“Bless You” vs “Damn You” — Why We Should Show Compassion to Bad Drivers
“What the hell are you doing, a******? Did you forget how to drive?”
My blood pressure shot up as a car swerved from the center lane and cut me off to take the exit off the freeway. It was at least the fifth recklessly stupid thing I had witnessed in twenty minutes.
I ranted to the long-gone driver for a full two minutes before I pictured my grandma. If my grandma had been driving, she would not have called that guy an a******, instead she would have taken a deep breath and said “Bless You My Child”.
It’s an often-touted statistic that 90% of all drivers think they’re above average. I don’t know if that’s actually true or not but it sounds right.
I’ve never heard anyone admit to being a bad driver. It reminds me of one of my favorite quotes from the movie When Harry Met Sally: “Everybody thinks they have good taste and a sense of humor, but they couldn’t possibly all have good taste.”
One day in the discussion part of yoga class we were talking about compassion and the subject of bad drivers came up. Someone asked, “Can we extend compassion to everyone around us, even if they’re irritating us? Can we show compassion to that person who just cut us off in traffic?”
As someone who is prone to minor fits of road rage, I struggled with this question. I expect grace from other drivers when I make a mistake, but how often do I show grace and compassion to other drivers?
How do I know if they cut me off on purpose or just made a mistake?
Then I wondered, what if I always just assumed good intention?
I cut someone off last week, totally by accident, and as I waved an apology they waved back. But it wasn’t a “no problem, I know it was a mistake” hand sign, it was a tad bit more aggressive, involving only one finger.
When bad drivers came up in yoga class, I remember one woman said when she is cut off in traffic, instead of cussing them out she tells herself it’s a person in labor and they have to get to the hospital before the baby is born.
This reminded me of my grandma.
She was, I can tell you without no qualifications, one of the greatest human beings to ever live on this earth. I was named after her and we were very close.
When my grandma was driving and someone did something annoying like cut her off or tailgate her she would say, “God bless you my child!”
Depending on infraction, the tone of the “bless you” would sometimes sound like “damn you” despite her kind words. On one such occasion I asked my grandma why she said “bless you” instead of cussing them out like I felt they deserved.
She told me that if someone was driving that way, it was either an emergency or they were terrible drivers. Either way, they needed God’s protection.
This is just one reason why my grandma was awesome — she had an unlimited well of compassion, even for bad drivers.
And really, what’s the point of getting upset?
You can’t undo the traffic infraction. You’re OK right? You didn’t crash or suffer any injuries because of the bad driver. You can get angry and let it ruin your day, or you can assume good intention, show some compassion and move on with your day.
Showing compassion helps you and it helps others.
Showing compassion lowers blood pressure, decreases stress, increases our connection with others and most importantly, it’s often contagious. Maybe that person you showed compassion towards will pay it forward and be more patient when someone irritates THEM in traffic.
When I remembered this, I took a deep breath and sent out some good vibes to the idiot who cut me off on the freeway. “God bless you, my child,” I muttered. “You really need it.”
Next time someone cuts you off, I invite you to do the same. Trust me, you’ll feel much better.