When I was a sixth grader, I was sweet on a girl in my class named Judy. Whereas it was nothing but puppy love, to me it seemed very real.
Now, it’s not that I had marriage on my mind, but I did find emotional comfort in knowing that she liked me, too. You can imagine my dismay one morning when I got to school and learned from one of the other girls in our class that a boy named Mike had gone to Judy’s house and spent some time with her after school the previous day. I didn’t say anything to Judy when I heard the news, but the longer the morning went along, the more I stewed in the juices of my anger toward her that were prompted by the jealousy that had engulfed my heart.
When lunch was over, recess began – and with it the daily ritual of my class playing the boys in the other sixth grade class in softball. As usual, the sixth grade girls stood off to the side of the backstop talking and watching their heroes at play (at least that’s what we boys thought). On that particular day I was the pitcher. Standing on the pitcher’s mound gave me a clear view of the girls as they stood to the right of the backstop. Judy was on the outer edge of the group of girls. The more I watched her standing there, the more I realized she was not bothered one bit by the fact that she’d allowed Mike to visit. The longer I pitched, the madder I got. That’s when it happened.
I threw a pitch I soon wished I could have back. Instead of pitching the ball to the batter, I reared back and with all the arm strength I could muster, I threw the softball at Judy. That was bad enough. What made it worse is that I missed Judy and hit a girl named Betty who was standing by her.
As I would later learn from my teacher who met me at the classroom door when recess was over (news like that travels fast), the ball had raised a substantial whelp on Betty’s upper arm. An apology to Betty was in order, which I fulfilled through the embarrassment which I was now feeling. I wasn’t embarrassed that I had missed Judy. I was embarrassed because I had allowed my jealousy to boil over in anger such that it led me to do something absolutely stupid and hurtful. As I began to reflect on what I had done, even as a sixth grader I knew I needed to get those two emotions under control, or I would pay even greater consequences down the road in life.
Looking back today on what I did that day, in addressing my jealousy and loss of temper, it would have been easy for me to have dismissed them by saying, “Hey, Jerry, don’t worry about it. You’ve never done anything like that before, and you won’t ever do it again. You’re not that kind of person. That’s why your teacher let you off so easy.”
But the truth is, I was that kind of person. The proof was in the pudding. As a young boy I had proven the wisdom of Scripture to be true when in Proverbs 23:7 the Bible says, “For as a man thinks within himself so is he (emphasis added).” I had proven Jesus to be right when He said in Matthew 12:34-35, “For the mouth speaks out of that which fills the heart. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth what is good, and the evil man out of evil treasure brings forth what is evil.”
Part of maturity is the ability to manage one’s emotions not only to the benefit of self, but also to the benefit of others.
If we fail to manage our emotions, we might just find ourselves throwing pitches we wish we could take back. Problem is, once the “pitch” is released, we can’t take it back. All that’s left is to try to clean up the “whelp” that it leaves. One cannot manage negative emotions without first correctly identifying them as such. Call the emotional spade a spade, and then get on with the business of getting it under control.
About the Author
Jerry Long is a retired minister [38 years] living in metro Greenville, SC. He and his wife Lynne have two daughters and three grandchildren. He holds degrees from Clemson University and Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.