Good·will·ing·ness = Forgiveness.
While driving downtown today, I entered a turn lane in anticipation of turning left at an intersection. I slowed my car as the stoplight ahead changed from yellow to red. Without notice or signal, the “careless driver” that occupied the lane to my right jerkily veered in front of my vehicle to gain access to the lane that I was in, and then immediately applied his breaks to avoid smashing into the line of cars ahead of him. Fortunately, my foot had been hovering my vehicle’s break pedal at the time, so I was able to stop my car within inches of his bumper. What a jerk he was for cutting me off. He could have caused an accident. I could have been hurt. He could have been hurt. He could have hurt someone else.
A number of blocks beyond the intersection, I recognized the careless driver in my rear-view mirror. Now he was tailgating. I had passed him upon completing the left turn at the intersection–perhaps he was annoyed and out to get me. I imagined him being of a vindictive nature, a road-rage aggressor of sorts. Then I saw the driver pull out from behind me and drive up beside my vehicle. I was being chased. He drove with the same flow that I did–he sped up when I sped up and slowed down when I slowed down. I didn’t dare look over at him, until we both came to a stop beside each other at another intersection. I could feel his eyes on me like a bird stalking its prey. I peeked to the left, and a man with a kind face and a gentle smile stared back at me. He motioned for me to roll down my car’s window, and hesitantly I did, just enough to hear him say:
Miss! I’m so sorry. I cut you off back there because I needed to turn at the light. I’m so sorry. I really didn’t mean to cut in front of you. Please forgive me.”
I was stunned. He didn’t attack, he apologized. In fact, although quick, the tone in his voice and the sincerity in his face made the apology one of the most heartfelt I have ever received. He didn’t need to chase me down. He didn’t even need to feel badly about his actions. But, he did, and that made me feel equally guilty for judging him in the first place–the “careless driver”, who turned out to be one of the most caring (or at least, considerate) drivers I have come across to date.
I rolled the window down the rest of the way, told the driver not to worry, and smiled. As I forgave him, I let go of my snap judgments. I let go of the frustration and fear they had created within me, and I drove away. Perhaps if I hadn’t, I may have carried–or worse, passed on to others–unnecessary anger or aggression throughout the course of my day, simply because someone made a mistake, and quite possibly for an important or noble reason that I wouldn’t know a thing about. Sure, the apology did not change the fact that I barely avoided a car accident today in which someone could have been injured, but the great thing about forgiveness is that it never tries to underestimate, void, or reconstruct the past. Instead, it welcomes a future of greatness in spite of fault through the acts of letting go and moving on, a future ripe with inner strength wherein error can be repaired–and the soul liberated–by pledging to forgive.