I was terribly shy in high school, always afraid of saying something wrong or making a fool of myself. Only my closest of friends knew how silly and lively I could be (I’d like to add vivacious and dynamic…witty…a snappy dresser…um, where was I? Oh yeah.). Only around them would I let my guard down.
Ninth grade gym had to have been my most hated class, though not for the reasons you might think. Of course I hated dressing in front of everyone, and the activities were nothing short of torture cleverly disguised as volleyballs or dodgeball, but underlying all this was a distinct dislike between two sets of girls in the class.
One set entailed the popular girls who, as I’m certain you’ve were not nice. One of them happened to be in my Mia Maid Class (girls 14-15) in Young Women, though no one would have known. She went out of her way to ignore my existence at school.
The other set contained girls whose soul purpose in class seemed to be irritating the first group. For the most part their antics didn’t affect anyone else, so like an ostrich avoiding trouble we buried our heads in the ground and tried to ignore what was going on.
One day as gym class was ending we found ourselves locked out of the changing room. Behind the doors we heard giggling and knew someone had done it on purpose. Unfortunately our teacher remained down below to put the equipment away. Some of my class members pleaded with whoever was inside to open the doors.
Minutes began to tick away. Ingrained inside me practically from birth was a need to be early to everything, so as I watched the minute hand move closer and closer to the bell, signaling the end of class, my stomach knotted up.
Finally someone went to get our teacher. As I looked around it became obvious to me who was twittering behind the locker room doors: those who wanted to cause the popular girls a little trouble. The realization set my anger simmering. They’d crossed a line this time. My line.
Our teacher arrived and unlocked the doors, giving the troublemakers a good talking to. It didn’t seem to make a lasting impression. They happened to change clothes in the same area I did, and for several seconds I listened as they laughed and joked about their little stunt.
Though I am a redhead, I have never been known for my temper. It takes a lot to make me truly angry. That day, those girls managed to make me truly angry.
As I pulled out my backpack my temper go the better of me. I rounded on the small group and yelled, at the top of my voice, “What did I do to you?”
They turned, eyes wide and mouths opened.
“What did I do to you?” I yelled again. “Did I make you mad at me? Was I rude? Tell me, please, what I did to make you want to hurt me like this.”
The locker room quieted, faces appeared around the corners to see what was going on. I hardly saw them – my focus was entirely on those four girls. I didn’t turn away, my indignation demanding an answer. One of the girls stammered, “N-n-nothing. It wasn’t you.”
I didn’t feel that was a good enough response. I was going to be late for class and someone needed to answer for that.
“So because you can’t stand them,” I said, pointing to the very girls who blatantly refused to acknowledge my presence, “I have to pay for it. Well thanks a lot.”
After that I stormed out of the room.
Are you impressed I remembered our conversation so well? The entire experience upset me so much I had to write it down later when I got home. In fact, over a week later, I felt awful. Don’t get me wrong. I was still upset with both groups of girls involved. I realized, however, I shouldn’t have let my anger get the better of me.
Anger is a dangerous thing. Elder ElRay L. Christiansen of the Quorum of the Seventy wrote of this danger in ‘Be Slow to Anger’: “To make decisions while infuriated is as unwise and foolish as it is for a Captain to put out to sea in a raging storm. Only injury and wreckage result from wrathful moments.”
Have you ever lost your temper, said or done things you later regret? What remained? Only injury and wreckage. Yet there is hope. If we can humble ourselves enough to ask for forgiveness, repairs can be made. There will always be a scar left behind to remember our actions, though.
To this day I continue to work hard to control my anger. The threat of a blowup like the one I had that day remains slow to come, but I am now aware it resides within me. I watch myself much more closely when I feel as though I’m being trespassed upon. It’s been a difficult lesson to learn, but I realize others may be mean, rude, and insensitive, but I don’t have to be. I always have a choice.
As can be expected, it took a while for things to get back to normal in class. I’d love to say I went to the four girls and asked for forgiveness for losing my temper. There were moments I wanted to. Unfortunately fear got the better of me. It would be even lovelier to report they came to me and apologized, but they didn’t.
Regret is not fun to live with. To this day, many years later, I wish I had at least tried a little harder to be a little slower with my anger.