Day 11 – The Problem Of Being Right

I scanned over the entire New Testament this morning looking at the many references to sin.

Sin is an old word. A little out of fashion these days. You probably won’t hear it on TV, movies, or in the news. You’ll not find it in your Facebook feed (pastors, preachers and religious channels excepted).

Why is that? The religious skeptic would probably say it’s the decline of society and the proof we are heading to end times. And maybe that’s true.

But I’ve become less and less comfortable with the word myself. In my youth I was more than willing to label something as sinful. Now, not so much.

Not because I don’t think it’s true, but more because I’ve found it’s not helpful. It comes across judgemental and critical which tends to get a person’s back up and make them defensive. (Admittedly that person can be me too!)

Calling out someone’s sin, without love, is not how Jesus did it except in one case. In most circumstances he was generous and kind, forgiving people quickly. But there’s one type of person Jesus really called out, and even harshly condemned… Someone who’s right.

Right in the sense that they think they’re right and they can railroad anyone and everyone who’s not agreeing.

Right in the sense that they won’t listen to the other side.

Right in the sense that they will even crucify the savior.

Being right is fine, being THAT right is not. To push your rightness onto someone else is exactly what Jesus was against when he fought the Pharisees. It’s an attitude that is reprehensible because it transforms good into evil in a way that’s difficult to put your finger on. It’s something that creeps into your life so quietly that you don’t even notice it’s there.

So I use the word “sin” carefully.

Now, what does this have to do with forgiveness?

Well, it seems to me that often when we find it hard to forgive there’s probably an element of this at play.

The other party is wrong. Maybe not just wrong, but all wrong.

And in some circumstances I’d say it’s true with a capital “T”. Like in cases of murder or something that horrific. Absolutely, they are all wrong.

But even with that, there’s a subtle problem, an attitude, that can creep into our lives. I have “right” on my side. And then I start to slide towards judgemental and unforgiving. It’s a gentle, easy slope but before you know it you find yourself in new territory.

And when you next look around, you find that you’re in bondage to that unforgiveness.

I’m speaking here of my personal experience.  Have you gone through this problem?  The problem of being right?

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  1. I really appreciated this insight Dean.

    I always think back to a book we read in first year at Eston College “Lifestyle Evangelism”.

    I struggle with trusting Christians because of the way I’ve seen “sinners” treated in the church and because I’ve been a sinner in the church. But that’s where my “right” is, I’m sure that I must be right because I try to give people the benefit of the doubt. And sometimes I needed someone more like Jesus in my life and less righteous.

  2. On point. I fear that my biggest struggle may be here. Yet, in admitting that, I sometimes find myself sliding towards the other extreme. That’s not good either. If we begin that trip with our eyes wide shut, we could easily cease being salt and light.

  3. I’m right there with you Dean !
    My issue is sometimes we are right abs we still forgive Just so we don’t have a confrontation and we want everything to be peaceful but that person still goes about her evil ways with gossip and lies I mean how do you get past it!????

  4. You touched on a subject that I certainly relate to. Lately I’ve noticed the closer I’ve moved to following Christ and being involved more in my church I’ve become more critical and yes more judgemental. Even before I repented for my sins and confessed them I was less judgemental in my thinking more compassionate and left perplexed by this change of attitude. I’m praying on this as I do not like the change. Thanks for addressing how thinking about being “right ” can turn into acting and thinking “un-right ” .

  5. I like that you’ve highlighted the trap of black and white thinking: I’m ALL right and they are ALL wrong. Even when it appears cut and dry and completely obvious, at times I’ve experienced a “softening” when I can humble myself enough to ask, “Am I really ALL right, or is there even a teeny tiny thing I could have done differently?” and, “Are they really ALL wrong, or is there even a teeny tiny thing they did right?” This softening brings me just a little closer to forgiveness because it reminds me of our common humanity.

  6. I find it interesting that at the age of 65 now, I am just discovering my tendency to react based on my need to be right. It is not a pleasant thing, but I am trying to be an observer of myself and become more aware of when it creeps up. On the other hand, 18 years ago I was able to forgive after a painful divorce, primarily because I realized neither one of us was right or righteous. It was very humbling to realize my part of the broken marriage. I welcomed God’s love and forgiveness and was then able to forgive and heal.