While driving home from work last week, I experienced a humorous situation which presented me with a learning that is worth repeating here. Taking my normal route home on this afternoon, I came upon a silvery grey vehicle that was travelling towards me in the opposite direction. Blending into the shadowy gravel of the road, I found myself struggling to see it clearly as it approached from a distance. Immediately noticing that the driver did not have their headlights on, I thought it best to flash them with my high beams to alert them of their oversight.
Feeling like I had performed a civic duty of sorts, I came to a stop at a set of lights that had moments before turned red. Looking to my dashboard as an afterthought, I observed that my own headlights were not activated. Confused by this occurrence, I moved to turn them on and they readily worked. Wondering why they had not turned themselves on automatically as they were designed to do, it hit me like a ton of bricks that my headlights were not the problem.
Forgetful of the fact that I had on my dark tinted sunglasses, I laughed to myself at the joke being on me. Wryly taking them off my face, everything appeared as normal for that time in the afternoon. With my surroundings lightened by the receding sun’s rays, I looked around at all of the other cars on the road with their headlights turned off, and felt like a fool for acting so self-righteously.
Now attuned to my error, I came to appreciate its inherent value. Teaching of the virtues of awareness and humility, I learned a lesson that I needed to be taught at that time. Paying only the small price of private embarrassment, I was very grateful for having escaped the situation with my dignity largely intact. Still laughing about the episode when I pulled into the driveway at home, I knew that I had to write about it to unpack the broader meaning that I took from this happening.
So often in life, we react impulsively without thinking deeply about what we are faced with. Observing something that we perceive as disagreeable, we don’t even question the judgment that we have made. Blindly convinced of our own correctness, we readily move to assert our self-ordained superiority. Making ourselves heard in that process, the world knows where we stand. But what of the instances when we stand in the wrong spot? Here, it is crucial to create the space to self-access and regain a foothold in reality.
Like the tenuous position that I found myself in, we do not always get it right, despite our best attempts to make sense of the world. Being only human, we inevitably must admit to having blind spots that contribute to the mistakes that we make in the world. Presenting an opportunity for reflective growth, these fertile grounds of learning are rendered barren when we have not the humility to admit to our shortcomings, and correct our limited perceptions. Being able to admit to these shortcomings is not a sign of weakness, but a sign of personal strength. Only the strong can look honestly at their perceptions, and not have them tainted by the ego’s artificial light.
In a more natural light, we can see that so much of the world’s dysfunction is perpetuated by our stubborn insistence on asserting our righteous positions, irrespective of their effects on our immediate surroundings. Lacking in this fundamental awareness, we act as impaired motorists who have obscured the path forward through our own misunderstanding.
Hypocrisy is a curse that can be broken by integrated awareness. Allowing the light within to teach us about a deeper reality, our responsiveness to its movements become the gift that we bring to the world. There is no shame in having to fall back when the situation demands it. The hollow victory is one that entrenches us in our own ignorance, whereas the genuine triumph liberates the truth in us. When was the last time that you confessed, ‘I am wrong’. A selfless statement of humility, it is in the same breath a pathway to peace and freedom that the wise heart is never reluctant to travel down.