There is a coin between us.
I say, look, it’s George Washington’s head!
And you say what? No way, that’s not George Washington, that’s an eagle!
And I say, no, unless Washington was a bird, that’s definitely Washington.
At first we think the other person must be joking. But we are both so insistent, that at first we lean from side to side and squint our eyes to make sure we’re not nuts. But there is no doubt what the coin has on it.
You think I’m crazy for confusing a President with an eagle. And I think you’re crazy as well. We both try, unsuccessfully, to convince the other that they are not seeing the coin clearly.
My feelings become hurt because you don’t trust or believe me. And your feelings are hurt for the same reason. How can the other person be so obtuse?
We both gather friends and family around us, point at the coin, and ask them what they see. When they affirm exactly what we believe, we become more convinced than ever that we are right, and the other person is completely delusional.
We are both so dismayed at the utter stubbornness of the other person, we give up. They are obviously beyond reasoning with.
Perhaps we begin to treat each other like acquaintances, or stop speaking altogether, our bonds of respect broken, our bridge burned. Why on earth the other person would stick to such a blatantly ridiculous point of view (and, by the way, one so insulting to a rare bird and/or our first President) is completely beyond us.
But then, at some point, we happen to be on the other side of the table for a moment, and quite unexpectedly, see the coin for an instant from the other side. What?!? We can’t believe it! For an instant, it looks exactly as they said! We shut our eyes, bewildered. Did we see it right? Was it a hallucination?
Now that’s we’ve caught a glimpse of the other side, we are shaken to our core with the sudden fear that indeed, it might have been us that was wrong the entire time.
Sometimes, this turns into a deep feeling of guilt and remorse at having wronged the other, and we ask for forgiveness, which is conditionally granted, and the relationship now takes on the appearance of having worked things out. But this reconciliation is superficial at best, and soon falls apart, since other coins appear, and the cycle repeats.
As it turns out, win-lose is not a sustainable solution.
Much more often, our fear that we may be wrong is redirected as anger towards the other person, and we now become ever more defensive and furious. We know in our hearts that it cannot possibly be true that the other person was right and we were wrong. And since this belief is accurate, it resonates within us and fuels our conviction of righteousness.
But, if we can find the inner strength to get up, and continue to circle the table, seeing first one side, then the other, gradually, we are able to stop looking through the distorted lens of our past, and after examining both sides repeatedly, our prejudice slowly subsides, and we come to an epiphany:
The problem was not that the other person was not seeing clearly. They were. And the problem was not that we were not seeing clearly. We were. We were both right all along. Not seeing clearly was never a problem.
The problem was that we did not understand the true nature of a coin.