Four Words That Can Change Your Day

The other day I was driving back home after dropping a friend at the airport.  On the highway someone merged in front of me into the right lane going about 30 mph.  There was another car in the left lane next to me so I had to slam on my brakes to avoid running into the creeper-merger.

I may have yelled the “i” word in frustration and anger.

As I eventually was able to pull into the left lane and speed past the offender I looked to my right and saw what appeared to be a young Somali woman hunched over the wheel, anxious, timid, and clearly unsure of where she was going.

And four words smacked me upside the head:

I’ve been that person.

No, I’ve never been a young Somali woman, but I’ve been lost.  I’ve been slow and unsure.  I’ve been anxious in unfamiliar surroundings.

I got on the treadmill this morning and had run a looooong time and a loooong ways (ok, it might have been just 15 minutes, but whatever!).  I pressed “pause”, left my towel with locker key attached and popped off to grab a drink from the water fountain.

imagesLess that 30 seconds later I returned to find a woman had gotten on, erased my progress and was ready to go herself!  Noooo!  No record of my hard work??  I considered leg tripping her, but instead tapped her on the shoulder, in my head shouting “Jerk!” which I’m sure was written on my face too.

But then, the four words:

I’ve been that person.

Maybe not in this specific way, but I’ve been thoughtless.

Later I was listening to all the stories about Justin Bieber’s arrest and his downward spiral. I virtually joined the chorus of those lamenting his lack of emotional health and poor choices, me feeling morally superior from afar.  And then those four words smacked me again.


I’ve been that person.

No, I’ve never been a male pop star with millions of fans, arrested in Miami, but I’ve been emotionally unhealthy.  I’ve done and said things that I later was embarrassed about.  I’ve had people shake their heads in dismay at me.

Still later I heard a woman who is incredibly talented, speaking.  She had great words of wisdom to share, but she also made jokes that seemed to communicate, “I’m so much cooler than the rest of you”.  I was bugged.  And I judged.  And found her smarmy and arrogant in the moment.

And then those four words.

I’ve been that person.

No, I’m not a world-wide communicator, but I’ve been insensitive and condescending.  My tone has shouted “superior”.

Each time, those four words changed my whole perspective.  They truly helped me to empathize.  And I could respond with my own 5 words:

Lord have mercy on me.  Someone who is, like everyone – at times lost, clueless, thoughtless, immature, insensitive, condescending….

Lord have mercy on me, a sinner.

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