With two rolling cases in tow, I exited the airport terminal and headed for the parking deck. The airport in our city is not a large complex, so the terminals and parking lots are in fairly close proximity to one another.
As I stood on the sidewalk, I looked left (it’s a one-way situation with traffic only entering from the left) before crossing into the small parking area (about 25 spaces). There were 2 cars parked, and two people stood chatting in one of the empty spaces. With no cars approaching, I stepped off the curb and started across the parking lot to the first set of parking spaces.
After a few steps, I noticed a car entering the parking lot at a high rate of speed. The noise of the fast-approaching car caused me to turn my head left and look. I gauged I could make it to the safety of the empty parking spaces without any danger of being hit.
I was several steps into an empty parking space, when my rolling computer case caught on a small object on the ground. Pausing momentarily, I yanked it free. As I did so, I noticed that the driver of the fast approaching car had decided to park in the empty space in which I was walking.
Now, mind you, there are approximately 25 spaces in this short term parking area, 3 of which were occupied this early Sunday afternoon.
I noticed the car, and I swerved out of the space and into the one next to it—and did so without giving the driver a glance or saying anything under my breath.
I continued across this short term lot, stepped onto the sidewalk, and crossed the one main road through the airport. As I stepped up on the curb on the other side, I heard . . .
“Gee, I wish I could live in my own little universe!”
It took a second to register, “Hmmm, I think he directed his comment at me.”
I turned to look. Sure enough, there was the driver looking at me. He had walked around to the front of his car and stood there with his hands on his hips—in all his sarcastic glory.
Oh.my.word. Seriously? Does he want to start an argument over this?
It was tempting to go over say a few things. Why was that one parking space such a huge deal for this man in “his little universe”? I stood and faced him for a good 15 seconds, turned, and walked off. He yelled something after me, which I didn’t hear.
Why do people engage in random acts of ugly?
What is it that causes people to . . .
- Push ahead of someone in the checkout line
- Overreact, completely out of context
- Call a spouse or child stupid, ugly, a failure, a moron, etc. etc.
- Shove someone over a Black Friday deal
- Steal intellectual property (You know, physically or mentally “cutting and pasting and altering just a tad” an idea, concept, etc. into a term paper, magazine article, blog post, or business idea)
- Yell obscenities at a stranger or just plain yell something ridiculous
- Argue over a referee’s call at a soccer game where the players are all under the age of 5
- Cut each other off on the road or tailgate and make finger gestures
- Etc. etc.
Why do we judge, jump to conclusions, back stab, shove, push, yell, scream, swear, belittle, seek revenge?
Now, I know better than to announce that I never get angry, never snap at my child when they’ve pushed my buttons for the umpteenth time in a day. No matter how mature, “together”, grace-filled, etc. we think we are, we are always having to work on our reaction to others, to news we receive, to situations that just happen, or to situations that seem a bit more pre-meditated.
About a month ago, my daughter and I stopped at a gas station—one of the more busier stations with 12-14 pumps, a made-to-order deli, etc. I got out of the car to hear two people fighting over who had pulled up to the pump first. Seriously, there were at least 6 other empty pumps. All that energy to see who could prove a point? exert the most control? yell the loudest?
One of the two people arguing was a young girl who was trying to apologize and explain to the man that she didn’t see his car because her car is so small and a larger vehicle blocked her view. The man wouldn’t listen to what she was saying and kept berating her.
“Bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Colossians 13:3
Why do we do this? Why do we try to ruin each other’s day, self esteem, life, business, marriage? What if that young woman had just found out she had cancer? What if she had just lost her job? We never know what’s going on in a person’s life; why don’t people show more grace in these situations?
If the man at had accepted the girl’s apology, shown grace and forgiveness, it would have made for a more pleasant trip to the gas station for both of them and everyone within earshot.
And looking back now, what did it matter who got to the pump first? What long-term benefit did that man receive?
Why do we participate in random (and planned) acts of ugliness?
- Make us feel like we are the smarter, better, or bigger person?
- Provide a feeling of control over a situation?
- Fulfill some need to control another person?
- Exert revenge?
I do understand we have a sinful nature—I get that.
“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.” Romans 3:23
Someone recently responded to me about their completely inappropriate behavior by saying, “I made a mistake, get over it.” Not “I’m sorry”, but “Get over it.” The responsibility was placed on me—this was turned into an issue about my reaction, not an issue of their behavior.
Do we not take responsibility anymore?
“If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9
Is it now okay to NOT feel true repentance and say “I’m sorry”?
It would be a lie to tell you that the airport situation didn’t enter my thoughts for a few days (okay…weeks). I was really letting it stew in me. Part of me was rehearsing what I would have said. Haven’t we all done that? You know, a situation happens, we can’t think of the perfect response, so we move on—all the while, it’s seething just under the surface. Then, three days later we claim we have the perfect response for “the next time”.
Last weekend my daughter and I attended a production at a university concert hall. As we were standing in the lobby waiting for the doors to open, an elderly lady next to me asked me what time they were going to open the doors, I misspoke and said, “7:30”. As soon as the words came out, I knew I had it wrong (the concert started at 7:30 and the doors opened at 7:00). I was going to correct myself but before I could, she said, “7:30! That’s when it starts. They aren’t opening the doors at 7:30, I can tell you that!”
She then turned to her husband and the other elderly couple they were with and sneered, “She just said they are opening the doors at 7:30 and that’s not true. It’s 7 o’clock! She has no idea what she’s talking about.” This was followed by a loud “hmmph” and a not-so-friendly glance my way by this lady.
Really? “God, help me bite my tongue. God, help me bite my tongue.” Haven’t we all mis-spoken at some point in our lives? You know, you say 8 a.m. when you mean 8 p.m. You call your child by your pet’s name. Had this woman NEVER mis-spoken in her life? Why did she have to be so ugly and in front of my daughter?
And I will say that I wanted to snap back. There was a time in my life, that I would have said something just to make sure I had the last word.
I did turn to my daughter and make a comment about the lady being a tad cranky. Probably not an excellent parenting moment, but it was step in a better direction. Yeah, I’m still working on showing more grace and taming the wrath.
“A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Proverbs 15:1
Why do we engage in random acts of ugly?
I later used the concert and gas station incidences as teachable moments with my daughter.
How do we remove ourselves from a random act of ugly and keep it from stewing inside of us and causing us to either make it an even uglier moment or carry it forward and take out our frustration on someone else with our own random act of ugly?
Here is what I shared with my daughter:
- Pray for discernment. God is with us in all. Before responding to a situation, just ask him to guide you. I had to do that in the airport terminal—honestly, couldn’t you think of a “doozie” of a comeback? Yeah, sometimes it’s just best to pray for the other person and let it go right there in the moment.
- Just be kind. Whether you are interacting with the wealthy father of a friend or a homeless person standing on the corner with a sign… be kind. God doesn’t judge us by the job we hold, the car we drive, the house we live in. If He doesn’t judge us using these standards, why should we judge each other?
People want to be appreciated and feel like they are worthy—they are worthy, treat them as so. You may not agree with their behavior, their political views, but be kind.
Does this mean we should subject ourselves to a constant barrage of verbal or physical abuse from someone? No, but it does mean that when you do encounter someone who may not have held the door open for you at the store or who you think is giving you ugly looks, let it go. You don’t know what they’re thinking. You don’t know what is going on in their lives.
Remember, not everyone’s life is rosy. You don’t know what is going on in a stranger’s life. They may have just buried a child, parent, sibling, best friend. They may be fighting cancer, living with a parent suffering from Alzheimer’s, or facing a job loss.
- Don’t engage the negativity.
If someone ticks you off by pulling into a parking space which you felt you clearly had claim to or they purposely don’t let you through the aisle at the grocery store, maintain your manners, show respect. Don’t engage the negativity.
Just like the man in the airport parking lot, typically people acting in this way have some issues they’re dealing with—your arguments aren’t going to solve their deep-seeded control or anger issues.
- Mind your manners and use “Please”, “Thank You”, “Yes, Sir”, and “Yes, Ma’am”.
Some people find pleasure in being mean and rude; they want to see others get annoyed or angry or they feel it gives them some power over the other person. You don’t have to subject yourself to it, but rise above it, be polite, say a small prayer for them, and move on.
- Protect yourself. All of the above does not mean you let someone physically or verbally attack or abuse you. If you feel threatened, immediately remove yourself from the situation and seek help. Fight for your safety, but don’t throw the first punch, don’t make the first shove, don’t throw the first verbal assault. Don’t seek out the physical or verbal confrontation. Pray, protect yourself, and get away from the situation. If you’ve been legally violated – get away-safety first, remember details, snap a photo if you can—anything that will help should legal action be needed. In other words, keep your head, react quickly to get out of danger.
I have no doubt that many of you reading this already show respect and restraint in these situations. But as a reminder . . .
Let’s remember (and I include myself in this too) to treat each other with more kindness and compassion. Really, is it worth huffing and puffing at someone because we have to wait 2 additional seconds to pull into a parking space?
Is God that impatient with us? Did he make us so perfect that we never stumble and falter just a little?
Is waiting 3 extra seconds to get our $5.00 vente-latte-machiatto-mocha-caramel-with-enough-room-for creamer doo-dad concoctions at Starbucks so earth shattering that we can’t pause to hold the door open for someone and smile?
Our big, wide smile to a stranger—yeah, that random act of kindness–it just could be worth so much more than the $5 coffee. You just don’t know what other people are going through.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God.” Ephesians 2:8
God has shown us grace and patience, may you and I always work toward showing the same to each other.