Every time I’m driving somewhere and I hit all the green lights, I want to make a Happiness is about it.
But I already did that.
So most of the time, I just keep driving and enjoy the uninterrupted trip.
Sometimes, though, when I hit two or three red lights in a row, I get irrationally annoyed. How quick I am to forget the eight green lights that led me to my current stopped position.
I was thinking about all of this as I drove home from my college town last Saturday night on a country road with no stop lights or interruptions. It was simply me, the music, my thoughts, and all the wildlife Western Pennsylvania could muster.
As I was driving, I was thinking about the “red light/green light phenomenon.” I was thinking about how it is better to be grateful for the green lights than to stew over the reds.
I had been meaning to write on the topic for a while now, even having a sticky note on my computer about the issue.
It was along the lines of a paraphrased conversation I had many months ago with some friends in an attempt to comfort one (Person A) who felt they’d been wronged:
Person A: "Thanks, guys. People are so nice to me!"
Person B: "Uhm…no they aren't; think about why we’re here…?”
Person A: "Oh, but wouldn't you rather chose to focus on the people who are nice than those who are not?"
I fell in love with this idea. “What you see depends on what you look for.” It’s just like hitting most of the green lights.
Yes, you are going to hit red lights from time to time, but isn’t it better to focus on the green?
Just in the midst of this wonderful epiphany, a car topped the hill and headed down the straight road opposite me. I instantly flicked my bright lights off and was almost insulted when my night-driving comrade didn’t do the same.
For about 45 seconds, I allowed myself to be blinded by his lights until we passed and I turned my own brights back on. Despite my red light/green light revelation, I had allowed myself to, once more, become irrationally annoyed at the man in the tiny car with the bright lights.
I was still thinking about this terrible injustice when I rounded another bend and saw I was sharing our quiet road with another vehicle. Still stewing over the last car, I didn’t react quick enough and for the approximately 3-5 seconds it took to pass this new car, they were blinded by my own bright headlights.
That’s when the real Eureka moment hit me.
I had allowed myself to become annoyed with a human I will never meet to the point that a few minutes later, I became that annoying human with the bright lights.
On a larger scale, this is how many of us live.
We allow whatever hurt us to define us. We become entangled in the excuse of bitterness and anger and, rather than reacting in love and charity, we respond with hate and indignation. We put up our walls and defenses and justify our actions with the reasoning of what has happened to us.
We are not what has happened to us.
By submitting to the crime, we do nothing more than turn into the bad guy ourselves. Instead of looking for opportunity to care, we see opportunity to avenge—maybe even subconsciously, in the case of my accidental “leaving my bright head lights on” moment on a Saturday night. We see and focus on what has already barreled down the road at 55 miles per hour instead of watching our own speedometer. And these are the thoughts of the past that can consume a soul.
Which leads me to my proposition…
Yes, you can use the excuse of “just being blinded” to hurt someone else.
Or you can shake it off and look a little further down the road where an opportunity to show kindness waits just around the corner.