I’m “right”, right?

Sixoh6 contributor Ben Wideman shares his reflections regularly at 606.

My sisters would probably say that as the oldest child in the family I’ve always had a strong impulse to be “right” in conversations, debates, and arguments. The chaotic nature of 2020 has heightened my awareness that continue to struggle with this part of who I am.

I want to be “right” about how to live our lives during COVID-19, about the election results, about about the #BLM movement, about climate change, about LGBTQ inclusion, about theological interpretations and my own understanding of theology, about what justice means to me… the list goes on and on. But of late I’ve wondered if this posture of “rightness” is healthy. I’m learning that continued insistence that my understanding of what is “right” is the singular path may be a toxic way to live my life.

This fall I helped to launch ~ing Podcast, a new weekly podcast produced for MennoMedia, the denominational publishing house for Mennonite Church USA and Canada. This has been a wonderful experience. It has been a chance for me to hear from a variety of wonderful people about their vision for reimagining what Christianity and faith can be, as well as offering a glimpse at where we might find hope for the future in our increasingly polarized world.

A recent podcast conversation between ~ing Podcast host, Allison Maus and our guest Jared Byas (author and host of The Bible For Normal People podcast) has had a significant impact on me. As producer of the show, I got to hear their recorded conversation in real time, followed by a week of editing the final podcast episode, followed by listening once again when it was finally published in our podcast feed this week. I’ve been thinking a lot about this phrase from Jared;

“When someone disagrees with me…I have to recognize that they’re in a context where there’s real stakes at play here. They could literally be excommunicated from their family if they change their mind. So it helps to have sympathy… for how much we want to belong and accepted. And sometimes our journey of faith comes into conflict with that desire to belong.”

I recognize that my need to be “right” has probably hurt my relationship with others, especially because of how these conversations take place these days on social media. I know that my insistence that I have correct has led to people cutting off dialog and conversation.

I’m aware that the world we live in prioritizes virtue signaling, so that we know who our allies are, and in turn, who our enemies might be. I know that a healthier path forward needs to include a deeper empathy of what is “right” for other people as we enter into conversation together. As we move into a new year, I’m going to work at a healthier posture of openness – one that somehow holds my values with a willingness to honor the values of others.

If you are also recognizing an impulse to be “right” in your own life, I’d encourage you to listen to the entire conversation between Jared and Allison, wherever you get your podcasts, or at our podcast episode page. I’d love to hear your thoughts about how you navigate life with an impulse to be “right.”

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