Maybe it’s a guy thing. Maybe not. I just know that what I feel, think, and say is right… right, that is, in my own sight. What a disaster.
One of my lifelong mentors, Luis Palau, likes quoting one of his former mentors, Ray C. Stedman: “The most dangerous person in the world is a man who is right and knows he’s right.” What a warning to you and me!
If only I had heeded that in-person warning...
A decade before I earned the title of Vice President at the Luis Palau Association (LPA), I got terribly upset about a personnel decision the U.S. Executive Vice President had made. In my mind, he was being a jerk to one of my colleagues. I couldn’t understand why she didn’t give that VIP a piece of her mind.
By the next morning, after reviewing all the facts in my mind, I was so worked up that I decided—without talking with my wife, Renee—to quit my job in protest.
When I told my colleague, Susan, right before walking out LPA’s front doors, Susan looked at me and said: “David, that’s the stupidest thing I ever heard of. First of all, your so-called ‘facts’ are all wrong. Second, you haven’t even thought about lining up another job. Third, you’re married and have two kids. If you quit over the approval of my requested job transfer, you’re the stupidest person I’ve ever met.”
Okay, Susan didn’t exactly call me the stupidest person she’d ever met, but I clearly got the message!
For days afterward, I was shocked. I was this close to disaster.
Now, a little closer to home…
It’s still a struggle all these years later, as I’ll confess in more detail below, but here are 4 + 12 ways I’ve learned to not be right in my own sight:
1. Memorize This Warning from Scripture
...which applies to all of us: “Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes and clever in their own sight” (Isaiah 5:21). Whatever I memorize the Holy Spirit can use quickly whenever I get into one of my “I’m right and I know I’m right” moods. Otherwise, disaster ensues.
2. Remember This Key Question
“Is my goal to be right—or to be righteous in God’s sight?” From the Exodus of God’s chosen people in Exodus 15:26 to the end of the canonical Hebrew scriptures in 2 Chronicles 34:2, and nearly a dozen more times from Luke 1:6 to 1 Timothy 6:13, the Bible repeatedly urges us to do what is “right in the eyes of the Lord” (and similar).
That sounds easy. It’s not. That why I often pray: “Lord, forgive me for responding to Renee’s decisions (contrary to my advice or insistence) with frustration, anger, and even contempt. I’m so sorry, Lord.”
3. Don’t Forget That “Right” Is Not Just Doing the Right Thing
More importantly, it is treating others rightly. If I’ve been insisting that “I’m right and I know I’m right,” I need to stop on a dime, name what I’ve been doing, and apologize to my spouse or child. Sadly, my wrong responses are so much more damaging than almost anything Renee does.
That’s why the apostle Paul says, “Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone” (Romans 12:17) as well as “do what is right, not only in the eyes of the Lord but also in the eyes of men” (2 Corinthians 8:21 with Proverbs 3:4).
It bears repeating: your and my wrong responses, more than almost anything our spouse or child does, are so terribly damaging.
4. Pull the Plug on “I’m Right”
You and I get all worked up because we’re afraid. We’re worked up because we haven’t put God, as He truly is, at the very center of our heart and soul (Psalm 16:8). You and I already know what happens next…
We perseverate over one, two or three “facts,” march into the other room, and proclaim “I am right and I know I’m right.”
Unless our spouse or child responds immediately with adoring affirmation, we’re triggered to assume the worse: they’re attacking us. So, we mouth off way too forcefully, and deeply hurt our spouse or child.
“I am right and I know I’m right” is never true, never loving, never Christ-like, and never honoring or pleasing to God.
Again, what a disaster.
Yet, as I said earlier, it’s still a very real struggle.
Twice in the past few weeks Renee has recommended a good, God-honoring decision. Both times I’ve responded in anger, insisted she hadn’t thought things through, declared a couple of “facts,” and proclaimed in word and tone that I was right.
“Right,” that is, until the Lord Jesus reminded me of specific biblical truths, commands, and examples that 100 percent supported Renee’s recommendations. Gulp! (Yes, I told her what He said. Renee smiled and said she had already forgiven me. Marital bliss rained down upon us again.)
Why do I admit my most recent failings? Because real life is a struggle. We may be “right in the eyes of the Lord” for days on end. Then, unexpectedly, we get worked up and disaster ensues.
Here are 12 more ways to avoid such disasters...
Biblical Examples to Not Follow
3. Unlike Aaron, I do not give in to the pressure of others to redefine God (Exodus 32).
7. Unlike Saul, I do not assume the worse and then actively seek the harm of others (1 Samuel 18).
8. Unlike Rehoboam, I do not pick and choose what I want to believe is true and right (1 Kings 12).
10. Unlike Uzziah, I keep the Lord on the throne of my heart and life (2 Chronicles 26).
12. Unlike Ananias and Sapphira, I don’t try to fool God or others (Acts 5:1-11).
Points to Ponder
“How open are you to being wrong?” Ken Sande
“Don’t let being ‘right’ talk you out of being kind.” Bob Goff
“Often a desire to be right comes from a deeper desire.” Caroline Leaf
It’s quite likely that I’m not right about everything I’ve said above. If you’d like to see me (a) add, (b) delete, or (c) change anything, please write to me. My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Like Jesus in Luke 12:14, I can’t arbitate a dispute between you and a family member. Sorry!)
Photo Credit: ©Getty Images/Deagreez
David Sanford’s book and Bible projects have been published by Zondervan, Tyndale, Thomas Nelson, Doubleday, Barbour, and Amazon. His newest book is Life Map Devotional for Men published concurrently with his wife Renee’s new book, Life Map Devotional for Women.