The plastic seats were green. The desks a dirty beige. The perfect pale color to make pencil marks easy to read. Really easy.
That’s how I saw what was making the group of girls sitting in front of me laugh. They turned to look at me. And then added to Jennifer’s desk art. It was a frizzy-headed stick figure with huge buck teeth and crazed eyes. I knew even before I saw the name scribbled below, she’d drawn me. Me. An awful caricature of me.
It’s been years since I sat in that green seat with a dirty beige desk. But it hasn’t been years since I’ve had those same feelings of rejection and hurt. Of course, they aren’t from girls drawing pictures. But meanness hurts, no matter what age and no matter how it’s delivered.
You can take girls out of middle school but you can’t take the middle school out of some girls.
If you’ve been hurt in this way, you know what I’m talking about. In my book Unglued, I talk about the ways stuffers and exploders react. If we’re a stuffer type person, we want to withdraw and get away from the source of our hurt as fast as possible. If we’re more of an exploder person, we want to attack back so they’ll feel as bad as we do.
I’m not proud to say I understand both of these reactions very well.
But here’s where things get a little complicated. Jesus flies in the face of conventional wisdom and says for us to “love our enemies.” What? Are you serious?
Something deep inside us whispers, “Don’t you dare love this person. This situation is the exception.”
Let the internal battle begin.
This is tough stuff.
But what if I were to assure you that Jesus isn’t being cruel or naive in His command for us to love? He’s actually showing us how to get free from the sting of another person’s wounds. When we’re wounded we can either pursue healing by extending love back. Or, we can refuse healing and allow the “rejection infection” to set into our wound.
Here are three things to remember:
My job isn’t to fix my enemy. My job is to be obedient to God in how I deal with them. “But I tell you: Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.” (Matthew 5:44).
If there is abuse, we must learn to love from afar. How? By forgiving the person that hurt us – releasing their offense into the hands of God. Trusting God to reveal to them their wrong and deal with their actions from there.
But we must always remember forgiveness and restoration don’t have to go hand-in-hand. You can forgive someone but not do everyday life with them. Ask God to give you discernment to know when and how to love from afar.
So, back to Jennifer and the awful and hurtful pencil drawing. I wish I could go back to that moment and relive it with the knowledge I have now. Jennifer drew that picture because of her own haunting insecurities. And while it’s tough to have compassion for someone who’s hurting us in the moment of rejection, it is possible to have compassion for their obvious hurt. Hurt people, hurt people.
Dig beneath the surface of a mean girl and you’ll find a girl riddled with self-hatred.
Romans 12:20 says, “On the contrary: ‘If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.’”
Jennifer was hungry and thirsty for affirmation of any kind. And the only way she could figure out how to get it was to make those around her laugh at me.
What might have happened if I were to have walked by her desk, leaned in close, and given this desperate girl a drink from the living water? “Jennifer, you are beautiful. Do you know that?”
Not in a million years could I have done that in middle school. But I’m not in middle school any longer.
And now’s a good time to remember that.
For more on how to process your emotions and react in a godly way, check out Lysa’s new book Unglued. Click here to purchase your copy!Leave a Comment
Thank you for this post, Lysa! I have been faced with questions of forgiveness and restoration for the past couple months, and you summarized so well what I am struggling to apply.
I grew up in a Christian home and was the church-going goody-two-shoes girl for most of my life. I learned through my upbringing that it is *always* the right thing to love those who hurt you, but was never told that there could be relationships where the hurt would never end until I cut myself off from that person.
I’ve been wrestling through the differences between a “Christian” response and a “gospel” response of late – and it seems that one puts fear of man at the centre, whereas the other puts fear of God at the centre. Sure is hard to let go of a relationship with a Christian individual and be able to believe that it is the gospel response. Thank you for affirming through your post that I made the right choice.
Chioccola Gypsy says
This post needs to be read by middle school girls everywhere! Two of my granddaughters are in middle school right now and they are experiencing similar things, so I’ll share it with them.
Forgiveness is never easy, but I know from personal experience that the lack of forgiveness is even harder…for the issue has eternal implications.
This was an amazing post! I came from an abusive marriage of 23 years. I understand forgiveness, but not continuing a personal relationship. Forgiveness is a hard but freeing road to travel Forgiveness is not about them, but about us. It bring peace and places us in right standing with God. Thank you for this post!
Thanks Lysa, this is timely.
I’m learning to love from afar these days and your words make total sense to me.
“You can forgive someone and not do everyday life with them.” — this is key.
And you, Lysa, are beautiful!
Janice Johnston says
Tears fill my eyes, blur my vision as they swiftly roll down my face as I read your blog. I know this only too well, from classmates so long ago, to co-workers, and bosses. I am an encourager and yet I seem to ask for it unknowingly, unwantingly, and deservedly…Thanks for sharing this today.
Janice, Oh how precious we are to God. Like you, I have been hurt from a very young age. In many ways it continues today. I now know just how Christ has shielded me. I reflect back when I was young and teased or rejected and I see how God took care of me. I have never been angry toward those who hurt me and I see it as God’s protection. Oh to heap coals on their head with kindness because God is in total control. I do want to share with you that we must understand our value as well. God loves us! He values us and cares for us. Be encouraged!
Thank you for such a great post that I not only needed to hear, but I know everyone needs to hear!! Thank you for giving us not only a balm for our wounds but for going further and giving us something to do with it as well, as the Lord showed us to do!! Your words have been Jesus’ words to me today!! Thanks for spreading love, dear sister. It’s what true believer’s do. I would love to read your book!
Thank you for this Lysa. I know there are so many women who have been ripped to shreds by other women and don’t understand the power that being obedient, even in our pain, holds. I include myself in that list.
I have been reading an incredible book on this exact topic called Women at War by Jan Greenwood (http://www.jangreenwood.com). She beautifully explains God’s original plan for women, the enemy’s attempts to keep us from our destinies, and the ways we women hurt each other. She shares anout the power of forgiveness and seeking God for our healing. I have found so much hope and healing for my own experiences with “mean girls” through reading it.
I really believe that God is on the move to restore women’s relationships. I can only begin to imagine the power that we will have for the Kingdom when we unite and forgive. I believe we will see many more victories and solid, godly, relationships when we follow God’s heart.
Thank you so much for pointing out that forgiveness does not always include allowing an individual back into our everyday lives.
Last year I went through a season in which God really called me to love a friend who had hurt me deeply by her words and actions. It was in the midst of telling Him on a daily basis that I could only do it by His power and grace, that I learned so much more about myself.
Some days I didn’t want to love her like Jesus called me to, and plenty of days I still battle against the allowing the wounds to control my life, but I completely agree that it taught me to see that it was less about me and more about her way of dealing with her own insecurities. My compassion had the potential to be part of her healing process.
Hi Lesley, your experience is very similar to my own. Thank you for sharing your Christ-like heart. He continues in great love and patience working with us all, turning our hearts surely towards him in our daily walk. love to all on these comment posts through Him.
Lesley, thank u so much for ur openness and ministry to the person that u talked about, but also to minister to those of us. I cried out to God last night about a person in my life that I love. But that person is in such a dark place and says such ugly things at time. I asked God if he’s even heard my cries the last 5 or 6 yrs. He has!!!!! He sent me this blog and all these posts today! Praise be to Him for people like you that encourage and allow Him to speak thru you!
Lesley, thank u so much for writing that. It spoke to me about exactly what I cried out to God about last night. He spoke to me thru u!!!! Thank u!
Michelle Prince Morgan says
Thank you for this wonderful post. I needed this reminder.
How I dealt with the mean people while I was in middle school (who were mostly male not female), was to ignore what they said. God was good to me in that He put it in my mind that I was much better that what they said and that they were the ones with the problem, not me. It came to a head one day when a teacher caught one of the boys saying their pet name for me and the boy got in trouble. I never heard that name stage whispered at me again. But God was also very good in that the experience further softened my heart toward those who are the butt of other people’s jokes.
So many replies to your story “Mean Girls”, Lysa, echoing my sentiments. But many thanks from me also, for your very timely post. Wonderful to see the Holy Spirit at work in all these things.
Six months ago I was brought to the point of having to be apart from a very close flesh and blood member, who is also a believer. Thanks to the grace of God I have been given the power to forgive, (without my loved one ASKING for forgiveness). The subject of forgiveness and restoration is a HUGE topic. I can see that the depth of restoration between us can only be equal to the depth of grace I am willing to receive. And the GOOD NEWS is that this grace is growing within me (sometimes painfully slowly BUT SURELY) and restoration can be attained, by GOD’S will within me, which means “He must increase, and I must decrease”: easy to type but way harder to live! I am so thankful for the Saviour, My Lord Jesus Christ, our meek and lowly Great and Gentle Shepherd, and so privileged to belong to His Body, and the amazing, unseen continual workings of it. Hallelujah!
tammy cordery says
my mean girl (only one) was a girl that had mental problems. that’s
just how I pictured her because she had to bother me by throwing things at me and saying bad words to me. I made her stop by hitting her because she hit me first and the teacher didn’t do anything when i told her she said kids will be kids. I ‘m sorry but i’m a better person for sticking up for myself at that time all the kids were i’m so happy that you broker her down but really inside i felt bad because something was wrong with her not me even my best friend tells me to this day that she wishes that she was like me in middle school so brave. I wasn’t though.
You are so right. It pays to love your enemies and do good to those who would surprised at your doing something good for them.
Have been hurt and have also hurt people. Sometimes we just can’t really believe that Jesus meant what He said. But He did. We are so much better off when we do good for other people that doing bad.
I don’t think it helps to love people that are mean, that just take more advantage of you it just gets worse, i have prayed to get this girl out of my house my nephew girl friend i just can’t take how mean she is.
Lisa E says
I was also bullied in school, and it started in grade school, followed me through middle school, until high school I turned to alcohol so I could be with the so called “cool kids.”
I am not that same person, and I am sure those boys and girls have changed as well.
Because of the love of Jesus Christ I have forgiven everyone, and made amends to all I have hurt. We don’t need Jesus because we are perfect, we need Jesus because we are not! I love to follow your posts, you lead by example and are very real.
Frannie C says
I was bullied and criticized growing up by family and friends. Nothing I did seemed right – ever. When I look back, I see a teenager that was a school year ahead of her age group and was surprisingly selected as class beauty when I was made to feel more like the beast. My grades were consistently A’s through high school and yet I was always made to feel that I was lacking. Now I have learned that I gave up power I did not know I had. If we do forgive and win back our power – even today, we need to share that power with preteens, teens and young adults so they will recognize and claim their power before it is too late. Insecurity in others who have the formula for breaking people down is potentially destructive. I really enjoyed this article and will continue to build on the lessons I have learned from it. Even at the age of 61, it is not too late to learn and improve!
Frannie, I admire you! You said so much of the very same I was thinking. I am 53 and just yesterday I confronted an issue that had been an ongoing problem for me. This was with my husband of 33 years. I am so free by not continuing to allow him to make me feel as though I am never good enough. BE (be encouraged)!
Lysa, thank you, thank you for this post. It came at the perfect time for me. (No surprise…He always seems to know and answer my most profound problems with a perfectly timed post or Scripture reading.) There is a big forgiveness struggle going on in my house with someone in our family. Your post spoke to each question I’ve had. I do appreciate so much your continuing insight and raw revelations.
Now off to buy my copy of Unglued!
Beth Williams says
I’m both a stuffer and an exploder person. To save face and appear Christian I stuff feelings down until I find a place I can explode. I’m in a tough situation with a new boss at work and find it hard to even show up at work. I know God has plans and blessings in everything.
What keeps me going are co-workers who bless me and tell me my worth at the job. Also the song by Steven C. Chapman “If You Do Everything You Do to the Glory of the One Who Made You”. Then I realize it’s not about me/her/work but Glorifying Him!
Beth, you said things that I could not put into words. I too am a stuffer and yesterday I exploded when I got into a discussion with my husband of 33 years. I like what Joyce Meyer has said, what you stuff inside, never dies. I am living proof of this.
Thank you! This is an amazing story! I downloaded your book the other day and can’t wait to start reading it.
A Walk in the Word (http://psalm119105.blogspot.com/)
Hey, Lisa! You are so amazing… in SO many ways! Remembering seeing you on Oprah, when you adopted your boys, I felt YOU, my dear, were the” Queen “, for being the “ringleader” of your friends who adopt these precious people from afar… you never need to worry about how people “view” you. I see you as” God’s Messenger Daughter!!” Keep on with what you are doing, it is good.
Thank you, Lysa. Just what I needed today!
Brooke Burger says
Thanks for this. I tend to be a stuffer and definetely was in school. It has amazed me, though, as we have gotten older how much of the petty little stuff is meaningless. I wish too I had been more loving in school, I just pulled away.
Wow, my husband would g
Do good to readmthismright now. Great explanations
Yeah, hurt people hurt people. They’ve been hurt and they take it out on the happy person.
Jerri Ashmore says
Oh my, this has hit me like a ton of bricks and explains so much, glad I got to see this on this beautiful Sunday morning.
Annette D. says
Lysa, this is such a beautiful post with so much truth. Thank you so much for sharing with us. And yes, you are beautiful and we ALL are beautiful!
Thank you so much for this post. It couldn’t have come at a better time. Doesn’t God have perfect timing? My oldest daughter and 2 grand-daughters just came to town for the weekend to see her sister. We have had a rocky relationship that comes from a hurt that I supposedly inflicted ages ago. When I ask what it was she refuses to say what I have done and that it’s best that we just accept it and keep a distance. Anyway I got to see my grand-daughters, but their Mom was cold to me. If I tried talking to her the replies were either clipped or non-existent. I said nothing, but afterwards the hurt on my part turned to anger. My husband’s reply was to let it go as the hurt and anger was hurting her more than me.
Reading this reminded me that no matter how I hurt my heavenly father He still loves me. If I don’t forgive my daughter and love her then what. If we don’t forgive those who wrong us then won’t that hurt and anger turn on us?
“My job isn’t to fix my enemy” Love that line!
Shrea Burnside-Andrews says
Lysa, this spoke to my spirit. Especially the point that I can love them from afar and not have to deal with them in my everyday life. Such a blessing
I needed this today. I’ve had someone take a prayer request and turn it into gossip. Middle school and high school are hard times but to deal with this as an adult and in church is hard and painful.
This was timely. I’ve been wrestling with hurt and rejection from women I have tried very hard to connect with and just don’t know how to deal with it. Silly me, I thought middle school was over, but as you said, sometimes you can’t take the middle school out of the girl. Thank you!
Debra Bacon says
Beautifully written and so true. Thank you. I was the girl in the drawing so often, too. Thankfully, (only by God’s grace, and reminders like this), do I realize the ‘mean girl’ is hurting so badly. She needs our love and prayers.
Chris Carter says
I think the hardest part of this Christ centered journey is to know when to love them from afar or not. I have tangled my spirit up in some pretty serious life-sucking enemies out of love. Sometimes, the pay off is amazing and God shows through each step and yet other times I am depleted and wounded for having gone forward thinking God was leading me to remain in the relationship. It’s difficult.
Joell Bryant says
But how do you forgive someone that is hurting your child? How do you forgive a father for not being financially responsible for his child, although he was gracefully given by me, full visitation? How do you forgive him when your child becomes a teenager and is old enough to understand that the father’s behavior is less than ideal? That a father shouldn’t call his son a “bi**h” or, pardon my language, but this is his favorite, a “pu**y”? How do you forgive a man for 16 years of repeatedly breaking promises to your son, and watching your son’s heart break over and over? How do you forgive someone who you think, as hard as it is to fathom, has spent 16 years using a child as a pawn? PRETENDING to care about a child, to have a relationship with a child…. just to hurt you, to ‘get back’ at you? I think if I dig deep enough, I can forgive anyone for what they do to me, but I’m having a really hard time with this one because it involves what he is doing to my son.
I have been down this road. I wish I could say that it is easy, but it isn’t. Mine caused trouble each and every chance he had. All I can say is that I followed my husband’s lead. He never said a bad word about their father to them. He said to leave it and some day they would see for themselves. They have. When you can’t forgive then leave the anger and hurt with God.
Valerie Hohenberger says
In middle school and junior high school, I was the one in the drawing too! By the time I got to high school I had become so hardened that I did not feel anything anymore…or so I thought! I turned to food and alcohol to be my friends! I am 55 now and still fighting the weight that I foolishly packed onto my body!