The Humility of Being Right

The Humility of Being Right

There’s a peculiar satisfaction that comes with being right. Given the opportunity, we’ll make an idol of it and even run roughshod over those we claim to love in order to win an argument, thereby trading peace for the honor of clutching the blue ribbon of rightness close to our hearts. Often what’s at stake is nothing more than a piece of trivia or a detail of shared history:  In what year did we shingle the roof? How old was Uncle Dave when he passed away? Is the truck due for an oil change?

The sandpaper words, “You were right,” turned inside-out become “I was wrong,” and this is music to the ears of the triumphant, but I would argue that when it comes to deep Truth about God and humanity and the deep rift, there should be a humility that accompanies our rightness, a meekness that conveys our understanding that we have been entrusted with a great treasure.

G.K. Chesterton lived and wrote in the early years of the 20th century, crossing verbal swords with materialist and modernist heavy weights the likes of George Bernard Shaw, H.G. Wells, and Sigmund Freud in lecture hall arguments for the existence of God and the truth of the incarnation. What characterized Chesterton’s approach and filled the seats with spectators was his light touch, his sense of humor, and his refusal to take himself too seriously.

His well known Orthodoxy was written as a more positive follow-up to his lesser-known Heretics and as an opportunity for him to clarify the set of truths that he had come to believe. Of these beliefs, Chesterton is clear:

“I will not call it my philosophy; for I did not make it. God and humanity made it; and it made me.” (19)

In his efforts to assemble a creed, Chesterton spent years trying to be “original,” trying to “found a heresy of [his] own, and when [he] had put the last touches to it, [he] discovered that it was orthodoxy.” (23)

And so those of us who cling to and defend objective truth must also realize that we have received something that is not our own. Bending my knee to the content of revelation, I am startled to realize that the point of orthodoxy, the reason for a studied cherishing of rightness in my understanding of God, is not for the purpose of winning arguments, or for the satisfaction of belonging to the right camp, or for the establishment of my resume. Orthodoxy that is not purely for the glory of God can quickly become dead orthodoxy, knowledge for it’s own sake and a safe box for the storage and containment of God.

G.K.Chesterton argues for an orthodoxy that welcomes imagination. He viewed the world through eyes that saw “the combination of something that is strange with something that is secure.” When we open our Bibles and read the comforting psalms and the familiar gospel stories, we are also being confronted by the God of Ezekiel’s spinning wheels and the embodiment of some of the more frightening creatures in John’s Revelation. The challenge is a paradox of wonder and welcome, or, as Chesterton put it, “we need to be happy in this wonderland without once being merely comfortable.”

For the believer in Jesus Christ, orthodoxy is a condition of having discovered a truth that makes us and defines us. In humility, we come to understand that this Truth is not our own, but, rather, we belong to the Truth.


Orthodoxy

This is the beginning of a journey through Chesterton’s Orthodoxy. If you’re following along, let me know in the comments below, and be sure to share any insights you glean along the way. If those insights happen to take the form of a blog post, a link is welcome so we can continue this conversation at your place.

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Michele Morin

Michele Morin is a teacher, blogger, reader, and gardener who finds joy in sitting at a table surrounded by women with open Bibles. She has been married to an unreasonably patient husband for nearly 30 years, and together they have four sons, two daughters-in-love, two grandchildren, and one lazy St. Bernard. Michele loves hot tea and well-crafted sentences, poems that stop her in her tracks and days at the ocean with the whole family. She laments biblical illiteracy and advocates for the prudent use of “little minutes.” She blogs at Living Our Days, and you can connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.

61 thoughts on “The Humility of Being Right”

      1. I dnt know how i was directed to this post , but i do know that i find it very interesting .i will continue to try to figure out how i did that .
        I will start by leaving my email, hopefully i get a response back. Thank you for sharring
        Sandra martinez

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  1. Oooo… This sounds rich. I’m always telling my kids it is more important to be kind than right. Of course I want them to know truth, but apply it in love, not lording it over those who haven’t yet received their own revelation. Blessings as you begin this study. I look forward to reading your thoughts!

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  2. Well Michele, that was quite the well-timed article in light of my conquest of rightness as of late!
    ‘there should be a humility that accompanies our rightness, a meekness that conveys our understanding that we have been entrusted with a great treasure.’
    Hmm. Thank you for the gentle reproof🤔
    I too am determined to get through Orthodoxy. What is your anticipated schedule? My progress has slowed to a crawl. Tough going in spots. What a mind Chesterton had!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! This post was already written and scheduled before our recent exchange, but I see your point. However, we could just as easily say that the reproof (which was not intended for anyone but me, actually) could apply to the “other side” of the argument just as well with their ironclad opinions.
      Schedule? What schedule? 🙂 I’m just trying not to bail out on this reading. I think I’ve read once through page 40-ish, but I keep having to circle back to get my moorings, so I am truly grateful that I’ve given my self all year to get through the book. My goal is to crank out a blog post each month on some aspect of the chunk I’m reading, and it sure seems as if there’s plenty to write about. I process best by writing, so my hope is that by the end of 2018 I will have 12 thoughts in my head that I didn’t have before.

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  3. Wow, Michele, I hadn’t given this word much thought before; so much detail I hadn’t considered. Thanks for sharing. Can’t wait to learn more as you discover more of your word this year. 🙂 xoxo

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    1. I love thinking about how we are formed by the Truth. So many of the voices around us talk about truth as if it’s an individual thing, a thing we can shape to our liking, but I’m thankful for this reminder that anything that is really true will lead us back to the embodiment of Truth Himself.

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    1. Those lovely words from Micah 6:8 tie justice, mercy, and humility together in a bundle as God’s “requirement” for us. I wasn’t sure what kind of wisdom I’d uncover in Orthodoxy, and have yet to run into any of the “famous” quotes I’ve read here and there, but so much goodness wrapped up in this challenge.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. I just finished my first Chesterton book last night, but it was fiction. I had not read anything by him before except a few witty quotes. What a good way to begin a discussion on orthodoxy, with a reminder that while it is important to be right about God’s truth, it is God’s truth, and He has graciously given it to us. Instead of the pride we’re so prone to, we need to be humble and thankful.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Was it a Father Brown mystery?
      I want to pick up one of those eventually.
      And it was Chesterton’s quotes that got me interested in actually reading Orthodoxy in the first place. Goodness, everyone quotes him and I loved his isolated sentences.
      So . . . now it’s time to try to piece it all together.
      Humility and thankfulness do seem to go hand in hand, and I need to practice more of both. Particularly when I think I’m right. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      1. No, it was The Man Who Was Thursday. I thought it was a detective novel going in, and it was, but it was also an allegory. One I adjusted my thinking that way, I found it very thought-provoking even long after finishing it.

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  5. Sometimes I tell myself, “If you can’t say it in love, or if your motives are tainted, wait then until your heart is right before you speak”.
    Thanks for sharing this, Michele. Blessings to you.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I love this – the humility of being right. We teeter on wanting to promote God’s truth and not being an obnoxious know it all. A new neighbor sat over tea and scones yesterday telling me that no church better tell her that Jesus was the only way. I detoured that discussion for another day as it was our first chat over tea and scones. She is attending a seeker church – probably better than ours – currently doing a sola scriptura study! Praise the Lord and pass the gentle, transformative orthodoxy.

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  7. “There’s a peculiar satisfaction that comes with being right. Given the opportunity, we’ll make an idol of it and even run roughshod over those we claim to love in order to win an argument, thereby trading peace for the honor of clutching the blue ribbon of rightness close to our hearts.”

    Jamie raises her hand.

    I am such a proud person, I practically have to spit out the “I was wrong”, but it is so cleansing. I am loving this Orthodoxy discussion. Chesterton was such a blustery proud guy whom God turned into a powerfully humble and eloquent speaker on His behalf.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Such great thoughts. I wanted to highlight some of your words because they speak such truth but then I would have this space filled with most of your post. 😉

    This is powerful —> For the believer in Jesus Christ, orthodoxy is a condition of having discovered a truth that makes us and defines us. In humility, we come to understand that this Truth is not our own, but, rather, we belong to the Truth.

    May I walk in the Truth and know that this is the place that is right.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. For those of us who have held onto the truth for a long time, have taught it, and write about it, and have shared it with our kids, it’s tempting to think we have a handle on it, when the path to understanding letting the truth have a handle on us.
      So thankful for the times when we connect and discuss the Great Truth!

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  9. I remember hearing years ago, “Do you want to be right? Or do want relationship?” May we never sacrifice a relationship to push truth upon people. This sounds like an amazing study Michele!

    Liked by 2 people

  10. I love this post so much! I hope that I am growing in this humility. I love this quote you shared, “What characterized Chesterton’s approach and filled the seats with spectators was his light touch, his sense of humor, and his refusal to take himself too seriously.” Thanks for sharing this at Booknificent Thursday on Mommynificent.com!
    Tina

    Liked by 1 person

  11. this holds so much truth, we do always try to be right and yet at what cost. Thank you so much for sharing this with us for #ablogginggoodtime Just to let you know that sadly Catie (Spectrum Mum) will no longer be a co-host for #ablooginggoodtime, we will have a new co-host this Thursday and you can still link up through Katie or myself reflectionsfromme.com Thanks, love Mackenzie

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  12. In a world that values being right over being compassionate, this blog is perfect. More Christians would do well to mediate on this before wading into a useless argument in order to be proven right. thanks!

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  13. Spoken so gently, Michele! Thank you for this. You have a habit of spurring me toward reading authors I know about but haven’t read for myself. Chesterton is now on the list! : ) I began reading a handbook to world religions yesterday, written by an evangelical Christian, and appreciated his introduction. He, much like you’ve said here, pointed out that the truth should be shared in humility.

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  14. Michele, what a good idea! Chesterton is challenging, so how smart you are to take it slowly. And I appreciate your gentle but firm voice about being “right.” Bravo!

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  15. It truly is very easy to make an idol out of being right!

    I must always guard against self-righteousness which I think those of us raised in the church are so prone to fall into that particular pit.

    I’ve got to say that Chesterton is really challenging. I liked your goal of “by the end of 2018 I will have 12 thoughts in my head that I didn’t have before.”

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    1. Yes, and if I can hold on to those 12 thoughts, it will be a real miracle. I find myself high lighting so much of Orthodoxy that it’s going to be rough putting together any kind of coherent response unless I detect some major themes.
      And I absolutely agree with the plight of the churched woman — we do think we know a lot and the world could benefit from our expertise in just about everything! Something for us to be working on together — by grace!

      Liked by 1 person

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