I was recently chatting with a middle school girl who was crying to me over lunch. She was telling me about two girls from her class who were so mean to her that she had actually contemplated taking her own life. As I sat there listening to this precious 12 year old sob about her bully-filled life, I thought about the most recent encounter I had with a â��mean girlâ�� and couldnâ��t help but be honest with her.
You see, I wanted to lie and tell her that luckily mean little girls grow up and at a certain age stop their thoughtless, insensitive behavior by maturely trading it in for compassion, love and tolerance. The reality is that's just not the case. I told her that while it broke my heart to see her cry, to know there are girls so insecure and wounded their default setting is to lash out and hurt others, that itâ��s also the reality of life. There are people who hurt others, who are not kind or compassionate and like a tornado, they leave all who they come into contact with devastated.
I told my middle school friend that while I wish I could say it gets better, I donâ��t know if it honestly does. At 28 years old, I recently had a girl be so mean to me that it took me back to 7th grade when my closest friends stopped talking to me for the day and I ran into the bathroom crying when I had no one to sit by at lunch. Itâ��s scary how vividly I recall the incident.
Regardless, life is not about praying you no longer cross paths with bullies, sidestep mean people or avoid bad apples. I think life is learning how to deal with them, how to have compassion for those who hurt you and to let their hurtful comments roll off your back like water on a duck. The only difference between the girl who was mean to me back then and the one who was mean to me 16 years later is that I didnâ��t allow her comments to mean anything. Iâ��m more persnickety with who I allow in my life, with who gets access to my heart and influence over my thoughts. That access is precious. I learned how to laugh things off, swallow my pride and not react when people spit vicious rhetoric my way.
The whole notion that sticks and stones can break bones is true, but the reality that words can never hurt you is where I disagree. Words do hurt, sometimes even more than the sticks and stones. And while we'll certainly stumble into situations and circumstances when words are commensurate to a lethal air strike, it’s also a reminder to us that it’s our responsibility to take cover and protect ourselves. Mean girls will always exist, whether you’re in middle school, college, a new mommy or a grandmother; it’s just your job to trust that whoever is slinging such hateful words is struggling far more than their bully facade would ever disclose.
Ralph Waldo Emerson once wrote that true success is, “To earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of a false friend.” So to my dearest middle school friend — endure. Luckily there are human beings who are so wonderful, loving and compassionate that they serve as redemption for the mean, catty ones. My advice is to surround yourself with the best and avoid the worst. Life is too short to allow a few bad apples to taint the beauty of this world.Images courtesy of Apahealthyminds.blogspot.com, Themommy-files.com