Why Can’t We Say “I Was Wrong”
I’m Sorry! Why are those words so hard for people to say? I did some research on the reasons why it is hard to say I’m Sorry and found this summary from Today.com. “Apologizing can make some people feel vulnerable, or feel like they are in danger of losing their power and status. Others simply equate saying “I’m sorry” with admitting they’re inadequate or incompetent, which makes admitting mistakes so much harder to do. Some people find saying they’re sorry humiliating.”
Over the years almost without fail, I have seen politicians of both parties say when confronted on obvious errors in their judgments, that either things were taken out of context, or their actions were still justified because of extenuating circumstances. Essentially “I’m Sorry” could never be uttered.
Even more sadly, we see people of faith having trouble admitting wrong.
Years ago I knew of a large church with a big staff in which the lead pastor told this staff to never say you have a problem and never admit you’re wrong. So basically you wouldn’t need to apologize because there was nothing negative in your life. One day one of the staff broke down in front of a class to say that his son had been arrested and that their family had issues. Instead of being judged, people in the class responded with love. This pastor then apologized for not being real and saying that his family had no problems.
Most recently I have seen people with a “prophetic” gift make predictions on a whole host of issues that have not come true. Almost all of them when challenged, rather than say “I’m Wrong”, changed the narrative in that the prophecies really meant something else or there is more to come that will clarify. How about saying “I missed this one”!
When Maria and were relatively newly married she confronted me about being a lousy listener. My godly response (not really) was “you have got to be kidding. People love to be around me and enjoy my conversation.” Needless to say that went over like a lead balloon. It created tension in our relationship for several months. Fortunately the Lord had mercy and very dramatically revealed to me how wrong and insensitive I was. After apologizing to Maria, I began to work real hard on my listening skills. But admitting my stupidity was a key beginning.
The Scriptures can help us see the light. So for openers we are all sinners. Romans 3:23, “For all have sinned; all fall short of God’s glorious standard.” I John 1:8, “If we say we have no sin, we are only fooling ourselves and refusing to accept the truth.” So here is a very simple but crucial point. If we all have sin, by that definition we all will be wrong at some time.
Since we will be wrong at some point, then we should always be prepared to admit our sins, say we are wrong, and repent. Look at 1 John 1:9, “But if we confess our sins to him, he is faithful and just to forgive us and cleanse us from every wrong.”
I could stop here, because these Scriptures give us the Biblical basis for why we should be willing to say I’m wrong. But there are other Scriptures that show us how this plays out. Often, Jesus had to correct and rebuke his disciples for wrong thinking. One time James and John wanted to be seated at Jesus side in the next life. In other words they wanted prideful recognition. But Jesus said if they wanted to be great, become a servant (see Mark 10:35-45).
On another occasion, Jesus tells his disciples that he is going to die. Peter pulls him aside and rebukes Jesus for talking like that. Jesus looks at Peter and says “get away from me Satan! You are a dangerous trap to me. You are seeing things merely from a human point of view, and not from God’s.” (See Matthew 16:23). Now obviously Jesus didn’t think Peter was Satan, but because Peter was seeing things WRONGLY, Jesus saw that Satan was at work behind the scenes.
The great Apostle Paul had such a falling out with Barnabas, his first missionary partner, over taking John Mark on a second missionary trip that they split up. Paul chose Silas and Barnabas chose John Mark. But at the end of Paul’s life he asks that Mark be brought to him, because he will be helpful to Paul (see 2 Timothy 4:11). Obviously Paul must have realized he was wrong and changed his mind about John Mark.
You see brothers and sisters there is no shame in admitting you are wrong. In fact to be unwilling is to be anti Christian. Let me say that again. To be unwilling is to be anti-Christian.
The benefits of admitting wrong begin with getting God’s forgiveness, which we always need. Second, when people let others know that they did something wrong, usually it brings reconciliation and harmony back into relationships. I can’t guarantee it, but I can guarantee if you can’t admit wrong, there will not be any reconciliation. Third, admitting wrong is in my opinion dealing with reality. When you can’t admit wrong, then you are under deception, and that is dangerous for your life and for those in your life.
So my final counsel is it is more important to do the right thing (admitting wrong) than trying always to be right. Then we will be more like Jesus, which is what any believer should aspire to be.