i’m sure there are many reasons why, but a lot of us have a hard time saying “I was wrong.” As I have grown older, I have noted that it has become easier for me to acknowledge my mistakes. Perhaps I am giving myself too much credit, but I think a readiness to admit when we are or were wrong is a sign of maturity.
In the words of Mark Galli, one of the reasons we find it hard to say “I was wrong” is because “we remain addicted to the drug of self-justification.” We justify ourselves because the person we wronged was also wrong. (Are you familiar with the saying “two wrongs don’t make a right?”)
Or we justify ourselves because of other things that were going on in our lives at the time. We had too much to do, or were short on time, or we didn’t feel well, or had a bad day, or any number of reasons we might give to others and ourselves. Our personal situation may elicit some sympathy and understanding, but it doesn’t make doing something wrong right.
Sometimes we won’t say we were wrong because of pride–we are simply too proud and too stubborn to admit we made a mistake. It often does require humility, but that can be very good for us.
For Christians, this matter of acknowledging we were wrong is the first step of repentance. Repentance is not a popular or particularly admired word in most circles today, but it is an important word in the Bible. We might remind ourselves that Jesus launched his public ministry with a call to “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven has come near” (Matthew 4:17).
To admit we were wrong is to take responsibility. We admit it to ourselves, we acknowledge it to the person or persons we wronged, and we confess it to God. But acknowledging we were wrong is just the first step.
Next, repentance involves being sorry we were wrong—feeling remorse and regret over what we did or said. It is not being sorry we were caught or found out, but being convicted or conscience stricken by it. Sometimes it includes doing what we can to make things right.
Finally, repentance leads to a resolve to do better in the future. That means we make a commitment to be more aware of our weaknesses and tendencies so that we strive not to do what we did again. But it’s even more than that. Theologian J.I. Packer presses the point when he notes repentance “is an actual abandonment of what has been wrong in order to replace it by what is right.”
When was the last time you did something wrong? When was the last time you admitted you were wrong? And when was the last time you repented? I’m hoping the frequency of needing to say those three magic words “I was wrong” lessens in my life, but I’m learning the importance and value of saying them.
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