Years ago, I was teaching a Bible class, and a gentleman in the class gave a rather pointed answer to a question. His wife apparently did not agree with his answer, and after some discussion, in frustration said, “You always think you’re right don’t you.” He replied, “Why would I waste my time being wrong?”
There is a definitive difference between being right and being righteous. It is a good thing to be right, to know the facts, to be certain of what you believe, to have conviction and surety. Being right gives us a sense of clarity, and order, and direction.
The problem is, the quest to be right can easily spiral into a too-narrowly-focused, selfish, self-centered existence, which causes one to quickly lose sight of others. Being right can actually blind us spiritually and emotionally, and our pride can cause us to justify wounding others to prove our own superior understanding.
In John 8:2-11, the Pharisees bring before Jesus a woman who was caught in adultery. They are one hundred percent right that she committed the act. They are undeniably right that the Law of Moses commands that such women were to be stoned to death. They were right in so many regards, and Jesus did not contradict the true facts they proclaimed. But in their zeal to be right (and to discredit someone else in the process), they failed miserably at being righteous. Jesus was both right and righteous. He did not compromise the truth (“Go now and leave your life of sin.”), but at the same time he didn’t forget that the woman was a daughter of God who needed mercy and compassion (“Then neither do I condemn you.”).
Truth and integrity are absolutely necessary for a healthy marriage, for a meaningful life, for forgiveness and reconciliation to be possible, and for real intimacy. But “being right” can become a destructive, self-righteousness that drives a deep wedge between spouses. So what is the balance between “right” that harms a marriage, and “righteousness” that blesses a marriage? Before you try to convince your spouse that you are right, consider the following:
- You cannot behave in a way that is contrary to God’s call for all Christians, and particular for a covenant spouse, and still be right. Our righteousness is proven by our actions, not just the “rightness” of our words. How you communicate truth matters. Is your focus on bettering the marriage, or is your satisfaction in being right and proving your mate wrong?
- Context always matters. You and your mate do not have the same background, the same life experiences, or the same feelings, so you will see some things differently. It is entirely possible for two people to see the exact same set of facts and interpret them in different ways, and both perspectives be correct.
- Life is interpreted through a lens, and if your lens is the Christian faith, then the fruit of the Spirit (love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control) will always guide your interactions as you share your convictions.