Being Right Is the Wrong Goal

Being Right is the Wrong Goal @BethDemme

By Beth Demme

A few years ago, my husband and I moved into our dream home.

We spent about three years working with professionals to design and build it. We oversaw every detail, even deciding where each outlet and light switch would sit. It’s the kind of experience that creates conflict and frustration for many couples. The sheer number of decisions required can be overwhelming and each one is an opportunity for disagreement.

Our house was a big project. Still, we had surprisingly few arguments. When we wanted different things, we reminded each other we were on the same team. We had a unified goal — a beautiful home where our family and friends could gather comfortably.

Being Right is the Wrong Goal @BethDemme

Eventually we divided up areas of decision-making authority. We agreed I would take the lead on deciding what the finishes inside the house would be; he would take the lead on structure and exterior. My husband saw things like faucets and light fixtures for the first time when they were being installed.

I know that dividing decisions up this way wouldn’t work for everyone, but it taught us an important lesson:

There’s more than one right way.

My husband might have chosen a different ceiling fan or gone with a different tile, but in the end we were both really happy with the overall result.

Our system only worked because we both put aside our need to be “right” about each decision. As someone said recently on Twitter: “The goal of being ‘right’ above all else has rarely gotten me what I really wanted.” (@DVest)

In building our home, we found that being “right” wasn’t as important as trusting each other and extending grace.

Lately I’m learning to apply this in my faith journey. 

When it comes to faith, I’ve spent tons of time looking for the “right” answers. Maybe you’ve done the same.

The Bible does say: “Ask, and it will be given you; search, and you will find; knock, and the door will be opened for you. For everyone who asks receives, and everyone who searches finds, and for everyone who knocks, the door will be opened.” (Matthew 7:7-8, NRSV). Later we are told that anyone who lacks wisdom will receive it if they “ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly.” (James 1:5)

I used to think these verses meant study, prayer, and worship would give me the “right” answers about God. I thought if I put in the work and the effort, God could be completely understood and known.

Much to my dismay, the more I read and study the Bible, the less I definitively know.

What really surprises me is how this is drawing me to God, not pushing me away.

I thought the “right” answers would bring me closer to God, but I was wrong. My searching, asking, and knocking have given me certainty about only one thing: God loves me.

Instead of finding all the “right” answers, I’ve found something better—a deeper relationship with God.

For a time I was unsettled by my inability to categorize and explain everything about God, but now I find joy in worshipping a God I can’t completely understand. I guess if God could be completely understood and rationalized, that would make him sort of small, wouldn’t it?

These days, I’m meditating on this passage:

We don’t yet see things clearly. We’re squinting in a fog, peering through a mist. But it won’t be long before the weather clears and the sun shines bright! We’ll see it all then, see it all as clearly as God sees us, knowing him directly just as he knows us! (1 Corinthians 13:12-13 (MSG))

The next time I feel tempted to declare my ideas about God to be the “right” ones, I hope I’ll remember that my own understanding of God is foggy, at best. After all, if there’s more than one right way to build a house, there’s probably more than one right way to understand God.

What do you think? Do you prefer mystery or certainty? Are you more skeptical of the people who have it all figured out or the people who haven’t figured out anything yet? Tell me about it on Twitter, Facebook, or in an email.

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

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