Being Right

Do not judge, so that you may not be judged. For with the judgment you make you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get. Why do you see the speck in your neighbor’s eye, but do not notice the log in your own eye?

Matthew 7:1-3

Earlier this year I started reading the Harry Potter series for the first time. Our sons were among the generation that grew up with Harry and his companions, but I stopped riding the train to Hogwarts after the second book. Now I’m all in, besieging my friends and family with insights they’ve known for years. I can’t help it, for sentences keep leaping off the page and into my heart.

This week’s sentence was one of Albus Dumbledore’s many words of wisdom:

People find it far easier to forgive others for being wrong than being right.

I’d never considered that before, but as soon as I read it I knew it was true. For when I forgive someone for being wrong, I remain vindicated in my rightness. To forgive another for being right, I am the one that needs to change. Whatever anger, hurt, and disappointment I have carried are no longer justified, and I need to them go. Gone is the assurance of my rightness, as my worldview is challenged by something I had previously dismissed.

In this political season, when most of us believe that we are right and nearly half of our fellow Americans are seriously flawed in their judgment, I wonder how Dumbledore’s words–not to mention Jesus’ admonition to love and not judge–might soften how we speak to and about one another.

Remember that the least effective way to convince another person of our “rightness” is by argument. As one of my mentors used to say, “We rarely thank other people for speaking a truth we don’t want to hear.” Our deepest convictions do not reside in our intellects alone, but are bound up in our emotions and worldview. What we already believe to be true determines what we hear and see, which is one reason we tend to gravitate toward those who agree with us and avoid those who don’t.

The most effective way to change another person’s views is through relationship, and in particular, through a relationship informed by respect and affection. But there’s a catch: in relationship, we risk being changed ourselves, and learning, through the life experience of another, where we, in fact, are wrong. So if we’re not willing to risk the possibility of encountering truths that will force us to change, we are far less likely to engage in the kind of non-judgmental relationship that will change others.

It’s a risk worth taking. We desperately need to establish a new narrative in America, speaking more with and less at each other. I have my views, Lord knows, and given my position, I have a platform for sharing them. But please don’t assume that I’m not interested in your views if they differ from mine–I am. I’m especially interested in the kind of honest and respectful exchange that might lead us both to greater truth.

In the words of the poet Rumi, “Out beyond our ideas of wrong and right, there is a field. I’ll meet you there.”

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