I want to give you five little words you can say that will set you free in ways you’ve never imagined. Ready?
“But I could be wrong.”
It’s unbelievably difficult to learn those words, especially in a culture where being sure and certain is a prized virtue. Many of us even grew up in families or religious cultures that struck fear in our hearts at the thought of not knowing things for sure. (i.e. – Are you sure you really got saved? Are you certain that if you died today, you’d go to heaven? Etc.)
In adopting this freedom-producing vocabulary, it may be wise to start with somewhat plausible but uncertain predictions, like this:
- I think the Cardinals are going to win the World Series this year, but I could be wrong.
- I think leisure suits are destined for a fashion comeback, but I could be wrong.
- I think Michael Jordan is still the GOAT even though Lebron just passed Kareem’s all-time points record, but I could be wrong.
Remember the movie Backdraft? It was about an arsonist who would rig a room to explode. He would set a sort of “pre-fire” and when a firefighter would bust a door in with an axe, the oxygen rushing into the room would ignite rapidly causing a flash fire, which would burn up all the oxygen so quickly that it would immediately extinguish itself.
Our opinions can be like pumping oxygen into a room ready to explode, especially when we’re talking about politics or theology. But those five words acknowledging that we are not absolutely authoritative about all that we think to be true suck the fuel out of a volatile situation and calm things down.
That’s true in conversations with others, and it’s also true in conversations with ourselves. I have to remind myself sometimes, “but I could be wrong.”
Personally, I’ve nearly gone mad in searching for answers about which I could be absolutely certain to questions that kept me up at night about God, myself, or the mysteries of the universe. I finally came to a place where, instead of having to have absolute certainty, I could be satisfied with reasonable conclusions and beliefs about which I could be wrong.
I should note that I didn’t come up with this five-word pathway to inner peace. Jared Byas did in his excellent book, Love Matters More, where he says:
And that’s what faith is. It’s not certainty in what we know; it’s confidence in who we know. If we had absolute truth, we wouldn’t need to have faith in God. In fact, we would be God.
Faith isn’t being absolutely certain, for that would imply that our finite human brain capacity could actually have full and perfect knowledge.
Instead, faith is believing what we think enough to act and rely on it. We’re way too attached to the idea of certainty and way too afraid of being wrong.
It takes humility to admit we aren’t sure about all of our opinions, and I believe humility is a big part of the pathway to peace.
But I could be wrong.
Photo by Wilhelm Gunkel on Unsplash.