Seven Sins: Wrath: Breaking point


Helen Chao

He says he’s not usually tempted to kick chairs.

But the inbounder had failed to step up her “basketball” game — and lost it for the team instead. After the other team scored, she was required to take the ball out of bounds and throw it back in for her teammates to catch.

Things went awry.

She chucked the ball and it bounced outside the sidelines, untouched and completely missing the court. Her teammates’ hands were still flailing in vain. The opposing team received the ball and scored a basket. Unhappy and disappointed, Math teacher and basketball coach Martin Jennings had a discussion with her after the game.

You never do that, Jennings told her. At least don’t let the other team score.

Two games later, she made the same mistake.

Again, the ball flew outside the sidelines; the receiving hands flew up and faltered back down, empty-handed. And again, the opposing team received the out-of-bounds ball and scored under their team’s basket.

He kicked a chair. Lightly.

Doc Jan 18, 2017, 5-25 PM

Nevertheless, the chair crashed to the ground — jarringly loud — as if responding to his inner emotions instead. A referee ventured to ask if he was okay.

Physically, he was. He hadn’t swung his leg viciously and only meant to express his frustration; the resounding crash was partially accidental. Emotionally, he wasn’t. He was both embarrassed and disappointed in the team and himself.

Jennings apologized to the girl and the rest of the team.

“She wasn’t very happy, but neither was I. It was [a] needed [conversation],” Jennings said. “Apologizing is always a form of putting aside one’s pride. So is that easy to do? No, but the need outweighs the want. If I feel like I need to do it, I just do it. Whether I want to or not.”

Jennings doesn’t believe he’s learned anything from the experience.

“Don’t kick the chair? Don’t touch the chair with your foot?” Jennings said. “It’s nothing I didn’t already know.”

When keeping his temper in check, Jennings tries to keep in mind the young, impressionable age of his students. Angry responses may darken the student’s perception of the school year ahead — and perhaps the rest of their lives. Besides the basketball scenario, he can’t think of any other instances when his temper spiraled out of control. Fortunately, the inbounder continued to come to practice everyday.

However, he acknowledges there have been regrettable instances — much milder than the chair-kicking — when he could have responded better to his students’ actions. In the times he apologized, he believes students were very appreciative.

“I realize I’m as much a sinner as they are,” Jennings said. “Maybe a different kind of sinner, but just as much of one.”