I had a service appointment for my car this morning. My overnight shift at work ended at 4:40 a.m., and I drove across the street to the service center to wait until they opened up at 6:30. I brought Jordan B. Peterson’s 12 Rules for Life to read while waiting. I finished up Rule #8: Tell the truth-or, at least, don’t lie. This is an excellent chapter about telling the truth to others and to yourself.
My car was done by 7, and I was soon on the highway home. At 7:15 my newly serviced car greeted the rear bumper of the car in front of me. I slowed down when I saw the brake lights ahead. But when the car in front of me made a sharp dip at the front, I knew my car would not be able to slow down in time. We made contact. It wasn’t much and nobody was hurt, but still contact is contact. We called the police and did all the things you do post-accident. The officer issued me a citation, told me he understood the situation, and if I appeared in court, they would help me out. I was the one at fault.
If this would have happened 5-10 years ago, I may have been inclined to blame anything and everything. It wasn’t my fault that the car two ahead slammed on their brakes. Not my fault that I haven’t gotten enough sleep on this overnight schedule. Not mine that it was past my usual bedtime due to the service on the car. Heck, it wasn’t my fault that the Fates lined up against me and dealt this blow.
I could have possibly spun a good story spreading blame, but who the person I am today is not the same person from the past that would have done that. I have been on a stoic journey that is constantly gauging my response to my external environment. I just read Rule #8 about telling the truth. The truth is that I hit the car in front of me. It wasn’t intentional, but I did it. Nobody else, me.
Now the reparations need to be made. I owe the legal system and the insurance company. This will cost my family money that could be better utilized elsewhere. This will cost me time away from work to make a court appearance. When it is all said and done, there will be a price required for what I did.
Everything in my life seems to be a lesson these days. Take my health for example. I may be my fittest in years. I exercise every day. I eat healthy. I believe I am doing all the right things. A few weeks ago, I got the flu. How could this be? I’m doing all the right things. But no matter how strong and fit I make my body, it is still a fragile, frail human body. It was a ridiculous thought that I could overcome the ability to get sick through fitness. Maybe I can offset a few of the effects or recover faster, but be immune to illness? What’s next in this illogical thought process? Overcome death somehow. Absurd.
The lesson that I am learning is not how to control future events. I can prepare and try to prevent all I want, but I am far from omnipotent. The lesson is about how I respond to adversity. Can I tell the truth even in difficult situations, to others and to myself? Can I not be angry when I feel like I have been dealt a bad hand? This is life. The opportunity for learning these lessons will be present until death, and it is not just a lesson for me. It is one for my son. It is one for everybody. Good times are not guaranteed to last forever. How will you respond in the dark days ahead? When confronted with adversity, will you be able to tell the truth?
Man is not affected by events, but the view he takes of them. -Epictetus