Changing Lanes & the Danger of Vengeance


You are running late.  Traffic is bad....really bad.  Someone cuts you off and you almost crash into them.  How do you react?  Hopefully the words that you mumble under your breath are those of forgiveness and love.


In the 2002 movie, Changing Lanes, staring Ben Affleck and Samuel L Jackson, this exact situation is explored. Gavin Banek (Affleck) is a young, brash attorney who is on his way to court to defend his firm in an estate case. Doyle Gipson (Jackson) is a recovering alcoholic and life insurance salesman, who is on his way to court to fight for custody of his two sons. In their rush to get to the courthouse, the two collide, destroying Gipson's car. Banek refuses to exchange insurance information, as he is in a hurry to get to court; rather, he tries to pay Gipson off for the damages he inflicted upon him. Gipson refuses the check, wanting to "do things the right way" and exchange information. Banek believes he does not have time for this and leaves in his still-driveable-condition car, stranding Gipson and his wrecked car on the interstate, along with a key file he needs for his estate case.  Banek shows up late to court and quickly realizes that he left behind the file and must find a way to re-connect with Gipson in order to get the file.  Gipson meanwhile shows up late to his custody hearing and does not receive custody of his sons and vows to punish Banek for refusing to give him a ride to the courthouse.


Instead of trying to resolve the actual problems they are faced with, both Banek and Gipson spend the rest of the movie trying to inflict the most harm possible to the other--sabotaging vehicles and credit scores among other acts of vengeance. 


At the end of this frantic craziness of revenge and anger, both Banek and Gipson quickly discover that the feelings of anger and emptiness they feel are not because of the other, but actually directed at themselves. 


While you and I may not seek to intentionally ruin someone's credit or take the lug-nuts out of all their tires, we commit small actions of anger and vengeance against others all the time.  Are we accomplishing anything in doing this?


Hopefully, you will agree with my answer of "no."  In reality, anger only hurt us, our relationships and our happiness.  


As a Dominican student, I feel privileged to end each day praying compline with my community.  Compline is the night prayer of the Catholic Church.  The reading for Wednesday night compline is from the Letter of St Paul to the Ephesians (4:26-27), "Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, and give no opportunity to the devil."  


Every time I hear this reading it gives me the shivers.  We are not called to never be angry but to deal with our anger in a healthy way--for if we do not, if we sin, what damage might we do?  We must learn to forgive.  We must not allow anger and evil to seize control of our lives. 


We are in the Easter season now, the season that celebrates new beginnings, the death and resurrection of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.  Do we have the courage to give our anger, our grudges and hard feelings to Christ?  To allow them die with him, allowing us to become free, to renew ourselves in Christ's resurrection?


Both Changing Lanes  and the Apostle Paul in his Letter to the Ephesians, challenge us to learn to forgive, to let go, for nothing good can come from keeping grudges.