“Think it possible ye may be mistaken.”
Those words were uttered by Oliver Cromwell in the 17th century. This Lent we are focusing on the possibilities that emerge when we admit that we are wrong. Admitting that we are wrong is something that people have struggled with for a long time!
Oliver Cromwell said these words just before the Battle of Dunbar. He won that battle after a very tough fight; but he wrote to his opponents before the fighting began, trying to get them to accept a peaceful resolution to the conflict. These were his words, written in a letter to the General Assembly of the Church of Scotland in 1650.
I beseech ye in the bowels of Christ, think it possible ye may be mistaken.
How many wars could have been averted if his words had been taken seriously? How many relationships saved? How many communities strengthened?
Cromwell said it to his enemies on the eve of battle. I wonder if he ever said it to himself. Asking our enemies to reconsider their position is an easy task. Doing the hard work of self-examination – challenging our own deeply cherished opinions – now that sounds like hard work. That sounds like rewarding work.
What would our lives look like if we considered the vague possibility that when we disagree with people it is we and not they who might be mistaken?
May God grant us the strength and courage to do just that – as individuals, as a church, as a community, and as a nation.
What are the barriers to admitting our mistakes?
What is the difference between being right and getting it right?
-Written by Rev. Amy Miracle
Enjoying the Broad Street Blog? Be sure to subscribe so you never miss another post
Can you imagine how different our world would be if people would admit their mistakes?
I, for one, admit my mistakes, always have. How would I learn from mistakes if I didn’t? But I will say having a difference of opinion is not always a mistake.
Makes me a better person!
The difference between being right and getting it right is “getting.” “Getting” is a verb, a series of actions. Getting something right means there’s a process by which one arrives at the right answer; and this means there are repeated attempts, each being wrong (in other words, not quite right), until the correct solution is found. Often, we’re led to internalize that being wrong is unacceptable. Being wrong is to be “less than.” Being wrong is to fail. The benefit of being wrong and accepting it, acknowledging it, and then moving forward to figure out what is right, is that a correct path is found. If we can’t admit being wrong, then getting it right can never happen.
Some barriers that prevent us from considering that we might be wrong are fear of failure, ego, and pride. Think about Haman. He was so insecure about his position that he never stopped to consider anyone else. Had Haman stopped to consider why his actions never resulted in happiness, perhaps he might have conceded that he was mistaken. He ended up hanging on his own gallows.
Today’s society is unforgiving of mistakes. It’s rare to witness the acknowledgment of a wrong, because we’re afraid we’ll look weak. Yet, think about how much respect we feel when someone is honest enough to admit being wrong, especially if that person reveals he doesn’t have the right answer yet. Suddenly, we realize we can give one another the grace that God gives us. Admitting being wrong can be liberating, because it invites us to go forward.