Why Admit It When You Are Wrong?
“The only people who make no mistakes are dead people.” This has been said of imperfect humans. And when you think about matters, who is not wrong at times? Who does not make mistakes?
God’s Word, the Holy Bible, makes it clear that we all err, for it says: “There is no man righteous in the earth that keeps doing good and does not sin.” In the Bible, the Hebrew and the Greek words translated “sin” literally mean “missing the mark”—being wrong as far as God’s requirements are concerned.—Ecclesiastes 7:20.
Yet, common as it is to make a mistake, to be wrong—yes, to sin—how difficult it is to admit it! If you are a husband and father, do you not find yourself wanting to hedge when it comes to admitting to your wife or children that you are wrong? If you have a position of oversight, do you not find yourself reluctant to admit to your subordinates that you are wrong? Well, it is the same way with wives, children, employees and those in other circumstances.
Why We May Not Admit It
It seems to be human nature to try to justify ourselves. When we were youngsters, how hard it was for our parents to make us admit that we did wrong and should apologize for it! Having grown up, we may manifest a similar attitude. Thus a person may try to rationalize that what he did was not actually wrong, that someone else really was at fault, or that unusual circumstances were to blame.
Especially does it seem difficult for those in positions of responsibility to admit being wrong. Why? No doubt in many instances this is due to pride. They are concerned with what others may think; they want to “save face,” as the saying goes. But, then again, failure to admit being wrong may well be due to feelings of insecurity. A person may feel that his position is threatened if he admits a mistake.
No doubt some individuals are reluctant to admit that they are or have been wrong because of the price they might have to pay for their mistake. Thus a railway employee may have caused a serious accident due to negligence. But if he admits that he made a mistake, he may lose his job or even go to prison. Or, in the case of a physician, a costly malpractice suit might be involved, and admitting wrong may cost him or his insurance company a great deal of money.
Then, too, a person may have difficulty actually seeing things in their right light. As the Bible puts it, “Mistakes—who can discern?” Moreover, the heart may harbor emotions that prevent us from admitting our error. Yes, “the heart is more treacherous than anything else . . . Who can know it?”—Psalm 19:12; Jeremiah 17:9.
Shortsighted self-interest may prompt us to justify ourselves rather than admitting that we are wrong. But regardless of our reasoning, refusing to admit it when we are wrong has unfavorable consequences. For instance, it can cause strained relations with members of our families or with those with whom we work or worship. By refusing to admit it when we are wrong, either we try the patience of others or we lose their respect. And most likely we create a barrier that interferes with free communication.
Still more serious is the fact that refusing to admit it when we are wrong burdens us with a guilty conscience, especially if someone else gets the blame for what we have done. And if we shrink back from admitting one wrong, this may get to be a habit. Having refused to admit small mistakes, we may soon refuse to admit making large ones, all to our undoing. As a result, even in a case of grave sin our conscience may get seared as with a branding iron. (1 Timothy 4:1, 2) Above all, such a course is bound to harm our relationship with our Creator, Jehovah God.
Examples From the Past
Failing to admit that we are wrong by trying to shift the blame to others puts us in some rather poor company. For his disobedience, the first man, Adam, blamed ‘the woman God gave him.’ In turn, Eve blamed the serpent. However, God did not accept these excuses but held the original human pair accountable. Then there was King Saul, who failed to execute completely God’s judgment upon the wicked Amalekites. When Saul was asked why, he blamed his people. But God did not accept that excuse either.—Genesis 3:12-19; 1 Samuel 15:15-23.
On the other hand, the Bible gives us examples to show that we should admit it when we are wrong. Among these was that of Judah. He was wrong in his dealings with his widowed daughter-in-law Tamar. When brought face to face with his responsibility for her pregnancy, Judah admitted: “She is more righteous than I am.” (Genesis 38:26) But at least he admitted that he was wrong.
Then there was King David. He did various things to conceal his sin with Bath-sheba. When confronted by the prophet Nathan, David confessed: “I have sinned against Jehovah.” (2 Samuel 12:13) Yes, David did thus admit that he had been guilty of wrongdoing.
We do well to recall these ancient examples and admit it when we are wrong. Among other things, doing so results in better relations with our families. We will also get along better with our superiors by not trying their patience so much. Significantly, we are told in the Scriptures: “If the spirit of a ruler should mount up against you, do not leave your own place, for calmness itself allays great sins”—yes, even very serious wrongs.—Ecclesiastes 10:4.
What if we have a position of responsibility? Well, willingness to admit that we are wrong will earn the respect of our subordinates. Furthermore, with such an attitude we will be in a position to make progress in overcoming our weaknesses.
Especially is it vital that we maintain a clear conscience and good relationship with our God. Hence, if we have erred seriously, let us, first of all, admit that we have sinned. In earnest prayer, may we seek our heavenly Father’s merciful forgiveness through Jesus Christ. (Psalm 103:10-14; 1 John 2:1, 2) And may we also take full advantage of spiritual assistance available to us. (James 5:13-16) This is the course of wisdom, for God’s Word tells us: “He that is covering over his transgressions will not succeed, but he that is confessing and leaving them will be shown mercy.”—Proverbs 28:13.
Aids in Overcoming the Tendency
Clearly, we need help if we are to overcome this tendency not to admit it when we are wrong. Often a sense of humor will be of help, especially if the wrong or mistake is not too serious or weighty. Thus one good housewife was carrying a number of dinner plates when she stumbled and dropped the whole stack, smashing all of them. At that, she burst out laughing, for it seemed to her that such a thing simply could not happen to her. And yet it did! Yes, often a sense of humor will keep us from taking ourselves too seriously, which frequently is at the bottom of our not wanting to admit that we have made a mistake.
Honesty and empathy also enter the picture. If certain persons are entitled to know that we have erred, we should be willing to admit the wrong. Especially should empathy move us to admit it if another person would otherwise be blamed and would suffer for our mistake. Here Jesus’ words apply: “Just as you want men to do to you, do the same way to them.”—Luke 6:31.
Humility also will help us to admit a wrong. When we think it through, failure to admit a wrong borders on hypocrisy, does it not? Neither the haughty person nor the hypocrite has God’s approval.—Proverbs 21:4; James 3:17.
Maintaining a close relationship with Jehovah will be of greatest help in our being willing to admit it when we are wrong. Why? Because we will be inclined to take all our concerns and errors to him in humble prayer. Then, confident in his aid and mercy, we will possess the unequaled “peace of God.”—Philippians 4:6, 7.
So, since we all err, let us acknowledge our mistakes. When we are in the wrong, may we humbly admit it. Then let us work on our errors constructively, to our own benefit and to that of others.
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David confessed: “I have sinned against Jehovah”