Sep 272015 5 Responses

The Ends Don’t Justify the Mean

You are right. You know it. Deep within your soul, there is not a shadow of doubt that you are standing on the side of truth.

  • How do you defend the truth?
  • How do you stand for your viewpoint?
  • How do you treat those who disagree with you (and agree with falsehood)?

How you handle being right matters just as much, if not more, than actually being right.

We often make a false assumption. We think being right matters more than acting right. As long as we have the truth on our side, we believe we can defend truth by any means necessary.

And those means are often mean. (See: Find the Lie, Name the Truth)

At no point can humanity be more inhumane than when we are convinced we are right and others are wrong. We strip our opponents of their humanity. We assume the worst in them. We caricature their beliefs. We do whatever it takes to defeat them.

While great battles of good and evil may take place as armies take on terrorists, prosecutors convict rapists, and law enforcement officers try to keep the streets safe, good and evil are rarely at play in the PTA, corporate boardroom, church business meeting, or local school board. Right and wrong might be at stake, but not good and evil. Our opponents might be mistaken, but they are rarely evil.

Sadly, we are often incapable of separating the two. When we are right, we wrongly assume others are evil. (See: Stop Breaking the Ninth Commandment on Facebook)

Seeing others as evil empowers us to act in highly immoral ways.

The church deacon, convinced the pastor should leave, lies, manipulates, and gossips until the pastor is gone.

The cheer mom, believing her daughter should’ve made the team, demonizes the sponsor and questions the character of the team members.

The citizen who loses the vote vilifies the Board, invents false motives, and does whatever it takes to make his opponents’ lives miserable.

When confronted they might admit that in normal circumstances their actions are wrong, but because they are on the side of truth, they believe their actions are justified.

It’s sad and deeply mistaken.

How we defend truth matters just as much as truth. We can’t separate the ends from the means. In God’s eyes, both are an integral aspect of truth.

Whether we are right or wrong on an issue, we must:

  • speak truthfully
  • be compassionate
  • guard the reputation of our opponents
  • stick to the issue
  • refrain from personal attacks

We must remember that how we handle an issue is just as important as (and maybe more important than) the actual issue. (See: Refuge the Rage)

But we don’t. We all fail. We get so wrapped up into believing we are right that we lose focus and act in immoral ways.

Convinced we are right, we yell our truth at our spouses.

Certain we are right, we act like a fool on the little league baseball field.

Persuaded we are right, we abandon every belief of human decency over trivial matters.

And we must stop.

We must recognize the human tendency of putting too much stock into being right and too little stock into doing right. We must recognize this, in part, because we are rarely that right. We are often deceived. We are often partially right. Rarely is our opinion exactly correct in every situation. Because of this, we must be careful in overestimating how right we are. (See: How to Respond to Mean People)

Yet, even if we are 100% correct, that does not give us a blank check to act however we wish. I would rather be wrong but kind, than be right and mean. It’s better to have the right intentions with the wrong outcomes, than to have the right outcomes with wrong intentions.

We are in danger when we are convinced we are right. In those moments, we run the risk of justifying immoral actions. We must be careful.

5 Responses to The Ends Don’t Justify the Mean
  1. Rock Reply

    Good article Kevin. I have always struggled with this and usually get mad, which ends up as an argument instead of a discussion which does not go well. I will say that I am getting better but far from where I need to be.
    Thanks for your words and encouragement. rlr

  2. christineauthor Reply

    I’m not sure I entirely agree Kevin. As Christians we ARE to have a righteous indignation when it concerns sin, lies, our government’s faults and failures that are ruining our country–take Hillary’s testimony today, the emails, the steps towards socialism, the failure of Republicans to stand up for their own party’s soul, ISIS, horrible stabbings in Israel…I could go on and on. Are we to clamp our mouths shut, sit on our hands and shut our eyes to a world spinning out of control? Tell me, what is a better way, and how does a Christian stay informed, concerned and, especially as a writer, which I am, participate in discussing so much that IS wrong? I would love to know how not to be angry all the time about what is going on. I really would.

    • Kevin A. Thompson Reply

      What strikes me is how rarely Jesus was irritated. Even the irritation we see was directed at the religious crowd whereas most of our irritation is directed toward the irreligious crowd. I’m not promoting silence by Christians; I am claiming much of the outrage we feel is misplaced and shows a misunderstanding on our part of the gospel. You ask a great question and the only answer I have, we must look to Jesus.

  3. christineauthor Reply

    Thank you Kevin, for your response. Yes, we must look to Jesus, as well as put on the full armor of God daily. I still wrestle with the injustice and ungodliness going on all around us and struggle to temper my responses to it. While I seek the Lord’s direction in how He may use me in the future, I will keep the things in mind you have written. They make sense.

  4. […] Because it fits their bias. (See: The Ends Don’t Justify the Mean) […]...

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