You are officially a fifth-grader. Your smile is bright as you head to school, and I’m excited for you. It’s an important year, and you’ll learn more about world history, algebra, and grammar.
I’m also a little nervous about this year. Fifth grade is Big-Time. Junior high is only two years away and you’re taking classes you’ve never attended in previous years. Other things are changing too, such as your likes and dislikes, and even your body. Sometimes these changes can make a girl feel scared, confused, and lonely … even if she is surrounded by friends.
Sometimes frightened girls can say and do things that hurt others. I hope you don’t experience this within the next year—or ever—but you more than likely will, so this is what I want you to always remember when it comes to the mean girls.
You Never Have the Right to be a Mean Girl
Remember this well, little love: Regardless of the circumstances, you do not have the right to be mean to another human being. It doesn’t matter if you’re retaliating against someone who hurt your feelings or if you’re trying to prevent others from being unkind to you; permitting yourself to act in a mean-spirited manner is never OK. Using ugly, flippant words and mannerisms—even for a short time—can change you. Meanness often is used as a shield to protect feelings, but it can make your heart so tough that it forgets how to forgive, embrace gratitude, and even love.
So don’t—not even for a minute—entertain the thought of telling that girl (you know, the one the other kids tease) that she can’t sit next to you at lunch. Don’t roll your eyes at someone for liking a hobby or trend that doesn’t float-your-boat. And here’s the hardest don’t of all: Don’t ever, ever call another human being a nasty name. Not even if that kid says something that makes you feel useless … even if she says your mother is ugly … even if she picks on your little brother. Never repay unkindness with unkindness, because you can do better than that. You were created to do better than that.
Know Who You Are and By Whom You Are Loved
A mean girl is a bully, and lying and belittling are her most damaging weapons. She’ll tell you that you aren’t as good as her. She’ll say you’re not pretty enough, rich enough, funny enough, smart enough, or popular enough to join the spirit club, play with her at recess, or audition for the solo in chorus. She might turn up her nose at those new high-top sneakers you adore so much. She might laugh if she finds out that you still have a favorite Disney princess. And saddest of all, she might hate you because you love Jesus.
Don’t believe the lies, and don’t allow the lies to change you.
Daughter, you are beautiful. I’m not just saying that because I’m your mom. And I’m not saying that because you fit the bill for what society says is beautiful. You’re beautiful because the maker of all things beautiful says you are. Trust me: If a being created the formula to design and maintain gravity, he’s a heck of a lot smarter than even the most intelligent girl in your class. And not only is God brilliant, he’s incapable of telling a lie and he says you’re wonderful, cherished, and forever loved. He created every cell in your body—the ones you were born with and the ones yet to be made. And being who God made you to be is more than your right … it’s your responsibility. Your true value cannot be measured by the number of friends you have, shoes you own, or calories you consume.
Mean Girls Are Wounded Girls: Respond with Love
Instead of returning unkindness with unkindness, extend grace, show mercy, and respond with love.
Because a girl who’s mean also is a girl who’s wounded—not with a skinned knee or sprained ankle, but a bruised heart.
I know this well, darling daughter, because I’ve been both the victim and the mean girl. There was a time when I was so weary from rejection that I treated a co-worker with malice. I spoke harsh words to her with a curt tone. I cut her off before she could finish her sentences. I publicly questioned her intelligence while feigning my innocence. I did all this because she reminded me of the girl I used to be. She was uneasy with who she was and eager to please others, and I misjudged her meekness for weakness. I felt powerful making her feel small until I realized what I was doing. Then I felt plain sick.
Want to know what opened my eyes? She spoke love to me. She timidly, yet bravely walked into my office one day and said, “Angela, please tell me why you don’t like me. I think you’re smart and funny … and I really want to be your friend, but you won’t give me a chance. Why?” Her words were kind, strong, and true.
I didn’t have an answer for her, just a sincere apology.
That woman forgave me, became my friend, and even sang at my wedding.
If a girl says or does something with the intent of hurting you, there’s a good chance that she’s doing it because she’s hurting too. It doesn’t make it right. It doesn’t make it fair. But it does make sense. Emotional wounds tend to fester and tamper with good judgment, but love, kindness, and gentleness are all agents of healing. Even if kind actions don’t result in a new friendship, they will prevent bitterness from spreading in your heart. They will protect your soul from deeper wounding.
Should you feel the sting of meanness, you’ll never hear me tell you to shake it off, but I will encourage you to find your voice and press on. Don’t give up on God, humanity, or yourself, no matter how hard it gets. And always remember, you are never alone.The unconditional love of your Heavenly Father is the most important gift you’ve been given, but also remember how dearly you are loved by your earthly parents.
Remember that I will always be here for you.
I will always believe in you.
I will always cheer you on.
Author’s Note: I’m not the only mom who has tackled this subject by writing a letter/blog post to her daughter. Lisa-Jo Baker, author of Surprised by Motherhood wrote a beautiful letter to her baby girl a few years back titled What I Want My Daughter to Know About the Mean Girls. I encourage you to read it. It’s lovely.