I really don’t have a commute per se. I travel the same seven miles back and forth on Hillsboro Road just about every day. If things get dicey due to school traffic, I may get wild and crazy and do a rural-ish backroad and endure a little gravel, worse potholes than the main roads and an occasional wild turkey crossing. All that to say, I’m not one of those hardy commuters braving the ever-increasing number of cars on the interstate headed toward the big city from the suburbs.
Today I joined the ranks of the Nashville morning rush hour parade. I traveled all the way from Exit 69 at Moores Lane to Exit 79 at Armory Drive, which is actually only a stretch of four exits including the one that gave me interstate access and the one that let me escape. I left my house about 7 a.m. because my gas light was on, telling me I had to fill up before possibly getting caught in traffic. Side note: unlike every other time I’ve ever been, the Costco gas line an hour after opening doesn’t resemble a gas line from the Jimmy Carter years.
With a full tank and an optimistic heart, I headed for the interstate. Because I was headed toward downtown, there were signs announcing the HOV lane hours of 7 a.m. to 9 a.m. with instructions that only cars with at least two occupants were allowed in the far-left lane during the morning commute. I faithfully complied and stayed one lane over from the far left.
Traffic moved steadily with only periodic slowdowns. As I continued on my 10-mile adventure, I began to notice that just about every car that passed me in the left lane only had a driver in the vehicle. Over and over again, cars that were ignoring the HOV guideline passed me. I think I only saw two instances where there was a passenger.
At first, I was amused and then I moved toward judgment as I smugly continued to obey the rule many were disregarding. But then I began to wonder if all this HOV boldness was due to no enforcement and a desensitization to the law. I found myself questioning the guideline myself and looking to all the rebels as the new standard-bearers of what truly was expected.
How quickly I let others' disregard for the law lead me to rationalize my own possible disobedience felt all too familiar. How often do I look to the culture’s interpretation of what parts of “the law” to follow? I certainly speed on the regs. I often read tabloid-lite magazines in the check-out line with no intention to buy them, but I’m also the gal who will tell a check-out person if they under-charge me. What exactly is my integrity compass?
One of the required classes in my Catholic high school was a class called “Morality.” I kid you not. I remember more sound bites from that class than any other class I took in high school or college. The Mr. Darst-litmus test for whether something was moral or not came down to “If everyone did—fill in the blank—would it be life-giving or damaging?” So for every corner we cut and rationalize, what would the world be like if everyone behaved that way?
What can feel harmless in an individual, a self-serving instance can become destructive when the societal norm. That is actually a much higher standard than it may seem at first glance. I stayed in the non-HOV lane for the rest of my “commute” but reminded myself that much of the time, I’m the one disregarding the law when it suits me. I’m certainly not advocating for legalism, which is its own slippery slope, but I am challenging myself to notice all the exceptions I make on my own behalf while being critical of anyone not adhering to the rules I actually follow.
Written by Jen Seger, Director of Care. If you would like to hear how the Care Team at Christ Presbyterian Church helps hurting people, please email Jen.