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I was Wrong, pt. 3

22 Jul Spiritual Formation | Comments Off on I was Wrong, pt. 3
I was Wrong, pt. 3

Today marks the end of a three part by Rick Rhoads on the value of admitting you’re wrong. To check out the first post of this series, click here. To check out the second post of this series, click here. – Editor

“Confession and admitting your wrong may be good for the soul, but it can be very hard to do. We are invested in looking like good moral people, admitting we’re wrong goes against our natural inclination.” – Adele Ahlberg Calhoun

The Wrong Decision for a Desert

It was my second time at the desert mountain fortress called Masada. Masada, one of Herod the Great’s most spectacular building projects sits along the southern tip of the Dead Sea at the eastern edge of the Judean Desert in Israel. Herod had Masada built as part of an elaborate getaway plan, just in case Cleopatra from the south or Caesar from the west had enough of him. Masada’s architecture boasts of hot baths, saunas, running water and a three tiered palace which hangs off the north side of the mountain. Sounds pretty amazing, right! Remember, Masada is on top of a 1300 ft. high plateau located in the middle of a desert. Needless to say, it’s one of my most favorite places to visit.

Gondola Ride to the top of Masada

Gondola Ride to the top of Masada

Just prior to our visit that day, our guide asked me, “Have you ever walked down the snake path coming off the mountain?” In which I replied, “I didn’t know it was still possible.” I was intrigued. After riding the gondola to the top of the mountain with our group of 50 students, we began our normal guided tour. About three-fourths of the way through our tour, my fellow team leader and at the time, boss, made a game plan for our remaining time. We decided, he would take the larger portion of the group, finish the tour and lead them back to the bus. I was going to take a smaller group of adventurers to the northern palace, spend a few minutes and then rendezvous with the rest of the group at the bus.

We were off! The northern palace was amazing. After having spent a few minutes, we were on our way to catch the gondola. Just prior to stepping on the gondola, our tour guide who was waiting for our small group pointed to a small staircase and referenced the snake trail. His question was simple, “Are you?” Making a quick time calculation in my head, I said to myself, “We can make the bus on time!”

Arrow marks a hiker on the Masada Snake Trail

Arrow marks a hiker on the Masada Snake Trail

We were off again, and let me say, this was an amazing experience. The only problem was it took twice as long as planned. 45 minutes later, my small group of five walked onto the bus where 45 sweaty, tired college students were not-so-patiently waiting. Not good.

I took my seat at the front of the bus, next to mm co-leader, colleague, friend and boss.

There was deafening silence.

Silence as the in-between.

Silence, no matter how awkward, affords us time to process. It also allows the inner-self to battle through the decision to admit we were wrong or not. In that moment, we as humans can often want to justify ourselves or redirect the blame, especially when we face admitting a mistake to our superiors.

What follows is a list of three natural temptations we all must process through in such moments. Three temptations I definitely faced as I sat there in silence next to my boss.

Temptations we face when we’re wrong.

1. Uncomfortable situations make us look for a way out.

In the silence, there is often a temptation to justify. There were plenty of completely rational reasons running through my mind…

  • “The guide said we had enough time.”
  • “I thought the snake trail was only going to take 20 minutes not 45 minutes.”
  • “I thought you were going to take longer with having such a large group.”

Each of these may be true, yet they are still justifying. Justification always shifts a portion of the blame onto another. For the leader who is emotionally unhealthy, one can always find a small tidbit to shift blame towards. A healthy person simply admits they were wrong.

2. Little excuses no matter how true don’t cover the whole decision.

In the midst of a bad decision, sometimes it can be easy to pick out the one localized event in the bigger picture that gives potential credibility to your position. You look for an excuse, no matter how small, to justify the whole of the bad decision.

In the case of Masada, we did have a member of our small group who couldn’t go as fast. The group had to stop and wait multiple times. Each time we stopped, our trip took longer and we grew later. Yet, the need to stop for this team member was not the reason for being late. It was my decision to go in the first place. Localizing aspects of the event which give your story credibility, rather than owning the big picture can be a sign of emotional unhealthiness.

3. Power can create resistance to admitting fault.

Admitting your wrong to anyone can be difficult. Admitting your wrong to a superior can feel impossible. For most of us, we want those who are above us to trust our decisions, to respect us, to value us. We want them to know that when duties or tasks are left in our hands, they will be completed well. The risk factor in admitting your wrong with a superior can often seem higher than the same admission to a friend, colleague or family member. However, it is in these moments when superiors are afforded the opportunity to see our character.

The silence didn’t last long. A few moments passed and I turned towards my colleague and said, “Please forgive me. That was a dumb decision. I allowed my spirit for adventure to get in the way of leading the group well.” My co-leader was quick to say, “We’re good.” When our conversation finished, I grabbed the microphone and said the same to our entire bus.

Talking about forgiveness as a leader is one thing, demonstrating is another.


Rick Rhoads
Professor of Student Min at Lancaster Bible College
Rick is the Director of the Student Ministry Majors at Lancaster Bible College. He has served as an Assistant Professor in Student Ministry at LBC for the past 7 years. Over the past 18 years, he has served in various Student Ministry roles at Lebanon Valley YFC, LCBC, Calvary Bible Church, and Riverbend Community Church. Rick, his wife Naomi, and their two children Grace and Eli live East Petersburg, PA.