By Guest Blogger Chrissy McCullough, author of the blog My Blue Nest
October is National Bullying Prevention Awareness Month. Although we typically focus on preventing this behavior among our children, it can also occur among adults which is then mimicked by our kids. To find out more about how you can help raise awareness and help prevent occurrences, visit stopybullying.gov for important information and resources.
It is no secret that girls can be mean. The simple term “mean girl” is well known (and hearing it might even bring images to your mind of someone who has crossed your path at some point in your life). I have often talked to my husband, Allan, about the things I have heard other girls say or the way someone I know has treated someone else. He joined Facebook a couple of years ago and has seen firsthand some of the things girls post and will just shake his head and say to me, “I’m sorry you’re a girl. Guys just don’t act like that.”.
I’m certain I am guilty of having been a mean girl. There are times I am too open and honest and I can sometimes say things without thinking them through. But then, the guilt sets in and eats me up inside. If I feel I have wronged someone, the guilt invades my thoughts all day long, I have nightmares, I am consumed by the negative way my actions or words might have impacted another person. Because of this, I am usually the first to apologize and when I apologize, I mean it. One of my biggest irritations when it comes to relationships between women is the inability to give a heartfelt apology. Either there will be no apology at all and life becomes filled with palpable silence, or the apology will be insincere and serves only to make the apologizer feel better because they fully intend to say or do that hurtful thing again some day.
So how do girls become mean girls? Is it insecurity and making others feel bad makes them feel better? Is it learned behavior from observing their sisters, mothers, TV characters? Is it an unspoken rite of passage that some girls use to find tough women who are worthy of entering their circle if they can handle it?
This summer I took my 11 year old, Zoe, to visit my sister’s family in Iowa. Zoe was swimming with her cousin at our hotel and two little girls (probably about 10 or 11 as well) started squirting her with their water gun. Zoe asked them politely to stop. The girls laughed and continued squirting her, stating that they were just having fun and she should get over it or get out of the pool. Zoe stood her ground and told them that it was rude and that she would not be getting out of the pool and that they needed to stop. This only caused the two girls to laugh more and continue with their behavior. Zoe came over to me and explained what was going on. So, Mama Bear got her mean mom glare out and the two girls backed off.
How does that happen? How do young girls treat other girls this way? I can honestly say that none of my children would ever treat another child badly, they would never bully a child, they would never pick on someone for their own pleasure (and, if you’re reading this and you know my children, please tell me if they ever act this way because it will not be tolerated and they should know better!).
Mean girls also don’t have to be blatantly mean. There is a different type of mean girl that is disguised as a fake friend. Fake friends hide behind the image of being nice and accepting. That’s the one that I truly don’t understand and I have been burned by more than once. She might be the one who will share happy quotes, write about loving everyone, will lend an ear when you talk to them, will act like you are so similar and you were just SO meant to be great buddies. But, then you see or hear that she has done or said something hurtful about you. She might have even shared something with others that you told her in confidence. The fake friend is a more hurtful type of mean girl because you probably let them into your circle and you might have told them intimate things about yourself (that, sadly, they might even use to talk to others about you). The fake friend won’t take the time to talk to you about what you might have said or done that upset them or hurt their feelings, but they will take the time to talk to others about you. Ick.
Our society is hyper focused on loving everyone, accepting everyone, encouraging others, being kind (my girls know I hate that word…not for what it means but because it is overused by so many people who can just be totally unkind). Then why, if we value these qualities today, are there so many people who don’t practice them? And, not only do so many women not practice these qualities, they do the opposite and if you don’t think like them or believe the way they believe they are not only unaccepting, they are downright mean.
Unfriend, unfollow, block. Instead of talking things out, apologizing, growing as women, it’s just so much easier for some women to “cut them out.” There are three relationships over the years that I can think of that I had with women I was close to and then had a falling out. Even though those three fallings out were absolutely two-sided and not only my fault in any way, I wrote a long letter to one, mailed a card to one, and sent a lengthy text message to the third in order to accept my part in our argument and to apologize.
Every single one of them was ignored.
It’s easier to ignore than to mend and grow.
It’s easier to ignore than to accept and love.
It’s easier to ignore than to show appreciation and offer forgiveness.
Sadly, I realized those were not the true friendships I thought they were. Friends don’t treat each other that way and friends can work through arguments, misunderstandings and hurt. Friends can see the good in each other and value each other for the women that they are, despite differences.
So, we will probably never know what causes some girls and some women to treat others the way they do. I often tell my own girls, “You don’t have to like everyone. You don’t have to be friends with everyone. But you have to be nice to everyone.”
I think the biggest lesson we can teach our girls is that there will always be mean girls. They will likely make fast friends or deep friendships with some girls or even adult women who weren’t meant to be a part of their close circle. They might even make friends with mean girls and not realize they are mean girls until months into the friendship. But, I pray that my girls don’t lose their values. I pray that they don’t join in when their friends are making fun of someone on TV. I pray that they apologize (and mean it) when they have hurt someone, because they absolutely will hurt someone someday. And, probably most important of all, I hope they extend grace, acceptance and forgiveness to those who have hurt them. Even the mean girls.
~ For another perspective on this topic, you can read TMoM’s blog Arrival of the Mean Girls too.
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