I once saw a bumper sticker that read, “Being right is the booby prize of life.”
It has remained a motto of mine, sometimes to a fault. There have been times in my life when I should’ve fought harder for what I knew was right but didn’t because I wanted to avoid conflict. And there have been times when I have offered well-meaning, unsolicited, advice based off of past experience and created undue strife and emotional hardship.
Ecclesiastes 3:1 (NIV) reminds us, “There is a time for everything, and a season for every activity under the heavens.”
Sometimes I have to remind myself that the season for what I think is right isn’t here yet. Sometimes I have to recognize my advice or opinion might have been good, but the timing and way I presented it was poor.
As I laid awake tonight, pondering why the need to be right seems to be a struggle in communication, I Googled my motto.
As luck would have it, I landed on a book, Why Talking is Not Enough, by Susan Page. She uses the booby prize statement about being right twice. 🙌
One of the things she wrote had never crossed my mind before.
“For some people, being right is their defense. It’s the personality trait they have assumed to protect themselves from feeling foolish or unseen or left out. Being right all the time is a superficial way of saying to yourself and to everyone else, ‘See, I’m a great person. I’m very knowledgeable, and I always have the right answer. Aren’t I clever? Aren’t you impressed?’“
Page went on to encourage those who struggle with the need to be right to instead ask themselves in situations, “No matter who is wrong and who is right, what can I do to make a difference?”
I think that question echoes Proverbs 17:14, which reminds us, “Starting a quarrel is like breaching a dam; so drop the matter before a dispute breaks out.”
Does it really matter if you’re right if in the end all you did was push someone away? Does it matter if you’re right if in the end all you did was crush a spirit? Does it matter if you’re right, if it means you’re unknowingly shutting down the opportunity to be open to other possibilities? Does it matter if you’re right if it means the team dynamic (marriage, parental, colleague, sports, etc…) was broken so you could win?
Most of the things we want to be right about in life are trivial in the scheme of things.
As I pondered many of my “Booby Prize Conundrums”, I realized the times in my life where I have missed out on advice that would’ve changed the course of where I was going because I got defensive and let my pride get in the way. More importantly, I realized the emotional damage I caused by continuing to feel the need to prove I was right, to fuel the desire to be heard, and to have things my way.
So tonight my prayer is this:
Help me identify the seasons to best share wisdom and help me discern the seasons where I need to remain quiet. Help me to graciously accept when my ideas aren’t the best. Help me to humbly accept the wisdom of others and discern how to apply it to your purpose for my life. Help me to only pick up the Armor of God (Ephesians 6) instead of the defense of needing to be right. Help me humbly correct the hearts I have hurt and let the spirit inside me be a shining light as you guide each step and move I make.