- You make a left-hand turn at an intersection, with your signal on well in advance. The driver behind you stops in mid-roadway, and exits her vehicle to shout at you. You can see her in your rearview mirror, gesturing wildly. Puzzled, you re-examine your actions for several hours, in a fruitless effort to identify what you did wrong.
- The vehicle behind yours persists in tailgating. You can feel the sweat break out on your brow. You check and re-check your speed. Finally, the other driver tears past, and you breathe a sigh of relief.
- Alone at night, in a deserted area, you nervously speed up after the vehicle behind yours repeatedly flashes its high beams. When you do stop at a lit plaza, the other driver pulls alongside to berate you. You are mortified, at a loss how to respond.
Admittedly, there are bullies and lunatics on the road these days. And all of us make occasional mistakes, whether driving or otherwise.
The truth is that we cannot please everyone, even when we adhere perfectly to the rules of the road or the rules of civil society. Unlike the rules of the road, of course, the rules of society are often ambiguous.
But the inability to please others is extraordinarily painful for those of us who are “people pleasers” as a consequence of child abuse. Domestic violence only adds another layer to our distress.
We long for peace, and try to achieve it through compromise. We twist ourselves into pretzels trying to please.
The problem is that we have deep reservoirs of undeserved shame. Our first assumption, in the face of any confrontation, is that we must be in error.
Since all human beings are fallible, we can generally find flaws in ourselves. These do not, however, justify abusive behavior by those with whom we come in contact.
This series will conclude next week.
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