Home > Lessons I've Learned > A Day in Court [**]

A Day in Court [**]

A few years back, I was involved in a drawn out court case. I routinely had to visit the courthouse to get paperwork, submit paper work, appear before the judge, etc. The case involved lawyers, dockets, calendars, bailiffs and all the other stuff you might know about court cases. What you may or may not know is that, unlike what you see on television and movies, court trials and hearings and all that, more often than not, are boring at best and frustrating at worst. My case was extremely frustrating for both sides. There was lots of hurry up and wait and a plethora of disappointment. 

One day I headed to the courthouse with a stack of about 30 or so papers that I needed to file with the clerk. Having been through the experience a few times before, I braced myself for a 30 to 90 minute wait in a slow moving line surrounded by other equally frustrated people. This is not my ideal way to spend the afternoon. So, even though I was just dropping off papers, I was already very tense and stressed.

I exited the elevator for my floor and made my way into the room with the line. I knew exactly where to go and I wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible so I sped right past the woman at the door who was acting as a sort of “Welcome / Information” booth. She was helping a man and a couple more people were waiting behind him so I thought to myself how grateful I was that I didn’t have to wait in her line too. Imagine my annoyance then when I heard her call me back. I didn’t have time to talk to her! I knew where I was going and I didn’t need her help! She politely threatened to have me kicked out of the courthouse if I didn’t wait in her line and then she practically grabbed the papers right of my hands when she finally got to me. Grrr! The frustration began to swell into anger. But wait, it gets better. She looks at my papers and then tells me that I didn’t fill them out correctly! She tells me that I must go down stairs and start all over again! …but …but …but …What could I say? I was furious! I knew the routine by that point. Everything was by the books and if I didn’t follow the rules I only made things worse for myself. So, I snatched the papers back and sulked out of the room like a 180-pound toddler throwing a tantrum for having to take a bath. I was going to do as told but I didn’t have to be happy about it. As soon as I was out of ear shot of the woman, I muttered a horrible profanity under my breath that was directed at her. 

As soon as the profanity had exited my lips, a feeling of remorse swept over me. It was as though I had killed her cat or keyed her car or something. She couldn’t even hear me but I felt horrible. Within seconds I began seeing her not as a court employee but as a person with feelings, a family, and hopes and dreams. She was just doing her job like she does it every day. She wasn’t mean or purposely hurtful. She was just doing her job.

I went downstairs and spent the next 20 to 30 minutes fixing my paperwork with the help of some whiteout and another court employee. I then proceeded back upstairs. As I headed back up, I remembered how I had mistreated the woman at the “information booth” and so I resolved to apologize to her (even though she didn’t even know what I had said about her in secret). Sadly, she wasn’t there. Perhaps she had gone on her lunch break or something. I don’t know. I actually considered tracking her down since I am sure she must deal with a lot of bad attitudes such as mine and it might lift her spirits to receive something positive for a change. Alas, I never saw her again.

Instead, a different woman was there and she didn’t seem intent on stopping me if I had walked on by to finally get in the long line. I had gotten over most of my frustration by that point and was a little deflated since I was unable to apologize, so I stopped at the information booth to have the new woman double check my papers before I got in the long line. She flipped through the pages, stated with a smile that they all looked good, and then stamped them. I stood there waiting for her to hand them back and gave her a look that said, “Thanks, can I have them back now?” But she said, again with a smile, “That’s it. You don’t have to wait in line. You are all done.”

If I had brushed off the first woman, I would have waited 30 to 90 minutes before finding out that I had to fix my papers. She saved me up to an hour and a half!

The Bible is very clear that anger is not a sin of itself. There are numerous accounts of God’s anger in the Old Testament (Exodus 4:14, Exodus 32:9-14, Psalm 86:15, and many more) as well as a few in the New Testament (Mark 3:4-5, John 2:13-17). At the same time though, the Bible very clearly warns about the dangers of letting your anger lead you into sin.

“In your anger do not sin”: Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, and do not give the devil a foothold.

Ephesians 4:26-27 (NIV)

My dear brothers, take note of this: Everyone should be quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to become angry, for man’s anger does not bring about the righteous life that God desires.

James 1:19-20 (NIV)

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