I Did Not Have an Earring (and Other Truths)

On letting go of the need to be right

When it comes to familial recollections of my childhood, I’ve had to convince my wife not to join “the other team,” also known as my mom and sister. Those two consistently recall things I don’t—so much so that “remember the time” has become a family joke. For instance, they recently told me, “You were so goth,” when in fact I owned only one black article of clothing!

Of all the false memories they’ve leveled at me, there’s one I’ve resisted most fervently: that I, as a child of the ’80s, had an earring. No way, nohow.


There is one fact we agree on—that I had a rattail. (For the uninitiated, a rattail is a long string of hair growing from the nape of the neck.) My mom adored that redneck accessory; she thought it was the cutest thing in the world. Recently my wife found a picture of me when I was 8 years old, and indeed, that glorious, mangy, skinny mane graced my neck. I even sent the photo to a group of friends to show that despite what I’m like now, I was “cool” in the ’80s. But when I had it pulled up on my computer, I noticed something and zoomed in. Four odd golden pixels were on the back of my ear.

Gold. On my pale skin. The back of an earring.

When I confessed my discovery to my mom and sister, they both just about died laughing. Me! Finally admitting I’ve been wrong for three decades! Thankfully, they didn’t rub it in too hard.

While this is a lighthearted story, I have to admit that I struggle with thinking I’m right all the time. It’s astounding that I never took debate class or considered law school because I love arguing. (Well, I love winning an argument.) I’m often so sure of my opinions that I won’t budge an inch. I figure, I’ve spent a lot of time coming to this conclusion, looking at all sides, and this seems to be the correct answer. God bless my amazing wife who has put up with this for 13 years.

Of all the false memories they’ve leveled at me, there’s one I’ve resisted most fervently: that I, as a child of the ’80s, had an earring.

Recently I came across a passage by Dr. Stanley in “The Most Unappreciated Virtue” that opened my mind and heart a little. It reads:

“Humility is what God desires for us. The Lord has shown us the attitude we need to have if we’re to follow Him faithfully. Too often, we focus on our wants—protection, provision, guidance, love, assurance, and blessings—which are all good, but He wants to develop Christlike humility in us. This means we have to do an honest self-evaluation and ask Him to show us where we are prideful. We’ll probably discover things about ourselves that we don’t like, but the One who reveals them to us has the power to transform us.”

It's an unpleasant thought, but I have to ask myself, Does my need to be right all the time come from a place of pride? In other words, Can I really be this stubborn and still walk in the humility God desires for me—wouldn’t a humble person think, But perhaps I’m wrong?

Lately, I’ve been trying to practice this self-evaluation. On the one hand, I do think my desire to be correct is tied to a passion for truth and justice. But I also want to be open to addressing areas where my need to be right might actually be pride in disguise. Christlike humility is the attitude I want to walk in. Come to think of it, as often as Christ argued with the Pharisees, He was arguing against their pride. Jesus knew the state of their hearts before He even opened His mouth. But by coming to Jesus at night, seemingly open to His teaching, Nicodemus was acknowledging some level of humility. And Jesus spoke gently to him.

I can’t say I’ve had some major revelation of how pride might be blocking God’s fulfillment of His will in my life. But I’m open. At least, I’m more open than I was with my family before zooming in on a long-lost photograph.


Illustration by Adam Cruft

Related Topics:  Humility

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