On the news recently there have been two reports that have disturbed me a lot, and then a third walked into my office today in the form of a coworker who was battling the issue through her daughter. Mean girls. We've all met them. Some of us may have even been them.
Right now, three girls are going to be put on trial for tormenting a young girl to the point where she felt that taking her life was the only way out. Another was a case of some cheerleaders who put urine in the soft drink of some girls at a restaurant and then told everyone about it. And my friend's daughter was being encouraged not to talk to this girl or that girl because a very disturbed 6th grade girl thought that if she decreed it...it should be so.
It makes me mad to think about these cases...but it also makes me sad to think that some people who participated in these types of activities might have come to become incredible women but for a brief phase of bullying or being a "queen bee" somewhere in their pasts. And the knowledge and resulting guilt has been used against them by the enemy to make them either overcompensate by being the nicest woman you've ever met...or certainly one of the quietest.
And then there are those that didn't learn then, and you're pretty sure won't learn now. They just carry on in their adult lives...teaching the tricks of the trade to the next generation...and believing their own rhetoric. Sometimes those in their path keep their distance, but others are afraid to disown the friendship out of fear. These women only stop if something brings them down. When it does...as it inevitably will over time...there really is just that moment of elation followed by intense guilt for wondering if you wished it on them.
I think the thing that disturbs me the most about it is that the teen years seem to be like a giant pie. Imagine that you believed that you deserved a bigger piece than you have...and to get more you will try to obtain it by ripping someone down to the ground, lying, or by intimidation. Popularity is just like this. Diving after a bigger and bigger piece of the pie.
And then you grow up and realize that there are pies everywhere.
Perhaps it is being introduced to someone who sees something in you that nobody else ever saw - a gift that needed to be encouraged. Or maybe you eventually got away from where you grew up and saw that it is possible to appreciate someone else's strengths, gifts and talents immensely...without even remotely diminishing your own.
But day after day, somebody tells a partial truth...and it soon becomes the gospel. A girl is labeled. A lie becomes truth. Perception becomes reality. Mothers spread bad news about a girl she sees as competing with her daughter. How do we break the cycle of mean girls? How do we combat this kind of behavior? And better yet...how do we teach the young women in our lives how to respond?
Well, I've found that it helps to know that more often than not...what comes around goes around. And it it normally ten times worse for the offender than she dished out. I've also found that calling people on the behavior or refusing to participate in it takes is risky...and demands strong character...because to do so might mean that the venom gets shot our way next. But the most effective thing I've found to do is to stand strong, speak the truth, defend those who cannot do it for themselves, and take every opportunity to stop it on the front end, if possible.
I would like to think that the parents of the girls who "doctored" the soft drink would provide their daughters with the opportunity to publicly apologize and then strip them of any and all privileges. I mean, I'd really rather hear that they opened up a giant can of whoop A, but whatever. I hope that the legal action being taken in the other case will not only give those who did that a real hole to dig out of so that perhaps their hearts will be changed and they won't just receive a slap on the wrist. And I hope that my friend's teacher separated her daughter from the 6th grade Cruella at her school. Frankly, she might want to do that if she hasn't...because I know my friend...and she "doesn't play that."
There's really no excuse for trying to damage the emotions, reputation, or property of someone just because you can. That's not what we are called to do or be in this life. God wants so much better for us...and He values every one of us equally. I wish that these girls could fast forward thirty years to see what their lives will look like as a result of the decision to be catty. And I wish some women who seem to relish tearing others down would get back exactly what they deserve...times ten.
But as for me...I want to spend my life building up others when I can and assuming the best about them. After all, we're only reading a chapter in the story of their lives. Redemption is possible, and none of us is perfect. So, teach your daughters well...forgive yourself if need be...and eradicate this behavior when you see it. Perhaps if we are all faithful...the news won't be full of stories like these.