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.