What a traffic jam taught me about humility

photo credit: buzrael via photopin cc

For the first time in my life, I have discovered traffic jams. That’s not to say I have never driven in heavy traffic. But working downtown in a major metropolitan city (with a poorly planned interstate system), my commute is a gamble.

Some days, things will run smooth and I’ll get to where I need to be in a 45 minutes. Other days … not so much and my time in the car can be doubled or more. It all depends on the number of accidents or police cars.

Recently, three different interstates (that inexplicably merge within a short distance of one another) were backed up because of one accident. What takes me five minutes to travel on a good day was pushing 30 minutes. It was aggravating and I was ready to be home.

After finally getting past that wreck, traffic begins to flow until we slow down again. Yet another accident. I felt myself getting tense and angry. What are they doing? Don’t they know how big of an inconvenience this is?

Then I saw the people standing on the side of the road after the wreck. In my irritated state, I glared over, saw the mother’s face and my whole perspective changed.

Thankfully, it didn’t seem as if anyone had been seriously injured. But I saw what I assumed was a mother and three young girls standing beside their vehicle. The woman was holding her own face, clearing distraught and rattled over what had taken place.

Conviction cut like a knife. While I was complaining about being made to go slower than expected on the road, this lady and her kids were trying to figure out what to do with their wrecked vehicle. Their day, much more so than the traffic, had come to a screeching halt.

Look at the accusatory, selfish questions that came so quickly to my mind. What I really meant by those questions could be made clear by adding “to me” at the end of each.

What are they doing to me?
Don’t they know how big of an inconvenience this is to me?

Yes, obviously, the mother on the side of the road with her children safe, but her nerves shot, should be worried about the extra minutes her wreck added to the commute of that one car that just drove past.

With my own selfishness exposed, I stopped being aggravated at her and began to be ashamed of myself. I took a moment to pray for her, her children and all of those that were involved in the accidents. I thanked God for allowing me to get to work and home safely. I asked for forgiveness for being so self-absorbed.

C.S. Lewis, as is usually the case, was spot on when he spoke about what it really means to not be selfish.

Humility is not thinking less of yourself, it’s thinking of yourself less.

What my mental temper tantrum revealed is that I was spending a good deal of time thinking about myself, regardless of the opinion I held about myself. My concern was with my convenience and not much else.

Hopefully, the next time I’m faced with a traffic jam or another annoyance, I will remember that mother’s face and feel the prodding of the Holy Spirit. Instead of selfishly grumbling and complaining, next time I hope I chose to pray and be thankful.

What about you? Have you learned any hard lessons like I did? What helps you keep your attention off yourself and on others?

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Aaron Earls

Christian. Husband. Daddy. Writer. Online editor for Facts & Trends Magazine. Fan of quick wits, magical wardrobes, brave hobbits, time traveling police boxes & Blue Devils.