You know the mean girl in high school? There’s a sad truth about her: She never really goes away. Throughout our lives there will be a mean girl in the college dorm, at the first full-time job, in mommy play groups and even at church. Though it would be a relief if mean girls disappeared completely, we’re better equipped if we learn how to respond to them in a gracious, God-honoring way. It’s not easy, but it’s possible—and here are four tips for that process.
1. Wait Before Responding
Our initial response to a mean girl is to defend ourselves, our honor or our friends. We’re told that standing up to someone is always the right thing to do. But Christ had a different way of dealing with those who hated Him. Jesus responded with gentleness in almost every circumstance, especially with unbelievers. He showed compassion to those who mistreated Him. But that compassion requires stepping back from the situation and waiting to respond. If you read through the gospels, you’ll see many instances where Jesus delayed a response or didn’t respond at all to those who hated Him. This is a good way to begin your dealings with a mean girl.
2. A Gentle Answer
Once you’ve stepped back from the situation and delayed your response, consider how to answer a mean girl gently. I know—this is both countercultural and against everything we want to do! But as Proverbs 15:1 says, “A gentle answer turns away wrath,” or in other words, responding with kindness defuses anger. Most mean girls are mean because they’re insecure. When you respond gently, you reach past the façade of arrogance to the hurting person behind it.
3. Be Careful About Venting
If you’re like me, the first thing I want to do after interacting with a mean girl is tell friends alllll about it. But contrary to popular belief, venting doesn’t actually help deal with negative emotions; it trains our brains to continue them! Rather than pour out your hurts to the first friend you see, take the issue to God first. Pray for the mean girl. Tell Him how you’ve been hurt. Then, once you’ve made Christ your first stop, discuss the issue with a trusted friend who will listen and give sound advice.
When we rush to spread the news of what a mean girl did, we’re actually playing her game. We are spreading the animosity and cruelty to the ears of others, giving it attention it doesn’t deserve.
4. Know the Root Cause of a Mean Girl
Finally, the mean girl is the way she is for a reason. She didn’t become that way by accident. Every person has a story, and the mean girl is no exception.
Most of the time, “meanness” is the child of insecurity. Insecure women have to attack other women in order to build themselves up. So when a girl treats you rudely, remember that she’s a hurting, weak person in need of security and kindness—and it will be much easier to show her compassion.