By Daniel Thomas, CGS Musician
I am not a fan of most online conversation – there are too many people who become their worst selves when shielded from consequence behind the anonymity of a user name and avatar. But occasionally, a link leads to a link leads to a link and I find myself somewhere like Reddit (if you’re not familiar, it’s kind of an online clearinghouse of conversations and message boards), where there is a forum called “Am I The Jerk?,” except “Jerk” is replaced by a slightly more colorful word. In this forum, people post situations they have found themselves in that have some grey area regarding manners, morals, or ethics, and ask if their actions in said situation make them the…jerk. So I bemusedly read about someone else’s antics in a supermarket checkout line, bridal party, family gathering, or other such situation, each then asking the titular question and receiving the collected “wisdom” of internet commenters worldwide.
Recently, I found myself in a situation where, after the fact, I asked myself, “was I the jerk?” Without getting into a lot of details, I was on the road and a driver behind me made several poor decisions that left them blocking traffic in several directions. Their maneuvering left them in a place where they wished to now enter my lane in front me (rather than continue on and correct their mistake further down the road), and I chose to “hold my ground” and let them enter my lane behind me.
I didn’t do anything to make the situation actively worse, but I also made a decision to not be as helpful as I could have been. I felt it wasn’t fair if someone’s poor decisions (intentional or otherwise) would cause me to be delayed. So…was I the jerk?
After discussing this with my (much wiser) wife, I thought about what Scripture might say on this. Of course, the “Golden Rule” came to my mind first. Was I doing unto others what I would want done unto me? And my first response was “Yes! If I made such a bone-headed move on the road, I would accept my error and find a safe place to turn around and get back on track. I wouldn’t expect other drivers to make accommodations for my mistakes.” (It should be noted, I consider myself to be a reasonable driver. Not spectacular, not terrible. I certainly have my share of mistakes.)
But…it would be nice of them if they did. And I realized that, as much as I try to be nice in my daily interactions, I was now using the cocoon of my vehicle to be my worst self – just like the internet trolls I made mention of above. It was not my job to hold this driver accountable for their error – I wasn’t going to change behavior, nor would the eight seconds’ delay have changed my life. The Golden Rule isn’t designed to be applied as necessary on a case-by-case basis. How I expect others to treat me isn’t the same as how I would like others to treat me. And quite possibly, the Rule matters more when you’re dealing with a stranger than with your closest companions.
Always be nice. Don’t be the jerk.
“Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it.” --Hebrews 13:2
Christ the Good Shepherd
Various editorials, articles, and other items of interest.