I was in a bad mood on my way to church last weekend, and it had everything to do with the woman driving in front of me. She was going about 5 miles an hour down a one-way street in Washington, D.C., while looking at her phone.
I tried to stay calm and not make a big deal of it. I needed to set a good example for my kids. But the woman kept slowly chugging down the street while keeping that phone in front of her. I figured she was texting someone or browsing social media. I felt more and more irritated.
Finally, I couldn't take it anymore. I was about to miss a green light because of the dawdling driver and I honked my horn at her. It was just enough to grab her attention and get her moving a little faster.
"I don't like to honk at people," I told the kids, "but sometimes you've just got to wake people up."
The woman kept driving in the same direction we were, and as we were almost to church, I realized that we had been following her there the whole time. Sure enough, she pulled into the parking lot and drove off to find a space. She had probably been using the GPS on her phone to figure out how to get there.
I eased into a space in the church parking lot that was far from where she was headed. I didn't want her to realize that I was "that guy" who had honked at her. I had assumed the worst and it was too late to take it back.
Within a few days, drivers in D.C. traffic would probably assume the worst about me -- except I had the opposite problem: I was going way too fast.
My son's body was covered in blazing pink hives from an allergic reaction and we were afraid he might go into anaphylactic shock. I was rushing through traffic to meet my wife at the emergency room, cutting off other cars and wishing everyone would see my flashers and move out of the way. God only knows what those people thought of me (if they knew what was going on, they'd be thrilled to hear that my son got the medication he needed and is on the mend).
It's so easy to assume the best about ourselves while imputing ill motives to others. But like my dad once said, "If you've never needed a break, don't give anybody a break. If you've never needed grace, don't give anybody grace. You need it constantly so you need to give it constantly."
Today, you and I are going to get an opportunity to make good or bad assumptions about another person. Sure, we'll have the evidence to try and convict them of their apparent trespasses, but we'll also have an alternative: give them the grace we need. Hopefully, someone will do the same for us the next time we're in their position.