Stunned by a Stranger’s Apology in D.C. Traffic

I don’t flip people off in traffic, but this week, there was an ugly part of me that felt like doing it.

I was in rush hour traffic and was trying to get across downtown D.C. to get a haircut. It is difficult to find street parking at that hour, but lo and behold, right when I arrived, a woman got in her car to leave — and then she took her time.

It wouldn’t have been so bad, but cars were stuck behind me, and it was impossible for them to go around. That stressed me out, but I just put on my blinker, took deep breaths, and tried to remain calm. Then the lady behind me started honking, over and over again.

Honk-honk-honk. Honk. Honk. 

With every honk, I got more annoyed with the woman and more stressed.

Honk. Honk.

What a miserable person, I thought.

Honk. Honk-honk-honk. Honk.

I clenched my jaw and finally started to parallel park after the space freed up, but not before a bitter little thought went through my mind: If I weren’t a Christian, I would totally holler at this woman through my window and let her know how rude she is. 

Then something unexpected happened: She lowered her window and spoke to me.

“I’m so sorry,” she said. “I didn’t realize you were waiting for that parking spot.”

I couldn’t believe someone in D.C. traffic actually apologized to me, but I understood why she was honking. She probably thought I was texting or something, and she was doing the same thing I would’ve done.

“It’s okay,” I said, looking away and feeling a cross between embarrassment and humility.

Quick to Honk 

I guess God wanted to give me a chance to see if I truly learned my lesson from earlier in the week when a lady in a Lexus cut in line at the garage and provoked all kinds of horrible imaginations in me. We really don’t know what’s going on in other people’s minds, but if we’re proud enough to assume we do, that’s the one moment we need to question our own judgment.

James 1:19-20 says, “Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters: You must all be quick to listen, slow to speak, and slow to get angry.” It takes humility to do that — to recognize that we don’t have all the information we need to make assessments about other people. As Brant Hansen says, “Proverbs 18:17 says the first to testify in a matter always seems right. And the person who always testifies first to me is me.”

The next time I’m in traffic with someone who appears to be inexcusably rude, or my wife is verbally honking at me, or I get a curt email from a coworker, I pray that I would aggressively seek to understand before making assumptions. In doing so, I’ll be giving other people the very thing I need every day.

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