The Need to be Right

The Need to be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

This is a transcript from the February 16, 2020 sermon, so it contains the character of live, spoken communication.

I want to talk about something we've all experienced before in our lives. It's that moment where you are so certain you are right about something only to be humbled and find out you were wrong. How many of you have ever experienced that before? Everybody should have their hand raised. It's moments like maybe you thought a piece of trivia was correct and you stuck to your guns and you knew it and then only to find out that you thought maybe that actor was Jon Voight but is actually Christopher Walken or vice versa.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

All of us have those actors or celebrities that we get mixed up. This is one of them because they kind of look the same, right? Maybe it was the time that you were so certain your flight was leaving at a certain time and you get to the gate and it has already left. Maybe another time where you had a coupon at the store and you're arguing with the clerk about it only to find out that coupon has expired.

There's many different ways that we think we're right and end up being wrong or we're hard-headed only to realize that we were hurting people along the way. Certainty and being right is something that is normal for us. We want to be right, we want to have confidence in who we are and what we know. Today what I want to talk about is a certain kind of being right. There's different kinds. There's the kind that you are sticking to your guns you know something's right in order to save the day. That's like, in any storybook or movie the hero always knows the thing that's right and they push through only to save the day and prove everybody wrong. There's that type of right.

There's the type of right where we are trying to keep somebody from being hurt, that we know how this is going to go or play out and then we're just trying to help because we know something's not right and we know the right way. Then there's the other way of being right, being confident in our abilities in our knowledge and knowing that. Those are different ways and there's all kinds of lenses about being right but the type of right I want to talk about today I want to use the Lion King as a illustration for that.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

The type of right I'm talking about is, if you know the story of the Lion King, there is Mufasa who is the king and his younger brother Scar is that vengeful, he's jealous, he wants to be the king, he doesn't think his brother's leading the kingdom. Eventually, and spoiler alert but this has been around for 20 some years, Scar sets up the opportunity for him to be killed and he takes over the throne and he leads the kingdom in the way he thinks it needs to be led.

He thinks he's right in the ways that he's doing it and so he lets the hyenas loose, everybody can eat as much as they want, they could do anything they want. He only knows the right thing and so then it turns into this.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

This is when, towards the end of the movie when Simba returns, the whole kingdom has been laid to waste. This type of right is thinking and being hard-headed to the point of destruction of others and everything else in your path. That's the type of right I want to talk about today.

The need to be right, tends to be corrosive especially in relationships. Relationships, when it's only when one of you thinks you are right there is no room for communication, there is no room to listen to one another to understand each other better. It destroys relationships.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

A therapist by the name of Mel Schwartz says this, "As a marriage counselor, I often ask people if they'd rather be right or if they'd rather be happy? Although nearly everyone says they would prefer happiness the battle enjoins over right or wrong. If you pause and consider it it's really insane, isn't it? The very fact that we'd mindlessly choose to win an argument at the cost of damaging our relationships points to something terribly amiss. This inclination leads to the need to win an argument, which assures that no one is actively listening.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

If I need to be right and we have differing points of view that obviously makes you wrong. Doesn't exactly sound like the stuff of friendships, let alone romantic relations. This compulsion to be right side-tracks our lives and impedes our learning and happiness. If you've ever been in a relationship or you have a friend relationship or a family relationship when that other person always seems to be right and there's nothing you could do to change their mind that's not much of a relationship, is it? It's one-sided. It's not give or take but it's one-sided."

Likewise, Hannah Hart, who is a personal development and leadership coach says that when we are so certain it loses the ability to have curiosity and innovation. She says this, "It is therefore essential that they not jump," they as in people who think they're right, "not jump to a feeling of certainty but remain open to a diversity of thought and ideas as well as continuing to look for more data. Certainty stifles curiosity and curiosity is key to innovation, creativity, and success."

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

What this means, in turn, is that when we put ourselves into a bubble of rightness, of being the only ones who know the truth and being right we start taking a new data or new ideas, we lose our innovation, we lose our curiosity and we only think one way is the only way. We stifle our thinking and miss opportunities to learn or deepen relationships or to embrace complexities. Everything becomes black and white rather than some things are gray and are complicated.

You stop listening to others and instead listen to win or listen to react or listen to fix. Both of which keep you trapped in the sense that you are better than the other person. When you are trapped by rightness you close yourself off and fail to question your own beliefs and assumptions. So no wonder our world, our culture is polarized. We have come to a point whether you think about it in terms of religion or politics or just culture in general that we think one side or the other is exactly right and all we're doing is shouting at each other why we are right.

Now our relationship with one another is deteriorating, it's being corroded because one side or the other thinks they're right and we're never talking to each other or listening to learn, we are only listening to react, listening to argue. You see this all the time on the news, you see it with almost anything. A lot of us our minds go straight to politics but it's more than just that because just look at the Super Bowl halftime show as an example. It doesn't have to do with politics or anything but almost everything becomes, we're going to sit over here or we're going to sit over here on this particular subject. We become polarized. Now there's no room for that engagement or relationship to deepen with one another because of it.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

Perhaps one of the places in the Bible that we can point to for some wisdom is Proverbs. Proverbs is a book in the Old Testament that has a lot of wisdom in it written at the time. Some of that wisdom may seem out of date, some of it may seem very up-to-date based on our context but it was written in a way to show people morality, the way of God, kindness, love and compassion.

Proverbs 12:15-25 says this, 

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

The fools in the proverb that they are explaining sounds an awful lot like a person who needs to be right at all times, always scheming to have their way, telling lies to get their way. Have you ever met a person who will lie their way out of being wrong? It is probably easy for us though to do that, it's easy for us to think of somebody else we know that has that problem, right?

It's so easy to point the finger but today as we move into a time of silent reflection, I want you to start to think about, how do you see this in yourself? How do you see in yourself the ways that you want to be right, in the ways that you are hardheaded, the ways that you want to be the most self-righteous person in the room and the smartest person in the room? What ways do you do that? How can you identify how you contribute to the problem of polarization?

How can you identify the ways that God is calling you to grow inside yourself and how can the living Christ shape you and show you how to love and understand someone and their point of view more? Now, I do want to apologize if I'm going to create any fights between spouses after this about being right or being wrong, but really the question now is, I can hear it from some of you in your heads of, "Understand what you're saying, Jordan, but there is right and there is wrong."

How do we know when we should be right or when we shouldn't? Is there anything we can be certain of being right about? The opposite of being right is being wrong and we can't be wrong all the time, right? Well, this is where I look to Jesus and the fact that most of the time when Jesus talks about when he gave parables or he interacted with the religious leaders of his time or anybody else, what always seemed to happen was, especially religious leaders, they would say, this is how it is in the law. Jesus would say, this is how you have heard it. This is how I say it is.

Jesus was giving a new perspective, a new reality to work with that you said it was this, but now it is this, it is actually this. The reality of God is different. The reality of God has different standards, different scorekeeping, different focus. One of the parables Jesus gave was of the landowner with the vineyard and he hired workers in the morning to come work in the vineyard. He hired workers at noon to work and then he hired more workers around near closing time. They only worked for a couple of hours.

They all got paid the same. For us, when we look at that, the first thing is like, well, that seems unfair because the workers who are there all day should get paid more. They put in more work. What Jesus is trying to do with this parable is waking us up to the reality of God of how God's reality is full of love but it's not always fair. It's equal, but not always fair. For us that's hard to realize as humans because we have our certain standards of how we work with things.

For me, with Jesus and also another story of Jesus is with the woman caught in adultery. It was perfectly justified that she'd be stoned to death by the law. The law said that was what you did. He stepped in and said, those who have no sin cast the first stone. Nobody ended up doing that. Jesus is constantly taking what we know or we think is right and he turns it upside down. He says, actually in the kingdom of God, it works like this and we're still trying to figure that out 2,000 years later.

We have some glimpses of it. There's moments where we experience it and we know what it is, but we still struggle with it. All these moments, Jesus was engaging with people who are certain they were right and he was showing them there's actually a different way. It's a different way of looking at it. The reality of God that Jesus shows us through Christ, I think is a reality of love. Love is something we can be certain of. Love is something we can be right about.

Jesus's whole ministry, some of the stories I told you, and even going to the cross, the love that God has for us to die for us is all pointing towards love. Now, I think there's a certain type of love. We all then start saying, "Well, what does it mean to love, Jordan?" Then we go down these rabbit holes but what I want to show you and propose to you is that God's reality of love isn't always fair, but it's always equal.

We can look to 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 for what love is and what love looks like and what love does. This is the thing we can be certain of. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast. It is not proud. It does not dishonor others. It is not self-seeking. It is not easily angered. It keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. Love is certain. Love is right.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

We hear this most oftentimes at weddings, right? When somebody gets married, they want this piece of scripture read, which is good, but also then it becomes white noise to us oftentimes because if you've gone to enough weddings, they're like, "Love is patient. Love is kind," and you just kind of brush it off. You don't even listen to it and we use it particularly for romantic relationships, but this is the way to love in all relationships. Not just be in a marriage, but with your friends, your family, all those people you encounter. This is the way to love. This is the right way and love never fails as it says. It gives us a blueprint of what it looks like to love and what it looks like to take care of one another. If we are certain of love, then how can we correct our rightness? If this is the right thing and also if you have time after church or sometime this week in your own devotions, I encourage you to take this scripture and put it next to the Proverbs scripture because I think they have the same wisdom in them. This one's just a little bit nicer and more positive, but it's saying the same things.

As we think about love being the right thing, so how do we correct our own rightness? How do we correct ourselves when we are so blind to other things that we think we only know best? What are ways we can break that down? I'll give you four different ways that I think could help us correct our own rightness. Number one, listen to learn. Be skeptical of your own views. Don't just listen to react. Don't just listen to argue, but listen to learn from somebody. Listen to hear their point of view.

We all have had those moments where we listen to somebody and your blood starts boiling because you don't agree. Have you ever felt that? It just starts to rise? How can you better be skeptical of the fact that maybe they're not wrong, but maybe there's a possibility you could be wrong.

Number two, accept that there will be people with opinions that you won't be able to change. There's people that have opposing views than you. That's always going to happen. That's the way the world is. It's always going to happen. If you could see whether it's politics or religion, churches break off from one another all the time because they don't agree with a certain theological topic or practice and so we create another denomination or another church because of that, we always will have opposing views. How do you accept that you won't be able to change their views all the time?

Number three, prioritize kindness and compassion over being right. We've all faced challenges in our life. Many of those challenges have shaped us. Our experiences have shaped us to think a certain way about the world and a certain way about ideas and politics and religion and understanding that other people have those different experiences than us.

That they have come to the conclusion they have because of their own experiences shaping them. We all get there different ways, but not everybody has opinions or ideas simply because that's what they've always thought. We have learned and we have grown and we have come to the conclusion working towards those ideas. Having kindness and compassion over being right is important to know that people have done their own homework and gotten to the place that they have. Now, not everybody does that. I understand that, but giving people the benefit of the doubt is compassion also.

It also deepens your connection with people when you do this, that it's not simply about winning an argument or being louder than the other person, but now you are understanding each other better and that's how relationships are strengthened. For you as a person who's maybe married, maybe you have friendships, your relationship doesn't grow because you are the one that's right all the time, it grows when you're understanding each other better.

You see that with couples who've been together for many, many years, that they deeply understand each other because they've gotten to know each other in their experiences and know their world. They see the world through their eyes.

Number four, realize change does not mean weak. If you change your opinion or view on something or somebody else does, that does not mean they are weak or you are weak.

The Need to Be Right - New Hope Presbyterian Church - Castle Rock, CO

Actually, in some ways, changing an opinion or thought ideology actually is the harder thing to do. It's easy to stick with what we know and what we believe but to change it takes a lot more work. That doesn't mean somebody is weak. It actually means they're pretty strong. They've gone through the ringer. This idea that changing your views makes you weak, we need to get rid of.

You'll make mistakes and succeed. You'll help and hurt others. You'll be right and wrong, but you are still okay. You are still you. You are still the person God created you to be. Life is about becoming, right? It's becoming the person God created you to be. It's understanding who God wants you to be in this world, how he wants you to help others. What is your place in the world? No matter what, you are still okay. You are still a beloved child of God.

Changing things for yourself does not mean you're weak or less than, but you're right where you're supposed to be. I think this is an important year to know all this and not just because of the 2020 election, but it's good for years going forward too because we are now in a place in human history that is new in terms of technology, that we are Guinea pigs for the future generations about how this works. Because now, not just politics, religion, but just things in general. With technology, we can create our own echo chambers, we can create our own places where we only hear the things we want to hear.

It's driving us apart that we're not hearing each other, but we're just confirming our views and ideas. That's because of technology. We have it right in our pockets at all times. We can get the news we want, Google, Apple, any technology driven business knows what you like. They push the things that you like to you. I've tried this a couple of different ways, especially-- How many of you have Apple phones? There's a little news app and based on the things you click on, they start showing more things like that.

I've clicked on a huge diversity of different things and every once in a while, like one day it's all Fox news, or one day it's all CNN and they can't figure me out. I like to mess with them, but they're trying to give the things that you click on more. For us as Christians, to find that place of deepening our relationships with one another is important, to being able to lay down the need to be right, but hearing each other out too, to meet together, to hear each other's perspectives because what we know, at least through Jesus, is that almost all the time we tend to be wrong in terms of the reality of God. One thing we can be sure of is love because that was enacted through Christ and that's something we can do every day in our life. Amen.