My children are annoyed that I never use the car’s horn. “What do you think it’s there for!” they cry as someone cuts me off.
My family and I have a philosophical disagreement: They think the honk capability of my steering wheel is for announcing displeasure at the rudeness or idiocy of another motorist; I think the startling honk is for averting upcoming danger. Consider the superiority of my position, dear reader—the sensibleness of alerting of a future unpleasantness, versus the pointlessness of railing against a past unpleasantness. There is nothing one can do about what has passed.
In addition to that restraining reason, I refrain from slamming on the horn because of a kind of largesse toward my fellow man born of an active conscience. That is to say, when a driver selfishly slides through what was a green turning arrow three cars after it has turned decisively red, I remember the times I have done that myself. God has endowed me with just enough self-awareness that I would be embarrassed to feign dumbstruck indignation at a person who is doing on Walnut Street what I recently did on Chestnut Street.
But it is perplexing how we forget our sins of a moment ago and then self-righteously punish the next transgressor of our own peace, as if we were innocents. It is exactly like the parable Jesus told of the man who is forgiven an act of larceny—and 10 minutes later rings the scrawny neck of a guy he meets on the street who owes him chump change.
This amnesia for our own sins, and keen memory for those of others, would be comedic if it were not so consequential. The apostle Paul called his readers’ attention to it in his letter to the Romans:
“… you have no excuse, O man, every one of you who judges. For in passing judgment on another you condemn yourself, because you, the judge, practice the very same things.”
Because you and I do more talking than driving in the course of a day, it is important that we see how we should apply the principle to our speech, as it is written in Ecclesiastes:
“Do not take to heart all the things that people say, lest you hear your servant cursing you. Your heart knows that many times you yourself have cursed others.”
You immediately protest: “I have cursed others? When?”
This is precisely the point: Just as you do not even remember all the wretched words you have casually said at parties and on the phone about others, it is best to cultivate the same kind of amnesia about the hurtful things people say about you. Chances are, they have long forgotten that they said it.