boil quicker.” The truth, as my horrified chemical engineer roommate vehemently pointed out, was that adding salt to water makes it boil at a hotter temperature which, in fact, makes the water take longer to reach its boiling point. One down, dozens to go.
The early-life falsehood I remember the most, for reasons I’ll soon give, was the infamous “tea has more caffeine than coffee.” While there is a situation in which this is true, in the context it’s always used, comparing a cup of one to a cup of another, it’s not. The science behind it is that if you were to take a pound of tea leaves and a pound of coffee beans, that aggregate amount of caffeine in the pound of tea would be more than that of the coffee. However, if you were to make an 8-ounce cup of each, the amount you’d use would be such that the coffee would indeed have more caffeine than coffee.
The reason this falsehood sticks out to me the most is because fresh in my mind was that I had just spread this bad information to someone else when I found it wasn’t true. I was struck with a combination of embarrassment and something just short of horror. Of course the amount of caffeine in either of these drinks is and will never be a point of paramount importance, however, I had spread this bad information to many people over my life and I felt bad about it.
I would love to say that I found and apologized to each and every person I ever passed this bad information to, however, that’d be a big lie. I found the two people I knew of and had to leave it at that.
Oddly, the bewildered reaction of my friends was a sad testament to how infrequently people apologize or are apologized to. Fortunately, at least in my mind, I left those people with the impression that I am an honest, contrite and (gasp) introspective person who feels a need to correct that which is wrong.
It was at this point that I made the conscious decision that I was going to apologize and make amends for situations in which I am or have been wrong. In doing so, it’s been 20+ years of being dumbfounded at how few people feel the same way. Politicians especially, make their livings out of saying things that are 100% false and never, ever, say their mea culpas. For fun just go to Politifact’s “Pants on Fire” section, find your favorite politician on either side of the aisle, and laugh between the tears (at the time of this writing, Donald Trump is, of course, hogging the outright lies).
In the end, all I can really do is take the high road and, as usual, hope there’s a massive universal sea change such that everyone else does as well.
However, since I’m only human, I will selfishly list a sampling of those people who need to apologize to me.
C.S. — For unfriending me because I called you out for make the sweeping generalization that all Prius drivers drive slowly. To this day I laugh at you each time a Prius going 75 MPH passes me on the highway.
D.G. — For calling me naïve because I refused to buy into you conspiracy theory that the climate is not changing but rather is a conspiracy, based solely on the fact set that, well, it’s a conspiracy. Holy crap were you wrong.
P.T. — Really, just about anything you’ve ever said, about anything, however we’ll highlight “Nixon did nothing wrong” and “You’re fooling yourself if you think that gay people don’t live completely different lifestyles than heterosexual people.”