Buckle up, buttercup: you’re not always right



For a few months now, I’ve been growing in the desire for people to tell me when I am wrong. I don’t wish to be wrong on anything – of course, I would much rather be right – but I am not perfect; and I would like my friends to help me see my errors so I can fix them. I desire holiness, and I know I have a long way to go; so I thirst for constructive criticism. Unfortunately, in these same months, I have found fewer and fewer people willing to be good models and admit when they’re wrong or charitably chastise their friends.

Everywhere, people cling to pride. This is not a game of “us” or “them,” a fiction of “we see” that “they sin.” We are all guilty. Forget the party lines you’ve drawn on any subject, from politics to COVID-19 restrictions to Harry Potter to the proper way to butter corn. I don’t necessarily care where your line is drawn – I care if it’s not subject to considered revision.

At Mass, just before we receive the Eucharist, we declare, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed.” We are not worthy because we are human and he is God, and we are even less worthy because we are sinners. On our pilgrim journey of this life, though, we recognize the hope for healing and the need for lives marked by continual conversion. To conform our hearts and wills to Christ’s, we must continually refine ourselves in pursuit of truth and goodness. Thus, I want to be told when I am wrong because I want to correct my ways. I want to see God more than I want to stand my ground for the sake of it. Show me the paths to walk, Lord, for I do not know the way.

Every Monday through Thursday, the Psalms for Compline (night prayer from the Liturgy of the Hours) implore God to show us the path of life. God’s Word does not assure us that we have everything figured out, and so everyone should follow us. Far be it from us to ever claim such a thing with our limited perspectives and our short, fleeting lives. Yes, we are human, made in the image of God, and he deems us “very good;” but we must be honest and give the full picture. The Bible introduces the Fall in the third chapter because sin (especially pride) pervades our current state of affairs. We must both recognize our goodness and admit our imperfection. This is why we need Christ; we are to follow him. So let us revoke our prideful selection of fruit and ask God what is good; let us step away from our personal attachments to our variety of positions and pray, “Teach me, Lord, your way, that I may walk in your truth, single-hearted and revering your name” (Ps 86:11). And then recall that he often works through people.

Perhaps we can take a page out of St. Catherine of Siena’s book. Sigrid Undset tells us of Catherine, “with her deep insight into the life of the soul, the fight to achieve perfect humility was one of profound importance. … she considered her human enemies as her true benefactors [because] the fear of becoming self-satisfied must have throbbed like a wound in her inmost soul” (p.53). Let us fear self-satisfaction as she did and love those who justly rebuke us – whether kindly as we hope or not – and be grateful for the opportunities they afford us to draw ever closer to Christ.