Christian Clifton lived behind a facade of arrogance and deceit. And facing his own shortcomings did not come easy.
There was once a young man who knew everything, as many young men do. His motives and ideologies were beyond contestation. Any questioning of his mental processes or abilities was met with scorn and taken as an attack that must be dealt with. He lost many friends and neglected relationships that could have changed his world because of his own imagined aptitude in life.
This man would scoff at anything he did not think of first while secretly taking the meat of the idea and making minute changes until he could declare it as his own original creation. If someone posed an idea that could not be so easily twisted the young man would fall in line acting as if he had always held to this truly wonderful thought.
His ambitions were selfish and he sought to make himself greater even if it meant making others less. He was adept at hiding his true being behind an artfully crafted façade of humility and servitude. Those that caught a glimpse through his armor were quickly quieted or reasoned with in an effort to conceal the knowledge they had. It became second nature to discredit his detractors whether they were friend or foe.
The world seemed bright to this man, as the lie he lived was so broad that even the young man himself would fall victim to it at times. He was blinded to reality and missed so much life for fear of having the lie crumble down around him. He knew everything and did not want to face the truth that he knew nothing.
This man was me.
Falling was terrifying and hitting the bottom was excruciating. Entering the real world was like hitting a brick wall at 90 mph. I left college and realized that before me was a vast expanse of territory I knew nothing about. Fear gripped me in ways I wasn’t prepared for; my old abilities to hide myself were like paper to the claws of tigers that roamed this new jungle. Instead of the great conquering hero I was the cowering peasant, hoping to get the opportunity to see the next day. All my self-inflated knowledge was exhausted in what seemed like hours, I was quickly left defenseless and without a firm foundation to retreat to.
I was prideful and arrogant for many years. I walked under my own feigned strengths and abilities, building a wonderful kingdom for myself. I needed no one else, I only needed me. Boy, was I wrong.
In the last year I have been forced to embark on the journey to discover myself as I truly am. Battered and bruised, I have unwillingly needed to call out for the help of others and admit my own shortcomings. The trail is arduous and the pitfalls abundant.
I was easily swooned by the lie that being educated made me better than others, that the gaining of a certificate somehow granted me a bonus in worth. I had above average marks in high school and was proficient in college. In knowing I had everything I was blinded to seeing how little I truly held.
In the past year or so I have faced my own shortcomings regularly. Yes, it hurts. But I know the pain is giving way to a healthier understanding of me. I would not wish such a season on anyone but I think that many need it to truly understand life.
My pride has been forcibly snuffed out, potentially saving me from many a future fall. I am not perfect; I do not know it all. What I do know is that no one is perfect, we all need someone else. I cannot do it all by myself.
Many young men reach a place of invincibility in their own eyes. If you find yourself in such a situation, you are the one who reads this and says “that’s not me at all.” I plead with you to learn true humility. Be willing to admit when you are wrong and that you are not almighty. You’re just a man, nothing more.
The most powerful words I have learned these past few years were not ones of great knowledge but of great wisdom. There are two words that can change a life when applied properly and mend relationships when used appropriately; “I’m wrong”. Truly counter to what the heart and mind would scream in times of distress I learned how necessary these words are in every arena of life.
Instead of defending an action or belief when it is proven to be faulty, instead of trying to turn the blame to another, or hiding behind some B.S. excuses—everyone needs to know when to simply say “I’m wrong” and leave it at that. All the fancy wordplay and technicalities in the world do less service to us and others than simply admitting our own fallibility. It speaks wonders of a person’s wisdom when they can utter these words.
Being wrong is not a sign of weakness nor does it always mean a terrible failure. There is great power in being wrong, and accepting it is one of the bravest things a person can do. There is such great value in accepting the limits of the self, as long as we know what to do with this new found knowledge. Being wrong should be considered a wonderful opportunity to gather further knowledge and not something to be disgusted at.
I look back now and wish I had been wiser with the time I had in college. I wish I had taken the time to truly learn from those around me, especially the ones more experienced and with more knowledge. I mourn over the time I lost that could have brought training and abilities all too necessary in the real world. We all play the “What If” game on a regular basis and this is usually the one that comes to mind.
Learning from mistakes can separate the truly great from the entirely forgettable. Join with me in accepting failure as simply part of the process of becoming better person. The sooner we all learn to be wrong sometimes the sooner we can come together and learn from one another. After all no one knows everything, something I wish I had learned many years ago.
Image: A screenshot from the interactive story Facade, available on interactivestory.net. Via aaronharmon / flickr