I posted a good bit of this yesterday on Facebook. I’m posting it here because I want to be able to find it again; to use it as a reminder to try to be better.
Yesterday, I expressed anger at a woman who nearly slammed into my car in Hot Springs while moving from the left to the right lane. She was paying insufficient attention to traffic, especially the cars around her. I swerved sharply and accelerated; fortunately, I got out of her way before she hit me; but I wasn’t sure whether I was successful. The sound of curbs, engine revs, and possible scrapes filled my ears. So, after we’d moved on a block or so, safely away from stoplight traffic, I stopped the car and put on my emergency flashers. The offending driver stopped behind me, a good five or six car lengths. I got out of my car and surveyed the rear left side; no damage. I then strode, at high speed, toward the offending car. As I neared it, the woman said, “I didn’t hit your car, sir.” I replied to her, “It’s a good thing!” I turned and stormed back to my car. That was that. But that wasn’t that, really. After cooling off, it occurred to me she was probably scared of my obvious anger. And it occurred to me that she probably had been distracted. I didn’t need to get so irritated. I am sure I came across as a jerk, which fit my behavior. I hope I didn’t ruin her Thanksgiving. I hate losing my temper.
After I posted on Facebook about the experience, some people commented, suggesting I was okay for being angry; at least I didn’t explode into road rage. But that’s not the point. I didn’t explode, but I did behave in a way that very probably frightened a woman who might have been going through problems I know nothing about. She might be in the midst of dealing with cancer treatments for herself or her father. Her distraction might have resulted from issues over which she has no control. But that didn’t matter to me; I was angry. And I let her know it. That’s the problem with us. At least that’s the problem with me. I let my anger override my compassion. I value compassion far more than I value anger, but you wouldn’t know it from the way I behave.
I’ve quoted these words before, but it’s time I quote them again, and try harder to live up to them: “Be kind. Everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.”