For a little more than a year I’ve been trying to drive my car in a spirit of forgiveness and loving kindness.
It was a dark and stormy night last November at an intersection under construction when an SUV honked furiously and at length at me. I was in the right, and, oh my, did I feel some righteous anger -- once I got over the relief at not being hit when the other driver didn’t see that the lanes curved sharply.
I was mad. I had at some time or other, unbeknownst to myself, given myself permission to be mad and to enjoy being mad.
It was a satisfying righteousness that was still there the next morning. I was hoping the other driver would drive through the intersection in daylight, see the error of his ways and be ashamed. I caught myself. It was pleasurable to be angry. I didn’t want to be taking pleasure over someone else’s driving errors.
During the next several weeks I began to notice that same anger rising in me when other drivers passed on the right, didn’t use their turn signals, honked, whatever. Not only had I given myself permission to be angry and to enjoy being angry, I was feeding the anger, calling the driver stupid and, again, feeling righteous.
Anger seems to rise spontaneously. It’s an emotion, useful at times, when it gives us energy to act. But most of the time it is an obstacle to understanding the other person. And sometimes it’s downright dangerous. I can’t be making very good decisions in heavy traffic if I’m fuming at the slowpoke I just passed.
As a society we have given ourselves permission to be very angry, to say nasty things to one another and carry guns at political rallies. I don’t know where it came from. I don’t know why I thought it was okay for me to harbor anger against other drivers.
So I’m trying to catch myself, to say to myself: “Oh, he made a mistake and got into the wrong lane,” or “She forgot to put her turn signal on.”
We all make mistakes. We all forget. It’s good to honk the horn to remind someone or warn them. And when they do something dangerous, it is good for my own peace of mind and my safe driving practice to forgive them.