Let Go of Being Right – When Being Right Is Wrong (and Dangerous)

“Yes, the mind is very useful, but when it does not recognize its own finite viewpoint, it is also useless.”
– Richard Rohr

When We Think We Know

It was mid-day on Friday. Jeff and I finished touring inside the Mid-America All-Indian Center in Wichita, looking at the pottery and drums and Native artwork by Blackbear Bosin.

Now we’d walk the grounds of the Outdoor Learning Center to sit in the tipi and look at the gardens. The afternoon was pleasant. We kept walking.

We left the Center’s property, walked beyond the gate to nearby Keeper Plaza to see Bosin’s famous Keeper of the Plains statue. Time slipped away.

It was now after 4:00, the Center’s closing time.

Behind us, a Center employee was about to lock the gate behind us. We quickly slipped back inside the Center grounds so we could return to Jeff’s truck.

But which way now? With the Center closed, and the grounds gate now locked, how could we get back to the parking lot?

Oh, I knew. Jeff didn’t agree, but he didn’t argue (he’s good like that). Let’s just go to the right, I said.

But I was wrong.

I just don’t aways know I’m wrong right away.

Thinking we’re always right can be dangerous. I know. It’s gotten me in trouble many times.

“We do not see things as they are; we see things as we are. Take that as nearly certain.”
– Richard Rohr

All month I’m sharing four statements that I live by. I keep them posted on my bedroom mirror. They are agreements with myself.

Today I’m sharing #2 of the four:

#2. Let go of being right.

(See #1 here, Give the Benefit of the Doubt, “Do You Assume the Best or Worst? And a Barking Lady.” I’ll share Agreements #3 and #4 on Mondays, June 17 and 24.)

Three Dangers of Always Being Right

Danger #1: Losing Friends

Nobody likes a know-it-all. Insisting that we’re right is obnoxious.

Being overconfident in our knowledge is dangerous to our character. And to our relationships.

We incorrectly assume we’ll gain prestige and authority if we are all-knowing. But the opposite usually happens. Pride destroys. It causes us to see ourselves as right and judge others as wrong, which is not just off-putting; it is wrong.

Solution: Practice humility.

Be aware of your ability to get things wrong, even when you think you’re right. Worry less about protecting your reputation and more about being humble. Instead of being combative, listen to others’ opinions and find common ground. If it matters, discuss it graciously. If it doesn’t matter, let it go.

Danger #2: Losing Security

Thinking we have to always be right is also dangerous to our mental and emotional health. When we think we have to be perfect in order to be loved, we live in fear. And we can’t flourish under a spirit of fear.

Nor a spirit of self-dependence. Relying on only our self-knowledge leads us away from engaging with and learning from others, and into a life of loneliness.

Solution: Trust the process.

Not your own perfection. Remember there will always be mysteries you’ll never understand. Trust that you’ll know what you need to know, when you need to know it, and be content with the unknowns yet to be revealed.

Danger #3: Losing Maturity

While in the moment it feels good to be proven right, the quest to be omniscient can rob us of growth in the long term.

A taste of knowing it all can leave us greedy to be right all the time. And once we think we’ve arrived at perfect knowledge, we lose our ability to learn more.

Solution: Know what you don’t know.

The best way to know more is to realize you know less. Even if you already know a lot, there is always more to learn. But only if you’re teachable. Learn more by listening more, reading more, loving more. Stay open.

Remember, Jesus never said, ‘This is my commandment: thou shalt be right.’ . . . It is an amazing arrogance that allows Christians to so readily believe that their mental understanding of things is anywhere close to that of Jesus.

Jesus said, ‘I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life’ (John 14:6). I think the intended effect of that often misused line is this: If Jesus is the Truth, then you probably aren’t!”
– Richard Rohr

Benefits of Not Being Right

Not only do we not like pride in others, neither do they like it in us.

When we let go of our need to be right, we are more respectful of those around us.

  • We grows in our relationships,
  • in our love,
  • and in our knowledge.

Send more grace into the world with your humility.

It’s better to be more loving than always right.

How did we find our way back to our truck at the Indian Center?

We asked someone who knew.

Thankfully, an outside employee gratefully showed us an unlocked door back into the building. We walked through, out the front door, and straight to the parking lot.

Being “right” had gotten me lost.
But being humble set me free. 

* * *

Related Reading:

We all like to be right. But sometimes we don’t do it well. Below are ten articles on how to be right and wrong in healthy ways.


Join me next Monday for Agreement #3, “Don’t take it personally.

Do you like to be right, too? Please share your thoughts in the comments.

See all 4 agreements (click on individual infographics)

1-Benefit-Doubt 2-Being-Right 3-Take-Personal 4-Show-Up

image map infographics

1-Give the benefit of the doubt | 2-Let go of being right | 3-Don’t take it personally | 4-Just show up

47 thoughts on “Let Go of Being Right – When Being Right Is Wrong (and Dangerous)

  1. Patricia Krank

    Yikes! I can so relate to thinking I’m right and finding out that I’m wrong. Especially now that I’m getting a little older. Haha! This is very wise advice.
    “We do not see things as they are. We see things as we are. Take that as nearly certain.” Great quote by Richard Rohr. Thank you Lisa.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Yes, it can be quite painful at times when we see how wrong we can be. ha. I loved that Richard Rohr quote too. All his quotes in this post are from his book, The Naked Now, which I highly recommend. Lots of good stuff in that book! Thanks for stopping by, Patti.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      You make a good point, Erin. We often point our fingers at youth for this, but we are just as guilty (if not more so!). Granted, we do have more life experience and know more about some things, but even so, a haughty spirit is wrong at any age. Jesus as our truth is indeed the reality that makes us free.

  2. Sarah Geringer

    Hi Lisa. I come from a family of know-it-alls and I’m working hard to break my desire to be right about everything. Thanks for sharing–I’ll be sharing your post on FB and Twitter this week. Visiting from #glimpsesofhisbeauty.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I have one or two know-it-alls in my family as well, but I won’t say who. ha. It is a hard habit to break; I have to be very intentional so I’ll remember and try to let things go, and even then I often fail. I so often want to turn to Google to validate a fact, but I have to temper even that. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Sarah.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I am married to someone, too, that doesn’t take my “rightness” so seriously either. ha. It does make a difference! My husband demonstrates to me that I really can let more things go, and all will be well. 🙂 Thanks for sharing, Jodie.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser

    This reminds me of Heinrich Schliemann’s excavation of Troy; he was so fixated on what he expected to find as representative of the heroic Homeric age that when he did find what he called ‘Priam’s treasure’ he immediately assumed that everything fit, that his expectations were an accurate model for history.

    Alas, no. Troy was built and rebuilt over centuries, so there are nearly a dozen levels of habitation, a dozen Troys, if you will.

    Schliemann’s was close to the bottom, and unfortunately predated the time described by Homer…and in concentrating on the excavation of what he considered the most important level, much above it – including a large part of what we now assume to be the Troy of the Iliad – was swept away.

    Schliemann realized this toward the end of his life, and though he tried to make amends by documenting that which could still be saved of the upper levels, he died a haunted man, shuddered ’round by the ghosts of the heroes he felt he had betrayed.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      That is a sad story. But one that we would be wise to know, so thanks for sharing it, Andrew. I don’t want to assume I know more of the truth than exists.

  4. David

    Dear Lisa

    I do like being right, but my curiosity generally gets the better of me. When I’m insisting on being right I can end up overlooking things that might have lead me somewhere more interesting and profitable.

    I like being part of a team, and one of the things I like about the idea of the body of Christ is that we are all one team, one body moving forward together, and each person’s perspective is just part of the whole.


    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Your approach is a good one, David. If we lock into our “rightness”, we often miss the real truth, which is the very thing we think we want. Being part of one body means we allow for differences in opinion and perspective and love each other as equally valuable, regardless. I like that, too!

  5. Julie Lefebure

    This timely post hits close to home. I won’t go into all the details, but I needed to read your words this morning. I especially appreciate the benefits of not being right. Thank you so much! I love how God shows us what we need, right when we need it! Bless you!

  6. Betty Draper

    Just yesterday I was listening to our daughter and son in law both saying they were right on a subject. For a while they were arguing and laughing then it turned to serious…I wanted to get out of the room. One of them is a dye hard right everytime, I won’t say which one. The other one gets their feelings hurt when it turns serious and finally gives us on being right outside but inside they carry the, “I am right, no matter what you say” grudge for a while. I will admit they are getting better at it. Years of living with a man who hates to argue even in fun has me how foolish I am when I argue. All those things I thought I was right in usually did not matter or change anything. Life goes on even when we are right and do not win. We can shut our mouth but have to make sure we shut our heart or resentment can take root if we carry our right too close. Great post Lisa…so needed.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Lots of wisdom right here in your comment, Betty! I appreciate hearing from others who have seen this and see the way out of it. I’ve been guilty of doing what you mentioned as well: finally saying, “Whatever” on the outside, but on the inside, continuing to believe I was right. That’s not good either. How blessed you are to live with a man who hates to argue. My husband doesn’t like to argue either (well, I don’t either, ha), but my father would argue easily so I heard it growing up. So much room for grace in my heart still!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I appreciate that, Leslie! I wish this issue wasn’t one so pertinent to me. ha. But it is, so I have to keep it front and center in prayer and in practice in order to grow out of it.

  7. Michele Morin

    This is so powerful. I’m reminded that our “friend” Elisabeth Elliot confessed to this same weakness, and referred to it as “making an idol out of being right.”

    It’s so much better to admit that we’re wrong and live in humility.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Well, at least I’m in good company if Elisabeth Elliot struggled with this as well. ha. Yes, I can definitely see how it can become an idol. I do not want that to happen.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I’ve been painfully wrong many times as well, Debbie, and I know I will be many times still to come. I want to be able to recognize it quicker and quicker instead of lingering too long in my incorrect pride. Thanks for sharing.

  8. Bev @ Walking Well With God

    My dad used to have a saying that you could “Win the battle, but lose the war.” I think that is so true about having to be right. You may win that battle, but ultimately lose friends, faith, and maturity among other things. Is it really worth the cost to be right?? Perhaps that’s why God calls upon us so many times to humble ourselves. The only One truly right all the time is God. Terrific post!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Excellent comment, Bev. There have been times in my past where I felt temporary satisfaction from winning a battle, but the cost was too great in the long run. It’s definitely not worth it! Humility is the way to go. Thanks for sharing these thoughts.

  9. Sherry Stahl

    I love this series! So practical yet profound. I am a teacher at heart so this is an agreement I have to keep in front of me or I can slide into know-it-all-ism 🙂
    Praying this post spreads so people are influenced by your words to live more like Christ.
    Be Blessed & Refreshed,
    ~Sherry Stahl

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Hmm…you’re making me wonder if those of us who love gathering information and spreading it to others are more tempted by “being right” than other people. It doesn’t excuse it, but perhaps it can explain the tendency anyway. Thanks for sharing this, Sherry!

      1. Sherry Stahl

        I do believe that’s the case. Years ago I did a study on Discerning Your Spiritual Gifts. In it we learned the positive and negative attributes of each gift. That was listed as a negative characteristic of those with the teaching gift. It helped me to recognize this was a part of my makeup and that I needed to be more aware of it. It also helped me not to feel like I was horrible. Hope it helps you 🙂

        1. LisaNotes Post author

          Yes, it does help me too, Sherry. Thank you! It reminds me of the Enneagram personality typing system, if you’re familiar with that. I’m pretty sure I’m a 5, which is a lover of information. 🙂 Pros and cons to it, for sure.

  10. Carol

    A few years ago I saw a clip from Dr. Phil where he was telling someone that in order to be always right, or “the winner”, that means that you’re always making someone else be “the loser”. So, for example, in an argument with your spouse, if you win, it means you made him lose – “Do you want to be married to a loser?” Dr Phil asked.
    That has stuck with me. In our quest to win, if we create losers (in our children? Can you imagine that goal?) is winning really worth it?
    Things to think about. I like your four agreements!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Ooh, what an excellent commentary by Dr. Phil. I haven’t thought of it that way. I also don’t want to make other people feel like a loser (because I sure don’t like feeling like that myself). There are so many reasons to choose humility! I so appreciate you sharing this, Carol. I hope it sticks with me!

  11. floyd

    Not sure how I missed this one the first time around.

    Good one, Lisa. This is right up my alley. You’ve been on the path and search for humility longer than I have. Without it we can’t please or honor our Maker.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I don’t know if I’ve been on the path longer or not, Floyd, but I’m likely a much slower learner of it than you. We’ve been slowly reading a book on humility among our worship team, and every time I delve into it, I realize how much further I have to go.

  12. Jean Wise

    wow so much to think about here. I think Richard Foster calls is the gift of keeping your mouth shut. A beautiful gift to give others. Thanks for all the good pointers. A great series.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      Oh, yes, good reminder from Richard Foster! I remember reading in one of his books (Celebration of Discipline, probably) that we don’t need to protect our reputation like we think we do. That thought has stuck with me for years. Do I do it? Not as well as I should, but I want to. Thanks for bringing this up, Jean.

  13. Sarah Donegan

    I think I am pretty good at not having to be right, at least when I am around the people who really hold onto their right to be right. 🙂 The rest of the time, I know I have this issue. It must be improved, so God can shine through me.

  14. Laura Thomas

    This is all so good, Lisa! “If it matters, discuss it graciously. If it doesn’t matter, let it go.” This is gold… imagine if we applied that to every “discussion”:) Grace and humility. I need more of both! Thanks for sharing… stopping by from #tellhisstory

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      What a wonderful world it would be…I’m imagining it now, Laura. 🙂 Now bringing it to reality is a different matter. Yes, grace and humility are definitely in high need, now as much as ever.

      1. Mrs J

        I’m new on here as of today. I’ve been trying to not have the last word, too.
        When I know I’m right, and he makes a statement that is definitely wrong, in my opinion ( ! ), I’ve been shutting my mouth some, amazingly ! Then even changing the subject sometimes, which I never used to do.
        All becuz he and I are sick of arguing, and are trying harder than ever to show love, and to communicate the right way.

  15. Barbie

    I have a lot of strong headed and opinionated teens and adults in my home. We’ve had some heated discussions and it really is a long time before anyone will bend and admit they were wrong. We may never come to agreement, but I want my family to learn to have discussions with grace and love. Thank you for this post.

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      This is definitely a harder problem with strong-willed people so I feel your pain, Barbie. It’s an area that we have to work on our whole lives, I suppose. It will be a little easier for your family when there are fewer people in the house. 🙂

  16. Amy Jung

    Wow, Lisa! This must be something we all need to be more aware of. I see the need for myself. I also see it as a problem in the church. O Lord, help us! Thanks for all your wisdom here. Great series you’re working on!

    1. LisaNotes Post author

      I agree with you Amy – I definitely see this as an area that the church needs to work on as well. 🙁 It starts with us individually, but the mindset of “I’m always right” also needs to leave our institutions.

  17. Lori Schumaker

    Love this, Lisa! The image is awesome, too. Shared this on Pinterest and my Facebook page. Your 3 dangers are spot-on. Our strength lies in our humility because right there in the depth of humility is Jesus.

    Always love stopping by here and getting much to challenge myself!

    Blessings and smiles,

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