The Courage to Be Wrong and Admit It

Jolene Underwood

Contributing Writer
Updated Aug 16, 2018
The Courage to Be Wrong and Admit It

We sat in our marriage counselor's office and were requested to try something new: After our spouse talked about what troubled them, could we say four words in response? I'll never forget those words.

We’d been through extreme stress for an extended duration. Childhood wounds and faulty belief systems surfaced in our raw hearts. Fear beget fear. Both of us wanted to be heard, but we couldn't hear each other.

Neither one of us could stomach saying these words at first. We tried pushing sounds through vocal chords, which doesn’t sound very genuine. When tensions rise, you want the other person to recognize that they're at fault and admit it. You want to be heard, not make space for listening. You don't want to admit wrongdoing before the other does. Our natural inclination is to do whatever we can to protect ourselves. We are likely to expect more from the other than we give.

I choke on the words as if some life-threatening force presses against me. Even so, deep down I know to say them is to accept God at work in me and my relationships. With timidity and nervousness, I make paltry attempts to begin.

"You may be right."

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Make Room for Someone Else

Make Room for Someone Else

Could you say these words when you're angry? Hurt? Feeling alone and misunderstood?

My defenses go up with all kinds of retorts. I'm battle ready, but for the wrong kind of battle. 

“But they aren't right." "They said (this) and it was not true." "They aren't even close to being right."Presumably, I am completely right, without error. That automatically makes the other person not right at all. Right?

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"It takes courage to make room for another person’s thoughts and feelings."

"It takes courage to make room for another person’s thoughts and feelings."

When someone proposes a position, virtually or in person, others feel the need to correct them on the spot. There isn't a dialogue happening. There’s no understanding going on or exchange of ideas or stories. Helpful questions aren't asked that help us hear another person.

By first telling the other person what we think, we've immediately ruled out room to consider what they think, feel, need, or desire. It lacks any ability for connection.

It takes courage to make room for another person’s thoughts and feelings. We might learn something, if we admit we don’t know it all and listen.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Hian Oliveira

How Can We Change This Exchange of Words?

How Can We Change This Exchange of Words?

We can go first. We can allow God to work in our hearts so we heal and grow emotionally – so we are able to do hard things, empowered by the Holy Spirit.

As God's love is perfecting me and my body heals from anxieties and trauma, I feel more at ease with saying hard things. Fear is lessened as God’s love is received.

Still, it’s not easy. As I continue to receive my value from God, not others, I find more courage to admit another person may be right and I may be wrong. Even if they are only slightly right; If I can accept what I don’t fully understand as a possibility, I’ve made room for connection.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Annie Spratt

We Are Responsible for Ourselves

We Are Responsible for Ourselves

I've long struggled with confessing sin and admitting wrong. The fear of retribution or rejection mixed with a whole lot of internal processing keeps me from getting words out of my head and through my mouth. I’m learning.

One thing I need to remember (because I’ve done this wrong so many times) is that I don't carry responsibility for another person being right or doing wrong – only how I choose to engage. And I don’t have to keep engaging with behavior that is harmful and damaging.

I am responsible for where I may be wrong, even if I don’t see it at first. If my heart isn’t tender enough to accept I could be wrong in ways I don’t see myself, then I’ll miss the opportunity to grow and experience more of God’s tender love.

I can hold onto what I believe to be true without simultaneously discounting what another perceives or feels. I can acknowledge that there’s room for something that I’m missing. I can choose to lean into God for His full picture of reality and let Him shape my limited one.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Valerie Elash

Three More Words to Foster Truth

Three More Words to Foster Truth

"I was wrong."

Since I struggle with unhealthy understandings of self-sacrifice, and my experiences include being victimized, both phrases scare me. My love for God propels me forward anyway. I want to walk through this fear with God.

I don't have all the answers. My thoughts and feelings aren't the only ones that matter. Even if I am only 5% wrong, as far as I understand it, and the other person is 95% wrong, I can say it. I can own my part, whatever that part is. God holds us accountable for our part, not someone else’s.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Hian Oliveira

Freedom Found in Admitting Wrong

Freedom Found in Admitting Wrong

God's love cannot and will not be taken away. It is never lessened. His holiness never changes. We are constantly called to further growth as He shapes us into who He designed us to be.

Will we trust Him when the going gets tough? Will we remember we are not forgotten, dismissed, or devalued because we said or did something wrong?

When we resist confession of wrong, we resist his formation in our lives. Ultimately, we reject God. But when we admit we’re wrong, we make room for His restorative work.  

Only you can take ownership for your thoughts, feelings, attitudes, and actions. Only you can admit when those have been wrong.

Finding the courage to recognize where you’ve been wrong and admitting that to other people could be the catalyst you need to experience greater peace, joy, and freedom. It could fuel connection in ways you didn’t know were possible.

When we acknowledge the convicting tug of the Holy Spirit in our lives and admit we were wrong in specific ways, we make way for greater healing and God’s redemptive work in relationships.

“Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another, that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.” James 5:16

Design Credit: Rachel Dawson

What Keeps Us from Admitting Wrong?

What Keeps Us from Admitting Wrong?

I wonder how many of us fear that some piece of who we are will get stripped away if we say we’re wrong. It’s as if our failure means we aren’t who we present, ourselves to be. You know what? There’s truth in that.

We will lose something. We lose pride. We lose pretension. We lose self-sufficiency. As it gets stripped away, we gain the power of Christ’s sufficiency. Where we lack, we recognize need, and what we need most is more of His work in us.

Admitting failure means losing a piece of our self-perfected self-protection. It means another person will see who we really are. We’re scared to face the truth. The better truth is that the One who fully sees us as we are now and as we were designed to be wants us to let these pretenses go. Receive the love He has to give.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Ionut Coman

How Can We Admit Wrong?

How Can We Admit Wrong?

Don’t forget, you are responsible for you. You can come bare before God and refuse to accept false responsibility for other people’s wrongs.

For me, may sound like:

  • I was wrong for not listening when you were speaking and preparing my defense instead.
  • I was wrong for judging you in my heart for things I am guilty of doing.
  • I was wrong for predicting your failure instead of praying for your best as God sees it.
  • I was wrong for playing Holy Spirit and expecting you to do what I expect without leaving room to trust what the Spirit is doing in you.

Remember, we can be wrong and admit it without carrying responsibility for another person’s sin. They are fully and individually accountable to God. So are you.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Dan Chung

What Happens When We Start Admitting Wrong

What Happens When We Start Admitting Wrong

By trying to get it all right all the time, we carry a burden we were never meant to bear. We make the suffering of Jesus’ death less meaningful. If we truly believed he paid it all and we can’t earn our way into heaven, we’d worry less about trying to do so.

By admitting we are wrong, we accept God’s work in our lives. We receive his gift of mercy and love in ways we will not experienceby living in pride.

Photo Credit: Unsplash/Hean Prinsloo

"Admitting wrong takes far more courage and reaps rewards we cannot anticipate."

"Admitting wrong takes far more courage and reaps rewards we cannot anticipate."

Conviction begets a choice to either acknowledge the needed change or to ignore it and rely on simply doing better next time. Admitting wrong takes far more courage and reaps rewards we cannot anticipate.

Let God’s courage strengthen you to choose surrender. Receive His grace.

**If you are in a situation that is damaging your body, mind, and/or soul your first step is physical, mental, and emotional safety. Do not allow situations where you may be damaged further. Please get counsel from someone trained in handling abuse. For resources, please contact me.

Jolene Underwood is a writer, coach, and emotional health warrior. She writes from a place of compassion for wounded Christians, encouraging and equipping them in a life of spiritual growth and emotional health. She draws upon her personal experiences, her psychology background, and a passion for Christian counseling to help others cultivate a life well-lived no matter the circumstance. Jolene writes regularly at She also leads a community of writers called Rise Up Writers. Her tool, Unleash : Heart and Soul Care Sheets, has helped hundreds experience greater freedom. When she’s not writing, you’ll find her enjoying the journey by laughing with loved ones or adding to her collection of vintage glassware with a 70s flair. Connect with her online via YouTube, Twitter/Instagram/Pinterest at @theJoleneU, or via the Cultivated Life Newsletter.

This article is part of our courage theme for the month of August on iBelieve. What is courage? Usually, we associate courage with heroic and brave deeds. But this definition fails to recognize the inner strength and level of commitment required for us to actually speak honestly and openly about who we are and about our experiences -- good and bad. We believe this kind of “ordinary courage” is what God calls us to live into every day of our lives.

Check back here throughout August for a new story of courage as our writers tackle what it means to be faithful, courageous women in a culture that values comfort and conformity.


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Banner Design Credit: Rachel Dawson


Originally published Thursday, 16 August 2018.