A Deeper Right

Most of the bumps we experience as Christians are those between our closest relatives and friends. Why? First is the obvious: proximity. We have more contact with these people. But second, we care more about what they think of us because of who they are. We can’t expect a bump-free life, but we can keep our wits about us and do what we can to ameliorate and navigate through those collisions.

One important thing to keep in mind is that we usually judge others based on their actions (and we attribute the motive), and we judge ourselves on our motives. We say, “But we had good intentions. We didn’t mean to come across that way.” So we can justify our own behavior, which may have been atrocious, and consider only our motives (which are pure, don’t you know).

But remember that you don’t have access to the other person’s heart or motives, so it is wise to assume the best not the worst. But it is so much easier to assume the worst. Our flesh naturally goes that direction. I’m not saying we should be naive. Perhaps we luck out and are correct in identifying the motive. But we ought to reserve our final judgment until we know for sure. We need to listen to the other side of the story before we lurch to assign blame.

Scripture says it is best not to take sides in a dispute until you have heard both sides of the story. Parents should know this better than anyone. Often we listen to one side and determine from there where our loyalties are. But we ought to be cautious here. If an offended party is pouring out her troubles into your ear, you are getting one side only. How much has this offended party actually been giving offense herself? It is worth thinking about. Before you join in by being offended yourself, hold back and think for a moment. Do I really know all the facts? Am I showing a bit of favoritism by not getting the full story? Parents in particular can become very aggrieved when they think their children are being wronged.

If we become entrenched in a one-sided view, it’s a pretty sure thing that our participation in the peace-making process will not be helpful. In fact, we can make things far worse. That is why sometimes a wise third party can be helpful in settling disputes, because they listen to both sides of the story and don’t have a stake in it.

When our children were in school, and their dad was one of the founding board members of that school, he told them that if they thought they were wronged by one of the teachers, they should be prepared for him to defend the teacher, back the teacher, and not automatically go to our kids’ defense. Why? Because he didn’t want to be the kind of board member who would throw his weight around to see that his kids were always “in the right.”  And if our kids took a hit once or twice, we believed this would be good preparation for life in the big wide world. And it was.

It is hard to stand by and be wronged. But as my husband is fond of saying, there is a deeper right than being right. Sometimes it is right to be wronged.

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5 thoughts on “A Deeper Right

  1. I’m digging around right now for some embroidery thread.
    “There is a deeper right than being right. Sometimes it is right to be wronged.” Wow

  2. That is a great reminder of how much we really don’t know about other people. I do have a question though. Understanding the kind of situation your husband was in as a board member, would you care to elaborate more on when it’s appropriate to defend your kids in these sort of situations? One reason I ask is because I would come up against situations where I wished my dad would/could have quietly told my mom to lay off us. I don’t want to post details, but I can honestly say a lot it has more to do with my mom’s impossible expectations than any real offense on our part (although I will say that the older I get the more I realize how much we must have bugged my mom). Anyway, I’ve always struggled with the feeling that my dad would fight lions for me, but he couldn’t/wouldn’t try to stand between me and some of the extremely hurtful words my mom would say.

    Can you offer any perspective on those sorts of situations?

  3. Natalie,
    A father has a very different obligation when it comes to his own household and keeping the peace in it. It could be that your dad was intimidated by your mom, so he kept quiet so that he would not be in trouble. A father should not just sit and see his kids wronged and never budge. But he needs to know when it is wise and when it is foolish to do so. If my son was fouled in a basketball game and it wasn’t called, my husband did not throw a fit at the ref. You have to learn to take it. So parents have to teach the children how to respond when they are misunderstood or wronged, when they should speak up and when they should be quiet about it. Our kids were always free to talk about it to us and we as a family would process it and walk through it together. But if I had wronged the children, you can bet that my husband would have insisted that I put things right and seek their forgiveness. From my perspective (which is pretty far away), it seems like you were wronged by both parents in different ways. You might want to take a look at some of the old posts on bitterness. Hope that helps.

  4. Thanks for your thoughtful response. You said about what I thought you would say, but when you grow up constantly wondering and worrying about being rebellious for not liking something it’s good to have things spelled out.

    I’ll have to think about the bitterness issue some more. It looks like my dad and I might be slowly starting to reconnect, but I’ll admit that my feelings for my mom are pretty ambivalent. Of course it helps that my dad will give me a hug when he sees me while Mom just looks right through me. My dad was actually pretty awesome a lot of the time when we were growing up, and my mom could be a lot of fun too. I just don’t want people to get the wrong picture of them.

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