Confrontation

One lesson we can learn from driving is that you can’t please everyone. For some you drive too slow, and for others you drive too fast, as well as endless other helpful “observations”. It must say somewhere in the driver’s manual, “use your horn to educate your neighbor”. My latest example had an interesting outcome that encourages wonder about the meaning of this encounter.

The car before me avoids a slowdown bump by driving around it on the shoulder of the road.
What made this unusual was that instead of using this trick to continue at normal speed, he slowed up even more than the normal driver who would take the bump. Somewhat confused by his unusual slowness, I chose not to wait for him, but continued at normal speed, taking the bump and passing him while he was still on the shoulder.

Apparently this was not acceptable to him, since he gave me an educational honking as I continued to put a significant distance between us. It occurred to me that it would be interesting to have a conversation with that driver about what happened. How would he criticize me? What would I reply? I didn’t see that there was anything wrong with the way I passed him.

Well, I got home just in time for evening prayers at my neighborhood synagogue, and on my way out someone calls my name. “Aryeh, you know you did something very dangerous when you cut me off on the road.” It was a good friend that I truly respect and love, and I was so pleased that this time I had the opportunity to clear up the disagreement.

I listened carefully to his criticism, looking to see if perhaps he saw something that I had missed. However, reacting to the sense that the criticism was unjustifiably strong (if not completely unjustified), I let him know that it’s not correct to drive on the shoulder. And when I expressed my confusion about his slowing almost to a stop, he apparently misunderstood and thought I didn’t realize that I passed him. So he very seriously pointed out that drivers need to be aware of what’s happening around them. When he talked about my cutting him off, I told him that I was never close to his car. Then he accused me of “deliberately” cutting him off and actually claimed that I was lying to him. It didn’t help to tell him that I love him and would certainly not be lying about this. He walked away in a huff of anger.

Now, I could list several meanings to be found in this confrontation, including my opening comment that you can’t please everyone. But if there’s anybody out there reading this, I’d find it very enlightening to hear what your thoughts are about this. What meaning do you see here, and how can it be applied to life in general? If you’ve had similar confrontations, what meaning did you find in them?
(Submitted by Aryeh Siegel)

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4 Responses to Confrontation

  1. Batya Yaniger says:

    Several meanings shout to me from here. One of the ways life challenges us is to not care what other people think about us. I’ve had people like that in my life and it’s kind of a cross between feeling embarrassment and despair. – This person is walking around thinking such and such about me…I have to remind myself that in the big scheme of things it doesn’t matter.

    Because of these kinds of situations we have the Jewish law of tochecha (rebuke) which actually means clarification of the issues. When one person confronts another saying “Why did you do this” that person might just find out that the person feels sorry about it or it didn’t happen the way he or she thought. Your friend didn’t give you the benefit of the doubt and didn’t allow you to clarify how you saw the event.

    Maybe this can remind you not to act the way this person has acted. Maybe the experience can remind you that this was his experience of what happened even if he is wrong.

    I think the biggest challenge evident here is to be able to momentarily put our perspective aside and really listen to the other person’s perspective even if we think the other is wrong and even if the other is blaming us. I am not assuming this is in any way simple to do. It would not be a challenge if it were. But I wonder what would have happened if you had listened to attain full understanding as I know you would have done in a situation where you weren’t being attacked, and communicate your understanding of how that person saw things, and only after that to ask the person if he is willing to consider and try to understand how it looked from your perspective.

    There’s a chance this would not work because he might still not have heard your perspective. These are just some thoughts about the meaning it holds for me. (Batya)

  2. אסתר מלכה says:

    I don’t understand what Batya wrote about “not caring what other people think about us”. To me this would seem to be the opposite of being an open and tolerant person. Obviously there may be some cranks out there, but if we assume that most people are normal and acting in a reasonable way, we should try to see it from the other’s perspective. What this guy said to Aryeh was right (as reported in this story), he did deliberately pass him – it certainly wasn’t an accident!

    I think most driving stories are teaching us to be tolerant of the others style of driving, not honking at him to speed up (happens to us all the time), not overtaking, and also of course not going so slow that you annoy others.

    If one is lucky enough to be driving and not walking, I think one can spend a second or two longer and learn patience that way.

    This is just my two cents, and since I don’t have a driving license, it might be worth even less then that 🙂

    • logogroup says:

      I think you are right, Esther and in spite of not being a driver your comment is very valuable. For me, your comment shows how complex it is to understand the other person. I agree that we need to see from the perspective of the other person. What I meant by “not caring what other people think about us” is not to be concerned over someone thinking I’ve done something wrong when I know they are mistaken about me. I can try to explain myself but if I don’t succeed, my own conscience is what matters most. (Batya)

    • Aryeh Siegel says:

      To get the feeling for the meaning of a moment it helps to see the context. The context here was that I actually dreamed of having this conversation after the incident happened on the road. Then, after a calming prayer session, my interlocutor turns out to be a good friend that I dearly respect and admire. What more could you want? It was a perfect opportunity to make peace with the road critics. It was a time to “hold up the world” as Batya so beautifully expressed in her post with that title.

      Although I was eager to listen, I blew it when I failed to just “listen” to my instinct to counterattack and instead reacted on that instinct. So I think that Batya hit the nail on the head when she wrote: “I think the biggest challenge evident here is to be able to momentarily put our perspective aside and really listen to the other person’s perspective even if we think the other is wrong and even if the other is blaming us.”

      From my experience it can be seen how much easier it is to dream about making peace than to make that dream come true. Still, we learn every time we fail, so let’s pray for more success in listening and use the coming opportunities to open the space to live together in harmony. (Aryeh Siegel)

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