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Road Rage: How Should You Respond?
By Dr. David L. Goetsch
We have all had it happen to us or seen it happen to others. Another driver thinks you are driving too slowly so he pulls around to pass all the while blaring his horn, shouting out the window, and making obscene gestures. The concept is known as road rage. On occasion road rage incidents become violent.
Did you ever think the time would come when people would shoot each other over minor inconveniences such as driving too slowly, failing to respond quickly enough to a green light, or wanting the same parking space? Though it is difficult to believe it, these things are happening in America. In fact, appalling incidents such as these have become common in today’s culture. Road rage is an example of what happens in a culture devoid of Christ. As a Christian, you can play an important role in eliminating or, at least, reducing road rage.
Road Rage in America
Road rage is anger acted out in negative and even destructive ways while driving. Manifestations of road rage include threats, insults, obscene gestures, tailgating, prolonged honking of the horn, brake checking, swerving toward other drivers, and even shootings. Police receive more than 1,200 reports of road rage incidents every year, many concerning incidents that resulted in injuries and even deaths. Road rage incidents have become commonplace in today’s God-averse culture as shown by the following facts:
– Over a seven-year period, 12,610 injuries and 218 murders were attributed to road rage in America.
– More than 60 percent of traffic fatalities are caused by aggressive driving.
– In more than 35 percent of aggressive driving incidents at least one of the parties used a firearm.
– The most common manifestations of road rage are prolonged honking of the horn, rude hand gestures, and yelling. However, more than six-percent of road rage incidents result in physical confrontations between drivers.
What Causes Road Rage?
When surveyed about what causes them to become angry when driving, respondents typically blame what they view as the inconsiderate behavior of other drivers. Although this rationale is understandable — no one likes rude drivers — it is still wrong. First, claiming someone else is responsible for your anger is excuse making. No matter how rude other drivers might be, they do not control your temper; you do. This is a truth you can share in love with people who are prone to road rage. Second, people who engage in road rage are setting themselves up as little gods who think they are in charge of the world and everyone else should do what they want, when they want, and how they want.
When it comes to anger, people cannot make you mad without your cooperation and permission. Rather than claim other people make you angry, it is more accurate to admit you allow them to make you angry. As sinful people in a fallen world, we all have tempers. At times we lose our tempers and become angry. When this happens, we can choose to control our tempers or let them control us. Losing one’s temper is a choice.
A Biblical truth you can share in love with people who allow themselves to become angry over the behavior of other drivers comes from Proverbs 29:11: “A fool gives full vent to his spirit, but a wise man quietly holds it back.” People who quietly hold back their anger might prevent a situation from escalating and eventually getting out of control, even to the point of violence.
Later, when the incident has passed, people often feel better about having acted in a way that prevented a blow up rather than in a way that contributed to one. Few people will, in retrospect, be happy about allowing a minor incident to get out of control and become a major conflict, especially if things turned violent. After-the-fact regret is common among those who allow themselves to act out their anger in negative ways while driving.
You might also tell people who become angry when driving it is better to be guided by God in these situations than by the behavior of another driver. You might recommend they think about the message in Proverbs 14:17: “A man of quick temper acts foolishly…” This message from Scripture means drivers should never allow another person to control their emotions or goad them into doing something they will later regret. As Proverbs 14:17 makes clear, it is our own tempers that cause us to act foolishly, not the behavior of other drivers or anyone else.
How You Can Respond To Road Rage
As Christians, our job is not to respond in kind to people who lose it while driving and become enraged. Rather. God expects us to play a positive role in reducing road rage. He expects us to show them a better way by reflecting the image of Christ for them. Know what the Bible has to say about this subject. Helpful verses for providing wise counsel to people who let their anger control their actions include the following:
– James 1:19-20: “Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger; for the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God.” These verses may help you provide wise counsel to people who let their tempers get the better of them and act unwisely as a result. Both verses can be especially effective if the person you are trying to help is a Christian but can also be used to point unbelievers to Christ.
– Proverbs 14:29: “Whoever is slow to anger has great understanding, but he who has a hasty temper exalts folly.” This verse may help you make the point that nothing good comes out of letting one’s temper get out of control. The message this verse conveys is do not let your temper cause you to do something you will regret later. Rash actions, once taken, cannot be taken back.
– Ephesians 4:32: “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Even unbelievers understand they need forgiveness from time to time. This verse may help you make the points that to be forgiven people must be willing to forgive others and overlooking what you think is a bad call qualifies as forgiveness. This verse may also help you point people who succumb to anger to Christ.
– Proverbs 19:11: “Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.” This verse may help you make the point that there will always be situations that make us angry if we let them, but rather than give into anger it is better to overlook offenses both supposed and real. Overlooking things that otherwise might make us angry will bring better results in the long run than losing one’s temper. You might also point out that overlooking something that makes you angry is wiser than responding in a way you will later regret.
To speak the truth in love about road rage as part of the wise counsel you give others, you must first know the truth, and God’s Word is the truth. Knowing what the Bible says about anger will equip you to point the way to Christ for people who let their tempers get the better of them. The verses recommended herein are just to get you started. The Bible has much more to say about the issue of anger and, by association, road rage.
Once you have studied what Scripture teaches about anger, pray God will enter the hearts of people who succumb to rage and replace their out-of-control emotions with the love and patience of Christ. When you have prayed, the next step is to make sure your children and grandchildren learn to control their tempers. Teach them to exemplify the fruit of the spirit in their lives. Above all, remember the best way to teach these things to your children and grandchildren is by example. Children in their formative years will be influenced more by your example than your words. Words are still important, but make sure your example reinforces your words.
An anger induced phenomenon such as road rage is less likely to occur in a culture centered on Christ. Be prepared to make this point when you speak the truth in love to people who engage in this destructive practice. When a society pushes Christ out it lets Satan in. Road rage is a tool of Satan. People cannot continue to reject God and expect there to be no consequences. Road rage is just another example of what happens in a nation that rejects God.
Dr. Goetsch is the author of Christian Women on the Job: Excelling at Work without Compromising Your Faith, Fidelis Books, an imprint of Post Hill Press and Christians on the Job: Winning at Work Without Compromising Your Faith, Salem Books, an imprint of Regnery Publishing, 2019: www.david-goetsch.com