How Being Wrong Can Sometimes Be Right

This is a guest post by Kelly Combs. She is a full-time housewife and mom. She blogs at ChattyKelly. You can also follow her on Twitter. If you want to guest post on this blog, check out the guidelines here.

The song ended on a sour note. It wasn’t the note that was actually wrong; it was the fact that everyone held the note for a different length of time. We didn’t follow the conductor. This resulted in the droning sound of a hissing snake as everyone stopped on different beats.

Right and Wrong Checkboxes on an Adhesive Note - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/nigelcarse, Image #18295430

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/nigelcarse

Exasperated, our leader said, “You have to look at me. End when I end. If I’m wrong be wrong with me!” While his last sentence caused me to pause, it made sense.

Even if he ended a beat early or late, if we all ended at the same time no one would notice. If we didn’t follow his cues we wouldn’t make beautiful music, but instead be a cacophony of voices. We had to stay together, even if it meant being wrong together.

This standard can create harmony in life, as well as in music, improving relationships and building trust.

For example:

  1. In Marriage—The Duet: A man was telling friends about the great movie he saw Wednesday night, when his wife interrupted, “No, it was Thursday.” Did it make a difference?

    No, says family expert Kevin Leman. He calls the wife’s interruption combative. Allowing your spouse’s error to go unchecked strengthens the partnership of your marriage, and gives you an opportunity to be wrong together.

  2. In Family—The Ensemble: My daughter came home with a low B on her algebra test. She studied hard with her dad, and I could see the disappointment on her face over the grade. This was not a time to bring up the fact that she could have studied more, or to fill her with platitudes that she would do better next time.

    Instead, I looked over the test and said truthfully, “Wow, this was really hard. I’m not sure I would have gotten a B.” In choosing to empathize with her, and “be wrong with her,” I created camaraderie and collaboration. Then we could brainstorm together some ways to improve her math skills.

  3. In Business—The Symphony: In his post “How Real Leaders Demonstrate Accountability,” Michael Hyatt shared the story of Thomas Nelson division leader Allen Arnold, who took full responsibility for the budget failings his team experienced one month.

    Arnold wasn’t just wrong with his team, but for his team. He used pronouns like “I” and “Me” instead of hiding behind his team (e.g., “we didn’t do such and such”) or blaming others (e.g., “they didn’t do such and such.”). In doing so he built trust and confidence among his employees, and gained the respect of the Executive Team.

This is not a lesson in integrity but in team-building. When someone does the wrong thing morally, we are called to rebuke, correct, and instruct. But in accidental and incidental occurrences, there can be value in being wrong together. When we come together in unison whether in choir, in business or in life, we will find harmony and live a life in concert.

Questions: Have you ever chosen to be wrong with someone? What was the result? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • http://twitter.com/CabinetDoork Jeremy Carver

    Great post!  I use this phrase quite often:  “You can either be right or you can be happy.”  This is true in marriage, family, & business so long as it isn’t a moral wrong.

  • donnapyle

    Kelly, I love musical metaphors. They translate relationships in such a powerful way – especially in our spiritual walk. Thanks so much for your words here today.

  • Hessfamily

    Thank You!  Real meat here, and we’re enjoying the results as we consume!! 

  • http://www.roccocapra.com/ Rocco Capra

    Great thoughts here! I really need to take that first one to heart!!

  • KDayBlog

    I love this post. It has caused a “light bulb” moment in me. I am thinking about my son who has recently begun to enthusiastically point out every time I say something wrong. I wonder, did he learn that from me? Time for me to change and set the example of being “wrong together” I think. Thank you!

    • Jim Martin

      Your comment reminded me that some of the most irritating tendencies that I saw in my daughters (as they were growing) were sometimes behaviors they had first seen in me.

  • http://www.leahadams.org/ Leah Adams

    Kelly, what a wonderful post. I had never thought of it consciously like that, although I try to do it much of the time.

  • http://sungyak.tumblr.com/ Sungyak

    This applies a lot to my youth ministry at church. Showing the kids love and patience is sometimes more ‘right’ than sternly correcting their ‘wrong’ misunderstandings.

  • http://www.margaretfeinberg.com/ Margaret

    Love the Marriage example. When spending time with a couple, you definitely notice when the duet is off beat.

  • http://www.brianhinkley.com/ Brian Hinkley

    Good post!

    I find when I’m retelling a story, I say something like ” It was Wednesday or Thursday, I don’t really remember, but it’s not important for the point of my story”

    Either way…

    My wife and I both find ourselves correcting each other on small details and later receiving the disapproving evil eye because of  it.

    • Jim Martin

      Brian, I have found myself in conversation with my wife and suddenly realize that I am correcting her over the silliest matter.  Not good.  Thanks.

  • http://twitter.com/MyFathersHand David Peterson

    The greatest right we have is the right to give up our rights.  My wife and I often have different memories about when somthing happened. I found arguing over insignificant details harmful to an otherwise productive discussion. “Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends.” John 15:13 (ESV).

  • Jim Martin

    Kelly, this is a very good post.  I like the way you frame each one of these examples.  This is helpful.

  • Julie Swihart

    Wow! What a great post. I’m impressed by the writing, format and content. Thank you for helping me grow.

    I’ve been wrong with the music team I used to lead at church. Since I was the leader, I took responsibility for helping the team be fully prepared and informed, and they respected me for it. When I had to occasionally confront a team-member one-on-one over interpersonal conflict issues, they were open because they knew I had their back.

  • http://kccupp.com/ KC

    Great post Kelly.  Reminds of the point that Jesus make about removing the plank in your own eye before pointing out the speck in your brothers eye.  I mess up all the time and my wife is always gracious and if I need corrected (usually with grammar, lol) it’s in private not in front of people. 

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      Private correction is the best. Another reader referenced Acts 18:24-26 as an example of private correction. Thanks for sharing KC. (Which by the way, is a nickname of mine as well for Kelly Combs).

      • http://kccupp.com/ KC

        Awesome KC! lol Have a great weekend!

  • annepeterson

    Kelly, thanks for your post, though it was a painful reminder of what I used to think was my  responsibility for a long time. I remember one day being surprised when I held my tongue and he caught the mistake himself. I loved how you called it being “wrong together.”

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      Thanks Anne. I too am guilty of this. I think writers tend to write about areas where we are growing. 

  • http://brandonchfg.blogspot.com/ Brandon Freeman

    Sometimes we have to swallow our know-it-all self and acknowledge the leader or the team is right (or more right).  I know that’s hard for me. However, even if I am more “right” in my position technically, the
    synergy of a cohesive team is almost always more powerful than an individual’s
    highest abilities.  Thanks for the post.

  • Thelmac

    I think this is callled wit.  Also a bit of knwing what to say when needed.

    http://www.authorthelmacunningham.com

  • Hprarson25

    I am a novice photographer. Last weekend, a gentleman asked to borrow my camera as I was busy doing something else at the event. He took several pictures and later I took a few. As my best friend and I started going through the pictures on the camera, she called the gentleman over to tell him thanks for such great pictures. He joined us we continued viewing the pictures. Suddenly my best friend saw a pictures that were stunning…pictures I took! She looked at him and said, “You took these? “Yes!” he said. As I was about to correct him, I suddenly felt the need to shut my mouth and let him take credit for what I had done. Wow! It felt good seeing someone else smile, receive a hug and a pat on the shoulder. I realized at that point that my need for self exaltation was worthless and it pales in comparison to the smile on that man’s face in response to my best friend’s excitement regarding the picture. It’s not about me; rather, it’s about others!

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      I love that story. Thank you for sharing it. I know you made that gentlemen’s day, and YOU know you took the photos so you too could delight in the friend’s comments without bursting the man’s bubble. Great job of being wrong with someone!

  • PriscillaRichter

    I needed this too, thanks so much.

    I’m reminded of one of my favorite tv commercials — the waitress who is bringing cereal to a table of folks, asking who ordered the yummy cereal and who ordered the low cholesterol cereal. It is all the same cereal.

    As she passed the bowls out, people looked confused and started to swap bowls. She says, in a  disarming manner, with a smile, ‘Oh, I got that all wrong, didn’t I?’

    Responding with grace is something I need to do more of. 

  • http://www.seeincolors.com/ Lisa Nelson

    Sometimes to keep the peace with family, “be wrong with me” is a smoother road. But only when it comes to things that really don’t matter. Things that wont even be remembered the next day. Reminds me of that book that was out awhile ago called “dont sweat the small stuff”.

    It doesn’t happen often, but I think we have all been there.

  • Marella

    One time a friend at my church called to ask if it would be OK if her mother-in-law could come to the Wednesday night prayer service at our church dressed in pants.  Her MIL was visiting and had not brought a dress with her.  At that time in my church’s history, none of the women wore pants.

    I told my friend that of course her MIL could come to prayer meeting dressed in pants.  No one would judge her and I hoped that she wouldn’t feel uncomfortable wearing pants.  

    I knew what I had to do and changed my clothes into pants before going to church.  My friend, her husband, and MIL noticed and deeply appreciated the show of support.  The MIL and I were “wrong” together.

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      I love that Marella! What a gift you gave to your friend’s MIL. Thank you so much for sharing.

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  • http://www.facebook.com/katia.kantziavas Katia Kantzia Vas

    Thank you Kelly for the wonderful post! Thank you for validating what I have learned from my parents and have been doing all my life, althought this is not appreciated by those who think we should be blondly honest all the time. Overcorrecting and arguing about insignificant points does create friction, not only in relationships but within as well, making
    us “combative”, as you said, and argumentive, stealing peace and silence from our souls and our lives.

  • http://talesofwork.com/ kimanzi constable

    This is a great post and some great lessons Kelly, way to go! I especially like what you point out with the husband and wife dynamic, it’s so true! I’m working on thiS ASAP!

  • teckdeck2008

     Most of the time I agree with the concept here, but I also believe that disagreement mentioned in a respectful way is a good thing.  I can remember back to my childhood when my parents would have a same situation as the grade example and they would respectfully let me know that I could do better next time.  Don’t get me wrong, they appreciated the effort I put in and knew that I did good; but them letting me know that I could have done better has instilled that idea that there is always someone better than me and that there is always room for improvement.  Respectful disagreement is a good thing in my opinion when it comes from the right person, is done for the right reason and is used in the right situation.

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      I agree that a push is sometimes needed. However, in my case, my daughter is a perfectionist who beats herself up over any grade that is not 100%.  She has made A honor roll all year, and did even with the B on this test.  In this instance, she needed grace. 

      John Rosemond, parenting expert, puts it this way regarding praising effort (which my daughter had) versus  ability.

      “I recently came across a study showing that when adults praise ability, performance actually worsens. Praising effort, on the other hand, raises performance over time. This is the difference between telling a child he’s really good at math and telling a child you’re proud of how much effort he put forth studying for the math test (irrespective of his grade). Over time, the former child’s math grades are likely to go down, while the latter child’s go up. ”

      Here is his article in entirety if you’d like to read it: http://www.thestarpress.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=2012205220340

  • Michaelholmes Mh

    Being wrong sometimes be right because it reminds us of our limitations and that we cannot be right every time. When things go wrong, we can never blame anyone because no one can be perfectly wrong. We have a hand on everything that’s happening.

  • http://www.matthewreedcoaching.com/ Matthew Reed

    Letting someone else get credit for work or thoughts you’ve contributed when no harm is done by it. For instance, in my pastoral work, things I had said would be said back to me attributed to another pastor. No need in flexing my ego there.

  • PastorDaveStone

    Hi Kelly, just got to read your blog.  very practical and helpful to me as a parent and as a husband.  Loved your comment about looking over the test and saying, “Wow, this is tough, not sure i would have done very well on it either.”
    Great empathy…and i can tell that you know when to encourage, empathize and also challenge.
    thx.

    • http://www.kellycombs.com/ Kelly Combs

      Thank you Pastor Dave!  My kids might say I’m better at the challenge than the empathy, but I am working on it.  Have a great day, and thanks for reading!

  • http://twitter.com/CirclesEvv Circles Evansville

    Great insight, thanks for sharing

  • tayshaojie

    This is a wonderful post. Often, making mistakes in front of the people you trust can form tightly knitted relationships because they know that you are vulnerable too and that can connect on a deep level.

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  • Mary Kennedy

    I appreciate the wisdom of “being wrong together” when it appropriate.  I saw the     “In and Out” ad and decided to check out your beliefs.  Spending some time reading articles posted there has been a blessing.  Thank you and may the Lord continue to use His followers at The Crossroads Church to make a difference in Anthem. 

    My husband and I are believers and are active members of another evangelical church.