Imagine there is a big truck hurtling towards you only a few seconds away. It’s coming directly toward you and shows no sign of slowing. You realize it is only about three seconds away and the driver is staying the course. What do you do?
You keep driving on your side of the road and assume he will stay on his.
Rules help each of us go where we want without worrying about someone else going in the complete opposite direction. So what happens when someone breaks the rules? Let’s change the scenario a tiny bit: You are driving along a two-lane highway with narrow shoulders. A big truck appears in the distance heading toward you. As it nears, you notice the tires are just over the center line and into your lane. Now you are only a couple seconds away and his tires are still creeping into your lane.
How do you feel now? What is going through your head?
I would be worried and planning evasive moves. I would be evaluating how quickly I could move toward the shoulder without jerking the wheel too suddenly. I would be conflicted between driving just over the edge of my lane and wanting to be as far from the other car as possible. My palms would sweat as my heart beat faster. Every moment would increase my anxiety. I would pray he noticed his error in time to correct it before I took evasive action.
My guess is you would, too.
That’s the problem when someone breaks the rules in what could be a dangerous situation. We don’t know if the other party will correct himself in time. We don’t know if they will go farther across that line. Yet, we also know that it’s possible nothing bad would happen at all.
When someone breaks the rules we question their understanding and intent. We wonder if the other person is aware of the danger created. We also know careless people can be as dangerous as purposeful ones.
A friend of mine is breaking a different set of rules – and the potential consequences could jeopardize many people. I believe my friend thinks he is helping others, not endangering them. Then the truck image popped into my head and I realized it doesn’t really matter what I believe. Intentionally or not, my friend became dangerous when he broke the rules.
When must you play by the rules?