Being wrong is really difficult, because we think being right is really important. We tie our sense of self-worth to all sorts of external factors. We value ourselves based on what we have, on our careers, and our relationships. If any of them takes a hit, we feel it down to our core. Being right and having it all together is often a key pillar we use to value ourselves. When it’s so easy to say “I was wrong,” why do we cling to being right?
The Middle Name Fight
Choosing middle names for our first two kids was easy. We had a boy and a girl, and we gave our son my first name for a middle name, and my daughter got my wife’s first name. Then we got pregnant with our third.
I got it in my head that it would be cool to give our second son my middle name. That also turns out to be my dad’s name, so it’s special to me. I mentioned it to my wife, but she wasn’t too keen on it. To her, it meant picking one Grandpa over the other, my side of the family over hers. We put that conversation on hold, but in the back of my mind, I had selfishly decided that I was going to get my way.
Fast forward a few weeks and we’re at a family birthday party. The topic of middle names came up, and I, full of clueless pride, declare that we’re thinking of using my middle name.
My wife turns to me and says, “No we’re not.”
I’m not sure we said a word to each other the rest of the party, or on the way home, or well into the night. It wasn’t until the kids were in bed that we finally faced each other. I don’t remember much about the fight, but it was big. We’re not yellers or throwers of fine china, but it was a big fight for us. She was upset that I said we had chosen a name when we hadn’t, and I was mad that she questioned me in front of my family. I felt like a fool.
At some point I realized how selfish I was being. I had decided on a name without her, and it wasn’t her fault that she had to correct me in front of everyone. It was my fault for trying to decide on a name behind her back, and not consider what she wanted. I was definitely in the wrong, and it felt terrible. My pride was hurt, my wife was hurt, and our relationship was hurt.
My James Lesson
That very next weekend at church, the talk centered around James 1:19-20. While I had started to accept the fact that this fight had been my fault, these verses made me realize it was entirely my fault. I had done it all wrong. I didn’t listen to her when she wanted to keep looking at names. I spoke selfishly, and only thought about what I wanted. When she stood up to me, I got angry. There were warning signs along the way that I was setting us up for a confrontation, and I ignored them.
We ended up using James for the middle name. The pain from the argument was still fresh, but we loved what it represented. It was a great step forward for our relationship, and in a way, a promise to her that I didn’t want this to happen again.
Not Saying You’re Wrong Hurts Your Relationships
When we aren’t willing to admit that we’re wrong, it means we’re choosing selfish pride over the feelings of others. We’re willing to hurt others, all because we’re afraid to face those feelings of guilt.
Telling someone that you’re wrong is so powerful. It tells them that you care about them. You’d rather admit your faults and reconcile with them than hold onto your pride. This is so important, because it allows us to move forward. Fights like we had over the middle name set our relationship back, and if those fights are happening frequently, it can cause us to grow apart. Holding on to being right can cause resentment, and months or years later our relationship can look like a minefield. Unresolved fights of the past sit in the back of our mind, like a painful “wedge” between us.
I Was Wrong…
I’m a work in progress, but when I’m wrong, I’m trying to say that I’m wrong. When I make a mistake, instead of blaming someone or looking for an excuse, I try and say the words, “I was wrong.” I love you more than I love being right. I care more about reconciliation than I do about winning. My self-worth isn’t tied up in being right.
I still want to be right more than I’m wrong, but I’m trying to untie that from my identity. Being right isn’t what gives me value as a person. My value comes from my creator, and I can challenge myself to pursue truth, humble myself, and put others first. My self-worth shouldn’t be based on me being right. When I stop clinging to that ego and pride, I feel free. All these expectations I place on myself come crumbling down.
I’d rather be imperfect and a work in progress, than imperfect and kidding myself that I’m not.