“Learn to do good; seek justice, correct oppression; bring justice to the fatherless, plead the widow’s cause.” Isaiah 1:17
What is the most nerve-racking thing you’ve ever done? Some of us have a bit more dramatic stories to tell. However, I wrote a paper a while back about what took the most bravery from me on a much smaller scale. Frankly, it took some digging. Preforming on stage, public speaking, swimming with deadly animals… they all seemed like a cakewalk compared to what I really feared most: rejection.
Come along with me on a journey to the time I faced my fear. 🙂
It was the best of times and it was the worst of times… high school. As a teenager meandering through her senior year, I had developed a raging case of ‘senioritis’ and my eyes were firmly set on a future outside of my classroom walls. I liked to think of myself as a ‘Switzerland’ type – I wasn’t grouped with any cliques and I got along mostly every one. I would high-five people while walking down the hallway, only to head down to my car to eat lunch alone. I was never particularly bothered by this because I chose to walk a neutral ground. I wanted to be universally accepted. And to be universally accepted, I had to pointedly lack a vocal opinion on everything and everyone. That all changed one morning.
Sitting in my usual front row, (I liked to be on good terms with teachers as well) I was looking over a study guide. We had a test that morning and the teacher had given us a few minutes to review with our neighbors. The classroom was buzzing and a lot of it had nothing to do with the test. Usually I would converse with the teacher or throw a word or two into the conversation next to me. But on this morning, the group of students behind me were being unusually loud. A group of three boys and three girls were laughing and jeering at the boy sitting to my right.
Now, the boy was admittedly a strange guy. He wasn’t interested in sports or school. He was pale, thin , had braces and large glasses. He had very few friends at school even though he was always trying to make new ones. I had partnered with him during small assignments in the past in other classes because I felt sorry for him. But this wasn’t the first time I had heard other pupils saying awful things about him. My usual reaction was silence. I had a carefully practiced expression of indifference. I knew that if I didn’t speak up about it, then they wouldn’t talk poorly about me either.
I glanced to my right at the boy and watched as he hung his head and shifted uncomfortably in his seat. The snickering the name-calling continued from behind me. Suddenly, my blood started to boil. My heart started to hammer in my chest. The image I had worked so carefully on creating flew out the window as I whipped my body around in my seat. “Hey, don’t listen to them,” I stated louder and clearer than I expected to sound. “Everyone knows that the people who are cruel to others peak in high school.”
The boy looked up at me and grinned. The silence on that side of the room was deafening. I hadn’t come down from my adrenaline high yet, so I turned around to face my friends. In that moment, it was as though they were 10-foot tall dragons with fire coming out of the nostrils. I could feel my heart wildly thumping when I said, “Does it give you some sort of thrill to treat other people like that?” The teacher then cleared her throat to avert everyone’s attention to her as she began to pass out the tests.
What initially followed were a few nasty glares, but I made it out of the confrontation in one piece. The test was a breeze, but while sitting in my chair waiting for the bell to ring, my nerves stared to flare up again. Would I be cornered after class about what I said? My mind started to reel with all of the terrible things I could imagine being said about me…
My eyes shifted to my right at the boy again and I was surprised to see him looking right back. He flipped over his test to the blank side and wrote in capital letters, ‘THANK YOU’. I mentally kicked myself. Does the approval of a bunch of peers I don’t particularly want to spend the majority of my time around really mean that much more to me than someone sincerely thanking me for standing up for them when they couldn’t? I actually worried about the repercussions with people I would most likely have no further interaction with after graduation.
When the bell rang, I gathered my belongings at a leisurely pace. I didn’t look up as two of the girls bumped into my arm while brushing past me. However, while standing up to sling my bag over my shoulder, I felt a gentle hand in its place. I turned around to see one of the girls and the three boys waiting for me. “You dropped your scarf,” she said in a surprisingly tender voice as she handed it to me.
“Thank you,” I replied back slowly, gauging their reactions. They didn’t look angry…
“Hey man,” One of the boys leaned over my desk to get the frail boy’s attention. “Sorry for acting like that. We were being idiots. There’s no excuse.”
Seemingly shocked by the apology, the boy nodded and said slowly, “No worries.” He received a genuine smile in return.
I left class that day with a changed outlook on life. I think JK Rowling says it best:
“It takes a great deal of bravery to stand up to your enemies, but it takes a great deal more to stand up to your friends.”