Who likes to hear that they are wrong?
52. Which of the prophets have not your fathers persecuted? and they have slain them which shewed before of the coming of the Just One; of whom ye have been now the betrayers and murderers:
53. Who have received the law by the disposition of angels, and have not kept it.
54. When they heard these things, they were cut to the heart, and they gnashed on him with their teeth.
I like being right. I like knowing the answer to a trivia question when no one else around me does, I like being able to explain something to someone who is confused, and I like being recognized and praised for a job well done. Who doesn’t? Now, I don’t like flattery or pretty lies, and I don’t like being patronized with compliments or winning a competition or game because someone let me. I like being right – not being told that I am right. But, of course, there are many, many times when I am wrong. Most times, I don’t know the answer to a trivia question and am unable to explain something to someone who is confused. I don’t do that many things well and I know it – I know it and own it freely. I am flawed, as all human beings are, very far from perfect. And, in my own human particularity, I have many, many faults and have made many, many mistakes. I know this and I don’t hate myself for it at all. But, still, I really hate being wrong – I hate that feeling that I get when my answer is incorrect or my understanding of something is totally off. It does feel very much like being cut to the heart for a split second.
With years of maturing and becoming more fully myself (a human in need of grace) I’ve learned to get over this infuriating blow of being wrong and the feeling stabs much, much less – though I am no less often wrong. But, I have to continually guard myself against anger at the person who shows me to be mistaken; I have to perpetually remind myself that I should be grateful to those who show me where my faults lie, how I need to improve so that I can become a better person. Because life isn’t just about knowing trivial knowledge, facts and figures, but about living in relationship with others.
To be my true self, to be who I am created to be, I must always seek right and good and true relationship with my fellow human beings, with Creation, and with our Creator. If my relationships are not right (which also means not good, which also means not true) then I myself am not right. I can be the most ignorant person on the planet when it comes to knowledge of the world – but, if I have love, then I am enlightened in the ways of truth and goodness, far wiser than the smartest person in the world who has no love. The smartest person might think that he is loved by the world for his knowledge and, being honored and praised, think that he has love. But, love is not something that is possessed. Love is given and the moment that love is received, it is given again – to the one from whom it was received and/or to others, without end. For true love can never be stagnant. And the only reason, the only way, that we human beings can love at all is because we are first loved by our Creator, by God. Receiving God’s love and then giving that love is the first and most essential right relationship. If I can do this, if I can let God love me and then love God and God’s creatures in return (for if I am to truly receive God’s love then I must give it away) then I am relating to Creation, to the universe and every being, every creature, within it in the fullness of truth. The truth is that we are all loved into existence. And so, without loving, we will always be out of order, out of step, out of touch – we will always be wrong.
Next time somebody points out any kind of error that I have made, whether it be in the knowledge of information, or in the loving of God and God’s Creation (which includes myself and my fellow human beings) I will try very hard to remember not to kill the messenger. I may not like the feeling of being wrong, but if I try to defend myself against the feeling with anger and deflection and excuses that are lies, then I will be even more deeply and painfully wrong.
I am a human in need of grace, as each and every one of us is, and if that grace comes through the form of a rightfully correcting teacher, preacher, or loved one, let us not be afraid. It is Christ, who knows all of our hungers and shares all of our sufferings, who is helping us. We may feel hurt by the human style or tone, but we must not let that harden us to the truth of the message. What is true is true. And the truth will set us free. So, let us not gnash our teeth at each other, but, rather, learn how to love.