There’s a time to be right and a time to be righteous. That’s what the old farmer told me as I hefted the last hay bale into the loft.
I had just had an encounter with a bully at school and I was feeling both peeked and embattled at the same time. Since it was my task to help with the old farmer’s chores after school, I was down in the cattle barn that evening both fighting with the hay bales and my ego. I had related my sad day’s tale to the old man after he had noticed I was hefting those bales with a bit more energy than usual. I had been right and I knew it. Yet, I had stepped aside and let the bully get away with his taunts. Now I felt ashamed as revenge slowly crept from deep within my heart, pouring out of each fingertip as the bales kept getting farther and farther off target.
The old man noticed that my emotions were getting the best of me and, waiting until that last bale was in place, he asked me what was wrong. I told him what had happened to me that day and he smiled, put his hand on my shoulder and gave me this advice. “There’s a time to be right and a time to be righteous. You were with your friends and someone else could have gotten hurt.”
Old D.W., as we called him, is long gone now. Although his words remain with me to this day, so does my pride. Being right still seems like a pretty good alternative at times to being righteous. Stepping aside will always be hard for me.
In the summer of 1986, two ships collided in the Black Sea off the coast of Russia. Hundreds of passengers died as they were hurled into the icy waters below. News of the disaster was further darkened when an investigation revealed the cause of the accident. It wasn’t a technology problem like radar malfunction--or even thick fog. The cause was human stubbornness. Each captain was aware of the other ship’s presence nearby. Both could have steered clear, but according to news reports, neither captain wanted to give way to the other. Each was too proud to yield first. By the time they came to their senses, it was too late. (Closer Walk, December, 1991)
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