There are three drive up lanes at the bank...

I had picked the winning lane!

There are three drive up lanes at the bank...
Photo by Nelson Ndongala / Unsplash

A few days ago, I dropped my daughter off at school and needed to run through the bank to make a deposit. Normal day, normal task, I thought. As I pulled up to the drive through, I noticed that all three lanes were busy with customers, and there was one more person waiting before me. But instead of choosing one of the lanes to wait in, this customer had decided that she would sit further back, blocking all three lanes. This would ensure that she would get first pick on the lane that opened up first, as well as ensure that whoever pulled in behind her must wait for her to get first dibs on a lane. So instead of waiting for her, I chose to squeeze in around her and pulled up behind one of the other cars. It just so happened that as I pulled behind that car, the canister dropped down, signaling that their transaction was over and they would soon pull out. I had picked the winning lane!

But not so fast...

A loud HONK and a very angry voice yelling from behind me, "That's my lane! You cut in front of me and took my lane!" Now this is not a shining moment of mine, but I confess that I yelled back, "There are three lanes and you didn't pick any of them! Next time take a gamble and choose your own lane."

I share this story for two reasons: it is good for me to share specific stories of my arrogance and pride with others. It keeps me humble and I always appreciate when others share specific ways they mess up (not just vague admissions of mistakes). But this story represents a talking point that has been on my mind for some time. One perhaps highlighted especially through the pandemic: the issue of entitlement and avoidance of discomfort at all costs.

The woman in front of me tried to avoid being held responsible for choosing ONE LANE, and therefore was avoiding the pain of accidentally choosing a lane that might take five minutes longer than the others. In the book The Coddling of the American Mind, the authors posit that there are three Great Untruths being taught in our culture today; one of these is "whatever doesn't kill you makes you weaker." It's based on the belief that pain, discomfort, and delayed gratification will actually harm you and that they must be avoided at all costs. It breeds another dangerous belief, that human beings are FRAGILE and incapable of coping with pain. This is in direct opposition to modern psychological research. There is even a concept in Dialectical Behavior Therapy called "distress tolerance," which teaches an invaluable skill for dealing with distressing experiences and emotions. This concept assumes that any given person is strong enough and smart enough to learn how to tolerate pain/discomfort and also that they will be able to grow and mature THROUGH the pain. Akin to riding a wave.

I of course have no way of knowing what that customer believes about herself and her ability to handle difficulties in life. My hope is that she was in a rush for a legitimate reason and that she usually doesn't behave in such an entitled way. But hopefully my brief discourse in this article has got my readers thinking about ways in which they (and we all) avoid pain and discomfort because we believe we're not strong enough to handle it. And hopefully, this will be an encouragement to those who are experiencing pain, that they can learn how to tolerate it and eventually find meaning through the pain to lead richer, fuller lives.