Monday, February 8, 2010

Being Right vs Being Righteous

Our egos can get us into a lot of trouble by convincing us that we need to be right all the time. We're afraid that conceding the validity of a viewpoint that differs from our own (even if that concession doesn't necessarily mean we are "wrong") will destabilize our very foundation of self-confidence and self-sufficiency. Unless we're intentionally seeking out someone else's opinion, we all too often want nothing to do with other people's ideas. We need to be right, and we need to do things our way. If anyone challenges that, we'll defend our right to be right like a mother bear defends her cubs. We'll fight and argue over tiny points of minutiae just to prove that we're right, whether the topic at hand really matters or not.

Being right is not what Christian living is all about, however. God wants us to be righteous, not right. Being righteous means willingly following God's commands, and He has instructed us to love Him and to love one another. Yes, knowledge can be helpful to a Christian, but a loving and generous heart is much more important. During Jesus' time on Earth, the chief priests, scribes, and Pharisees were all very learned about the Hebrew Bible and God's law, and yet they were unrighteous in their opposition of Jesus. They did not help anyone but simply sought to raise themselves above the populace by being "right". All too often, believing that we must be right gives us a feeling of self-righteousness that is in serious opposition to true righteousness.

God doesn't necessarily want us to always know what's right. He wants us to admit that He knows better than we do and to follow Him with trust and humility. After all, Adam and Eve fell because they ate the fruit of the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. Had they simply followed God, they would not have needed to know the difference between right and wrong because God would have guided them in righteous paths. God also doesn't want us to argue with each other about who's right. He wants us to work together as His servants in the world. Our disagreements frequently distract us from our true mission, and if we put our differences aside we often find that they do not inhibit our ability to do God's work nearly as much as our arguments did. Sometimes there is nothing to gain by arguing about who's right, because such arguments may never be resolved. Some issues are opinions and not facts, interpretations and not provable certainties, and we could spend the rest of our lives debating them. Or we could decide that it doesn't matter whether we're right or wrong so long as we are doing our best to follow God and love our neighbors.

Occasionally we argue with others about who's right because we really and truly care about the issues. More often, it seems, we just fight because our ego demands that we come out on top. In those cases, we need to stop feeling so insecure and realize that God (and our loved ones) value us whether or not we're right. If someone else proposes an idea that could work, sometimes it's best to defer to that person out of love instead of fighting to the bitter end because our own ideas might be slightly better. If people who love us are trying to help us in an endeavor, maybe we shouldn't criticize their work just because they aren't doing things precisely the way we would. The fact that people want to work together and that they love and respect each other is far more important from a Christian perspective than whose plan gets used or who gets recognized for having good ideas.

When it comes down to it, I would much rather be an idiot with a kind and trusted master and loving friends than an infallible genius living in isolation. Being right will not necessarily teach us about love, and trusting in ourselves to be right may even lead us away from God. Being righteous means that it's OK if we're not right all the time—we just need to keep God ever before our eyes and continue to care about the people who are working through the right and wrong answers just like us. I think it is a much more joyful thing to be righteous than to be right.

4 comments:

Carol said...

I love your comparison. A group of my friends are going through the "every man's marriage" workbook. This was a discussion question in the very first chapter. How can we, as head of the spiritual household, learn the difference between being right vs. being righteous. I think it's an excellent lesson.

Thank you for sharing your insights!

Hasia said...

thank you so much for this insight. it gives me so much peace to know that there is a higher level than being right which is to be rightous before God. I knew that always trying to convince the other person that i'm right was strangely wrong and not gratifying but i just didn't know why. I realized it's because my mind was not set on God but rather on just myself. I find that when my perspective or actions are towards God then for a strange unexplainable reason i feel this sense of peace. It must be because we are His creation... I thank God for this insight He gave to you. :)

ryel said...

Thank you so much for the wonderful distinction between being right and being righteous! I agree with you. I know there is a difference but I I do not know how they are different but with your exposition you nailed it on the head!

ATLEGANG REGINALD said...

WOW THAT WAS PRETTY AWESOWE HEY. I WAS ALWAYS CURIOUS ABOUT THE MATTER TOO, BUT I DIDN'T KNOW WHERE TO START AND TRY TO DIFFERENTIATE ALL THIS TO MYSELF, I'M SO GREATFUL THAT I MANAGED TO FIND YOUR PASSAGE I'LL ACTUALLY NEED TO SHARE THIS WITH MY CHURCH MATES, ALL THANKS TO YOU HEY.

THANK YOU

 
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