Book Review, Plain Speaking, Psychology

The Four Hardest Things to Say in the English Language

No, one of them isn’t Worcestershire Sauce:

“There are four things that lead to wisdom. You ready for them?” She nodded, wondering when the police work would begin. “They are four sentences we learn to say, and mean.” Gamache held up his hand as a fist and raised a finger with each point. “I don’t know. I need help. I’m sorry. I was wrong.”

The quote is from Louise Penny’s Three Pines mystery series.  For years, it was one of my favorites, and I’ve mentioned it, and recommended it a few times here.  Unfortunately, Ms. Penny went irremediably woke several years ago, and things haven’t been the same since.  (Unclear whether she suffers from Trump Derangement Syndrome, Trudeau Infatuation Syndrome (she’s a Canadian), or–the newest and increasingly widepread, mutated variant of the malady, Reality Rejection Syndrome. Whatever it is, it has not improved her storytelling or her writing, and the last few books have been disappointing, to say the least.)

But the first ten or so books are sublime–intelligently plotted, well written, surprising, and full of wisdom.

Whether or not Chief Inspector Gamache (he’s Penny’s central character) has cornered the market on how to find it, and while I suspect there are many other stops along the road to true wisdom, I can’t but think that a person who’s self-aware enough and humble enough to follow his advice has a very good start.

Some may not agree.  You may not agree.  Lord knows, there are people in my own family who aren’t very good at sincere apologies or asking for help when they need it.  And I’ve known plenty of people who just couldn’t admit ignorance of a subject and would never admit that they were wrong or had behaved badly.  (Mostly, a bit of probing reveals, it’s because they think acknowledging such things must mean they’re weak.  I disagree.  I think acting on each of them, sincerely and in appropriate circumstances, is a sign of strength.)

The obvious benefit, in my mind to such self-awareness and internal reflection is one’s resulting straightforward disposition and peace of mind. Less obvious, perhaps is that sorting oneself out in this way leads to the possibility of moving forward, of second chances and of getting it right the next time–all impossibilities while one is stuck blaming others, nursing grudges, and, fulminating about one’s sense of ill-use.

Pulling away from the circling drain, however, requires that we learn from our mistakes, and that we resolve–at the very least, to try very hard–never to make the same ones again.

And so do we often fall so very short.

Ready, Joe Biden?  Repeat after me:

I don’t know.

I need help.

I’m sorry.

I was wrong.

If only.

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