“Admitting that you are wrong is a difficult thing to do, but we can get better at it and even embrace it if we chose to.”
I had an interesting experience the other day, and I’d like to share it with you.
I was driving on the freeway, on my way home to visit family for the weekend. It’s common decency, and somewhat of an unwritten rule, that when someone behind you flashes their headlights, they are politely asking you to move over for them. Usually, this is because they want to go a bit faster and get further ahead (and you are in the way of them doing that).
Now, most of the time I don’t necessarily have a problem with this. I can usually see when someone is driving up behind me with that intention, and I’ll move over accordingly. In this particular instance, however, I didn’t. Not because I was trying to be difficult, or because I wanted to prove a point (which I admit I have succumbed to in the past).
I knew what he wanted me to do, as the driver continued to flash his lights, but in the lane next to me was another car flying up with his own agenda. This meant that if I did move over, I would have been rear-ended by that car. So, I sat. I stayed exactly where I was.
I decided that I was not going to go into an accident for the guy behind me. Without him realising, that is what he was asking me to do.
Eventually, the car coming up the other lane passed me. To which, something I’m not a fan of people doing, the driver behind me swiftly moved over into this lane to try and overtake me that way. Clearly, this guy was in a hurry for something.
Murphy’s Law, wonderfully at my behest, decided to enter the chat, and the car that this driver had now pulled out behind (hoping to overtake me) slowed down and he was stuck yet again, this time alongside me.
The irony is that if he had waited 10–15 seconds longer, I would have happily moved over and he could have been on his merry way. Alas, he couldn’t wait that long, and now he had to wait even longer.
Further down the freeway, not too much later, he decided he was going to move back over into my lane and continued to flash me. For some reason, he did not learn his lesson the first time, because there were more cars alongside me now making it even more difficult to move over even if I wanted to.
The beauty of this instance, however, is that there is a speed camera coming up shortly, that I don’t think my new favourite driver is aware of. The sadist in me wished at this point that I could have actually moved over so I could watch him get a fine as he raced past. Alas, again, it was not meant to be.
I also was not going to speed up, potentially getting my own fine, just so that I can move over in front of the cars alongside me so this driver can finally move on. No no, that wasn’t going to happen. So what did happen, you ask? He sat, waiting some more, flashing his lights some more, and no doubt getting frustrated some more.
Once we passed the camera, I had an opportunity to move over, which I decided I was going to take before the third time becomes the charm and his bonnet meets my tow-bar. The best play at this point was to let him go. And as I do so, my window is down to enjoy the breeze, and I motion with my arm, “there you go, the lane is all yours.” A little passive-aggressive, I will admit, but always a satisfying act.
Now, at that point, he realised what I had done. He realised that if I had let him go in front of me when he wanted to (this time) then he would likely have been nailed by said camera.
Once he had passed me, he apologised. He stayed at one speed for a little while and he flashed his hazard lights at me in what is commonly known as a thank you or an apology, or both in this instance because he also stuck his hand up in his rear-view and apologised that way as well.
Most people don’t do any of those things, but this guy made sure to do both, and I felt that. I reciprocated his apology by saying thank you with my own headlights, the exchange ended amicably between us, and we both continued toward our destinations.
Now, I look at that experience, and I realise that even though I did absolutely nothing wrong, I felt vindicated for doing so. I chose to stay within the confines of the law when it came to the speed limit, and I was also not willing to get myself into an accident for the sake of someone else’s impatience.
Even after all the light-flashing and lane-swapping on the other driver’s part, in the end, he came to the same realisation and apologised. Immediately, my frustration dissipated because he acknowledged his fault and took it upon himself to apologise for it.
If you’ve ever had to apologise blatantly, with no recourse, then you know how hard it is. Admitting that you are wrong is a difficult thing to do, but we can get better at it and even embrace it if we chose to.
This experience made me wonder about how often I could have apologised for something when I didn’t, and how that could have made the other person feel at the time.
It also reminds me that it’s okay to be wrong about something and that it’s okay to make amends for that wrong. Even if we feel that perhaps we weren’t in the wrong, we often don’t see the entire picture, and we can miss things accordingly. Important things.
But, in the moment that we realise that we are wrong about something, or that maybe we could have done something better for someone else, it is important to acknowledge it. I think that maybe too often we dismiss our own wrong-doings out of frustration for a situation, and we forget to take a deeper look and see if perhaps we were actually in the wrong or not. Maybe it’s pride, and maybe it’s ignorance, but it shouldn’t be that way.
I know that I’ve fallen prey to this many times, and I’ve succumbed to the pride of wanting to come out of a conflict with the upper hand. The problem is that mindset and that goal, to always come out on top, very easily stops us from being open to learning about something. To realise that perhaps we don’t know everything, and maybe, god-forbid, we are not the proverbial better man.
Maybe the focus shouldn’t be on the better man, but rather on the one willing to learn. Otherwise, you stay the same asshole you’ve always been, and who likes that guy, anyway?