this and this and this.) I can't decide if it's because I'm at Costco all the time, or because extraordinary things happen there. Maybe both.
So I was driving through the Costco parking lot last week, when I was startled by a sudden BANG on the roof of my van. I slammed on the breaks and looked around. And older man was glaring at me, and yelled, "Get off the phone, you dumb ***!"
Thankfully, I had just hung up.
I had no idea what made the man mad, but now I was mad, too! I parked and walked inside steaming over his behavior toward me. Obviously I hadn't been driving that fast, if he had enough reaction time to thump my roof with his fist!
By the time I reached the checkout, I had cooled off, but then there he was--just ahead of me in line. Immediately, my anger spiked back up to boiling.
I'm not going to tell you what I said first. It was a zinger, and I regret it. (If you read my last story about the gas station, you know I've got it in me.)
The man didn't respond, and just looked straight ahead. Which was a gift. I collected my heart, and what I said next was what I wish I had said first.
I touched his arm and said softly, "Hey, Mister... I really am sorry if I made you feel unsafe. I wouldn't want to hurt you."
He turned a bit toward me and said, "Well, I'm sorry for the way I behaved..." He truly did look sorry.
Just that morning, I had been reading in Ken Sande's book, The Peacemaker, about how amazingly often people respond in kind. If you yell at them, they yell back. If you accuse them, they accuse you. If you defend yourself, they defend themselves. And if you apologize for your share of the blame, they'll own their part as well.
As I walked back to my car, I realized in amazement, that this is what had just happened with the car thumper guy. I had apologized softly, and he responded in kind. I owned my fault, and he owned his.
Blame-shifting--or pointing exclusively at the other person's fault--is a far more natural response to conflict. It started in the Garden of Eden and has been happening ever since. But Jesus said, "Blessed are the Peacemakers." Or happy are the people who make peace.
Whether the conflict starts in a parking lot, the church foyer, or my bedroom, if I toss out zingers and insults, they'll just boomerang back to me. But if I toss out peace--even to a grumpy car thumper--it's amazing how often peace will return to me.