by Marilyn Ehle
“All a person’s ways seem pure to them, but motives are weighed by the Lord.” Proverbs 16:2
You’re at a party and your husband or wife (or good friend) begins to tell a story about an event in which you both had participated. There is a reason for telling the story—perhaps to describe the beauty of a scene or a person whose presence made a lasting impact on your lives. “Last year when we were on our way to California…” You interrupt with, “No, that was two years ago and we were going to New York…” The story continues: “We had driven about five miles that morning and stopped at this little blue store…” “No, remember it was midday and we had gone well over fifteen miles and the store was red…
What happens to the story? To the audience? More importantly, what happens to the storyteller? First, the story has lost its purpose. Those listening have been distracted by your insistence on accuracy of detail. The storyteller begins to experience frustration, anger and perhaps even a sense of unworthiness. Anger is evident when the storyteller somewhat heatedly says, “OK, you tell the story.” Disguised anger is revealed when the storyteller says ‘sweetly,’ “Oh, honey, you always tell the story better than I do…”
In her book, Invitations from God, Adele Ahlberg Calhoun addresses this demand to be right: I often hear couples debating who is right about what happened. Each one refuses to admit that she or he might be wrong about some detail: how far they walked, how long ago it was, who was there. One of them may be a stickler for accuracy, while the other is after the big picture and not too concerned about details.
Perhaps you see yourself in this description. Do you find yourself constantly correcting people in conversation? Or maybe it’s just always adding a bit of information to the discussion you think absolutely necessary. If someone says, “I hear we’re having a snowstorm tomorrow,” must you add, “But it won’t be anything like the one two years ago”?
This sometimes happens in a Bible study. People can become so passionate about the subject under discussion that they feel they must always add their insight or knowledge. While this may add color or detail to the general theme, often those in the group less willing to ask questions or who feel they have less “knowledge” remain silent.
These words from Ahlberg struck a chord in my soul: The type of humility that admits you are wrong when you know you are wrong is confession. The humility that admits you might be wrong when you’re pretty sure you’re right is maturity.
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