“Yes, the mind is very useful, but when it does not recognize its own finite viewpoint, it is also useless.”
– Richard Rohr
When We Think We Know
It was mid-day on Friday. Jeff and I finished touring inside the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, looking at the pottery and drums and Native artwork by Blackbear Bosin.
Now we’d walk the grounds of the Outdoor Learning Center to sit in the tipi and look at the gardens. The afternoon was pleasant. We kept walking.
We left the Center’s property, walked beyond the gate to nearby Keeper Plaza to see Bosin’s famous Keeper of the Plains statue. Time slipped away.
It was now after 4:00, the Center’s closing time.
Behind us, a Center employee was about to lock the gate behind us. We quickly slipped back inside the Center grounds so we could return to Jeff’s truck.
But which way now? With the Center closed, and the grounds gate now locked, how could we get back to the parking lot?
Oh, I knew. Jeff didn’t agree, but he didn’t argue (he’s good like that). Let’s just go to the right, I said.
But I was wrong.
I just don’t aways know I’m wrong right away.
Thinking we’re always right can be dangerous. I know. It’s gotten me in trouble many times.
“We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are. Take that as nearly certain.”
– Richard Rohr
All month I’m sharing four statements that I live by. I keep them posted on my bedroom mirror. They aren’t necessarily rules for life, but more agreements with God.
Today I’m sharing #2 of the four:
#2. Let go of being right.
(See #1 here, Give the Benefit of the Doubt, “Do You Assume the Best or Worst? And a Barking Lady.” I’ll share Agreements #3 and #4 on Mondays, June 17 and 24.)
Three Dangers of Always Being Right
Danger #1: Losing Friends
Nobody likes a know-it-all. Insisting that we’re right is obnoxious.
Being overconfident in our knowledge is dangerous to our character. And to our relationships.
We incorrectly assume we’ll gain prestige and authority if we are all-knowing. But the opposite usually happens. Pride destroys. It causes us to see ourselves as right and judge others as wrong, which is not just off-putting; it is wrong.
Solution: Practice humility.
Be aware of your ability to get things wrong, even when you think you’re right. Worry less about protecting your reputation and more about being humble. Instead of being combative, listen to others’ opinions and find common ground. If it matters, discuss it graciously. If it doesn’t matter, let it go.
Danger #2: Losing Faith
Thinking we’re always right is also dangerous to our relationship with God. When we think we have to be right in our knowledge for God to love us or to be saved, we live in fear. And God didn’t give us a spirit of fear.
Nor a spirit of self-dependence. Relying on self-knowledge leads us away from depending on our Creator. We can’t depend only on our senses or our memory or our rightness.
Solution: Trust in Jesus’s righteousness.
Not your own righteousness. Only he has perfect knowledge. Remember that there are mysteries you’ll never understand in your own capacities. Trust God to show you what you need to know when you need to know it, and be content with the unknowns he has yet to reveal.
Danger #3: Losing Maturity
While in the moment it feels good to be proven right, the quest to be omniscient can rob us of growth in the long term.
A taste of knowing it all can leave us greedy to be right all the time. And once we think we’ve arrived at perfect knowledge, we lose our ability to learn more.
Solution: Know what you don’t know.
The best way to know more is to realize you know less. Even if you already know a lot, there is always more to learn. But only if you’re teachable. Learn more by listening more, reading more, loving more. Stay open.
“Remember, Jesus never said, ‘This is my commandment: thou shalt be right.’ . . . It is an amazing arrogance that allows Christians to so readily believe that their mental understanding of things is anywhere close to that of Jesus.
Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). I think the intended effect of that often misused line is this: If Jesus is the Truth, then you probably aren’t!”
– Richard Rohr
Benefits of Not Being Right
Not only do we not like pride in others, neither does God like it in us. Instead, God promises to lift up the humble (James 4:10) and give them grace.
But he gives more grace. Therefore it says, “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
When we let go of our need to be right, we honor God, and receive his blessings in return.
- He grows our relationships,
- he grows our faith,
- and he grows our knowledge.
God wants to send more grace into the world through us.
It’s better to be more loving than always right.
How did we find our way back to our truck at the Indian Center?
We asked someone who knew.
Thankfully, an outside employee gratefully showed us an unlocked door back into the building. We walked through, out the front door, and straight to the parking lot.
Being “right” had gotten me lost.
But being humble set me free.
* * *
We all like to be right. But sometimes we don’t do it well. Below are ten articles on how to be right and wrong in healthy ways.
Join me next Monday for Agreement #3, “Don’t take it personally.”
Do you like to be right, too? Please share your thoughts in the comments.
See all 4 agreements (click on individual infographics)
- Being Right – Table of Contents
- When You’re Spiritually Thirsty, Where Do You Drink?