Let me start off by saying, I have wonderful parents. They were attentive, they were intentional, they taught me right from wrong, they were prayerful. I don’t even want to think about what roads I would have taken had it not been for my parents correcting me along the way. They are flawed, sure, but we should all hope to be parents like mine.
I have great parents.
We all know the Mean Girls. They made a movie about it and no one had to say, “I don’t understand…this movie is about girls…who are mean?” We know the Mean Girls.
People talk about bullying and talk about how mean kids are now, but they were mean when I was young, too. I remember because I was one of them. Call it a blessing or a curse, but I am one of those people who is able to come up with the “right thing” to say at the “right time.” And I used that to my full advantage. I can think of the thing to say that will hurt you the most at the very moment in which it would be most effective. I told girls that they couldn’t sit with me in front of all of our friends. I told girls that I wasn’t their best friend after they had said I was. I chastised girls for decisions they made. I made fun of people behind their backs. Rarely did I have the courage to make fun of someone to their face, but it absolutely happened, and either way it usually got back around to them. I took the lead when there was a weakness of someone else’s to be pointed out. These are just a combination of the ones I remember and the ones that are easiest to admit. The list is very long.
I found out later in life, more than once, that someone who I thought was a friendly acquaintance when we were younger, was actually harboring hurt feelings or ill will against me. The first time it happened, I faulted them. They misunderstood me. I was never mean to them, they are just over-sensitive. The second time…hmm. There were a few more after that, but by then I had figured out what the problem really was…I was a big jerk.
I’m embarrassed by this part of myself.
I mentioned the quality of my parents at the beginning to make the following point: this is part of my nature. I’m naturally inclined to promote myself and make sure others know they’re beneath me. This wasn’t a learned behavior from my parents or siblings or our environment…heck, we weren’t even allowed to watch “Roseanne” because they “didn’t talk very nice” as my mom always used to say. I come by this honestly, and when I was young, I did it for two reasons.
One-I liked feeling more powerful than someone else. –I realize now that this was a weakness of my own. Truly confident people don’t need to belittle others to feel good about themselves, but at the time I just thought I needed to make sure they knew they were beneath me.
And two-I honestly did not know how hurtful it was. I didn’t allow people to talk to me that way, so I remained protected against it. It wasn’t until I grew up a little bit and gained some perspective that I considered the way my behavior might make others feel. My dad was instrumental in helping me gain this perspective. I don’t know how much he knew or didn’t know about my Mean Girl behaviors, but we talked. A lot. And I learned from him that the way others feel is important and meaningful and I can make it worse or I can make it better. And why do I need to make it worse? –well, I don’t. Jesus would say to make it better.
Two things happened for me in 9th grade.That was when I stopped. Or, more accurately, that was when I started trying to be better. First, I became a small fish in a big pond. I wasn’t at my comfortable little middle school anymore. I was one of many in our great big 5A high school, and I got taken down a few notches. And second, I realized what I had been doing. I remember when I realized it. There was a moment. I was in class and I saw some girls–I honestly don’t remember who they were–and they were being rude and annoying. I suddenly realized, I was one of them, and that had to change. It became very clear.
I still have the same natural inclinations. I still think of the “right thing” at the “right time.” I just don’t say it anymore…usually. As Anne of Green Gables once said, “If you only knew all the things I wanted to say and didn’t, you’d give me some credit for it.” It may never go away. I try to say kind things. I try to show love and be encouraging and positive. I fall short of that mark still. Even as an adult, I can think of a handful of people to whom I’ve been unnecessarily ugly. But now I do recognize it and make efforts to keep that part of myself under control, whereas before, I never did.
There’s been a few people that I was particularly hurtful to that I’ve sought out later in life in order to give them a much needed apology. For the most part, they have been responsive and seemed appreciative that I made that effort. But here’s what I’d like to say to them all:
I owe you a sincere apology. I know now that the things I said and did to you were hurtful and damaging. I’m embarrassed about the way I put you down in order to puff myself up. There’s no excuse or explanation that makes what I said or did acceptable. Now I try to manage carefully the way my actions may affect people. I’ll never be naturally inclined to be sweet, but I can do better. I will. You don’t have to like me or trust me, but I do hope you’ll believe me when I say I know what I was and I’m truly sorry.
It’s times like this I’m so grateful for God’s grace. Grace, y’all. I should have afforded more grace to those around me when I was young. I should afford more grace to those around me as an adult. And I’m so grateful that grace extends to me as well.
I’m hoping this message will be encouraging. Encouraging to those who are bullies now–there is hope. You can stop. And you should. I want to be encouraging to those who are being bullied. Your bully is a jerk. This is not your problem, it’s theirs. They may come to realize it later in life as I did, or they may not. Either way, they are not your problem. Give them grace. It’s a gift to yourself as well as to them.
Here’s hoping for a more grace-filled future.
A former Mean Girl.