Years ago I had an experience that changed my life and how I view myself and treat others. When I was fifteen years-old, my friends and I would go to church youth dances. I was shy, geeky looking, and worse, I couldn’t dance. I was always self-conscious and spent half the time in the bathroom trying to make sure my breath was fresh or that my hair was perfectly in place. The one thing that I had going for me was that I was positive and outgoing. I could easily make friends and get along with others. However, when it came to the opposite sex, I was a nervous wreck! Whenever I saw an attractive girl, my knees would shake uncontrollably, my hands and feet would get all sweaty, and my mouth would go dry. If you didn’t know me, you thought I was having a seizure.
Because I was so insecure and nervous, I did what came naturally, I hid. Rather than being out on the dance floor having a good time with friends, I quietly stood off on the side, along the far wall, in the dark, all alone. It was an awful feeling. I wanted so desperately for some girl to notice me and ask me to dance but it never happened. For hours I stood there watching everyone else have a great time while I stood there with tears in my eyes wondering what was wrong with me? Negative thoughts kept creeping in my head. Was it my oversize coke bottle glasses or was I not tall enough or was it my bad acne, what? Why won’t a girl ask me to dance with her? I secretly prayed hoping that before the night was over that I would get the chance to dance with one girl. It was 11:50pm and only two dances left. At this point, I had given up all hope. I was bummed and embarrassed and vowed never to come to these stupid dances ever again. As I turned to leave, someone tapped me on the shoulder. I turned around and saw the most beautiful girl I had ever seen in my life. I was flabbergasted! Where did this angel come from? God must have heard my prayers because she was heaven sent! Her kind and warm smile melted my heart and I was immediately smitten. She said, “Would you like to dance with me?” In an instant, my heart and head was racing. “Yes, of course. I would love too!” I thought to myself. But then something happened that to this day, I will never forget. For whatever reason, I said to her, “No thanks.” She looked at me stunned, as if she had just been punched in the stomach. Her eyes began to tear up and I could she was deeply hurt. She turned and ran out the door. I couldn’t believe what I had just done! What in the world was I thinking? The dance ended and I had frantically tried to find her but she was gone. I was devastated. Not only did I let a perfect opportunity slip out of my hands but worse, I unintentionally hurt someone. I was ashamed of myself and couldn’t understand why I had said what I did. For weeks, I kept playing the scenario over and over again in my head wishing for a chance to apologize to this wonderful person and wanting to say “Yes! I would love to dance with you!” but it never happened. The image of this lovely girl crying and running out the gym door will forever haunt me. To this day, I often wondered what ever happened to her and what might have been.
I learned a valuable lesson that night. I also understood why I said “no”. The reason I had said “no” was because of my own insecurities and negative thoughts. In my mind, I didn’t think I was handsome enough or worthy to dance with such a beautiful girl. After all, geeky acne face guys don’t get the pretty girls let alone dance with them, right? In my mind, negative thoughts of “Oh she’s just being nice or feeling sorry for me, that’s the only reason why she asked me to dance”, which translated into, “She’s not really interested in me so why bother?” I realize now that wasn’t the case. Maybe she really was sincere and wanted to get to know me and that maybe we could be good friends. But I guess I will never really know. What I do know is that in a brief instant, I hurt someone deeply and made her feel worthless. Her eyes told me that I had made her feel that there was something wrong with her, that she wasn’t pretty enough or good enough to dance with. All those insecurities that I had felt, she too was feeling the same way. She too was hoping that someone would ask her to dance and not feel so terrible inside. When she finally did have the courage to ask a boy to dance, her hopes of feeling valued and cared for, even if it were for only one dance, would be fulfilled. Instead, her worst fears came true when I rejected her and left an indelible scar on her heart.
Since that night many years ago, I vowed never to hurt someone again. I felt so horrible for what I had done that it has taken me years to forgive myself and move forward. I only hope that wherever that lovely girl is today, that she has forgiven me and has not let that experience tainted her feelings about herself or about men. I was young, immature, and stupid. I wish I knew now what I didn’t know then so that I could change things but I can’t. I have learned that life is filled with learning experiences, some good, some bad, but all valuable.
This experience has taught me a few things and has made me the person I am today. I am a better person because of it and I hope others are too. I’ve learned that just because of my own insecurities and weaknesses does not make me less of a person but more of a person. I’ve learned that we all in some way or another, have something we don’t like about ourselves and fall short of the mark but should not let are imperfections get in the way of achieving our goals and meeting wonderful people. I’ve learned that opportunities only come so often and to take advantage of them when they do. I’ve learned that when you make mistakes to quickly fix them, learn from them, and move on. I’ve learned that when you hurt others you need to do everything you can to seek forgiveness and be willing to forgive yourself. Most importantly, I’ve learned that when someone asks you to dance that you graciously smile and accept wholeheartedly the invitation. You never know what could happen.