A few days ago I was driving to the airport during rush hour. One driver swerved in and out like a maniac in the heavy and slow traffic. He tailgated me closely for a while, but then changed lanes and tailgated many other drivers. At one point he passed me, and I could see his face clearly enough to know that he was anxious, angry, and unhappy.
About fifteen minutes after his initial tailgating of me, he cut directly in front of me, which meant that in fifteen minutes of tense and frenetic driving, he had accomplished the feat of moving ahead two car lengths. That’s a lot of work for very little yield.
I tend to scan both far ahead and close by as I’m driving, so at one point I noticed that the traffic was slowing a hundred yards ahead of me. Brake lights were coming on in sequence, but the driver ahead of “my tailgater” didn’t notice this immediately, so by the time she did see that the car ahead of her was slowing down, she had to slam on her brakes to avoid a collision.
My tailgater didn’t notice her sudden stop for a second, so by the time he slammed on his brakes, it was too late, and he slammed into the car ahead of him at about five miles an hour, which did a fair bit of damage to both cars. I was not tailgating, so I was easily able to slow down in time to avoid the accident.
Everything in life—including our choices—has a price or consequence that is irrevocably affixed to it. For a while, the tailgater appeared to be “getting away with” paying the price for his irresponsible behavior, because there were no accidents, but he did pay the price of being tense and angry, as well as increasing the tension of the drivers around him. And he increased his chances of causing an accident, which did not happen for maybe the first fifty of his foolish moves.
But then the odds caught up with him, and he slammed into the rear of the car ahead of him. The cost for that moment of inattention and disregard for safety was significant: he was obviously delayed in his journey, he had to get his car repaired, he had to interact with the unhappy driver of the other car, his insurance rates probably increased, and possibly more—like losing his license if that accident put him over the state limit of citation point, or being jailed for driving under the influence if indeed that were revealed by a breathalyzer.
Commonly we appear to “get away with” our unloving choices, but we really don’t. We always suffer the ultimate price of being unhappy, and the more we’re unloving, other consequences come into play:
- We “slam into” other people as we wildly swerve here and there, serving our own interests.
- We isolate ourselves, as people distance themselves from our selfishness.
- We become exhausted as we continuously manipulate people and circumstances to meet our selfish needs.
- Increasingly, we become blind to the existence of loving choices—a condition of misery and despair.
We love to say, “I can choose as I wish,” but with those choices always comes a price, and usually we don’t get to choose the consequences. We are wise if we remember this as we consider our choices.