I find that compelling writing subjects often come from truths that most people know, but that society doesn’t express. One of those truths is that stubbornness does nobody any good.

On some level we all know this to be true. The problem is that we’re all stubborn!

Sure, it’s on a spectrum. Some people are stubborn as a mule, others less so, but we’re all on that spectrum somewhere.

Society condones it

One reason it’s so prevalent is that society, at least here in America, tacitly condones it. Many, especially the die-hard stubborn, believe this behavior shows strength. That “getting our back up” and not relenting demonstrates our willingness to fight for what we believe in. Damn straight!

What are some examples of that stubborn behavior? See if any of these sound familiar.

-You made dinner so your wife was supposed to clean the kitchen. But she had to work overtime so she didn’t think she should have to. Four days later a Mt. Everest of dishes has piled up in the sink with both of you standing your ground.

-You haven’t spoken to your best friend in three months because she hung up on you for trashing her boyfriend. You refuse to call and apologize.

The Gerken brothers’ epic stand off

Then there’s this infamous example drawn from Gerken family lore. Two of my brothers were living together in their early twenties outside of Washington, D.C.

Andy was doing a college internship for a senator and Dan had a full-time job with a congressman. So Dan drove both of them to work each morning.

Dan had to do laundry one day and, according to an interview I just conducted with Andy, forty years after the fact, Dan “tersely” asked him to cough up some quarters. Andy didn’t like the bossy tone, so he fished two quarters out of his pocket and threw them at Dan. The quarters landed on the ground, right between them, thus initiating a standoff of epic proportions.

The following unfolded:

DAN: “Pick up the quarters.”

ANDY: “You pick them up.”

DAN: “Pick up the quarters and hand them to me or you’re using PT (public transportation) to get to work.”

ANDY: “Screw you. I’ll take PT.”

With that, Dan picked up the quarters while Andy slinked off to research bus and subway schedules. This was followed by several days of silence and cold stares.

Shockingly, neither brother ended up in the State Department diplomatic corps.

The force behind our stubbornness

Why do we act this way? Stubbornness always comes down to, ‘I’m right, you’re wrong.’ And whenever we’re in the position of needing to be right, guess what is dominating the playing field?

The egoic self.

Your conscious, present, aware self, i.e., the real you, NEVER feels the need to be right. It transcends that plane. All it wants to do is be present and show compassion for others.

Stubbornness provides the egoic self exactly what it wants — conflict, drama and a fortified (but illusory) sense of who we are. And as all things are when we feed the egoic self, the costs are high and the benefits nil.

Stubbornness is 100 percent awful

What’s the point of all this? Stubbornness is absolutely pointless, destructive, toxic and revealing of weak character.

I know. That sounds harsh. It’s meant to.

Because the point of this piece is to shine a light on this fact. Again, most of us are stubborn. And when we see others acting stubborn, we may not like it, but our reaction is along the lines of,

“Man, that’s annoying and infuriating that he’s acting this way. But what the hell? We all do it.”

We need to change this paradigm. How?

Well, it would be a fool’s errand to call out everybody we know when they’re being stubborn.

“Come on, Bob. You’re being a stubborn a-hole. That’s not doing anybody any good.”

As they say in the American South, ‘That dog won’t hunt.’

Commit to letting go

But what if we take it upon ourselves to work on being less stubborn? That is doable.

How do we work on that? As usual, it starts with Eckhart Tolle’s wise teaching:

Awareness is the greatest agent for change.

Start by simply setting an intention of becoming aware when stubbornness has arisen in you. How do we know? It’s usually obvious. We feel that tight contraction in our inner being (stomach for me) as we gird ourselves for the war du moment.

The solution: stop, relax, lean away, let go

What then? We let go. As I’ve written many times, the best approach to letting go of our egoic selves is the Mickey Singer technique.

The moment you feel yourself tightening up and readying for a round in the stubbornness ring, call on that intention you’ve set and stop.

Relax everywhere in your body, especially in your head, chest and stomach areas.

Then lean away from where you’re feeling that stubbornness-tightness so you can isolate and create distance from it.

Then let it go. Let that egoic energy float up and out of you. It’s one less piece of emotional baggage weighing down your psychic airplane.

At least be honest about it

If you don’t want to let go of your stubbornness, at least commit to being honest. The next time you feel that knot of stubborn energy rising, say to yourself:

“I’d rather be right and miserable than let go of my stubbornness.”

Because that is the truth of your decision.

We don’t let people walk on us

Now some will say,

“Sure, being stubborn isn’t fun, but I’m not going to let everybody walk all over me. It’s a tough world out there and if you don’t stand up for yourself, you’ll get crushed.”

I’m not advocating that we let people walk all over us. It’s not about responding from a place of weakness. “Okay, whatever you want is fine with me, stubborn husband.” Not at all. It’s about responding from the strongest place that exists in the universe — our conscious, compassionate selves.

But even more important is the selfish reason for letting it go. Because the more we let go, the more conscious, compassionate, brilliant, calm and happy we become.

Which is why we all need to look at these stubbornness incidents as valuable opportunitiesfor spiritual growth.

The takeaway

It’s not easy to keep our stubborn button in the off position when someone’s actions desperately make us want to turn it on. But it is so worth the work of keeping it off and ridding ourselves of a small valise of egoic guck.

All it takes is setting the intention and then doing the work.

Think of how much better the world would be if people let go of their stubbornness…