Overcome Our Need to Be Right

A Fable About Beginning to Overcome Our Need to Be Right

Long ago and far away there were six men, wise indeed, but, alas, they were all without sight. An opinionated lot, every single one, in the course of their wanderings, they happened to meet an elephant standing squarely in the center of their path.

Feeling duty-bound to report on his discovery, the first wise man gripped one of the massive beast’s sharp tusks and declared, “It is stunning how much an elephant resembles a spear.”

The second wise man, equally confident, reached out until his hands connected with one large and floppy ear. “Nay,” he retorted, “you are mistaken, for ‘tis clear to me that elephantine nature is like that of a fan. Already I feel the cooling of air around me as this fine elephant sweeps back and forth.”

The third wise man could no longer hold his peace, for he had meandered off to the rear and found the elephant’s tail. “Neither a spear nor a fan, my brothers, could take this shape or form. Obviously, an elephant is like a rope.”

And so the story proceeds with one sightless hypothesis revolving around the muscular snake-like trunk, another enthusiastic theory about its tree-trunk legs, and a final proclamation that the body mass was surely a broad and impassable wall.

Each was partially right, but all were in the wrong.

One Way to Overcome Our Biases

Underneath this ancient story’s observation about human nature lies a chilling truth about the perils of logic. To save time and energy in its quest for certainty, the brain will hide its own biases from itself. Believing in the thoroughness of our research, we immerse ourselves in evidence that does nothing but confirm our preconceptions.

The six wise men had all they needed to correct their narrow perspective: the observations of the other five. A move to the right or to the left, a hand extended to a broader reach, or a question posed to a nearby brother: “What do you mean, it feels like a rope? Here, put your hand on THIS and see what you think!”

Any of these would have changed the whole story.

Research indicates diverse groups have the ability to reveal hidden biases. What this looks like here on the ground is that if I share my piece of the elephant, while also listening to my sister’s thoughts on elephant morphology, we both get a more accurate view of the beast in question.

Diversity is rare in rural Maine, so I have to go looking for it.

My daughters-in-law hail from a different generation and other family cultures, so their gift to me is a fresh outlook on the world. As a mother-in-law in training, it’s crucial for me to remember I’m not the only one who knows how to make a meal, clean a house, weed a garden, or care for a baby.

I worship with women who have lived and served in contexts beyond my own and can keep me from confusing efficiency with innovation. Am I getting better and better at doing something that is no longer relevant or useful? If so, somebody please speak up!

Online communities, authors, and fellow bloggers from around the world enrich my life with their diverse contexts and their views on issues that differ from my own. They remind me that a snapshot of a ball in the air is not the entire trajectory. There’s not one of us who sees ends, but only middles. The input of others, the influence of time, and the grace of God introduce a kind of humility appropriate to a time-bound creature like me.

The Peril of Being “Right”

Prone to the blindness of seeing singularly and worshiping busily at the altar of our own rightness, we reenact the elephant story in our own time.

“I’ll tell you the nature of racism,” says the well-meaning soul, touching the elephant’s razor-sharp tusk.

“Certainly mental illness is a matter of spiritual lack,” gushes the sweet, sheltered sister with the naturally upbeat disposition.

“Addiction? Well, it’s all tied to poverty, of course,” snaps the expert with the clipboard.

“When we stop singing hymns, we’ve stopped worshiping God,” grouses the gray-haired church member, hiking up her pantyhose.

When the issue in the room is wide, gray, and heavy, when it trumpets its voice and silences everything else within hearing distance, what is my right response? Like the six wise men in our story, will I lay confident hands on one aspect of the issue and announce that I’ve discovered its essence based on my own precious piece of the elephant?

Wisdom is the joyful admission that we don’t know all the answers.

We can’t always tell what is sin, what is good, what is wise, or even what is essentially beautiful, but if we love God and stay close to His Truth, if we have ears to hear each other’s voices and a willingness to reach outside our own safe and cherished verdict, we have begun to learn.

Wisdom is the joyful admission that we don’t know all the answers.

And Now Let’s Talk Books

For centuries, history has carried forward the grave error of bias against the Puritans. Let’s begin to overcome this…

Although the work of J.I. Packer and Martin Lloyd Jones brought the writing and thinking of Puritan theologians into evangelical conversations and classrooms, we still cling to linguistically derived fallacies about the “Puritanical Puritans.” This is especially prevalent in our perception of the role women would have played in the 17th century when women everywhere faced very limited prospects. In 5 Puritan Women: Portraits of Faith and Love, Jenny-Lyn de Klerk offers the stories of five forgotten lives as a witness to their devotion, theological rigor, and wideness of thought.

The word “Puritan,” historically refers to those 17th-century English believers who sought to purify the worship practices of The Church of England. John Owen is probably the most well-known, and since it was unusual for women to be educated at the time, the wisdom of female Puritans has largely been lost to history. However, using letters, collected scholarly works, and, in one case, published poetry, de Klerk has created a vivid testimony to the ways in which women’s voices have not changed substantively in over three hundred years.

Allowing their Christianity to infuse their whole life, the five featured Puritan women lived fully into their roles as daughter, wife, mother, grandmother, and matriarch, allowing the believer to witness how faith impacts each of these life stages. Readers may be surprised by the evidence pointing to their work as evangelists, practical theologians, and philanthropists.

However, one reassuring truth thrums like a heartbeat throughout the book: The same spiritual disciplines that support and refine the believer today were abundantly at work in the lives of these five Puritan women. The memorization of and meditation upon Scripture, the practice of fervent prayer, fellowship with believers, and spiritual conversations were the trellis upon which their lives of faith grew. And this “spiritual loving care” infuses the story of their lives with more than historical significance, for, by grace, we will add our own stories of faith and love to ongoing history, founded on God’s unrelenting commitment to our growth and our good.

Holding You in the Light,

One reassuring truth thrums like a heartbeat throughout #5PuritanWomen by @puritanjenny. The same spiritual disciplines that support and refine the believer today were also abundantly at work in the lives of 17th-century women.

Did You Know that I Also Publish a Monthly Newsletter?

Every month I send a newsletter with biblical encouragement straight to my subscribers’ email inboxes. Frequently, I share free resources, and the newsletter is where everything lands first. I’m committed to the truth that women can become confident followers of God and students of his Word, and it’s my goal to help you along that path.

To add this free resource to your pursuit of biblical literacy, simply CLICK HERE. There, on Substack’s website, you’ll find a prompt that looks just like this image for Living Our Days with Michele Morin. Over on that site, simply enter your email and then click on the purple “SUBSCRIBE” button.

You’ll receive a welcome letter to confirm your subscription, and then monthly encouragement in your email inbox.

I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees. If you should decide to purchase any of the books or products I’ve shared, simply click on the image, and you’ll be taken directly to the seller. If you decide to buy, I’ll make a small commission at no extra cost to you.

Many thanks to Crossway for providing a copy of this book to facilitate my review, which is, of course, offered freely and with honesty.

Photo by SURYA DEEPAK on Unsplash

31 thoughts on “A Fable About Beginning to Overcome Our Need to Be Right”

  1. As I read through the fable I just kept thinking about how over the last three years my boys and I have been talking about how social media and Google play into this too; once a search engine determines your political, religious, etc. leaning they only who you results that support what you already believe. I try to stretch my thinking and my understanding to see multiple sides and realize that I certainly don’t know all, but it can be so hard to give up on always wanting to feel right!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. That’s a really good point. Our devices and our Google searches cheer us on in our little safe silos. I think the only reliable way for us to open our minds to truth is to remain in contact with real, live fellow humans. It’s easy to be tolerant in abstract terms but it’s hard when an embodied soul is pushing all our buttons.


    1. Thinking about this more, I think there are some things we can be solidly sure about–the way of salvation, the reliability of the Bible, and more. But even then, we’re continually growing in our understanding.


  2. A very helpful post on the wonderful and very needed diversity within the world! Rural Maine is a little lacking in diversity, but probably not as much as in earlier times just within my memory!


  3. I heard that Fable when I was a teen Michele, that brings back memories.
    It’s a great example of expectation bias, what we expect of the world is what we will find.

    A great post my friend, I think we all have to be careful not to continually confirm what we already believe about the world around us.

    Unfortunately, we can too easily fall into this habit.
    Blessings, Jennifer


  4. Yes and amen. I find it interesting that the older I get, the stronger my faith, the more open my heart has become to where others find themselves, the more empathetic I have become. My biases have dwindled, my outlook has become more curious.

    It’s all grace. It’s certainly not from my culture.


  5. You say diversity is hard to find in Maine, Michele. It would seem, even if you can find a diverse group of people, a calm discussion of various views is still a challenge, especially when it comes to politics and current social issues. Some people become argumentative very quickly. In addition, there’s a lot of skewed information out there. How many of us are basing our opinions on lies presented as truth in the media, and don’t even know it? I agree with you that our best tactic is to listen in order to understand other viewpoints, and then (prayerfully) ask questions to clarify. Perhaps we’ll be changing our minds in the process, perhaps they will, or we’ll amicably agree to disagree. It can be done; many have managed it before us.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. It’s kind of a jungle out there, and I’ve been thinking about the loud voices–all shouting over one another. If we could only take a step back from our cherished position and remember that we’re arguing with fellow image bearers, I think it would change our words…?

      Liked by 1 person

  6. […] Every week I have a difficult time picking just one post to share in this space. Most weeks I want to say, “Please go read as many as you can!’ for each one brings much to be considered. Last week, Michele Morin reminded me that we don’t know all the answers, but “if we love God and stay close to His Truth, if we have ears to hear each other’s voices and a willingness to reach outside our own safe and cherished verdict, we have begun to learn.” Read her post, “A Fable About Beginning to Overcome Our Need to Be Right” HERE. […]


  7. Michele, this is a good word. I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce where one of those who made it to heaven says, that’s the great joke. We were all wrong. Or something like that. In other words, we see through the glass dimly while in these earth suits. Humility is a great asset.


    1. Thank you for making that good connection!
      And I have a feeling that the other “good joke” is going to be the surprise of finding out what the truly “crucial” issues were all along while we were so busily expending our energy on lesser things!


  8. I love your vision of seeing diversity in all these places, Michele. Diversity can sometimes feel daunting because of the complications it can bring, but it also blesses and grows us beyond measure. I’m still on the learning curve. Beautiful post.


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