Use the Brakes, Not the Horn

📅 October 3, 2020

How many times this past week have you found yourself spouting off some wise and pithy saying, beginning with, perhaps, “Well, you know what they say…” ?

When the going gets tough, the tough get going.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

You can bring a horse to water, but you can’t make him drink.

Experience is the best teacher.

These sayings pepper our conversation more often than we realize.

Add company slogans and mottos and we have a whole arsenal of ready-made advice.

On Saturdays during October, I will be discussing some slogans (in the broad general sense of that word) and hopefully gleaning some wisdom from catchy…or thought-provoking sentences.

I can never ponder wise sayings without thinking of my father first. He had a saying for everything. The main thing he advised me that saved me from trouble many times was:

“Use the brakes, not the horn.”

Advice I also passed on to my children.

“Use the brakes.”

When a car pulls out in front of you, don’t bear down and blow the horn. You run the risk of being hurt yourself, banging up your car, or these days, being the victim of road rage.

So no matter who was right, who had the right of way, yield, slow, fall back, stop if necessary.

Does that ever have a double meaning…

And that is exactly what I intend.

“Use the brakes” is good advice in any setting.

Unfortunately, in the present day, we do not see this behavior—yielding—modelled in any setting.

Precious few people are willing to throw the brakes on when an argument is about to ensue, when a subject arises on which they have strong opinions, or on which they believe themselves to be expert.

Add a history of arguing, a mulling over past sins by either party or both parties, an unwillingness never to be wrong, and always to have the last word and “brakes” are not often used.

And yet, this was the advice of one of the most prominent men in history: General George Patton.

“Never engage in a battle in which nothing is to be gained by the victory.”

Of course, he meant literal battle when lives were at stake, but the principle still stands.

If you are about to engage in an argument and:

You know nothing you plan to say will change the other person’s opinion;

Nothing the other person is going to say will change your opinion;

You have argued about the same issue before with no good effects or results;

The problem is not fixable now or ever will be,

Then “use the brakes.”

Talk about something else.

If you can’t talk about something else, then part.

This is a scriptural principle.

Barnabas and Paul—both good men—could not agree, and they separated.

Acts 15:39 And the contention was so sharp between them, that they departed asunder one from the other: and so Barnabas took Mark, and sailed unto Cyprus;

Consider: why do you want to “use the brakes” to stop you from colliding with another car—whether the driver was right or wrong?

Because you want to protect yourself, your passengers, and the other travelers on the road. The children who are travelling with us through life are watching and learning from our example.

Someone needs to see they arrive at adulthood safely, able to interact and profit from relationships with other people, equipped to cooperate in the workplace and neighborhood and church.

Psalms 37:8  Cease from anger, and forsake wrath: fret not thyself in any wise to do evil.

Proverbs 20:3 It is an honor for a man to cease from strife: but every fool will be meddling.

Use the brakes, not the horn.

Here’s the best reason:
I Peter 5:21-24 For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: Who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: Who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: Who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed.


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Holly Bebernitz

Native Texan Holly Bebernitz moved to Jacksonville, Florida in 1967. After thirty years of teaching speech, English, and history on the secondary and college levels, she retired from classroom teaching to become a full-time grandmother. The change in schedule allowed the time needed to complete the novel she had begun writing in 1998. When Trevorode the Defender was published in March 2013, the author realized the story of the Magnolia Arms was not yet complete.


Semi-Finalist - 2021 Royal Palm Literary Award Competition - Florida Writer's Association