Five quotes to live your life by – #3

“History determines not who was right, but who is left.” – various

I love the wordplay in this quote, the way it makes you do a double take in your head, to re-examine what you just read. The origin of the quote is really not clear, but is most probably American and from the late 1800’s. The quote is also sometimes written with the word “history” replaced by “war”.

This quote really resonates with me when I watch heated arguments unfold, whether in my personal life or in the public space. It so often starts as an argument with both sides being determined to prove that they (of course!) are right, and so often evolve into who has the most staying power in the argument, or often, the least else to do. The quote is a real directional sign for all who are involved in controlling meetings, or negotiations, when you recognize the argument swinging away from the original viewpoints to proving that a specific person is “right”, you know it is time to intervene.

One of the best pieces of life advice I have ever been given, was by the minister who married me and my husband. It was a second marriage for us both, with my previous one stretching 12 years, Malcolm’s stretching 30 years. The minister spoke to us privately before our marriage and passed on a nugget of wisdom I use to this day.

The minister told us the story of his own marriage, and how he and his wife rubbed against each other’s families and customs when they got married. For months they had a passive warfare, they would alternate who washes dishes and who dries and packs away. Every time his wife packed away, she would re-arrange the cutlery in the drawer to be in order: knives, forks, spoons. Every time he dried and packed away, he would re-arrange the cutlery drawer in order: spoons, forks, knives. Both of them copied that with which they were familiar. One night, one of them stopped the cycle – and no, he did not mention who it was. Just that one of them realised – It is not wrong; it is just different.

If you can take this piece of advice, and truly apply it when faced with someone else’s customs, you will realise how mighty and effective it is to get on better with just about anyone you come into contact with.

That annoying contact who blows his nose really loudly? It is not wrong, just different. Your husband who loses his temper once a year, but then proceeds to take that flashpoint temper out on inanimate objects? Wrong? No, just different. Your teenager who suddenly wants to imitate some pop singer she admires? No, not wrong, just different to what you are used to.

If you really, really strive to apply this piece of advice, you will never get to the war stage. And history will never have to prove you were right, because you most certainly will be the one who is left to tell the story.

Link to full history of the quote –

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