Living in the Tension Between Right and Wrong

A few months back, I accidentally walked my entire family through the front door of a complete stranger’s house, much to the residents’ surprise. Let me explain.

On that particular Sunday afternoon, my family and I were driving around neighborhoods looking at open houses. Fully absorbed in my own context, we drove up to this particular house. There was a For Sale sign in the yard, and even a realtor tent on the front porch with little bootie slippers in a basket. OBVIOUSLY this was another open house. I looked in the window and saw people of different generations and races. Naturally, I assumed, there were multiple families scoping it out. I had a moment of pause, but only a slight one, and decided to open the front door and escort my family right in.

This house, however, was not, how do you say… open. Oh no, this was simply a mixed-race family whose grandparents were visiting, attempting to have lunch after church, in their own home. They had had a showing earlier in the day, hence the booties on the front porch.

As if the breaking and entering were not bad enough, they insisted on showing us around, extending grace and smiles all the while. It was all I could do to humbly tiptoe through and then awkwardly slip out the front door without tripping in my hurry.

Embarrassed is too small a word to explain how I felt.  You see, I pride myself on being able to read situations accurately. I have a lot of experience, both professionally and personally, guiding and reading rooms and environments to assess what is really going on. I would even go so far as to say that I have the gift of discernment. And that is all well and good when I am actually being discerning and using the gifts God has given me. It is quite another when I am heading into a situation so full of my own story that I do not see it at all for what it is. It is in those moments when the truth may be staring me in the face, but I refuse to acknowledge it, so caught up am I in defending my side of it.

Realizing the truth of the situation in the stranger’s house, however, immediately set me free from the need to justify myself. Once I was out of the house and removed from the embarrassment, it was actually quite freeing to admit I was wrong. Most of the time when I leave a stressful situation that didn’t go my way, I retell the story over and over in a way that gathers people to my side and helps me feel vindicated.

In fact, spinning something over and over, is a sure sign that somewhere I’m still questioning whether or not I really was right. I do this when I leave jobs, when I pull away from certain relationships, or when I make any decision that seems to put me on a trajectory that I didn’t expect. Somewhere at the bottom of the question of, “Was I right?” is the belief that as long as I was right, I shouldn’t have to worry about it anymore. I should be able to live with the consequences, because I can hold onto my rightness.

I don’t know if you’ve ever noticed, but simply defending yourself when you feel right, doesn’t seem to always make things right.

A few years back, I learned this the hard way. I walked through a circumstance in which I could clearly say that I was in the right, yet things most decidedly went against me. Not a person who witnessed it said otherwise. But that wasn’t enough to make those who could help me do so. They had their own reasons for why they let it occur. My rightness could not fix the situation, and it was devastating. In the months after, when reflecting on what happened, the phrase that kept tormenting me was, “but I was right.” Yet being right did not necessarily bring comfort.

When our highest priority is to be right, it becomes incredibly difficult to extend grace, and while the specks in our brother or sister’s eyes become magnified, the logs in our own eyes can either be very greatly minimized or flat out ignored, (Matthew 7:3-4).

And the reality is, far too often, my attempts to justify myself in order to prove how right I am are much more about me being understood than about acknowledging what is true.

And TRUTH is an entirely separate entity than being right.

Truth is not dependent on circumstances, contexts,or personal preferences. Truth just is.  When you walk into somebody’s home, it is either open or it isn’t.

Jesus says, “Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” (John 8:32)

And those are the truest words you will ever hear. Many people think they have an insight as to what is true, but they are really more concerned with their own ability to be right.

The fullest expression of truth is found in Jesus. He is the way, the truth, and the light, (John 14:6). Jesus shatters our false pretenses of self-justification. We cannot justify ourselves and make all things right, nor were we ever meant to.

When we lay down our love of being right to become lovers of truth, we become humble, because we will first see ourselves as we really are. Being able to acknowledge the truth helps us to do what the prophet Micah said that the Lord requires of you: “to act justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,” (Micah 6:8).

This is not a call against striving to live righteously. In fact, it is quite the opposite. Righteous living clears our lives from the sin that so easily entangles and ensnares us. It is the largest self-justification of all to think that we can keep harboring sin in our lives, live however we want, and not be deceived by it. Sinful living does not lead you closer to truth.

It is merely a reminder that righteous living, while admirable, will not make you always right.  Let your righteousness lead to humility, knowing the One who makes all things right.

And let your humility help you to acknowledge when you are wrong, so that your family can laugh and tell the story over and over about the time Mom walked them into the stranger’s house with bootie slippers on their feet.