Violence, so much in the news of late, is not confined to crime and political assassination. Drivers on today's crowded roads often translate thoughts of retaliation and hatred into reckless and dangerous actions. Some highways have become a kind of battlefield.
My own driving, a necessary part of my job, had grown steadily faster and more selfish over the years. My anger at other drivers who tried to cut in on me or drove slowly in the fast lane kept me in a constant state of tension. Of course, when I was guilty of these same faults, that was different. I was only trying to get moving and keep my appointments.
Then came the day when I drove through a red light, only just missing some pedestrians on a crossing. This, of course, was not my fault either. I had been waved out of a side turning by another driver who should have seen that the light was red. I drove on without stopping, but one of the pedestrians took my car number and reported me to the police. In due course I was informed that I would be prosecuted on four separate charges of unlawful driving.
In England, conviction on any traffic violation means, in addition to a fine, an automatic endorsement on the driver's license. Collect three such endorsements, and you lose your license for a year. I needed my license to work , and now it appeared likely that I should collect four endorsements in one go.
I worried for several days, while every possible scheme for avoiding prosecution presented itself to me. Maybe I could deny that I was the driver of the car on that day, or maybe even deny that the whole incident had taken place. Then I remembered that the Bible says, "All things work together for good to them that love God." now I loved God, but somehow it did not seem right to ask Him to get me out of a traffic prosecution, even though the offense was unintentional.
n1 Romans 8:28.
Praying for divine guidance, I realized that what I needed was mercy. I remembered Christ Jesus had said, "Blessed are the merciful: for they shall obtain mercy." n2 I knew the promises he gave us are always kept, but how do you set about being merciful in this day and age? For a time I was quite unable to think of anything I could do; then a dictionary told me that mercy meant "a forgiving disposition, an act of keeping oneself in check." Suddenly the way was clear. I would apply this to my driving, forgiving others and keeping myself in check.
n2 Matthew 5:7.
I started right away by refusing to feel impatient, by letting the other fellow go first, and by showing as much thought for others as if they had been members of my own family. The immediate effect was gratitude from other drivers , who smiled and waved instead of cursing and shaking their fists at me. I began to feel less tired at the end of the day, I made fewer mistakes, and although I was driving slower, it did not seem to take much longer to get where I was going.
After about a month of this "mercy driving," I was summoned before the local magistrates. But now three of the original charges had been dropped, and I was only charged with driving through a red light. I pleaded guilty, was fined the minimum the court could impose in the circumstances, and got one endorsement on my license.
We drivers have an opportunity every day to use our journey time to express our real, God-given identity. When others' inconsiderate driving impels in us the urge to retaliate, we can remember the Golden Rule, "Whatsoever ye would that men should do to you, do ye even so to them," n3 which might have been written for today's road users. We can practice unselfishness, humility, cheerfulness. It is well to consider, as Mary Baker Eddy n4 points out, "To mete out human justice to those who persecute and despitefully use one, is not leaving all retribution to God and returning blessing for cursing." n5
n4 Mrs. Eddy is the Discoverer and Founder of Christian Science;
n5 Miscellaneous Writings,m p. 11.
If opportunities for blessing others seem difficult to find, we can remember to use every car journey to lessen tension, aggression, and hate in the world by visibly expressing love to those who cross our path. A little over goes a long way. DAILY BIBLE VERSE Yielding pacifieth great offences. Ecclesiastes 10:4