Shelburne: Nobody Is Always Right. Nobody.

by Gene Shelburne, Contributor

"They always thought they were right, and that they were the only ones who knew what was right." That's how one of my contemporaries described many of the preachers who visited our churches when we were kids. (Have we preachers changed all that much?)
Those old evangelists weren't the only bozos who held such a high view of themselves. In every generation, in every place, in most businesses or schools or families, we have had more than our share of egotistical know-it-alls.
Take a quick look, for example, at the White House. Back in the early 1800s, a nut named John Cleves Symmes, Jr., concocted the theory that a massive tunnel runs from pole to pole inside our planet. "Symme's hole," they called it. His backers lobbied Congress for funds to explore this hollow space inside Earth. Would you believe that President John Quincy Adams bought into this theory?
A quarter of a century later, things had not improved. Adams' successor, President Andrew Jackson, was sure that Earth is flat. Should it surprise us that some of the scientific assumptions driving Washington today are just as looney?
The point I hope to make here is that just because a person wears a big hat, has their name on the firm's door, or always gets the final word doesn't mean they're always right, but far too many of them are sure that they are. Being a school principal or an elected official or a parent does not validate our credentials for credibility.
Even if we are aware of this and have our egos harnessed, though, those of us in leadership roles have to make decisions based on what we think is right. Later, it may turn out that we were wrong, but at the time we had no option but to proceed on what insights we had, or to do nothing, which might have been just as wrong.
Has there ever been a parent, or a policeman, or a teacher, or a coach who shouldn't admit later that some of their ideas or instructions had been wrong? The best ones have enough humility to know this even when they're pontificating.
When the apostles appointed the first church committee, the Bible says they chose seven man "full of the Spirit and wisdom." Were those first deacons always right? No. But they were wise enough to know they weren't. That's the best we can hope for.

Gene Shelburne may be addressed at 3516 Carlton Dr., Amarillo, TX 79109 or at Get his books or magazines at His column appears weekly.