I’ve spent a week trying not the use the word “jerk.” I’m generally a polite, open-minded person, and I take seriously the teachings of the Sermon on the Mount. When I’m driving my car, however, and someone else tailgates me, cuts me off in traffic, or drives in a manner that irritates me, I’m quick to react with language I learned on the playground many years ago. Amazing how those name-calling reactions are so deeply embedded.

I’m a work in progress. I think I made it through the week without calling anyone a jerk. I found a couple of other words to use instead. When my children were little and riding in car seats in the back seat, I’d hear one of them call out the window, “jerk,” to someone driving nearby (that seems to be my word of choice when I’m being uncharitable to my neighbor). That would stop me for awhile, and I’m aware that I have much less anger and impatience than I did when I was driving in those days.

My older child and I had a deal at one point … If I spoke unkindly about another driver, I had to put a quarter in a jar … she kept track for me quite diligently. She had to make her own contribution for some behavior that I can’t even remember now. Eventually, we gave the money to a mission effort at our church.

My work needs to go deeper than giving up a word, I’m realizing, but I suppose it’s a place to start. I’m going to try to go another week, this time putting a reminder on my car’s visor. Then, perhaps I’ll take a deep breath and relax before reacting angrily.

Christina, WA