When Being Right Makes You Wrong.
I hate being wrong. I imagine that most people do. I have a funny little saying that I have used in the past that reflects my hatred of being wrong. It goes like this: “I am never wrong; I once thought I was but I was mistaken.” Cute, right? For a t-shirt maybe, but that attitude in real life can get me in a lot of trouble with those that know when I am wrong.
So yes, I like being right. But I am not always right. There are times when it is more important that I understand another person’s perspective, or reasons, than it is for me to be right. When I value being right over being loving then I am wrong, even though I may be right.
There have been times where I was right in a disagreement but I apologized in order to keep peace.
There have been times when I was right in my reasons, decision and actions, but took the blame in order to keep someone else from being shamed.
Unfortunately, there have been more times when I was determined to be right than to be understanding or loving.
I am always tempted to defend my desire to be right. But, my desire to be right can never overpower my need to understand.
America today is probably more divided over issues than I can ever remember in my lifetime. It seems to me that the more we travel through time, the more divided we get. We are divided over abortion, gay marriage, gun rights, taxes, illegal immigrants, and the list goes on. While I would expect our two party political system to be divided over issues, what I don’t expect is the deepness of that divide. The reason for the divide, in my opinion, is people’s deep desire to be right over the need to understand.
The same division is in the Church. It’s probably worse in the Church. Jesus’ prayer was that we would be one (John 17). It seems to be that we are not one but hugely splintered. Most of the divisions we use to divide ourselves are really stupid and insignificant. It goes back to our desire to be right rather than understand.
We don’t give people room to explore and journey in their faith. We don’t give people room to question and struggle with their issues. We don’t make room for conversations. Conversations make way for understanding.
For most Christians, everything is a black and white issue. You are either right or wrong. Being wrong often times will bring isolation, rejection and judgment.
On the other end of that yardstick are those that say you can do whatever you want and you’ll still be okay with God. That is not correct either. God’s grace enables me not to sin! It does not give me a license to sin.
Please don’t read what I am not saying. There is a right way to live. There are right doctrines to believe. There is a wrong way of thinking and living.
What I am saying is that it’s not my job to pounce on people with the rightness or wrongness of what they are doing. It’s my job to seek to understand them as a person, what they have been through, and to be an advocate. It’s my responsibility to listen to their story.
There are always opportunities to be an advocate or an accuser.
An advocate seeks to speak on behalf of a person out of understanding that person. An accuser will always want to focus on what you did wrong and why they are right.
I can’t help someone if I don’t understand someone. I can’t understand them if I am only seeking to be right.
There are many things that I love about Jesus but one thing in particular is the fact that He understands us as human beings. He has walked in our shoes. He has faced our limitations and our temptations. He can sympathize with us because He’s been where we are.
For we do not have a high priest who is unable to empathize with our weaknesses, but we have one who has been tempted in every way, just as we are—yet he did not sin. 16 Let us then approach God’s throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need. (Heb. 4:15-16)
Because Jesus became a human, lived as a human and experienced humanity in its fullness, he can certainly understand why we struggle. He was totally right when he lived on the earth. He didn’t do anything wrong. Yet, he was crucified. He could have brought down legions of angels and proven to them that he was right, but he didn’t ever exercise that right.
Jesus came to be one of us therefore he understands us. So, now, even when we sin and we are wrong, Jesus gives us grace and mercy because He always understands where we are and why we do what we do. That doesn’t excuse our behavior, nor does it get us out of the consequences of our actions. What it does do, is show us that God has made a way for us to get the help, grace and mercy we need, even though we were wrong in our actions, because he understands why we did what we did.
This is a valuable lesson for me to learn as a parent. I can try to argue my point of “rightness” with my children over an issue, or I can seek to understand them when there is a disagreement or a rule violation.
The same is true in pastoring. I can counsel a person on the rightness/wrongness of their particular situation, or I can seek to understand their perspective and why they are doing what they are doing.
I am not saying that we should never tell people where they are missing it, messing up or even tell them that they are wrong. What I am saying is that in doing so, I must first seek to understand before I make a big deal over being right.
Being right is such a powerful drug in our lives. Have you ever said to someone, “I told you so.” Didn’t that feel good? It feels really good when you say that to someone that is rarely wrong. And it feels really good when you tell that to someone who thinks they are never wrong. There is just something intoxicating about being right.
But even a demonic spirit can be right about something. A wrong spirit can say the right thing.
When you seek to understand you are putting the other person first. You can never go wrong by humbling yourself to put someone else first!
May we seek first to understand before we seek to be right.