The Uncomfortable Truth about Backseat Drivers

I’m never quite so aware of my driving habits as when I’m taxiing other people’s children around.

While I would hardly characterize my solo driving as reckless, the chauffeuring of another’s precious cargo induces an acute sensitivity that perceives all stops as too short, all corners as too sharp, and all speeds as too fast. Similarly, a backseat of little people makes me more cognizant of my attitude behind the wheel: There is nothing like the monkey-see-monkey-do perspective of a toddler, with tiny lips poised to mimic, to ensure my attentiveness that expletives are not emitted during the encounter with the swear-word-of-a-red Hyundai cutting me off. The knowledge of being entrusted with another’s life, in addition to the possibility of all details of the trip being narrated back to the first person to offer a chocolate milk, is an immense amount of accountability to fit inside a Civic.

There is a lot of power held in the presence or absence of others.

A community of witnesses can be the magnifier which exposes our weaknesses, reveals our defaults, and offers opportunity for behaviour tweaking to address the blemishes that are difficult to see in the mirror. Conversely, frequent seclusion from community can result in a sloppiness, a rustiness, a laziness, a progressive decay, and gradual desensitization to the role our habits are playing in our lives.

But while we all know we need accountability, the disruption, embarrassment, and discomfort it can cause makes it a convenient topic to ignore.

Our online, drive-through, automatic, email-driven environments feed us the lie that we actually CAN do life on our own, while the evolution of social media deceives us into thinking we’re not. By selectively exposing only the facebook-friendly version of truth to people held at an arm’s length, we confuse publicity for transparency. Likewise, in a culture obsessed with self-improvement, it is easy to adopt leadership jargon in place of authentic communication. By shaping a generation of leaders, we can forget that Christ first called us to be followers, and begin to mentally position ourselves outside, or even arrogantly above, the realm of legitimate feedback.

While we all experience seasons of loneliness, and can even benefit from deliberate spells of solitude, we were intended for community, whether or not we can find that community inside of a nuclear family or not.

It is much easier to find justification for not responding to community than it is to be humble, but too much time in the proverbial car alone results in sloppy driving that can lead to dangerous collisions down the road. If you find yourself avoiding certain relationships for fear of the feedback you’ll be given on a particular topic, if it has been a while since you ventured outside of your comfort zone, if you can’t remember the last time somebody told you “no” and it counted, then you may be due for a road test. Ask God to reveal to you the authentic sources of community that he has made available to you. Choose the company and service of others over the temptation of self-centeredness and personal preference. Embrace encounters that threaten your ego. And, if all else fails...offer to babysit!