Sometimes Being Right Makes You Wrong

Whenever you’re wrong, admit it; whenever you’re right, shut up. – Ogden Nash

There are two moments in any argument that should bring it to an end: the moment you realize you’re wrong, and the moment you know you’re right. Of course, knowing you’re right and thinking you’re right are two totally different things.

When you realize you’re wrong, it’s time to leave the debate with honor. Admitting that you were wrong will halt the discussion. Unless your opponent is determined to crush your spirits by berating your self-admission to being wrong, they should respect that you acknowledged it and move on.

On the other hand, when the “aha” moment hits, and you know that you’re right, you have evidence to support how right you are, and you know you’re going to win, that is when it’s time to shut up and leave it alone.

You’ve probably heard it said before that the truth doesn’t fear a challenge. That’s true. The truth is objective and has nothing to fear.

Being right means having nothing to prove.

A few years ago I watched a debate between a historian and a Christian apologist about the historicity of the biblical narratives about Jesus. The historian yelled, name-called, and blustered his way through the debate. He contradicted himself on several points, and when his own words were used against his supposed refutations, his angry behavior only worsened.

Conversely, the apologist presented his case, supported it with peer reviewed research, and demonstrated the inconsistency of the historian’s claims. He did all of this with a calm tone. When the historian attacked his character, beliefs, and process, the apologist did not reciprocate the behavior. Rather, he maintained his initial presentation and left it alone.

By the end of the debate, the crowd agreed that the apologist won.

The problem comes when someone is right but won’t let it go. That is when being right can make you wrong.

Imagine for a moment that you know you’re right and your boss is wrong. You continue to argue with him because you know you’re right and you don’t want to back down until he concedes how right you are. First, that’s a good way to get fired, and second, your best bet is to stop and have that discussion one on one.

When you’re right, you have the truth on your side, and you should be able to present the evidence that supports that truth. You should consider a few things before you move forward though:

You’ll be known as a know it all. Is it really worth it to prove you’re right? What will you gain? You could become known as the know it all, which means you’ll actually lose respect from your peers, leaders, and followers because you’re viewed as unteachable.

Letting others save face can benefit you more than being right. A well delivered concession, even when you’re right, may pay off for you down the line. People realize when someone has done them a favor. Your moment of humility may turn into a reason for praise later.

You’re a jerk. Okay, so you’re right. Now you’re also a jerk who made everyone else involved lose time from their life they’ll never get back all so you could be right. Way to go…

Question: How have you learned to stop when you’re right? You can leave a comment by clicking here.


I am an author, speaker, and leader with a passion for developing people into practical leaders who put their principles into practice. I am the co-author of the acclaimed book Faith Acts with best-selling author Dillon Burroughs, the Chief Operations Officer at the Chattanooga Community Kitchen, and an independent leadership consultant to up and coming leaders and start up nonprofit organizations. My greatest joy, however, is serving Christ and his Church. I am the proud husband of Shay and father of two great boys. We live in Chattanooga, TN. #NoogaStrong

Please note: I reserve the right to delete comments that are offensive, off-topic, or downright annoying.

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