Four Magic Words

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Four weeks ago America lost its most famous test pilot.   

Chuck Yeager, who lived to be 97, was the first human being confirmed to have exceeded Mach 1, piloting the Bell X-1 jet faster than the speed of sound in 1947. 

A few years later, when Yeager was testing an F-86 Sabre, he executed a roll – a standard maneuver to determine an experimental aircraft’s capabilities.

As the jet turned over he felt his aileron lock – a potentially life-threatening malfunction.

Known for his unparalleled ability to tame unruly planes, Yeager managed to land the F-86.  Three other pilots, however, had already died at the controls of Sabres when their ailerons had mysteriously locked.  A full investigation was launched.

In time it was discovered that a single bolt on the aileron cylinder had been uniformly installed upside-down.

The trail of clues led to a particular assembly plant.  That’s where investigators learned, to their horror, that one older worker had decided he knew better than the instruction manual.

Bolts ought to go heads up, not heads down, he believed.  His “certainty” had cost the lives of three Air Force pilots.

When the good news of Jesus swept across the ancient world, its first listeners found it exceedingly difficult to embrace one of the primary Christian virtues: humility.  No one steeped in Greco-Roman culture – where heroes were lauded for always knowing what to say and do – gave humility a second thought. 

The beginning of humility is four magic words – words that are difficult to believe, let alone say out loud:

I might be wrong. 

Think how many crucial decisions, tense meetings, and family disagreements might be transformed if everyone involved, as a starting point, embraced those four words. 

The best news of all? 

Humility isn’t just a way to bless others.  In God’s economy, it ends up being a gift we give to ourselves:

“For God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” (I Peter 5:5)

You think you’re right.  And you may well be.  But it’s also possible that you’re wrong. 

Taking that to heart – sincerely believing in your own fallibility – is the only way to fly.