I was walking home one quiet night when I saw some headlights.
Then a car appeared surging violently up the road. It careened around the corner and exploded down the street.
It didn’t come close to me. Still, I had this immediate, huge outrage – You self-centered, uncaring idiot. There’s enough danger in the world, why make more of it? You got some kind of crisis?
And right then, an unexpected idea entered my thinking: What if the driver was in crisis? What if he was racing to the hospital? Racing to be with a friend who was threatening self-harm? Racing to help his mother who had fallen?
And thinking this way was like pouring hot water over an ice cube. My outrage softened into something that wasn’t quite empathy, but was enough to see humanity in the driver. To open to the possibility that his life may be painful, hard, and there’s some human reason why he’s driving like this.
Who knows if any of my reasons were true. They still didn’t make his behavior okay. But they did allow me some freedom from outrage, righteousness. And better access to my own heart. They liberated me, I realized, from the smallness of judgment.
I really hope you stop driving like that, I thought, staring after the driver. But I also hope whatever’s compelling you to do that eases.
And I continued walking home that quiet night, feeling a little more compassionate.