Dale’s Rules Number 12 – Always Leave Room to be Wrong

I have these rules; guidelines, reminders, and challenges to navigate the highways of life. Some folks may not be very comfortable with today’s rule. It seems squishy and unsure about things, but there is an important attitude of the heart behind it. This rule is “always leave room to be wrong – especially when certain.”

It may seem that this rule is designed to provide wiggle room for when things don’t go as planned but that’s not the primary purpose. This rule is meant to foster attitudes of humility and openness towards others. Besides, there have been too many times when I was wrong even though I was certain about something.

The practical application of this rule means putting the burden on myself instead of another.  A common occurrence in our home is my forgetfulness of events and promises. It works like this. There’s some date planned to do something, but when the day arrives it catches me off-guard. I simply don’t remember a conversation about it. I could blame Betty with “you never told me.” Instead, this rule kicks in and responds with “I don’t remember hearing that.”  I may be certain that she didn’t tell me, but I know that between selective hearing and selective memory I’m pretty much doomed anyway.

Another point of this rule is to destroy the blame game which people play. In my experience, figuring out who’s right and who’s wrong is often a waste of time, effort, and emotions. It leads to wounds of the heart and creates humiliation instead of humility.

There are several Bible verses that speak to something similar. Here’s my favorite one.  Paul wrote, “Now concerning things sacrificed to idols, we know that we all have knowledge. Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. If anyone supposes that he knows anything, he has not yet known as he ought to know;” (1 Corinthians 8:1–2, NASB95)  Allow me to paraphrase the important bit. “Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. If anyone assumes they know everything about anything they’re wrong.”

Much of this comes down to how truth is presented. We may be right about a fact or a feeling. Instead of puffing up and saying “I’m right, do it this way,” this rule suggests “try it this way.” Sometimes it’s best to just let people be wrong (unless they’re about to do something life-threatening) instead of arguing about it, the truth will eventually bubble to the surface. We may know the truth but a willingness to be wrong gives room for others to change their minds.  An argued and buttressed position is difficult to come down from without humiliation. We may win the argument but make it impossible for them to change their mind.

We can all be wrong, even when we think we’re right. Leaving room to be wrong not only values others but also makes it less humiliating to admit our own mistakes. Look at it this way – we can either be humble at the start or humiliated at the end. Always leave room to be wrong – especially when we’re certain.

Dale Heinold
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