I got yelled at a while ago by a stranger. Full-blown, at-the-top-of-the-lungs yelled at.
I was driving home on a dark, wintry evening and there was ice on the roads. As I was yielding right onto a highway, I saw a break in traffic and thought I had plenty of time to merge. I misjudged the speed of an oncoming truck and the driver had to slow down for me. I didn’t hear any squealing breaks or see any fishtailing. We were approaching a red light so he didn’t lose any time.
But he was very angry. He leaned into his horn, rolled down his windows, and swore at me as though I had driven over his only child. When I didn’t respond, he backed up from the right lane and drove around to the left one to get closer.
I looked over at his red, yelling face, and I felt no motivation to open my window so the sound waves of his anger could fully roll over me.
I wanted to apologize. He was right that I had made a mistake by misjudging his speed. Maybe he had pumped his brakes or skidded a little, and that can be dangerous. But I was pretty sure if I rolled down my window and attempted to apologize, I wouldn’t be able to get a word in before the light turned green. All that would accomplish was the potential of my bursting into tears, so pretending like I didn’t hear anything seemed like a much better option.
I uncomfortably stared straight ahead at the red light—the one that lasted for an hour—before I was able to drive off in relief.
As I drove home, I was reminded of a video game I play called “League of Legends,” and a similar lack of grace that is often displayed between strangers in the game. “League” is a team game, which means you rely on each other to successfully defeat your opponents. Sometimes this also results in blaming each other when things don’t go well. A single mistake can result in comments like, “Ugh, game over,” “GG FF20,” “Never play Jungle again,” or “Mid’s feeding” (if you don’t understand the gaming jargon, trust me; it means your teammate’s mad).
These types of negative comments can cause players to mess up further; they dwell on being blamed and their concentration is negatively affected so they make more mistakes. Shockingly enough, the insults don’t help, but rather they make things worse. I’ve seen a great player do horribly because of a negative attitude from her team (we call this phenomenon “tilting”). I’ve seen a mediocre player do well because of an encouraging comment after a mistake; it works the other way too. But few seem to catch on to this little fact, and most continue to harp on others’ mistakes.
For some reason, there are certain situations where people think it’s especially OK to point out another’s mistake and criticize them for it. Driving and gaming are two of these. We live in a culture filled with anger and self-righteousness, where no one will admit they are wrong and people choose to point out others’ flaws instead.
Sometimes when I’ve admitted I’ve made a mistake, I’m greeted with silence from the in-game chat. When someone’s expecting an angry retort, they don’t know how to respond to, “You’re right, that was my bad, sorry.” They might not offer me forgiveness, but it does shut them up and I can move on with the game.
So I’ve started acknowledging my failures more often. Admitting that I made an error seems to defuse the situation, and hopefully even encourages the angry player to reconsider their hot-headed words and acknowledge that they, too, make mistakes sometimes and it’s completely ridiculous to expect perfection from other gamers when they’re not perfect either! *deep breath*
I wish I’d had the courage to roll down my window and apologize to that driver. Yelling at me like that was not OK. But if I had admitted my mistake instead of saying nothing, or instead of yelling back and defending my decision when I was in the wrong (which is what people seem to always expect), maybe it would have made him think twice. Maybe not. But now I’ll never know.
The reason I want to admit my mistakes is because of the forgiveness model God has set up for those who accept it. I’m so thankful that He offers me grace instead of judgment when I make a bigger mistake in life than having less CS than the opponent’s ADC (too much gaming jargon? OK, I’ll stop).
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast” (Ephesians 2:8-9). I can admit that I want that grace. I can admit that I need that grace. I can admit that I wish people would give me that kind of grace more often.
In what types of circumstances do you need an extra dose of grace? How can you go about asking for it?