Do Unto Others

do unto othersI was out driving and approached a busy intersection.  Cars traveling north and south had stop signs, and had to give the right-of-way to the east-west traffic. Unfortunately for me, there was a car stopped at the intersection ahead of me.  I could see from the back of her head, that it was an elderly woman, and she was obviously intimidated at the number of cars flashing past, as well as their speed.  Several times, I felt that the opening in traffic was more than adequate for her to pull out, but she didn’t budge.  I sat there fuming and wishing that someone would just remove all the “idiot” drivers on the road.  Finally a huge hole in the traffic appeared and she turned the corner.  As she did, I saw her profile and recognized her as a good friend of mine from church, a sweet lady whom I had known for years.  My anger disappeared instantly.  I said to myself, “Of course she took a long time.  She’s quite old and her reflexes are slower.  She needs to be extra careful, for her own safety and the safety of other drivers.”  I was quick to find good reasons for her behavior and to forgive her for inconveniencing me.

 I thought about the incident for most of the day.  Why is it that we can feel so much anger toward a stranger?  After all, no matter who was driving the car, they probably had the same good reasons for taking so long to pull out.  I don’t know why any more than I knew the reasons for my elderly friend.  But I can certainly venture a guess.  I can try and put myself in their place and try to envision how they are feeling.  What if that person who cuts you off really did check the rearview mirror, but just didn’t see you?  What if that person driving fast and weaving in and out of traffic is on their way to the hospital, hoping against hope that their loved one is not going to die before they can say goodbye?  What if you greet someone and they ignore you because their mind is miles away, worrying about the huge fight they just had with their spouse?  There are a thousand excuses that we could come up with for bad behavior, and when the perpetrator is someone we know and like, most of us make that effort and easily forgive.

Shouldn’t we do the same for strangers?  And for those we know, but not necessarily like?  Most of us have been taught some form of the message, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  We would want other people to understand and forgive us.  When I sit behind another driver who is making me feel impatient, I now like to think to myself that maybe, just maybe, if I got to meet them and talk to them, they might become my friend.  And I will treat them that way.  

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