I believe that a person can be wrong about something and can learn from the experience of being wrong.
I was once profoundly wrong about an eating disorder I had. I developed it while training to become an All-American cross-country runner in college. It was easy for me to deny my sickness because I had no scale and because being thin was socially acceptable in the upper middle class segment of the population to which I belonged, and particularly among athletes. I denied my problem constantly and thoroughly, telling myself that I wouldn’t eat chocolate or peanut butter because I wasn’t “in the mood,” or because I’d rather have something else—which always happened to be a salad. When I finally whittled down to ninety-something pounds on my five-foot-seven-inch frame, I could deny my sickness no longer. I was eventually hospitalized for treatment. Prior to my hospitalization, various people, including my parents, had expressed concern to me about my condition, but my denial was so great that I was able to disregard the many expressed concerns, and justify to myself that my weight and eating habits were normal.
Now that I work as a law clerk for a family court judge, I often think about the importance of getting an accurate and true picture of the facts and circumstances of each case. The litigants in our cases often tell stories that are directly contradicted by the opposing party. It is troubling to me that the results of a decision are potentially devastating, as, for example, when the issue is whether to remove a child from the care of one or both of his or her parents, because of allegations of abuse, neglect, or parental alienation.
It scares me sometimes to be aware of my potential fallibility in holding a belief. On the other hand, now that I have recovered from my anorexia, I view the experience as a good one in that I realize how mistaken I could be in holding a belief. If I can consider that I may be mistaken, then maybe I can, at least occasionally, perform the mental equivalent of jumping over my own shadow: that is, I can put aside my bias and listen with an open mind.
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