The Forgiveness File

Sometimes, when I’m driving, I’ll make a mistake and do something that upsets another driver. Or maybe it wasn’t even a mistake, just a necessary tactical decision due to some unusual but emergent circumstances. In any case, I can see that another driver is upset, and what I would love to do is find a way to contact them, apologize, and explain my reasons for doing what I did.

Obviously that’s not going to happen, so I started doing something else a few years ago, instead. Every time this occurred (and it wasn’t often – I’m a safe and considerate driver, by and large), I mentally noted what my behavior must have looked like to an outside observer, stripped of internal context. And then I filed that impression, and whenever another driver upset me by doing the same thing, I instantly forgave them. I just assumed that their reasons for doing whatever they did exactly mirrored mine in that one instance from long ago. “Sure, it looks like they just were inconsiderate and cut me off to make that exit, but maybe they also have a snapping turtle loose in the back seat and it’s trying to get at grandma’s birthday cake which you’ve been instructed to deliver to the nursing home that closes in ten minutes! Good luck, brother!”

(That one never actually happened, but you get what I’m saying.)

What quickly happened after I started doing this was that I realized no one had the ability to upset me on the road any more. Everything was expected, understandable, forgivable.

This extends way beyond road etiquette. Every mistake might be unique, but they definitely fall into broad categories that you’ve contributed to yourself, more than once. This humility of understanding can lead you to a far more peaceful inner life – I highly recommend it.

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