She was harsh with the other students. She snubbed her teachers. She intimidated me, and I was just a substitute secretary!
Tianna was a sophomore in the small school where my husband was Director. She stood tall and proud and gazed down her nose at everyone. Looking regal, she always sported an intricate hairstyle and detailed, manicured fingernails. She wore beautiful gold jewelry with her school uniform. Although she seemed noble and composed, she was anything but gentle.
Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.” Aside from a couple other girls, she kept everyone at bay with her attack dog-like countenance.
Titus 3:1-3 says, “Remind the people to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and always to be gentle toward everyone.” These words weren’t part of Tianna’s daily life. While she did her school work, she remained aloof and uncooperative in groups. Her authority figures strained to remain calm when she lost her cool, causing tension to those around her. Others tried to live out Ephesians 4:2: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.” Bearing with Tianna in love was an effort.
Perhaps she was hiding insecurities. Maybe she felt “lesser than” (or better than) others in this school for students with learning differences. Whatever the reason, she acted as though she ran the school, walking with elbows out, taking up as much room in the wide hallways as possible. Until senior year, that is.
On the first day of her senior year, Tianna came to school with a new attitude. While being welcomed back, she mentioned to her teacher that she wanted to be Homecoming Queen in the spring. Considering that the queen and king were chosen by their student peers, Tianna had some damage control to tend to.
She no longer barked orders to her schoolmates. There were three classrooms and she daily moved from room to room, smiling and taking time to chat with everyone. The other students began to soften.
A natural leader, she looked the teachers and my husband in the eyes when she spoke to them. She smiled and offered to help whenever possible. She began to live out Proverbs 25:15: “Through patience a ruler can be persuaded, and a gentle tongue can break a bone.” Soon, Tianna became a joy to be around. The other students sought her out during free time.
In a conscious attempt to “campaign” for Homecoming Queen, Tianna chose to be gentle and it worked from the outside in. Even her appearance changed. Her rough edges softened and her eyes twinkled. 1 Peter 3:3-5 says, “Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight.” Her beauty shone from within and she became a good friend to many.
By a landslide of votes, Tianna won the coveted honor of being Homecoming Queen that year. She wore her tiara every day for the rest of the school year!
The summer after graduation she returned to visit. She smiled and was polite to the authorities at school. Her change was genuine.
While Tianna’s goal of winning the crown may have been her impetus to change her ways and embrace gentleness, the outward effort worked in her heart, softening her spirit and making her a true friend. She stands as a practical reminder that attitudes are a choice, that our choices can affect our hearts, and that our hearts can change the world.
Kelly J. Stigliano has been a speaker and writer for over 25 years. She and her husband, Jerry, enjoy life in Orange Park, FL. To learn more, visit www.kellystigliano.com.
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