The other day I was on the tail end of my morning errand run, and had rounded the corner to a park I had promised to take Xander if he and Manasseh were good while we were out and about. Psalty's If I Were A Butterfly was playing in the rear seat for the fiftieth time, and all three of us were ready to get the heck out of the car, and out into the sunny freedom of the playground.
A narrow street hugs the back side of the park, which is a mile long rectangle of gazebos, open grass, a toy train station, and the playground. As I approached the narrow elbow curve, I saw that three vehicles had stopped right where it bent at a right angle. They were completely blocking the way.
The drivers all hung out of their open windows, heads nodding up and down as they talked together, their arms slung out occasionally to accentuate a point. I folded my arms over the top of my steering wheel. They kept talking.
"Perhaps they're just finishing up the conversation..." I thought to myself, trying to be patient. Psalty and the Kids Praise Band had switched to something blessedly slower paced, and I took a deep breath. Waited a few minutes more. Still, no movement from the threesome in front of me.
A couple more minutes passed, nobody had moved, and there was no way my Suburban could inch around them. I gave my horn two quick taps.
The drivers all looked up at me, continued to confer for another couple of seconds, then slowly untangled their cars. The first to pass me drove straight by, smiling determinedly at the road ahead, and refused to look at me. This finally tipped my frustration into anger ... I mean, an acknowledgment would have been nice, at least.
Then the second truck pulled past me. The woman behind the wheel deliberately caught my eye, gave me a sheepish look, and mouthed, "We're sorry!".
And that's really all I needed. Her sincere look and quickly mouthed, 'sorry' diffused my anger, and I headed on with my day, to the park, where the kids and I played.
The interaction made me think, though, of all the times we inadvertently step on each other's toes. I've been encountering it most often in the online arena, where somebody will say something that triggers somebody else, when they really weren't meaning to. The triggered person then gets angry, and the first person then responds one of two ways. They either say, "I don't know why you're angry, I was just _______ (insert justifiable excuse here)." Or they say, "I see I triggered you, and I'm sorry for that."
The first instance is like the woman who drove past me, ignoring the consequences of how her behavior affected me. The second instance is like the woman who gave me a simple but sincere apology. That apology leveled the field again and we were able to go along with our day.
It's inevitable that we offend and are offended by people as we go through life. Bumping up against other personalities and behaviors is going to cause conflict. But most of the conflict can be resolved by the simple rule - DBAA. In other words, don't be an asshole. You stepped on somebody's toes? Say you're sorry! Somebody stepped on your toes? Accept their apology! Don't be an asshole.
I think maybe this is what Jesus was trying to get at in his Sermon on the Mount. He said to turn the other cheek, and resolve issues quickly with your adversary. He said if someone asks you to walk one mile, to walk two. He said if you remember that you offended somebody, drop what you're doing and go make it right. Basically, it boils down to not walking through life with an attitude of easy offense. No matter which side you fall on in conflict, the offended or the offender, cultivate an attitude of love for others ... treat others the way you would like to be treated ... and don't be an asshole.
***Before I publish, I must add that I'm not talking here about deep offenses, or cases of abuse. Sometimes boundaries have to be set in order to protect yourself from people who are toxic to you. Running back to an abuser in the name of 'forgiveness', or pushing hurt under the rug in order to bring a surface resolution are ways these teachings from the Sermon on the Mount have been used to perpetuate the oppression of victims.***