in the driver’s seat

 

Photo by Brennan Tolman

 

I don’t know if this is part of the driving test, but witnessing it makes it seem worth asking.

What would you do if you were driving along in the left lane, and a car (let’s call him “Trouble”) came speeding up behind you?

Would you:

  1. A) Stay in your lane, slow to a crawl and pump your brakes so Trouble is forced to either pass you or hit you.
  2. B) Quickly move to the right and let Trouble pass.

If you chose A:

You may feel the need to prove yourself. Consequently, you may experience ongoing challenges because you are easily affected emotionally and personally by the actions of others. It can be difficult to let things go, even when you know better. You may be easily taken off course, without realizing how or why you are where you find yourself.  Although others may enjoy your free and passionate nature, you may experience more pain than pleasure as a result.

If you chose B:

You may be considered focused but also flexible. You may be able to realize your goals while also recognizing potential obstacles along the way. With that, you may be less reactive and fearful when faced with negativity and instead are able to distinguish between your problems and the problems of others. Although it may be difficult for others to affect you, you are able to maintain a warm and kind demeanor while also setting limits with others.

In order to change lanes and let Trouble pass, we must imagine that Trouble’s behavior has nothing to do with us. It could be that his loved one is dying across town. In this case, there is no question. We would gladly move out of his way. But more than that, we might even wish him well. After all, how differently would we behave under the same circumstance? So, not only would you move, but you would move with compassion and love.

The same is true in encounters with others off the road. In order to not take the bad behavior of another personally, I have to know that his behavior is a consequence of what he is going through and not a reflection of me or even what he thinks or feels about me. I have to know that in judging him, I am wrong even if I am right.

In witnessing these cars, I saw that although Trouble was the aggressor, the other engaged him and perpetuated the dance. Trouble threatened to hit the other driver numerous times, but he refused to move. It seemed that at that moment he felt it more important to show his strength then to give up his position, no matter how risky.

Interestingly, when it was finally over, I noticed others almost straining to get a good look at the driver Trouble left behind.  Instead of offering him support, they seemed to look at him angrily, as though blaming him. In the end, he was perceived as the problem.

As unfair as it may be, in life this dynamic exists as well. When we don’t know how to separate ourselves from the bad behavior of others, we can become sucked into a dance that results in unpredictable and even dangerous behavior justified by the bad behavior of another. As a result, we can experience the very pain we struggled to avoid.

The point is, proper lane usage is as critical in life as it is on the road. Drive on the right and pass on the left. When Trouble finds you, move with compassion and love, and enjoy the ride.

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