a reflection for the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 13, 2015
Some words are terrific conversation starters. Words gracious in intent and impact that open minds and hearts. Bespeaking equality. Evoking a sense of safety in which folk vulnerably might risk speaking their truths and perhaps taking the greater risk of listening and hearing the truths of others. Words like, “Please tell me what you believe and please let me share with you what I believe.”
Other words are terrible conversation stoppers. Words arrogant in mood and message that slam shut the proverbial open door of communication. Stinging words, causing the listener to recoil and, at times, retaliate. Bespeaking superiority. Provoking confrontation. Words like, “I’m right!”
Of all the characteristics of human relationships – whether personal inner dialogue, one-on-one intimate interactions, communal encounters in private and public, sacred and secular arenas, engagements between and among nations – one thing seems to be common: the need to be right:
- Correct in our judgments about others and ourselves
- Accurate in our assessments of our circumstances
- Appropriate in our choices and decisions
- Assured that our judgments, assessments, choices and decisions will express our values and achieve our desired outcomes, and “stack up”, comparing favorably with those of others or, more grandly, “bear up” under the weight of history
I’m not sure when, after the dawn of creation, this hunger to be right was first felt, but it seems to be an inherent aspect of human nature.
 the right to be right is the title of a sermon I first preached with the people of St. Mark’s Episcopal Church, Capitol Hill, Washington, DC, on the 3rd Sunday of Advent, December 14, 2003. That text is the substance of this set of reflections. On occasion, when I discern that the subject of one of my previous sermons, lecture notes, or presentation papers remains germane for a current day and time, I revisit (and, as often, rethink and revise) it. It seems to me that the human hunger to be right is a relevant topic in our global era of heightened and, sorrowfully, often violent discord among religious adherents and our acrimonious season of American presidential politics.