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How Do You Know When You’re Wrong?

u turnI’m not really talking about that decision to finish the box of donuts yourself or to buy those $300 sunglasses.  Well, maybe!  I’m thinking more about things like a career decision.  Or an argument.  Heated words hang.  It always takes more time to clean up a mess than to make one.

How do you know when you’re wrong?

I don’t really mean you specifically—but maybe.  I’m really talking about me here!  But maybe you’ll see some help in here for you too.

Some things are obvious: If you’re cheating on your spouse I hope you don’t need a blog to tell you it’s wrong!  Stealing is pretty clear.  Neglecting your kids is obvious (hopefully).  Pouring your leftover paint into the river is a no-no, as is throwing rocks at passing cars.  So is skipping presbytery meetings just because. (Only some of you will get that last one, but you know who you are! lol)

But what if you’ve been offered a new job?  What decision is right?  Or wrong?  What about a position you’ve taken in an argument with someone you care about?  Are you prepared to die on a hill if it’s the wrong hill?  Here are five things I’ve learned that are usually a pretty good indicator that I’m wrong about something.

I’m probably wrong…

1. If I’ve been tired
I don’t make good decisions when I’m tired.  I think of a white margin at the side of the page in my brain.  When it’s depleted due to sleep or overwork I have no mental spill-over and might make decisions that aren’t fully thought out.

2. If I’ve been un-prayerful
Prayer has a way of opening you to what’s really going on.  God does that.  In my mind, the only way to really open your eyes is to first close them. The other thing about prayer is it makes you wait. If I’m really unsure about something, I pray about it, and let time pass.  My primal instincts are muted, and I’m more balanced.

3. If my wife has a concern
We’ve been together a long time and we know each other incredibly well.  I deeply respect her sincerity and judgment.  If her something-doesn’t-seem-right-radar goes up, she’s usually on to something.  This is a huge benefit to having someone you trust by your side, and someone who usually isn’t as close to the issue as I am.  A trusted advisor has perspective. (I don’t share confidential things from the church with her, but I do about other concerns or life decisions.)  I think of Proverbs 15: 22: “Without counsel, plans go wrong, but with many advisers they succeed.”

4. If I default to the easy position
The right decision isn’t always the easy one, or the popular one.  Sometimes it is; but not always.  If I’m making a decision just to avoid conflict, or to get myself out of more work, alarms should go off.

5. If the outcome doesn’t help me love God and others
God commands things.  Loving him and others is one of them.  A great big one.  If after a decision my new path doesn’t allow me to do that, then I’ve probably gone off the rails.

Being wrong isn’t easy.  It can hurt pride.  It takes humility to admit fault and self-correct.  Many discussions turn into arguments because they become about winning rather than deciding what’s right.

So this blog is just some food for thought.  Think of something in your life right now where you’re wondering, Hmm, am I wrong about that?  Maybe these 5 things will help you as they’ve helped me.

Last year I heard my friend (and fellow blogger) Cathy Clark speak at an event.  She was talking about the process of learning and growth.  She quoted Kathryn Shulz who said something I think is quite profound so it’ll be the final word on this one:

“The time between being wrong and learning that you are wrong feels exactly like being right.”

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