Weekly Impact is written for leaders by our former Executive Director, Garth Jestley, who has decades of experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. Each week he will share insights on life, leadership and faith.
Two weeks ago, I connected the avoidance of objective truth with adverse consequences. Last week, I explored the reality that, adverse consequences notwithstanding, many people avoid the diligent pursuit of truth by denying its definition. That is, they deny that truth applies to all people everywhere at all times and treat it as a preference. Today, I will explore another reason people avoid truth, namely, they cannot admit to being wrong.
An extreme (but unfortunately all too common) example of this phenomenon is the unwillingness of people drowning in drug and alcohol addiction to admit to the problem. From serving on the board of Teen Challenge Canada, a very successful faith-based charity that helps men and women overcome drug and alcohol addiction, as well as personal experience with loved ones, I have seen this unwillingness firsthand.
In light of Teen Challenge’s success and the terrible consequences of addiction, why do so many people dealing with this problem decide against enrolling in the program? From much experience, we know that many are simply not prepared to admit they’re wrong. Even if they acknowledge some problem, for them the pain of submitting to the discipline and duration of the program exceeds the pain of avoidance.
Marketplace leaders often have difficulty admitting they have made a mistake – some call it pride.
A less extreme but much more common manifestation of this phenomenon occurs daily in business. Marketplace leaders often have difficulty admitting they have made a mistake because to do so might jeopardize their reputation as leaders who always know what to do. The common term for not admitting one is wrong is “pride,” one definition of which is “inordinate self-esteem.”
As I considered this issue, it brought to mind an incident in my business career of which I am not proud. It occurred long after my decision to follow Jesus, thus confirming I am a work in process! At the time, a colleague confronted me over a situation where he thought I’d made a mistake; I was absolutely certain I hadn’t. Feelings on both sides were strong, our discussion became quite heated and tensions were high over the next few days. Ultimately, as I considered the situation from his perspective, I concluded he was right and asked him to forgive me.
The core problem was my focus on self rather than truly understanding the situation from his point of view. By the way, quarreling is a sure sign that pride is involved. In the Bible, the two are linked as follows: “Pride only breeds quarrels, But with ones who take advice is wisdom.” (Proverbs 13:10 WEB)
Admitting we are wrong brings to mind the central challenge to becoming a follower of Jesus. According to the Bible, our belief that we are good people (and therefore surely good in the eyes of God) is mistaken. But for God’s intervention through Jesus, we are lost. The only answer is to quit doing life “our way” and start doing it “His way.” In the context of today’s message, we admit our desire for autonomy from God is wrong, turn around (repent) and choose to follow Jesus’ leading.
How about you? Do you have difficulty admitting you’re wrong?
Garth Jestley is a husband, father, grandfather, leader and business executive. Most importantly, he is a follower of Jesus Christ.