Getting Gas, Getting Angry

A couple days ago, I went to fill up a car with gas. All the pumps were in use when I pulled into the gas station. Fortunately, one customer in front of me had just finished and was pulling out. I pulled into his place and got out to pump my gas. There were two additional customers in front of me that finished filling up while I was pumping my gas. The two customers in front of me drove away. Their exit left no cars in front of me. A couple minutes later a truck pulled in behind me. The driver of the truck honked his horn, then gunned his engine while racing around me to use the front pump. A second truck rushed around me and slipped in to use the pump directly in front of me. Driver number two got out and addressed driver number one: “That guy is a jackass,” he said, nodding in my direction.

Oddly, I didn’t feel compelled to defend my honor by stating that I would have gladly pulled all the way forward when I arrived, but the spaces were all taken. These days, my wife would tell you I obsess over being courteous to other drivers. But twenty-five years ago such a reckless indictment of my character might have ended in a colorful exchange of invectives. (I had a short fuse back then . . . you got a problem with that!)

Seriously though, when both of those disgruntled drivers arrived at the gas station, they assumed that I had selfishly taken the nearest pump rather than pull forward, thus causing them a slight delay and inconvenience. And even though they had plenty of room to go around me, they became furious that I was in their way.

We live in a culture where a dangerous attitude has taken root. It’s the VIP attitude that says to the world: I’m special, I’m busy doing important things, and anybody who dares to get in my way can go to h#!!.

Here is an excellent way to come against this foul attitude. It’s found in Proverbs 15:1:

“A gentle answer deflects anger,
but harsh words make tempers flare.”

Had I pointed out the faulty judgment of those two drivers in the gas station, especially if I’d included an expletive or two, it could have got ugly, even violent. I chose to ignore them. My non-response eventually deflated their anger. Sadly, I don’t always use the “gentle answer” approach when it’s most needed. Self-centered attitudes don’t go away without a fight.

I’m not suggesting our answers need always seem gentle. Sometimes speaking the truth or setting boundaries with toxic people can seem ungentle. There are times when it’s appropriate to protect ourselves and others. I don’t think God has a problem with us for occasionally speaking up for ourselves and others, but I suspect many of us are so full of ourselves that the “gentle answer” approach is rarely on our radar. I’d like to say that all we need do is pray for the grace needed to give a gentle answer in the face of wrath, and it will come. The reality is we often don’t feel grace flowing when we so desperately need it. As usual, it’s a matter of having a pliable heart that God can work with.

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Posted on November 20, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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