Motivation and Mistakes: A Middle School Memory

In Middle School we studied the Holocaust. One day we had a school assembly during which a survivor of the Holocaust spoke. As we funneled into the auditorium I shouted an uncharacteristic and unprompted, “I hate Jews!” for everyone to hear. My friend looked at me with disgust and muttered, “I can’t believe you just said that.” My face flushed, partially from being admonished and partially from the realization I had no idea what I was saying. I had confused the Jews with the Nazis, interchanging the names of good and evil in my brain.
My takeaway from this memory is twofold. One, understanding my motivation is an essential part of making sure my own behavior is in line with who I want to be. I wish I knew what my motivation was in shouting such a thing. It’s clear if I had fully understood what I had been learning I would have shouted, “I hate the Nazis!” What’s not clear to me is why I felt the need to shout anything at all. I was, and am, a fairly quiet and introverted person. Growing up I struggled with grace and tact, usually demonstrating neither of the two. However, I didn’t typically shout out things, especially hateful things. Was I trying to be cool? Was I trying to fit in? Was I trying to show I was on the right side? (Because, I promise you, I was trying to say I hate the merciless murderers.) Was I feeling the effect of an emotionally charged moment and didn’t know how to handle my feelings? Maybe. That sounds more likely than me wanting to be cool.
My second takeaway is that it’s important to acknowledge and understand when I do or say something wrong. I can still feel the warmth on my face from that moment of shame. I knew my behavior was out of character and I was embarrassed. More than that I knew I had said something terrible but I didn’t quite understand why. As I listened to the Holocaust survivor tell her story, I put the pieces together and felt even worse about what I had said. Earlier that day I thought I understood what I had been learning. I was wrong and I felt terrible.
I’ve found myself holding my proverbial tongue a lot recently. I have been trying to write about what I feel and struggling with what to say. So, I decided to write about what I felt and this memory was the first one to come to mind. I know I’m going to speak up. Staying silent is not an option. I want to apply lessons I’ve learned in life. So, when I speak up I’m going to check my motivation before I act and take ownership when I am wrong. To this day I regret shouting such a horrible thing. I want to understand my own history so I don’t repeat it.


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