Driving Kindness

Lately I’ve been thinking about driving more kindly. It doesn’t come naturally.

I have a lot of friends who are angry drivers. I hate riding with them. They yell at other drivers as they drive. “What do you think you are doing?” Or make impatient noises indicating their disgust. Or tailgate slow drivers to try to make them uncomfortable. Or complain about how poorly everyone else is driving.

I used to feel a bit superior because I don’t do this. But the other day as I was driving home, I realized how judgmental I am. I may not be yelling or tsking or tail-gating but I’m still thinking those things. “Could you move a littler faster?” “What do you think you’re doing?” “You really think I’m going to let you cut into this lane just because you were too impatient to wait with the rest of us?”

I decided to try driving with loving-kindness. If I drove with loving-kindness, when I’m behind a slow driver, I would simply slow down, keep a respectful distance and think, “Hmm, maybe I need to be reminded to slow down,” or “Maybe they are looking for an address. I hope they find it.” If I drove with loving kindness, when someone tries to sneak into my lane, I’d think, “I bet they didn’t know they had to be in this lane,” and let them in. If I drove with loving-kindness and someone else tail-gated me, I’d say, “Oh, do you want to go by? I’ll move aside.” When I came to an intersection where it was confusing as to who should go first, I would not decide when to go by what is right (“I was here first”) or logic “(Well, he’s waiting for a pedestrian, so I should go.”) No, I would take my turn in the way I assume would make everyone else the happiest.

I have tried to put this into action. I don’t drive that often (maybe once or twice a week) so I haven’t had much practice. I have to tell you it is extremely difficult (at least for me) but it turns driving into a totally different experience.

That cute car is my three year old Ford Focus: Sunny.

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  1. ravenrose   •  

    heavens… I read your stuff in my Google Reader RSS feed, and I didn’t focus on the source of the post as I started reading it. I assumed it came from LifeHacker, the site that provides most of the things I get on doing things better. I thought they had had a great epiphany! but no… LOL

    this is wonderful, of course. I think of all the things in our lives, dealing with our families and driving are the two most resistant to practicing compassion and mindfulness. it’s worth reminding people of this over and over. thank you!

    and thank you for the recommendation of the book The Happiness Hypothesis. it’s grand! I love it, absolutely just what I need. I am actually going to BUY it, which is something for this library addict!

  2. Cathy   •  

    What a great idea! I drive a lot, and totally relate to your “Judgementalism”. I have actually tried to drive more kindly in the past – and it definitely makes driving less stressful, and arriving at my destination in a more balanced state. But I cannot figure out why it doesn’t “take” and I fall back into my judgemental ways so easily…

  3. Judy Eastwood   •  

    I’ve often thought about this, and how a dirty look by another driver really destroys my day. We all make mistakes when driving, but for some reason all the anger from our shadow selves is free to come out during a drive. Maybe because we use so much of our subconscious to actually drive the car, so that our subconscious is right there. In any case, using our conscious mind to be aware and make actual choices is always a good idea. “Be here now” is the call.

  4. Jane   •  

    I used to be an angry driver, and inside the car, the language got pretty “blue” at times. Once I had children, I felt I had to set a better example, so I limited myself to one epithet–“Jackass”–to label less than exemplary driving. I was pretty proud of my behavior, riding around with my three-year-old in the backseat. One day a car ran a red light and almost broadsided us. I was still aghast and speechless at our close call, wben a little voice calmly asked, “Mommy, was that a Jackass?” I had to burst out laughing, and say, “Yes, baby, it certainly was!” Twenty years later, she’s a great driver, and I now smile just about every time I see a Jackass on the road, because it reminds me of that shared moment of recognition years ago.

  5. Jillian   •  

    I just ‘found’ this site. Read about the “driving with kindness” and I couldn’t agree more. I have been doing this for the past couple of years and it is amazing!!! I didn’t come naturally to me either BUT how quickly we can learn if we are ‘in the moment’…being present…really paying attention. I now send drivers loving energy and feelings of ‘peace’.
    I shall continue to read things on here and am signing up for the newsletter.
    Thanks ~ Jillian

  6. Waverly Fitzgerald   •     Author

    @ravenrose: I think you must have got the recommendation of the Happiness Syndrome at Lifehacker, because I’ve never read it. How interesting! I’ll have to look for it too.
    @Cathy: Yes, I wonder why I fall back into this judgmental attitude too!
    @judy: And thanks, Judy, for mentioning the shadow. I think that makes sense, because it does feel like it’s me against them when I’m driving, them being all the other terrible drivers.
    @Jane: Thanks for the delightful Jackass story!
    @Jillian: I’m glad to hear you are persevering in loving-kindness and I will work on sending other drivers loving-kindness and peace.

  7. Ramona Gault   •  

    A synchronicity: I found this item this morning, only an hour after I unexpectedly found myself recalling an anecdote told to me years ago, so I’ll relate it here. The teller is a Tibetan Buddhist psychologist who was giving readings of sacred Buddhist texts to a small group in Seattle. He told us that while learning to drive a car in Tacoma, he stalled the car one day on a hill and couldn’t get it into gear again. A driver behind him honked angrily and repeatedly and then got out of his car and came up to the Tibetan man’s window, yelling at him that he was a terrible driver. The Buddhist man simply and quietly said, “Yes, you’re right. I am a terrible driver.” The angry man looked at our Buddhist in surprise, the wind knocked out of his sails. Finally he said, “Oh, that’s okay, man. It’s all right,” and went back to his car and drove around the Buddhist’s car.

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