"Do now, do now, what you will wish to have done when your moment comes to die." [St. Angela Merici]

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

When Right Might Be Wrong

By Micky Wolf

In meeting with some of the most prayerful people I am privileged to companion in recent spiritual direction sessions, there has been a recurring theme. Generally speaking, at some point the conversations have gone this way:

“I made Choice A rather than Choice B.”

“You seem unsettled with your decision.”

“Well…” A sigh, followed by silence.


“Well…it just seemed to be the right thing to do at the time.”

As we persevere in a desire for insight, one thing becomes clear—their tendency to default to their idea of doing the right thing (as opposed to the wrong thing). Since some sense of peace ensues, they continued on their way.

The only problem? In the end, they didn’t believe they had really made the best choice after all, even as it seemed like the right thing to do at the time. And to make matters more interesting, they don’t believe they have fallen into the trap of being double-minded.

As we await the movement of the Spirit, a rather consistent revelation emerges: “Maybe I focus too much on trying to put things into neat little boxes—black and white, right or wrong.”

After assuring them they have lots of company with that kind of thinking, they begin to consider new possibilities with regard to how they go about making decisions. A number of issues may arise which are unique to each person, however, there are three points that stand out:

  1. A desire to more fully understand the difference between God’s idea of right and ours;
  2. A belief that being at peace mostly means an absence of discomfort;
  3. Believing that if a choice to take action seems to favor me or my interests, then it probably needs discarded, and the sooner the better.
The peculiarities of God-rightness…

In our humanness we can be extraordinarily determined to define what is right or wrong, good or bad. And that’s not good. It’s not good because we are limited, finite, sinful, broken and wounded beings. Our wherewithal to understand the breadth and depth of what is right as far as God is concerned can only go so far. Ask any Pharisee (sometimes that simply means looking in the mirror) about the law. Few are as intellectually adept, yet as exceedingly limited by the extent of their knowledge in being equipped to more fully comprehend the ways of God.

Jesus knew it was so important to disrupt our human ideas of right and wrong that he managed to confound the best of the law-keepers on numerous occasions. Not only that, he frequently exhorted them (and us) that we have no business using our humanly defined idea of who or what is right or wrong when we wield it as a means to judge others—or ourselves.

Let us be assured God is pleased with our desire and efforts to do the right thing, certainly morally speaking, the guidance and instruction of which is mostly contained within the Ten Commandments. On the other hand (as the good Rabbis say), woe unto us if we choose to make our choices by relying solely on the letter of those laws.

Peace and (dis)comfort…

As Christians, we are often taught that “having one’s peace” is a pretty good indication we are on the right track. Nonetheless, I know from personal experience that we have the capacity, within our sinful nature, to be so desperate for peace at times that we will believe it is present when it is actually little more than a false peace. What does that mean?

We tend to identify true peace as: “This must be peace because I’m not upset or at odds with my decision.” True. At least for the moment. But as we know, where God is involved there is usually more to the story.

Authentic, Christ-centered and grounded peace does not necessarily feel comfortable, and even it if does feel good, our thoughts may not be fully settled. Vis-à-vis the earlier examples with directees. If we insist on maintaining the criteria for Christ-centered choice as needing to be based on how right it feels or how well it follows our I-dotted-the i’s-and-crossed-the t’s approach, there will be occasions when we are left with that uneasy sense we are not on the same page with God. Or, for that matter, even in the same paragraph.

“But”, we protest, “If following the law and experiencing what I believe to be peace are not reliable indicators that the choice I’m making (or about to make) is God’s will, what am I to do?”

How about the missing link?

Self isn’t always a (wrong) four-letter word…

Most of the Christians I know are wont to put the idea of self into anything even remotely associated with living a Christ-like life. That is a very good thing. On the other hand?

If we hope to be faithful and obedient to God’s will in our life, we must be open to accepting there will be occasions when the choices we make may appear to be self-ish.


Jesus grew weary and left the crowds to go and pray.

Jesus did not visit certain towns where he certainly knew he was needed and wanted.

Jesus departed from numerous communities, fully aware not all had been ministered to.

Jesus shook the dust from his feet and moved on to other towns.

Jesus admonished Peter for trying to convince him he was making a mistake by going to the Cross.

Jesus let it be known to those nearest and dearest to him that any and all who chose to listen and respond to God’s message of Love and Truth would be considered his family.

And the list goes on.

When it was all said and done, the aforementioned folks made a sobering, albeit enlightening discovery: “I didn’t make the best choice at the time…I was afraid if I went with my heart, it would wrong.”

“Because?” I asked.

“It would have been what I wanted and not what God wanted.”

“And how do you know that?”

“Because it wouldn’t have…”

“Been the right thing to do?”


“And now?”

“Seems God is about the business of messing with my boxes.”

And they all said amen.   


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