Recently, I was headed down Connecticut Avenue in the morning while it was still dark. There are several pedestrian crosswalks on that street that nobody uses at 5:20 a.m., so I was understandably surprised when I saw an old man standing in the middle of the street waving at me and yelling.
Apparently, this guy saw me coming down the street and felt I should come to a complete halt for him, which is technically correct. But here’s the thing: (1) he was wearing a long, black overcoat and a black hat, so I didn’t even see him; and (2) it didn’t matter anyway, because by the time I got to the crosswalk, he had plenty of time to cross the street, and there was no way I could’ve even come close to hitting him.
The way I actually came close to hitting him was when he got back into the middle of the street in his dark outfit so he could tell me off. But hey – he got his point across; yessir, he did – while endangering his life. It was so foolish and unnecessary, but for whatever reason, this dude just had to make his point.
It reminded me of the way I act in marital conflicts on my worst days. I could just let it go when my wife does something slightly offensive and is technically in the wrong; but no, no, no – I’ve got to point it out, keep the offense alive, and exacerbate the situation. When that happens, I may be in the right as a matter of principal or whatever, but like, who cares?
On my better days, I remember that all of us have a tendency to get in each other’s space, cross little boundaries, and be in the wrong at any given time. And when that happens, we can either be like the cranky old man in the middle of the street, or we can “[b]e patient with each other, making allowance for each other’s faults because of [our] love” (Ephesians 4:2).
Listen, I’m a lawyer. It is my job to be right, and it feels good when I’ve got the law on my side. But when you get outside a courtroom and start talking about real relationships with real people – especially long-term relationships like marriage – you can count on it: the letter of the law kills (2 Cor. 3:6). In other words, the spirit behind “I’m right, and you’re wrong” is completely unproductive – even if you’re actually right.
So the next time we find ourselves standing in the middle of an emotional crosswalk, yelling about how somebody broke the rules, let’s stop and consider whether this is one of those moments when it would be best to keep walking and give the other person a pass. Because the alternative is to insist on standing our ground and unnecessarily escalate the situation.
This really is a matter of common sense. May the Lord give us the wisdom to use it.