A friend mentioned recently that her young daughter had had her first encounter with mean girls at school. The girls were being girls and, although they had all been 'best friends forever' yesterday, today it was her daughter's turn to be the group's pariah-du-jour.
Of course this is a painful experience for anyone, including my friend, because our children's suffering reminds of us of our own painful childhood dramas as well as our utter powerlessness to shield our children from pain. She had posted a synopsis of the situation, and people started to weigh in with their ideas of how she should talk to her daughter about the mean girls.
To me, though, the suggestions she received fell short. "Maybe she was having a bad day" only covers part of the point.
Let's add this: "Here's why your friends were mean, sweetheart -- Sometimes People Suck."
As human beings, we have a great capacity to love but also a great capacity to harm.
Sometimes our friends suck. Sometimes our jobs suck. Sometimes our children suck. Sometimes our parents suck. And, yes, Virginia, there really is a Santa Claus -- sometimes you suck, too.
It just wasn't this time.
This time it was your friends' turn to suck. And when you are on the receiving end of mean, sucky behavior, it hurts.
Your job then, is to acknowledge your pain, be kind if you can, and take a step back from the situation.
Then, after cookies with your mommy, you talk about how you want to handle the situation. Do you want to talk to your friends? Do you want to find new friends? Do you want to just let it go? Do you want to pretend it never happened? (I don't recommend that last one.)
And then, if you can, you need to extend mercy and forgiveness.
Emmet Fox, in his book, The Sermon on the Mount, explains that the phrase "Forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors" points to the strategic value of giving mercy. We ask to be forgiven "AS" we forgive our debtors. In other words, we will only receive forgiveness to the exact extent that we extend it to those who have harmed us.
So, sweetie pie, you forgive your friends, because you suck too. And someday -- maybe today, even -- you will hurt someone, and you will want to be forgiven.
Careful, though, sugar pie. Here's what I'm NOT saying. I am NOT saying that you become a punching bag for the benefit of less enlightened bitchy little girls, abusive boyfriends, or lascivious bosses. Indeed, an important thing to take inventory of, after you finish your cookies and milk, is this - are you attracting people who suck at the same depth as you? Or, are you habitually on the short end of the suckiness comparative analysis of the people you hang out with?
We teach each other how we want to be treated. When you harm me, I can behave with dignity. If you are worthy of my friendship, of my love, you will be able to hear me tell you that I feel hurt by your behavior. If warranted, you will try to change your behavior in the future. If we are not able to do this much together, perhaps I need to think about why I am attracting and investing in relationships that are so unbalanced.
So, sweet cheeks, here's the thing - Sometimes People Suck -- including you. I'm sorry that hurts. But it also allows you to freely live your life, make your share of mistakes, and still be worthy of receiving love. Give that mercy, because it is the right thing to do, and also because you're going to need some coming your way by supper time.
Change Agent Take-Away -- Which relationships in your life seem out of balance? What forgiveness do you need to seek? Where do you need to forgive? Go, live your best day, beautiful girl!
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