Ever since he got his learner’s permit (and for a long time before that), my little brother Bryce has been begging me to let him drive my car.
“I’m a good driver,” he would implore me to believe, in as many different iterations as he could think of to say it.
He regaled me with tales of having driven plenty of times already on back roads in Louisiana and even on busy roads here in Dallas with his mom – who, for the record, vouched for his driving acumen.
Bryce also let it be known, in no uncertain terms, that his driver’s education class really had been more of a review for him than a primary learning experience.
But for a number of reasons I always balked when the subject came up about letting him drive.
I’m glad I finally stopped refusing last night.
Peeling back the layers of reluctance
Sure, one of the reasons I said “No” over and over was practical: wondering about the insurance implications of him driving should some kind of accident occur. But really, that was more of a rationalization for avoiding something I was uncomfortable with.
You see, it’s not that I didn’t trust Bryce’s driving skills, his apparent experience, and even the opinion of his mom…it’s just that, well, I didn’t trust Bryce’s driving skills.
At least not in my car with me in the passenger seat.
It all made sense to me at the time, during my numerous refusals to let him get behind the wheel. But after riding shotgun while Bryce drove around Flower Mound last night – in my car (actually a rental while mine is in the shop, but still my rental) – I look back on it and wonder what my issue was.
For the record, I can now join Bryce’s mom in vouching for his solid driving skills.
Of course he has to gain a wealth of experience on the road to become a good and experienced driver, just like any new driver does and just like we all did; but he has all the raw tools of an excellent driver already in place: a defensive mindset, attentiveness, a calm demeanor, and most of all maturity.
That last one was actually the most interesting part of the experience for me.
Our day began yesterday with a bit of immaturity on his part: falling asleep when I was on my way to pick him up so I had to wait 15 minutes in front of his house. The issue was addressed; no harm, no foul. These things happen, especially with 15-year old dudes. A sincere apology and you move on.
But when Bryce got behind the wheel of the car, any traces of the silly kid who stumbled to the door shirtless and yawning after ten minutes of me banging on the front door was long gone. That guy had been replaced by this new guy who talked, acted, and thought like a mature young adult who was approaching a serious task with serious concentration.
It was great to see. It made me proud.
It also taught me a lesson.
A Lesson About Trust and Letting Go
Step 1: Let trust be earned (then grant it)
The first part of the lesson was the importance of trust; specifically, placing earned trust in the hands of people we are close to.
Obviously I would not let any 15-year old with a learner’s permit drive my car. But I’ve known Bryce for a long time. He may occasionally do 15-year old guy things like forget something he needs for his homework or fall asleep in the early evening when you’re coming to pick him up, but those are small potatoes.
Over time he has proven himself to be both smart and trustworthy, and rarely capricious in any way I have noticed, which suggests that he probably is not going to request to drive my car unless he is pretty confident he can do it.
What was missing, quite frankly, was me trusting his word enough to give him the chance.
And that’s what hit me last night before I suggested we go out for a spin: what was I really distrusting of when it came to going out for a drive with him? I couldn’t think of an answer, so I couldn’t justify refusing the request anymore.
Just because trust has not been granted doesn’t mean it has not been earned. Bryce had earned the trust to let him drive my car; the impetus was on me to grant it.
Step 2: Give people the chance to rise to the occasion
The next part of the lesson was a reminder that people often rise to the occasion when you entrust them with a responsibility they are prepared to handle.
It isn’t like I thought Bryce was going to drive like a complete novice or wild man, but I certainly didn’t expect the composure and confidence he displayed. And I never would have gotten to see it without entrusting him with the responsibility of my keys.
He rose to the occasion, and all it took was my trust (which had been earned, remember) to allow it to happen.
Step 3: Let go of control
And finally the third part of the lesson: sometimes we need to just let go. Let go of fear. Let go of control. And let go of the often baseless foundations upon which these feelings can be built.
Admittedly, part of me was a little nervous about sitting in the passenger seat of a car with someone who hasn’t logged very many hours on the road. This is not an irrational fear by any means, but at a certain point it impedes the natural progression of events.
In this case, the natural progression is that Bryce is getting older and the only way for him to become a better driver is for people close to him to trust him enough, and let go of control enough, to sit in the passenger seat while he takes the lead at the wheel.
I finally decided to let go of that final little bit of control, and I’m glad I did.
My nerves were pretty quickly replaced with a cautious confidence that Bryce had a pretty good idea of what he was doing, showed zero signs of recklessness, and that I’d made a good decision giving him the opportunity to drive.
Obviously, a simple mantra like “trust and let go” is not going to work in every situation. In fact, it is totally dependent on the particulars of a situation and the people involved.
But when trust has been earned, grant it. And remember that to grant trust, sometimes you have to relinquish control.
Sure, that can be a bit daunting, a bit scary. That’s okay.
It’s a balancing act that requires keen observation, good judgment, and probably even a leap of faith at the end.
It may not always work out. You may get burned occasionally.
But I bet more often than not it will be a positive experience and result in important steps forward for everyone involved.
It did last night, and I’m glad I let Bryce teach me this important lesson.
Who are you going to let you teach you this lesson?