Be thankful we don’t always have to be right, for it will free us from having to defend ourselves, which allows us to relate better with people. It's the topic we consider in today's episode.
We can now put Halloween and all its creepiness in our rear-view mirror and head toward Thanksgiving Day here in the US, a much more meaningful holiday. We’ll come upon it in just four weeks, the 4th Thursday of November.
And rather than focusing on that one day for what we’re thankful for, I’ll be using the following four weekly episodes to reflect upon this most important relational principle of gratitude. Thankfulness, gratitude, appreciation are all important qualities that bring joy into our relationships
I did this something similar in 2019 in episodes 41- 44. I’ll have links to them in the show notes.
For these next four weeks, though, I want us to think more deeply about being thankful for more than just our family and good health, those two everyday items of gratitude that often come up at Thanksgiving dinner.
I hope you stick with me because I’m confident you’ll pick up an idea or two to enhance your relational skills that will deepen your relationships.
I’ll start with a story that happened to my wife Janet and me a few weeks ago. It's about what happens when we don't always feel the need to be right.
Our happy place
We took a two-day getaway trip to our favorite happy place, Door County, Wisconsin. We love the water, which is everywhere, the picturesque state park, and the slow pace of life there. Janet loves going into many of the quaint shops while I wait in the car and read. I’m not into quaint. She is.
On our way out of town, as we headed home on the last day of our trip, we stopped to buy apples and cherries. It’s what this part of the state is known for, along with a few pumpkins. As I pulled out of the store's parking lot where we bought the pumpkins, I had to make a left turn unto a busy two-lane highway. Our car was at an awkward angle to see cars coming from my right because the headrest on the passenger seat blocked part of my view.
I could partially see a car off in the distance, and Janet was watching it too and then said, “It’s all clear; you can pull out.” So I stepped on the gas and turned left onto the highway. As I gained speed, I looked in my rear-view mirror and saw the car I thought was in the distance, right up against the rear of our car—both of us driving at high speeds. I stepped harder on the gas, and the other car slowed down.
“I don’t think it was all clear, Janet. That car was right up on my tail,” I said.
“Sorry,” she said. She didn't defend herself or feel the need to be right.
I quickly forgot about the car behind us, and we continued down the highway for a few miles, at which point I pulled into a gas station to fill up.
An awkward encounter
While pumping gas, and out of nowhere, a girl pops out from the other side of the pump.
She was wearing torn blue jean shorts, tattoos up and down both arms, a bare midriff with a ring in her navel, and another one in her nose. Her partially pink hair was in a bun on top of her head.
With both hands on her hips, she said to me, “You know you almost caused an accident back there when you pulled into the road. I almost ran into you.”
I then recognized her car and, without thinking, said, “We’ll you were going pretty fast” as I continued to pump gas.
The girl fights back
“No, I wasn’t. The speed limit is 55, and that’s what I was going. I’ve been driving for five years now, and I really had to slam on the brakes to avoid crashing into you.” She implied that her five years of driving experience was all I needed to know about her motor vehicle expertise. I’ve been driving for many more decades than her.
Humpf. What I wanted to say was, “Well, my wife said it was all clear for me to pull out.” But I didn’t want to throw Janet under the bus and blame her. Janet later said, “Oh, that would have been okay with me; you could have told her that.” She said it wouldn’t bother her if I had thrown her under the bus. She’s comfortable in her own skin, and despite what the girl said, she still thought the girl was driving too fast.
Anyway, as I continued filling my car with gas, I thought she’s only been driving five years. If she got her license when she was 16 like most kids do, that would make her 21. She actually looked younger than that.
The conversation ended with the tattooed pink-haired driver, and she continued pumping gas, as did I.
A surprising shift
And then something happened inside me. I don’t know what it was. But when I finished filling my car with gas, I walked around the corner of the pump and said to the girl, “Miss?” I had to say it twice before she heard me.
She looked up a bit surprised, at which point I said. “I apologize for what happened back there.”
“I appreciate that,” she said. “It really scared me” I could see it in her face.
“I didn’t mean to scare you,” I said.
“Well, thank you,” she said again,” I really appreciate that.”
I felt like I needed to represent old men who look down their noses at tattooed young women with rings in their noses. I didn’t want her to think badly of us.
What I learned from this chance meeting
Apologizing well is not a skill I want to develop. I want to have few things I need to apologize for, not more of them.
A barrier dropped between this girl and me once I apologized. I could see more clearly the impact my behavior had on her.
I could also see more clearly that my pride stood between us before I said I was sorry.
It certainly wasn’t somthing I was looking for it, but I actually felt connected with that girl once I apologized. The incident reminded me of my daughter and a car accident she was once in. It reminded me that this girl had a mother and a father who probably loved her – like I love our daughter and granddaughter.
So what does all this mean for YOU?
Is there anyone you need to apologize to? Are there barriers you think would drop if you did?
Is there anything you’ve done to scare people?
To what extent do you feel you need to prove yourself to others? If so, could that be more about your pride than anything else?
Are there people in your life trying to prove themselves to you? If so, how about asking God to show you how to help relieve that person of the burden of feeling they always having to be right.?
Here’s the main point I hope you remember from today’s episode
Be thankful we don’t have to always be right. It will free us from the burden of having to defend ourselves, which in turn will help us relate better with others. It breaks down barriers between people.
I’d love to hear any thoughts you have about today’s episode. Just send them to me in an email to john [at] caringforothers [dot] org. Or you can share your thoughts in the “Leave a comment” box at the bottom of the show notes.
I hope today’s show stimulated your thinking to reflect and take some action, like thinking about where your pride and defensiveness may be getting in the way of a relationship. It will help you find the joy God intends for you through your relationships. Because after all, You Were Made for This.
Well, that’s all for today. I look forward to connecting with you again next week about another thankfulness topic. Goodbye for now.
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