Honking, Road Rage, and Hope
Yesterday on my way in to the office I had one of those painfully awkward encounters with a complete stranger. That encounter ended up being icing on the cake for a topic that God has really been challenging me to think about for the last few weeks. Now thanks to some good timing, open doors, and road rage I’ve got a heavy dose of awkwardness to narrate a convicting challenge.
The awkward fairy paid her first visit as I made my sluggish approach towards the front door of our office building. There I was, walking stride for stride with an older woman who was making her approach from the other side of the parking lot. It was clear that we were going to arrive at the door at the same time, and I had a decision to make. Thankfully I think quick on my feet, so I picked up the pace, lengthened my stride, and made a straight shot for the door.
Mission accomplished: she fell into pace behind me, I held the door open, and the crisis is averted. At least I thought so, until the woman gasped and blushed as she walked through the politely propped open door.
“Umm, I honked at you a few minutes ago,” she muttered in embarrassment.
I actually had no clue what she was talking about. I remember hearing some honking as I drove in, but never realized it was directed towards me. A bit confused and now afraid I did something terrible on the road, I asked my new friend what happened and why I got honked at. She blushed again before explaining that I had come to a complete stop before turning right on red, and it made her mad because that meant she might not make the turn before an onslaught of oncoming traffic left her hopelessly waiting for the green next light (how tragic).
Now things are really awkward. We’re still standing in the doorway, this old woman is confessing her morning road rage to me, and I had no clue any of it happened until she humbly explained the situation. I didn’t really know what to say, but the whole thing was looking tremendously pathetic. This is one of those “first world problems” where in the grand scheme of things, not being able to turn right on red fast enough, is really not something we should be complaining about considering the pain and suffering others experience all over the world.
Although there is certainly a story to be told about being grateful and keeping things in perspective, I’ve got a different moral to this awkward tale of road rage encounters. Getting honked at was the culmination of criticism that God had been showing me for weeks. In the last 14 days I’ve been criticized by neighbors, insulted in TV commercials (your life isn’t good enough!), condemned by peers, and even honked at by strangers. God opened my eyes to all the forms of criticism that attempt to penetrate my mind and create a more miserable existence for poor old me. When you really look at it all in the aggregate, you shrink into a “me against the world” mentality – and that explains a lot.
You know how some people just seem agitated? They complain at restaurants, get snappy waiting in lines, and overreact to even the smallest inconveniences. They even honk at other drivers. What we have to remember is that the world is a generally hopeless place: we’ve all got relationship problems, bills to pay, and bosses to please. And while we are busy trying to solve those problems, everyone around us is offering doses of criticism from every angle possible. It can be overwhelming at times.
Matthew 5:13 says, “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men.” Similarly, 1 Thessalonians 5:11 says, “Encourage one another and build each other up.” The Bible is full of challenges to speak respectfully, encourage people, and always make peace. We’re even called to love our enemies (Matthew 5:43-48). What you should hear in all of these verses is that in a world of criticism, there is no need for Christians to be “honking” at others when we feel inconvenienced. There is enough of that already.
My challenge to you today is to watch closely how you interact with others – especially how quickly you jump to criticize in even the most seemingly harmless channels. Anything from a snide comment to a car honk is a shot of criticism that breaks people down instead of building them up. As Christians we have a Savior who offers hope and grace, but the unchurched do not know that hope. By trusting in God we cast our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7) but non-Christians do not have this same safety net. Our criticisms can add up in the aggregate and create a hopeless and mean world.
You don’t need to honk at somebody when they inconvenience you, and you don’t need to criticize your neighbor or colleague. Criticism that is not done in the spirit of respectful rebuke (Matthew 18:15-17) is self-serving. As Christians we adhere to a higher calling and therefore have the opportunity to share God’s love and grace in simple doses by how we respond to inconveniences. This next week at work, instead of “honking” at your colleagues try to understand why they are frustrated and how you can encourage them – and watch the grace of God humbly spread across the workplace.