The Art of Being Wrong

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The Art of Being Wrong
Dr. Henry Blount

The other day, I heard a preacher say that all of us are sinners and have fallen short of the glory of God.  He echoed the words of Paul’s letter to the Romans (3:32).  If that’s true—and it probably is—then we might as well do it right.  In other words, we have a right to be wrong.

Before you start praying for me, let me explain.  One of the greatest needs that most of us have is to be “right”, no matter what.  Sometimes, we go to a lot of trouble to prove it. To be wrong is a big blow to the ego.  Whoever said, “I’d rather be right than to be the President”, never got to be President. 

Having done a little marriage counseling through the years, I can honestly say that many people had rather be “right” than to be married; or to have friends; or to have a close family. So where did this tremendous urge come from?  Most of us have been carefully taught to do the right thing in our homes, churches and schools.  We are rewarded to do it right and we might be punished to do it wrong.  For example, here is a 12-year-old child who has been playing the piano since the age of 7.  She has learned half notes, whole notes, octaves, keeping time and so on.  She is applauded for playing it right, which is the way it ought to be, of course.  Or, here is the kid who goes out for football.  He’s taught how to block, tackle, intercept a pass and run like crazy.  Dad gets really excited about that and yells at the top of his lungs when he makes a touchdown, “That’s my boy!” He did it right.

Maybe somewhere along the way, we need to teach our kids the art of being “wrong”.  We need to know how to swallow our pride, and to be smart enough to cut the other person a little slack for the sake of a good relationship.  Many people carry grudges because they have an “I know I’m right” hang-up.  My point is this: Being “right” is not enough.  It’s the attitude towards our rightness that’s important.  We can be self-righteous, arrogant and rigid.  I know a family who is divided over their inheritance.  Half of them aren’t speaking to the other half.  Both sides say they are right.  The family remains split. 

I was a guest at a dinner party one time.  The host couple had gone to Lafayette a few days before.  The conversation went something like this:

Wife: “We went to Lafayette last Thursday.”
Husband: “No honey, it was Wednesday.”
Wife: “Well, anyway, we ran into Bob and Lindy.”
Husband: “No baby, we saw them in Baton Rouge.  We saw Gus and Judy in Lafayette.”

About this time, the atmosphere changes.

Wife (through tight lips): “Well, why don’t you just tell them about it, Mr. Right!?”

Then, there was this unmistakable we-will-deal-with-this-later look.

Why will some of us do anything to carry a point?  We do we have to be right?  It’s called “control”, among other things.  The human ego has a feast over this issue.  What seems to be right may turn out to be wrong, and what seems to be wrong may turn out to be right. 

Jesus told a parable about a Pharisee and a tax collector who went into the temple to pray (Luke 18:9-14).  The Pharisee, who had kept all the rules, said, “God, I’m thankful I’m not like other people—thieves, rogues, adulterers, or even like this tax collector.  I fast twice a week and I give a tenth of all my income.”  But the tax collector wouldn’t’ even look up at Heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, “God, be merciful to me a sinner.”  Then Jesus said, “I tell you, this man went down to his home justified rather than the other; for all who exalt themselves will be humbled, but all who humble themselves will be exalted.”  Now that’s the art of being wrong!

The tax collector didn’t brag about anything or hide from the facts.  He simply said that he was wrong, and he said it with humility.  When you stop and think about it, this sort of thing happens between nations.  Wars exist because “we are right and others are wrong”. 

I saw a road sign that said: “Get right with God”.  How do we know we’ve covered all our bases?  We don’t.  That’s why we lean on the forgiving Grace of God.  “Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me.  I once was lost, but now am found; was blind but now I see.”