Our class was walking to the music room. The girl, who I believed to be the most beautiful girl in the world just days before, was walking a short distance in front of a group of us boys. One of my friends said loudly, "Hey, I heard you broke up with Shelly."

He had said it loud enough for her to hear. Trying to be tough, I wanted to act like Shelley was just a plain-Jane nobody--and that I wasn't hurting about the breakup. So I responded loudly, "Yeah, I never really liked her anyway!"

The guys all laughed. One of them patted me on the back. Shelley turned the corner to go into the building and I saw her eyes. More precisely, I saw the tears streaming from her eyes, down her cheeks. My words had cut her deeply.

I felt horrible. When I got home from school, I fell on my bed and cried. Why had I said that? Why had I been so mean? Shelley had been my best friend. I missed all the laughs, walks and talks we had together. And now, I had made her cry.

Before I left that bed, I made a decision. It was a promise to myself that stopped me from dating for the next five years. I promised, "I am not going to date another girl until I trust myself to treat her with respect when we break up." It seems very negative--expecting to break up with someone before you even start dating them. But, I didn't want to ever hurt someone else the way I hurt Shelley.

It wasn't until Year 10 that I trusted myself enough to have another girlfriend. She was lovely. We dated for awhile, then we broke up. I hope I treated her with respect and I dated a few more people before I got married. And in each relationship, it has always been my goal to treat my partner and friend with respect in all situations. It has been said that the real you is who you are when nobody is looking. I think differently. I think the real you is revealed when you choose to be better than you were last time. If you make this commitment, it will change your life. Learn from your mistakes. Choose to act differently next time and challenge yourself to follow through. No-one can make you say, do or become anything because your actions are truly yours alone. They reveal who you are becoming, so choose wisely and grow into the real you!

And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honourable, and right, and pure, and lovely and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise. Keep putting into practice all you learned and received from me--everything you heard from me and saw me doing. Then the God of peace will be with you. Philippians 4:8, 9. David Edgren is director of Sabbath school and children's ministries for the Victorian Conference, and associate pastor of the Warburton church, Victoria. He is author of The Serpent Scroll and The Lamb Scroll.


This story is used with permission from Signs Publishing Company. More of these stories can be found in these collections: Ordinary People—Extraordinary God, Ordinary People—Faithful God, and Ordinary People—Generous God