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‘Of course I’m right’

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Writer gets a lesson in humility, grace

Years ago I wrote a book about idols, which is just another word for sin.

An idol is whatever you turn to first — a person, possession, position, relationship, substance, belief or experience — for comfort, security, identity, meaning, etc. Basically, anything other than God.

As I wrote the book, I got halfway through it and decided I was tired of being smacked upside the head with my own idolatry.

Sheesh. All I wanted to do was write about other people’s idols/sin and make a boatload of money.

So, about halfway through the book I decided to write about an idol/sin that I was confident was not my problem. I don’t lust after Oriental art, I don’t bet on horse races, I’m not a crack addict — and I am certainly not one of those people who always have to be right.

Except, I am one of those.

At first I didn’t recognize it in myself. After all, it’s not like I’d rather be right than happy like some people, and I easily admit when I’m wrong.

No, my needing to be right is subtle and sneaky, and unless you knew my heart you wouldn’t even recognize it in me. Or maybe you already do and you’re just too polite to say anything to my face.

But just in case I’ve been able to dupe you, here’s a heads up on what to expect upon having a conversation with me.

First, be prepared to have the second to the last word, because I always have the last word. (That’s because I’m right.)

Just so you’ll know what to expect, here’s how it will look: You’ll say something like, “It’s a nice day out.” Then I will inform you that there’s actually a 60 percent chance of rain and Hurricane Zelda is expected to hit by morning.

Or you’ll tell me, “I went to see ‘Cats’ on Broadway,” to which I will add, “I heard they originally wanted to call it ‘Skunks.’ I won’t ever make anything up (other than the skunk thing just now), but I won’t let anything slide by either without adding my two cents’ worth.

I always have to add something, some bit of useless, unsolicited information that no one, not even me, cares about. Always.

I just can’t let anyone else have the last word.   

Next, be prepared to have me correct you when you’re wrong, which is just a little public service gesture I like to offer, especially if you make the grave error of misusing the word anxious when you should have said eager.

For example, you are eager to go to Disney World, not anxious if what you mean is that you can’t wait to go and are happy about it. You can be anxious to go, but only if you are filled with anxiety and dread because you’re terrified of Mickey Mouse.

However, don’t worry. I’m so good at it — I can be quite winsome and polite — that you’ll hardly notice that I’m knocking you down in order to build myself up.

Years ago, my pastor told me about a woman at church who thought it was her spiritual gift and duty to critique his sermon each week. Every week she would point out his errors.

I remember being horrified. The nerve of that woman! Who would be so arrogant and self-righteous as to think it was her duty to point out errors in others?

Oh.

(I would be so arrogant and self-righteous.)

The truth is, I really hate when I do that. I hate it in others, hate when people do that to me, but I really, really hate when I do it to you.

But I’m getting better. I’m more aware of when my mouth opens and I start talking about hurricanes and skunks on Broadway and other inane bits of useless one-upmanship that comes out of my pie hole.

I’m learning that where others are concerned, there’s only one right way, the way of humility, mercy and grace. And there’s only one right person, and it’s not me. It’s Jesus.

As I grasp that and stop long enough to remember that I don’t have to always be right because I am loved, sometimes I close my mouth and let others have the last word.

Which, after all, is the right thing for me to do.

  Nancy Kennedy is the author of “Move Over, Victoria - I Know the Real Secret,” “Girl on a Swing,” and her latest book, “Lipstick Grace.” She can be reached at 352-564-2927, Monday through Thursday, or via email at nkennedy@chronicleonline.com.