We live in a fast paced, highly stressed society that serves to keep our nerves on edge. We may not necessarily move through our days jonesing for a fight, but we are ready to respond in kind when someone gets in our way. We’ll swap an eye for an eye, and if need be, we can escalate things.
Because payback is a *&#%!
The eye for an eye mentality only lasts so long until eventually, we’re blinded to the kindness in our society. We stop seeing smiles, and only notice grumbly faces. We stop assuming the best, and instead project the worst. We lose trust in the inherent goodness of citizens around us.
But perhaps instead of paying it back, we can choose to paying it forward. Instead of revenge being a dish that is best served cold, we can offer a cup of kindness to warm the hearts of our would be enemies.
I had an opportunity to choose between these payment methods a few days ago. Starbucks is a humdoozy of a place on Saturday mornings, with the line to the drive-up window usually overflowing, but my wife needed a cup of java to stave off her headache. We were trudging our way to the drive-up window, stuck in a line of about a dozen cars. I happened to notice a pick-up truck that needed to back out, but was unable to do so because of the long drive-thru line surrounding the building. I decided to pause my car, and allow the truck to back out, maneuvering a three point turn to exit the lot. He waved, happy to finally have someone who would make way for him to leave.
While this gentleman was backing out, a woman behind me began honking her horn, wanting me to pull up my car. Doing so would continue to block the pick-up, but it might allow this woman to be 12 spaces back from the window, instead of her current fourteen car lengths.
She must have REALLY needed her coffee.
After the honking came the hand gestures. And the facial expressions.
I had a few hand gestures in mind for her, but I chose two.
First, the wave. I was trying to say “Hello, I see you.”
Second, the thumbs up. “It’s all good. I’m just trying to help this guy in the truck out.
But she grew more furious.
And I was feeling it too.
In that moment, I had a decision to make.
Payback, or pay it forward.
I chose the latter.
When finally arriving at the pick-up window, I asked to pay for the coffee of the person behind me.
“Oh that’s so nice. Do you know that person?”
No, I replied. “I just know they need a little encouragement.”
Purchasing a warm cup of coffee was not my natural instinct for this woman. My initial feeling was quite the opposite. But when you’re stuck in the drive thru you have a few moments to think before reacting. You have time to reflect, and hopefully remember times when you’ve taken your stress out on others.
You consider that maybe revenge is best served cold, but it seems our society needs less vengeance and more compassion. Perhaps those tense interactions are unique opportunities to serve a warm cup of kindness. If payback renders us blind, then perhaps paying it forward grants us opportunities to see one another in the light of our Creator.
“If your enemy is hungry, feed him;
if he is thirsty, give him something to drink.
In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Romans 12:20