While on summer vacation with my kids this past June, I got my first speeding ticket ever! I have been driving since I was 16 and never have I ever received a speeding ticket. When this happened, I knew I was going to get a ticket. I saw the officer when I came around the corner. I saw him whip out after me. I was surprised when the lights did not come on and he was just behind me. Then, with the suspense killing me, the lights flipped on and he pulled me over.
I have heard others talk about this moment and having the courage to say things like “Is there a problem officer?” or even something more clever. To be frank, I was shaken up by the whole experience. To be even more honest, I was disappointed in myself. “Do you know why I pulled you over?” he asked me. It would have been cute or clever to act like I did now know or make up something. To be honest, I felt like I had a valid reason, in part, for why I was going as fast as I was. However, I felt to just say “Because I was speeding.” Then, I apologized.
To me, what was most difficult was the feeling I had inside about myself. I had just broken a long record of no violations.
He did the mandatory things and took forever! I hated how I felt sitting there. My kids were all in the back texting their siblings and friends letting them know “My dad just got a speeding ticket!” I never realized how shameful this whole experience could be. Every driver going by seemed to be saying something contemptuous about me in their eyes and facial expressions! I hated how I felt. To be clear, the hardest part of all of this was not the stares, smiles, or even the surprised reactions of my kids. It was not even my kids reading the messages from their siblings or friends. To me, what was most difficult was the feeling I had inside about myself. I had just broken a long record of no violations. It felt terrible to look at a spotless record suddenly tainted. I could never answer that I had never received a ticket (something I had been proud of). It felt as if all those years of being “good” were wasted and gone forever.
How did I get here? I have always wanted to be a man of integrity and live true to values of being responsible and honest and obedient to the laws of God and the land. These are things I value. So, how come I am sitting here, lights flashing, while I receive a speeding ticket?
Well, my introspection has continued since that time. My kids looked at me so funny when I apologized to them. The office gave me an odd look when I said I was sorry as he handed me my citation and gave me instructions. I even prayed and asked for forgiveness. I felt terrible about this whole thing.
I realized in all of this what had happened. I had not gotten to my moment of speeding shame in one choice. This citation and what I felt were from the realization that I had made and been making a series of choices over the past several years that culminated in this fateful event. I had been rationalizing and making excuses–one little choice at a time that led me to the side of the road waiting under gawking eyes for my ticket and my freedom.
I drove away, going the speed limit, but mind racing. That day’s experience was because of choices I had been making for many years. The first was to tell myself it was okay to set the cruise control 5 MPH over. Then, somehow, that number morphed slowly into 7 over. Then, it became okay to drive faster around the semi truck, Sunday Driver, or person from whatever state we say bad drivers come from these days.
Over time, I began to give no thought for speeding. I mean, I drove extra careful when I had the monitor on from the insurance company so their two weeks of data would show me responsible and careful! I needed that discount. I could drive like an old man for two weeks to save some money. Plus, I beat all of my family and drove better than all of them.
But, that change was short-lived and not motivated by what was inside me. It was motivated by saving money and looking good (and being the victor) for my family. I was soon back to speeding, stomping on the gas a little too much, running more almost red lights, and justifying why I was doing it.
We all do it! Like you, I have had the experience so often of being on the road and no matter how fast I am going, someone races by me! I have felt the frustration of not wanting to go any faster and feeling pressured by the car racing up to kiss my back bumper. I have justified and excused myself. I have even told myself I would never get pulled over because, I mean, look at all the cars right around me who are all going as fast or faster than I am.
However, I learned something profound here. It has changed not just my driving, but how I have been looking at myself. I am scrupulously driving the speed limit now. Even more important, I am looking to see where and when I may be rationalizing myself, my actions, and my behaviors. Where am I living less than where I should be?
I want to be a man who lives true to my values. I want to actually practice and demonstrate my values and not just profess them. I want to have integrity. I want to be true! How can I do that when in the small things, I am excusing my performance or rationalizing being less than I really know I ought to be? Not to mention, how can I justify not doing what I espouse to hold?
I want to live a value-centered, honest, and integrity-filled life! I do not want to speed through life anymore excusing myself and rationalizing my lack of alignment with what I profess to be. I do not want to rush through life and have to explain to my kids, my friends, and others who are watching me why I am getting a citation for not being authentic and true. I just don’t want to do it ever again!
I learned a lesson that vacation that I hope sticks with me. It is really easy to slide away from integrity, honesty, and uprightness! I don’t ever want to veer that far off ever again. So, if you see me on the road of life and wonder why I am going the speed limit, please cheer me on and help me to stay true. I just want to live a life true. That is what matters most to me!