Godly Women Blog

Mercy in the Locker Room Stall

Written by Lyndi Fultz

A life-defining moment isn’t always about the gold, a goal or the glory. Sometimes, it comes during a moment of determining what to do next.

It was a Monday at 6:55 a.m. I was 11 years old, sitting—frozen—in the changing room stall. My gut instincts told me to be quiet, lift my feet and pretend I wasn’t there.

That day was one of the happiest mornings of my life. But something significant had just occurred outside my locker room stall that changed everything.

On this warm summer morning, I was a special guest at the North Carolina State Faculty Club’s year-round swim team practice. What made this morning so happy for me was that I was a guest—a guest there for a special invitational swim meet that happened the day before. The league had changed the date of the meet from a Sabbath to a Sunday so I could compete!

Not only did I compete, but I competed well, capturing first place in every heat and setting a new record for every event I was in. An outsider! One who couldn’t afford to be a member of a year-round league! An outsider whom they changed an event for!

My life-defining moment, though, was not the gold, the goal or the glory of the competition. It was that frozen moment in time, in the locker room stall, five minutes before practice. 

Character! Character! Character!

Growing up in the Church, it seemed like so many sermons talked about the importance of character growth. My mom seemed to make every “teaching opportunity” a lesson in character. I still remember my little kindergarten self stomping my foot and declaring, “Character! Character! Character! I’m so sick of character!”

Yet, growing in character is essential. It exercises our muscles to do what is right, no matter how hard those muscles quiver and shake. So when the time comes, the muscle memory kicks in and we do the hard things.

Character is a biblical principle. In the book of Romans, Paul addresses that there is glory in trials. Trials produce character, leading to hope (Romans 5:3-4). 

I had a decision to make

In that locker room stall, my absent-minded thoughts quickly snapped to attention! I realized that a conversation at the sinks included . . . my name! 

It’s not right. How DARE the league move that event! Summer leaguers should not swim with the year-rounders! And that little outsider, Lyndi Cole, she comes in and takes our records. It’s not right!” 

More mean, spiteful words followed. My first instinct was to be quiet, lift my feet and pretend I was not there.

In that frozen moment, I had a decision to make. Instead of taking it personally, instead of avoiding (and lifting those feet), I calmly came out of that stall, walked over to the sink, washed my hands, looked over at my archcompetitor’s mom and (shaking inside) spoke softly to her. 

Hello, Mrs. C.

With her and her companion’s jaws dropping alongside her, I walked out of that locker room without defensiveness or retaliation.

One of the hardest things for humans is not to take things personally or talk badly about someone. In Ecclesiastes 7:21-22, wise Solomon shares that we shouldn’t take to heart everything people say! All of us have said things about others we shouldn’t have said. 

Take the mercy road

That day in the locker room stall, I learned about mercy. 

At that moment, my character was shaped and grounded because I didn’t run or hide to avoid conflict. Neither did I strike back in retaliation. I learned there is a merciful and self-controlled manner to address an uncomfortable situation.

Throughout my life, when a situation occurs where I am frozen, I remember a young girl in a locker room stall who did the right thing. And indeed, this grown-up woman can do the same by handling more situations mercifully.

If you want a deeper understanding of character growth and mercy and how to apply them to your life today, check out the following articles on Life, Hope & Truth: