What’s Wrong With Being Wrong

Have you ever started a conversation with someone thinking you were on the same page, not quite believing how anyone could see things differently, only to find out this was the farthest thing from the truth?

Or maybe you were on the receiving end of one of these conversations …

If either of these things have ever happened to you — and I doubt anyone can go through life without experiencing this — you know they are awkward at best. At worst, they turn into fairly significant arguments and result in putting another pin on the board of your mind that is titled “Things not to talk about with ______!”.

What makes these conversations uncomfortable? What makes us want to avoid them in the future?

——

Have you ever had a conversation with your parents about something that took place in your childhood or teen years only to have them tell you that’s not the way it happened? They then go on to tell the same basic story, but the specifics (and at times the entire plot, location or outcome) are very different from what you remember?

Or maybe you’ve listened – enthralled – as family members recall their history from two very different points-of-view …

If either of these things have happened to you — and I expect this happens a lot — you know they leave you wondering if you can trust anything you “remember” so well.

How can two people remember things so differently?

——

We are wrong a lot!

All humans are … it’s part of what makes us human. We make mistakes. We get things wrong. We believe things that are incorrect. We change our minds. Our memories fail …

We all know this — in theory. But get specific about anything and we will fight tooth and nail to refuse admitting we are wrong … or even could be wrong.

We enjoy being right. Believing we are right feels good — it’s part of the reason those simple words (“I told you so”) feel so good even when we know we shouldn’t say them. We enjoy being right even about things that aren’t good; things that no sane person should feel good about. (For example, a couple years ago I remember feeling very happy that I was right about the fact Research in Motion (Blackberry) took an economic nosedive they still haven’t recovered from).

Not only do we enjoy being right, but we also go through life feeling we are right about just about everything — all the time. As absurd as it sounds, if we were even to pause for five seconds and think, our default state seems to be an unconscious assumption that we are close to omniscient.

We never feel that we are wrong.

We all sometimes REALIZE we are wrong … and that feeling is one of the worst feelings in the world and we do whatever we can to avoid being wrong, even if it is about something simple that has absolutely no effect on our life.

The funny thing about realizing we are wrong is that it is (almost) always about something that has happened in the past.

We are never wrong in the present — in this moment. We may have been wrong before, but not now. The errors of our past (that we realize now were errors) are immediately replaced with a new sense of rightness, completely oblivious to the possibility we could also be wrong even in this moment of rightness.

——

I want to spend a few blog posts talking about being wrong. I realize it is not a place we like to be and is not a place we can ever imagine we are, despite the many historic examples even in our past week that show us, individually, how frequently we are wrong. So, why would I want to write about getting things wrong?

The basic motivation comes from situations similar to the ones listed at the start of this post.

Those uncomfortable interactions that show just how differently we can think about the same facts and experiences.

Those humorous interactions that leave us wondering how we could have mis-remembered things so badly.

Those “discussions” (read: arguments) we’ve had with fellow Christians about things we read in our bibles and how we interpret them today and in our experiences.

That last one is key for me. I’ve noticed, as I’m sure many of you have as well, that discussions about faith can quickly escalate into arguments among people who believe much the same (core) things about a man named Jesus who walked on our earth 2,000-ish years ago.

This bothers me.

But not because I don’t think we should disagree.

It bothers me because of how these conversations seem to betray a confident expectation that “I am right!” It bothers me because our addiction to certainty (more on that later) has led us away from admitting room for error, mistakes, or misinterpretation in our faith. That in order to have faith, we require everything we currently believe to be true — or else it all falls apart.

I’d like to rediscover a way to hold different ideas and interpretations about faith than the person across the room (or this flickering screen) and yet be able to humbly discuss those ideas without requiring submission to “my superior idea” in order to value what the other person has to say.

To admit … I could be wrong.

In fact, it’s highly likely I am wrong about something; about lots of things; right now.

And that can be a very good thing (more on this later as well, but being wrong is how we are able to change and grow).

There’s nothing wrong with being wrong. *

* Of course, I could be wrong about all this, but I am certain that is not the case. Trust me, I’m right!

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