Zechariah was a learned priest who kept God’s commandments. When an angel told him his elderly wife Elizabeth would have a baby, Zechariah was too smart to believe him. Displeased, the angel struck him mute. When the baby was born, Elizabeth named him John. This was a break from tradition, as there were no Johns in the family. The household looked to Zechariah to make the call. The “right” thing to do would have been to pick a family name, but Zechariah was no fool. He wrote down “John” and was once more able to speak. He had learned the pitfalls of having to be right.
Generally speaking, we are not rewarded for being wrong. To the contrary, we usually suffer some penalty, even if it’s just loss of face. Employers, children, friends, and church exert an enormous amount of pressure to be right. Of course “wrong” is never our goal, but being afraid to be wrong prevents us from taking chances – pretty much the opposite of faith.
In science, negative results provide good information, yet there is a bias against publishing them. Valuable lines of communication are cut off when we hide our mistakes. How much richer the world is when, instead of having to be right, we are open to learning! The need to be right – politically, morally, spiritually – closes us off from the insights of others, and those others are children of God with equally valid perspectives. We don’t always have to agree with them; abandoning the need to be right is not the same as always being wrong.
Perhaps the greatest downfall of having to be right is how it limits our vision to only the things we can conceive. Zechariah’s rejection of the unknown relegated him to the sidelines of the most important story in history. His decision to risk being wrong in the eyes of others put him back in the game. How many angels have we rejected? How many traditions have robbed us of faith? Sometimes being wrong is not an occasion for shame, but for joy!
Comfort: Only God is always right; the rest of us are allowed to be human.
Challenge: The next time someone offers an opinion you disagree with, listen to understand, rather than to argue.
Prayer: Loving God, I will seek to lean on your wisdom more than my own understanding.
Discussion: Have you ever been pleased to discover you were wrong about something?