For almost 20 years, I have corresponded with a prisoner who once found himself caught up in a road duel on the interstate near where I live. To end the altercation, my pen pal emptied his loaded revolver into the cab of a pickup truck, killing the driver.

My original intent in writing this prisoner was to try to understand road rage. You see, I find his split-second anger in myself, and although mine is less dramatic and has been tempered over the years, the impulse to immediate, defensive anger toward someone who cuts me off on the highway is always there.

But I have found what helps me: a contemplative heart that rests in my true identity as one beloved by God. David Benner offers us the radical example of Jesus, who “chose his true identity as the deeply loved Son of God.”[1] For me, to make this more than just a good thought requires the practice of contemplation. William Johnston writes:

When one is lovingly attentive to the mystery and lovingly attentive to oneself, one comes to understand one’s inner movements. … And when one comes to recognize the presence and absence of love within oneself, then one is capable of discernment. For discernment is precisely this: the sorting out of love and hate within oneself, so as to follow the love and avoid the hate. And all this is part of the contemplative experience.[2]

I came to contemplation out of necessity—to save myself and others from my impulsive anger. But I’ve found in contemplation profound peace and a true identity.

[1] David G. Benner, The Gift of Being Yourself (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press), 2004, p.99

[2] William Johnston in Religion and Culture: Essays in Honor of Bernard Lonergan, S.J. edited by Timothy P. Fallon and Philip Boo Riley (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press), 1987, p.39

Don Simpson:
Don Simpson is a certified spiritual director in Colorado Springs and is senior editor at NavPress. He is coauthor with Dallas Willard of Revolution of Character (NavPress, 2005). He also participated in launching Discipleship Journal and The Small Group Letter, and was cofounder of Helmers & Howard, Publishers.
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