The importance of not being right

My family of origin put great stock in being right. So much so, that it was well nigh impossible to admit to being wrong about anything without feeling ashamed. This all too human need to be right, and for someone else to be wrong, can have serious consequences for our institutions and sense of community. We see this played out in the polarization poisoning our national political discourse these days.

Politics aside, the need to be right has its most dangerous consequences in the context of our religious life. When the need to be right takes precedence over gentleness, kindness, grace, forbearance, and forgiveness, we close ourselves off from the ability to love others. We close ourselves off from allowing the light of God’s love to illumine the darkness within us. Like Pharaoh, our hearts can become so hardened that we can no longer hear God’s voice calling to us. That interior place where we are right and everyone else is wrong can be as hard as a paved parking lot that prevents anything beautiful from growing from it.

Doubt combined with love are the antidotes to this dilemma. I believe that doubt is not the opposite of faith. The opposite of faith is certainty. Moreover, Jesus didn’t say that Christians would be known by their right doctrine, rather, he say they would be known by their love.   

Jesus says that the Truth will set us free. That truth is that we are not God. The truth is that we are often wrong. The gift of doubt about our hard-shell convictions can convince us that defending our own wall of righteousness is not worth the time and exhausting effort we have put into it. If we focus on becoming more loving as did Jesus, we may find ourselves becoming more free, more open to the light of God within us.  We may become more like Christ.

If by God’s grace, through silence and prayer, we can let go of our white-knuckled need to be right, we might just find ourselves abiding in that joyous, loving, free abundant life that Christ has offered us. 

Deacon Vern