If you want to reveal a person’s true personality, put them behind the wheel. There’s something about driving that causes us to regard any veneer of civility, and our true colors bleed through. Pete and I drove over 5,000 miles this month, from our home in Colorado to South Carolina, then Florida, and finally, Chattanooga, Tennessee, before returning home. Since the northern states were experiencing snow and ice, we chose a more southern route—we encountered no snow, but our choice made our trip a bit longer. Most of those 5,000 miles were on interstates.
I’m glad we survived.
Pete and I are both pretty much stick-to-the-limit drivers. We may inch a mile or two over, but I have no qualms about passing—or being passed by—the highway patrol. Apparently, we’re in the minority. From our observations, drivers in Texas and Arkansas tended to be like us, hanging out someplace near the speed limit. But Georgia and South Carolina were another matter entirely. Cars averaged ten to twenty miles over the posted 70 mph! In addition, most of Georgia is designated a construction zone, with doubled fines, although we rarely saw any signs of actual roadwork. Regardless, no one slowed down. At all. We found driving in these states to be stressful and exhausting as we were constantly moving left to pass a truck, then right to allow everyone else to pass us.
Of course, there were exceptions, but the number of speeders was sufficient that Pete and I commented on it. As we talked, we realized that these drivers illustrated a valuable principle. (We tend to have “unusual” conversations.) If a police car appeared, everyone slowed down. But the moment the police presence was gone, they all speeded up again. Clearly, the drivers were concerned about getting a ticket, but they didn’t care if they broke the law.
There’s a difference between being sorry and being repentant.
Once in a great while, we saw a car pulled over with flashing lights parked behind it. I bet that driver was very sorry—sorry he got caught! The question is, is he also repentant? Will he decide not to speed anymore? Being sorry you got caught is totally different than being sorry and changing direction so that you don’t repeat the wrong behavior. Judging from the flow of traffic, it seems that most drivers getting tickets weren’t the least repentant!
Children offer the perfect example of this difference. Caught with their hand in the cookie jar, are they sorry that mom or dad noticed? Or do they really promise to try and obey in the future? When one of our (very young) granddaughters grabs her sister’s toy, is she apologizing because mom is making her? Or can she identify with the hurt feelings she’s caused, and determine that she won’t take someone else’s toy again?
The news is full of people being sorry. Politicians seem to be apologizing for all sorts of misbehavior, from accusations of racism to cheating in an election. With social media shining a spotlight on everyone’s past and present behavior, I’m sure we all have something to apologize for. But are those people actually changing? Are they sorry they did what they did, or just that someone pointed it out?
Integrity seems to be a disappearing commodity, especially when it comes to politics. Yet, it’s one that I value highly when it comes to deciding which candidate to vote for. While everyone makes mistakes, what I want to know is, what are they doing about theirs? Sweeping the misdeeds under the rug—or determining not to repeat them?
And what about me? When confronted by someone, do I simply try to smooth over the offense, or do I admit fault, ask forgiveness, and change my direction?