"Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you." Colossians 3:13 (NIV)
The plastic seats were green. The desks a dirty beige. The perfect pale color to make pencil marks easy to read.
That's how I saw what was making the group of girls in front of me laugh. They looked at me and then added to Jennifer's desk art: a frizzy-headed stick figure with huge buck teeth and crazed eyes. I knew even before I saw the name scribbled, she'd drawn me. Me. An awful caricature of me.
It's been years since I sat at that 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 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. If we're a stuffer type person, we want to withdraw and get away from the source of our hurt. If we're more of an exploder person, we want to attack back so they'll feel as bad as we do.
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." Seriously?
Something deep inside us whispers, "Don't you dare love this person. This situation is the exception."
Let the internal battle begin.
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 NIV 1984).
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.
But we must 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 hurtful drawing. I wish I could relive that moment with the knowledge I have now. Jennifer drew that picture because of her own 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.'" (NIV)
Jennifer was hungry and thirsty for affirmation. 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 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.
Dear Lord, I am thankful You don't give up on me. Please help me love those who hurt me, and teach me when to seek restoration, and when to let a relationship go. I want my relationships to honor You. In Jesus' Name, Amen.
For more encouragement and practical advice on how to deal with difficult people, check out Lysa's new book, Unglued. Available now!
The accompanying Unglued Bible Study will help you understand what the Bible says about better ways to react. To order your copy, click here.
Reflect and Respond:
Write down 2 practical ways you can show compassion to those who hurt you. Remember, forgiveness may or may not include restoration. God may be calling you to show compassion by initiating the restoration process, or He may be calling you to acts of compassion from afar.
Think on a situation that involved a 'mean girl.' That girl may be someone close to you, an acquaintance, or may be you. Pray for her. If it's you, pray that God will show you areas in your life only He can fill.Power Verse: