Thoughts About the Need to Be Right and Violence

In his book “The Power of Now”, Eckhart Tolle writes: “The need to be right is a form of violence.” I’m not someone who is big on sharing quotes. Just because something resonates with me doesn’t mean it resonates with you, and then it’s just some nice words which will be quickly forgotten.

I felt different about this quote though. I stroke me as odd at first and I had to stop reading for a moment to think about it. 

“The need to be right is a form of violence”.

I had to think of my reality, of course, and of horse training and how equestrians often talk to and about each other on social media. We see a lot of “need to be right” there. I read a lot of posts and comments by riders who claim their way is the right way, and the only way for that matter. In connection with that quote, it made me wonder. Is this just another expression of violence?

There is a shift happening in the equestrian world to kinder, more thoughtful training methods. I think we can easily agree that often times, horse training is downright violent. As a young girl, I quickly learned that beating a horse with a whip or kicking it with the heels is acceptable, even necessary, in order to train a horse properly.  Nowadays, obvious violence is luckily more frowned upon. Most people reject horses ridden with the nose on the chest and being injured by spurs. But does it change the fact that we use violence, maybe just in a different form? More subtle forms of violence?

Do we feel the need to be right when we train our horses? When the horse clearly shows us “I don’t understand”, or “this doesn’t work”, or “I’m stressed”, how often do we back up and think, how often do we try to find a different approach? And how often do we just insist to be right and do what we know until the horse gives up to communicate its confusion and just does what we ask? Even if we don’t hurt the horse physically and keep a low stress level, is strictly following our own convictions whatever the horse has to say about it a form of violence?

And what about those Facebook discussions where we try to convince someone of our point of view? Where we feel attacked, rejected, misunderstood, or have the intention to show someone a better way? 

In that same chapter, Eckhart Tolle goes on to say: “Power over others is weakness disguised as strength. True power is within […].” Does violence against horses emerge because we feel weak and want to feel stronger? Are riders who use violence in fact unsure of themselves, maybe feel unhappy, or are under the impression that hurting another living being puts them in a position of power, so they don’t have to feel their own inadequacy?

I must say this quote changed the way I look at riders who use violent training methods. Violence comes from a place of weakness, not strength. We don’t see an alternative, we are at the end of our knowledge. We don’t like to feel that we are wrong. Not feeling the need to be right is probably a true sign of strength.

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