No one likes to be wrong. Humans like to be right. They like to think that they have all the answers and know everything that they ever need to know. Even those who are constantly aware that they do not and cannot know everything are usually convinced that the knowledge that they do possess is correct. Why else, after all, would they go on believing something they know to be incorrect?Being proven wrong is uncomfortable for a number of reasons. No one likes the embarrassment that comes from showing off a mistake in public. Some people may be cruel and mock someone’s misunderstanding. Even if the other person is sympathetic, however, the fact remains that the person who was wrong aired their ignorance in some way.
Another reason being wrong is unpleasant is that it can cause people to wonder, even if only for a moment, about what else they may be mistaken. After all, if they got one thing wrong, then it is possible that they are wrong about other things. Of course, the reality is that most people are wrong about all sorts of things. No one, however, enjoys confronting that fact.
The reminder of a person’s imperfection is another major reason most people dislike being wrong. The majority of people are aware on an intellectual level that they are imperfect. They know that they make mistakes, misunderstand others and act in ways that are not in accordance with the person they would be in a perfect world. As a general rule, most people are aware of this in a distant, vague sort of way. As they go about their day, however, they act as if they actually are perfect and always right. This is part of why most people do not second guess their every decision and sometimes struggle to see another person’s point of view. They subconsciously assume that they are right, so they do not bother to listen to another person’s viewpoint. This habit of tuning out others can be overcome, but it does take a bit of work.
No one likes to be proven wrong, but recognizing that one is imperfect and makes mistakes is very important. It is even more important for Christians. Christians cannot forget that they are imperfect beings. If Christians were perfect, or capable of being perfect, they would be able to avoid sin. If Christians could avoid sin entirely for their whole lives, then Christ’s sacrifice becomes a great deal less meaningful. The ability of humans to be perfect would undermine the most basic ideological foundations of Christianity.
Being wrong also forces Christians to be more empathetic toward their fellow human beings. Many of the little hurts people face in their day to day lives come from other people making mistakes. One person may misjudge a situation and act wrongly. They may assume that a person who does not respond to a greeting is simply being rude when in reality, the person did not respond because they simply did not hear the other person. When the person who gave the greeting misunderstands the other person’s actions, the greeter may feel free to act rude in response because they misread the situation.
When people make mistakes, they seek forgiveness. They apologize to those the mistake may have harmed and hope that they will be forgiven. Sometimes, the only person that they need to forgive them is themselves. Such are moments when friends and family members usually tell the person who made a mistake, “stop beating yourself up,” “you’re only human,” “it’s not a big deal” and “give yourself some grace.” These moments of needing to forgive oneself help a person remain humble and keep their heart from hardening. Seeking forgiveness from others also helps a person stay humble. More importantly, however, it helps them empathize with those who will one day require their forgiveness. Just as one who has never lied is less likely to empathize with a liar, a person who never made a mistake would be unlikely to really understand a person who was wrong. Empathy, of course, is the root of forgiveness. Without the ability to see things from another person’s point of view, it is difficult to forgive them their trespasses.
Recognizing one’s own imperfections also helps one avoid becoming self-righteous. It is hard to lift oneself up above others or believe oneself to be perfectly righteous when one has to constantly face the mistakes they have made. While unpleasant, this helps Christians avoid becoming like the Pharisee in Luke 18 who believes that he is so much holier than the humble tax collector who recognizes his own sins.
No one likes to admit that they were wrong or mistaken, but mistakes open the door for Christians to look inward and consider themselves and their sins. Everyone is wrong repeatedly during their lives. The question is what each person does after those mistakes are made. When a person is wrong, they can seek to make amends if they have caused harm. Even if their mistake did not hurt anyone, when a person is wrong they have the opportunity to learn. Mistakes and failures teach people more than success could ever hope to teach someone. Mistakes teach people not only how to avoid making that specific mistake again in the future, but also how to be humble, how to forgive and to accept that no one is perfect. All of these lessons are important for Christians to learn and never forget.