I used to depend on being right. I built myself upon the rock of my rightness! Hours were spent researching supporting claims for my collection of rights. I wrote so many words trying to help others understand my understanding. I was brimming with sureness, but it was the kind of fullness that drains. My certainty kept me from seeking. My proselytizing kept me from hearing good preaching. My abundance of absolutes left me spiritually and mentally impoverished. Empty and undone, I cast about for a new way to be. If knowing I was right didn’t sustain me, maybe it was time to begin the work of understanding where I was wrong. I stopped testifying and started questioning.
What am I wrong about right now?
I find the answer by testing the lines that cut across me. Was that line laid for me by a harmful culture, by prejudice, by fear? Or is it a healthy barrier, a considered conviction, a humane help? I take these questions in both hands and press down. If the line cracks, it was faulty. If it holds, it’s a support. Some of my convictions remain after the push, but many of them have not been able to bear the pressure. It’s okay. Being wrong doesn’t mean you’re not alright, it just means you’re not all-knowing.
An incomplete list of things I’ve been wrong about:
I was born into, and remain a member of, a religion that preaches against gay marriage. Despite my own bisexuality, I didn’t think gay marriage was right, or a right. When I pushed against the line that kept love from being enough, it cracked open and let me out. For years, I thought gender was a construct with narrow role-ridden walls. When I gingerly pressed on that border, it was a brittle thing that broke apart. There’s been so much more wrongness! I used to center self-reliance over co-operative community! I thought Love, Actually was a good movie when I saw it in theaters! I’m continually wrong while raising my children. For example! I briefly overcorrected and discouraged my daughter from wanting frilly pink things. I thought her twirling, sparkle-flecked nature needed a corrective balance. I was so wrong! It’s our cultural attitude toward frilly pink things — and the people who love them — that needs the correction.
It’s frightening to be wrong. When the lines inside of us crack, other parts of our lives feel unstable. Often we’ve built on top of our wrongness. Some of the things we’ve built will fall down. Sometimes we’ve got careers, beliefs or relationships that do not survive the shattering. There is loss. I am afraid there’s no getting around it. But there’s also hope. We can stabilize the things that do survive on a better, more flexible foundation. Once we do, they’ll roll intact through the next, certain quake of wrongness.
It’s vulnerable to admit our wrongs. But what’s wrong with vulnerability? Speaking about our wrongs can be a moment of meaningful connection. I try to publicly admit my wrongness when my wrongness was publicly influential. And I am open about interrogating my private wrongs. Take my very brief, but still harmful, sparkle ban. I was transparent with my kids about how mistaken I was. I apologized and worked to make them feel safe in stating their likes and dislikes. We now rally around each other’s interests. This means more pink and glitter. It’s also led to learning about Irish witches, cheese making and geocaching.
It’s work to address wrongs. Often, we’ve hurt people with our wrongness. The hurt is not always intentional, but unintentional harm still harms! We need to try to make it right. Making wrongs right often requires active reparations for those hurt. Sometimes it means advocating and sometimes it means listening. Once in awhile it just means moving forward with better, active intention. It’s always vital for me to remember that as much work as right-making is, it’s more work to remain wrong. Maintaining the lines that limit us requires so much wasted effort. The work of righting wrongs liberates us and those around us.
What am I wrong about right now?
So many things! I am crisscrossed with certainties. And not all of them can true. Whenever I crack one wrong apart, I’m inlaid with another. It could be discouraging, but I’ve chosen to see it as delightful. All those lines are just opportunities for an opening. I just need to press once, there.