Because we live at an intellectually stupid time, let me begin with an obvious statement. I am not a perfect man. You don’t know the half of my imperfections. Talk to those who know me best, and they don’t know the half of my imperfections. I’m quite awful. It is actually shocking that I have any friends whatsoever. There is a litany of ways to criticize me with the utmost accuracy.
Phew. Well, now that that’s settled, I will address and undress three stupid charges that are regularly sent my way. Criticize me. Tell me to be better. But don’t send rubbish my way. Rubbish is useless.
1. “You always think you’re right.”
“David, you always think you’re right.” Um, do you always think you’re wrong? What do you believe right now that you think is wrong, and why on earth have you not already changed your mind on the matter?
This charge only makes sense in the context of postmodern nonsense, where humility has moved its focus away from self, character, and competence, to convictions and beliefs. “The humble man is he who doubts what he believes.” The postmodern sage is the premodern fool.
I believe what I believe because I believe what I believe is true and accurate belief. What do you do?
2. “You just want to be right.”
“David, you just want to be right.” Well, if by this charge, someone simply means that I want all my beliefs to accord with the truth, truth that exists objectively outside of myself and my perceptions of it, then the charge is accurate. Of course I want that. Why don’t you?
If by this charge someone means that I don’t care about actual truth, I just want to win at arguments, then that person is not likely to be persuaded by rational arguments to the contrary. Certainly, being right for the sake of being right would be a turd of a prize in exchange for the course and costs of my life. Again, in a Western context where truth is treated cheaply, it is unlikely that the person bringing the charge encounters many people who hold tightly to beliefs and doggedly try to persuade others of them.
Oftentimes, “you should focus on loving people”, is tagged on to the end, as an alternative to worshipping being right. But let me ask you this, is it loving to idly sit by and allow others to build their lives around falsehood? In what world is that kind? Is it not loving to point people to the right creed and the right path, that they might live and flourish in reality? Does not Paul himself charge Christians to put their love for fellow Christians into action by speaking the truth to one another?
3. “You’re not listening.”
“David, you’re not listening.” This is often said by someone who is failing to persuade me of their position. It is used to mean, “you’re not teachable.” The logic of the charge goes like this, “I am failing to persuade this man of my point. Why is that? It must be because he is refusing to listen.” The charge assumes the fault lies with the listener and not with the presenter. But listening is not equivalent to being persuaded. As an evangelist, much of my life is spent listening to people who don’t persuade me of their point.
Neighborhood boy: “God is a prick.”
Me after listening: “You’re going to hell unless you repent and believe in the Lord Jesus Christ, who died and rose again.”
Feminist friend: “It is dehumanizing of women to say they are to submit to men.”
Me after listening: “Adam was created first, then Eve. Woman was made for man, not man for woman.”
It is far from logical to assume that because I am not persuaded by you, I am then therefore not persuadable or teachable. Everything I presently hold to be true, I hold as truth because someone taught me, and I said, “I’m wrong. You’re right. Thank you.”
Again, I know that I am far from perfect. I’m a miserable, rotten sinner. I can’t even stand myself. Please help me by pointing out the error of my beliefs and ways when you see them. My closest brothers are those who do this well. But throwing poorly thought out trash my way is not helpful. “You always think you’re right. You just want to be right. You aren’t listening.” These are lazy, thoughtless charges. Levy better ones against me, out of love for me, for my eternal benefit. Thanks.