“I Was Mistaken”

Cup_of_Coffee.GIFStrong people admit wrong.  Strong leaders admit fault.  Strong men and women admit that they are works in progress.  Yet, some of us have such a hard time with this.

We had not been married very long.  We were in a "discussion" (argument).  I don’t know the issue or the subject.  I just remember that there was strong disagreement.  Charlotte was upset with me about something.  I was defensive and was standing my ground.  What I remember is that somewhere in the middle of the discussion it suddenly dawned on me that she was right.  Of course, I was too prideful and insecure to immediately admit that.  So, I continued arguing in favor of something I knew was wrong.  How dumb.

So why do some of us rarely, if ever, say:

  • "I don’t know anything about that."
  • "You know a lot more than I do about this."
  • "I sure have a lot to learn."
  • "I really haven’t thought through this."
  • "I must have made a mistake."
  • "I don’t know what to do."

What is it that keeps us from ever saying anything that suggests error, a lack of knowledge, or uncertainty?  Perhaps it is our own sense of insecurity.  I remember a time when a person made this observation regarding a particular Christian leader: "He is not going to admit that he doesn’t know what to do.  He is far too insecure.  Instead, he will probably try to communicate that he is actually ahead of everyone else in his thinking about this matter."  Oh my.

There is something freeing about not having to always know, always be a step ahead, always be on target, or always be insightful.  There is something freeing about being able to learn, grown, and be a work in progress.  Maybe that has something to do with finding security in Christ instead of my own competency or my desire for the esteem of others.  

Does this speak to you?   

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive or off-topic.

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9 thoughts on ““I Was Mistaken”

  1. Jim,
    It’s never easy to say, "I messed up" or "I was wrong," because it’s pride that wants us to be right.  Pride is the very thing that has drug so many others down and while we know it we still choose to let it control us. 
    When we become people who are willing to say "I don’t know" or "I was wrong" then our families and churches will be much healthier.

  2. Admitting fault is incredibly hard for me, having a lot to do with shame.  It’s not an issue of guilt, but one of feeling as though not knowing has to do with exposing my fear that I am not enough.  As I have counseled and mentored folks over the years, I have wondered if this is true for many people.  It is especially difficult when someone is confronting you, the receiving of this can be extremely shameful.  Getting past this reaction is terribly painful, but getting out from under it is incredibly reassuring and freeing.  Thanks for bringing up tough topics Jim, I so value reading your posts.

  3. Trey,I love the last word of your comment.  You suggest that such candor will result in families and churches that are "healthier."  Thank you for the reminder.  It is tempting to think that I am better off for not being honest and open about what I don’t know or don’t understand or messed up.  Thanks. 

  4. Becky,Your brief comment is candid and honest.  I suspect that many others (including myself) read that and immediately identified.  At times it is so very tempting to run from honesty. 

  5. Jen,I read your comment and immediately thought of some interactions I have had with a man through the years.  He is quite often very condescending.  I recall the feeling of shame as he seemed to know most everything and would seem amazed that I didn’t know an answer or was not finished or was incomplete in some way.Perhaps rooted in my reaction was what you said—that in some way he was exposing my fear that I was not enough.Thanks for your candor.  I suspect your are a very good counselor because, in part, of the awareness you have of these kinds of issues in your own life. 

  6. One of the greatest lessons I learned over the years was as a high school basketball official. When a coach is climbing all over you for a call, you have options: Technical foul (which I used as my first option too often in my early years of officiating), ignore him/her, or say, “You know, Coach, you’re right. I missed that call.” After they recover from the shock, what are they going to say?

    That helped me see the value of admitting I was wrong. Another was heraing a man tell me once, in the context of an argument with one’s wife: “You can be right, or you can be happy. Choose wisely.” I found happy is far more enjoyable than right.

  7. Jim, I have struggled with this as well.  I smiled when I read about the conflict you and Charlotte had.  It reminded me of a conflict my wife and I had once where we both were angry at each other.  In the midst of it I said that I was angry she wasn’t listening to me and she was angry that I was speaking too strongly.  It struck us both as funny and we started to laugh and realized that we both were refusing to admit being wrong.  That was a beautiful step in our marriage toward being quick to admit wrong.  Wrong doesn’t equal bad.  It’s part of learning what is right.  I like this quote by FDR, “It is common sense to take a method and try it. If it fails, admit it frankly and try another. But above all, try something.” 

  8. Adam, I like your story!  It is interesting how we experience these moments where we can either learn together or the hostility just thickens.Isn’t it wonderful to come to a place where you not only learn but are able to laugh about it?Thanks,Jim