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Silver Learnings, Part 4

Being Right vs Being Honest

If you want someone to trust you, the most important thing is not being right all the time. The most important thing is to be honest.

You know this intuitively. The people you’ve admired the most over the course of your life are not simply talented and brilliant. They don’t succeed at every venture or understand every challenge perfectly. This is not to say they aren’t incredibly sharp and wise – sure they are. But what makes you admire and trust them is that they will acknowledge their own failures and the ways they had misunderstood things in the past.

They tell the truth, whether it makes them look good, or it shows how much of a work in progress they really are. And this commitment to honesty is incredibly helpful to everyone they know. We look to people like this for guidance and insight when we are going through our own struggles, because we believe that what they tell us comes out of imperfect effort and hard-won lessons, and we know that they care more about helping us solve problems than making themselves look like geniuses.

Conversely, if a person is afraid to admit when they’ve made mistakes or feels compelled to project an image that they are always right, it’s very difficult to trust what they say, because we can’t trust their motives. The great irony here is that a person might actually have a record of being mostly correct on important questions. But if their intelligence is encased in bravado, hubris, and/or a need to claim that they’re the best, it’s really hard when you listen to them, to separate acumen from ego.

And here’s the real issue, if a person like this tells you something that later turns out to be mistaken, you can’t expect them to adapt to new understanding – because their priority is not gaining and spreading understanding. Their priority is their own preeminence. And we should expect them to continue promoting their folly as fact.

We all want leaders who are smart, and who make good decisions when critical needs arise. With that in mind, we should also look for leaders who will acknowledge when they’ve been wrong, as we discern who are the right ones to trust.


The Table is a Christian church in Davenport, Iowa, pursuing transformation:

from greed toward generosity

from violence toward peacemaking

from isolation toward neighborliness

from fear toward faith

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