Have you ever asked yourself, “How on earth could he do that?”
One sunny Sunday afternoon last July, a man in Oregon went for a drive.
The open road can invite some of us to lay hard on the accelerator just to see what the car will do.
This man was living out his fantasy of being on the racetrack. He would tailgate cars until they moved or got plowed under. He changed lanes erratically like a car with no brakes winding down the side of a mountain.
This story would be unknown to you except for the fact that he passed an unmarked police car.
The deputy gave chase as the driver sped up and slowed down several times as if issuing a silent challenge to race. The deputy followed the man at speeds of up to 109 mph before he pulled him over.
As he approached the car, the deputy noticed there were two small children in the back seat. A five year old boy was in the middle, unbuckled. His two year old sister was in an unsecured car seat.
When the officer asked the man why he was going so fast, he said, “I just installed a turbo charger and I wanted to see how well it worked.”
Apparently, it worked well.
The man was arrested for reckless driving and reckless endangerment.
The kids were returned to their mother.
It’s really easy to ask, “Why on earth did he do that?” when you’re talking about a stranger.
This summer closer to home a woman had been out drinking.
Then the party ended, so she decided to go home. She got behind the wheel and the spell of the open road captivated her. Her foot got heavy on the accelerator, pushing it to 83 mph when a county officer clocked her.
He then followed her and slowed her down to zero.
The woman refused sobriety tests. But the smell of alcohol betrayed her, so she was arrested and taken to the county jail.
Then suddenly, after she had been there about 40 minutes, she was in distress. Paramedics tried valiantly to revive her and took her to the hospital.
Minutes later she was pronounced dead.
The autopsy revealed she had hung herself in the jail.
When I saw her name in the paper, I remembered the always friendly and beaming middle school girl I shared some classes with.
Then I found myself appalled, asking, “Why on earth did she so that?”
Years ago, I was sitting in a parking lot at UGA. It was 9 AM. I had no sense of direction. There was no life purpose with my name on it. No woman was waiting for the day when I’d become her knight in shining armor forever. No college major grabbed my heart and said, “you were born for this!”
So I opened a half pint of whiskey, poured it over some Coke, drank it all and sat there.
As I recall that dreary morning, I ask myself, “Why on earth did I do that?”
There are three things I’ve learned as I’ve heard stories of people’s stupid behavior.
First, it’s easy to point our fingers at someone when their problem isn’t ours. Ah, it just feels so good to be self-righteous! It’s especially easy to do when it’s a stranger.
But when it’s a friend, we find ourselves wishing it wasn’t so. We want to believe the best about the people we like. That’s why we feel like we’ve been struck by lightning when we hear bad things about our friends.
When we find ourselves in that unflattering position, we just want to run and hide until it’s all over and everyone’s memory of it has faded like dust blown away by the wind.
The second point is that under similar circumstances, we might make the same decisions as those we gawk at when they fail. “There but by the grace of God go I.”
The third point is to accept the truth of the following maxim. “I’m not perfect. I’m just doing the best I can. That’s all anyone anyone can expect.”
Friends, if we do that, then we can surely reduce the times we find ourselves in the spotlight of shame.
Or at the very least, it won’t be because we did something totally devoid of thought and reason.
You think about that before you point your finger.