How to Banish the Mean Girl

April 8, 2011 | 22 comments

Mean Girls grow up and graduate high school and flit off to college and roost down in a new nest and –if they aren’t careful — they could become this: Mean Women.

Yes, even the good Christian girls.

I’ve thought a lot about mean girls this week. My niece — a tiny blonde with a gigantic heart in the eighth grade — tried out for next year’s high school cheer squad. My niece cartwheeled her way onto the team; but several of her friends didn’t make the squad.

So, for the past week, my niece’s success has been greeted with chilly stares instead of congratulations, darting words instead of fist-bumps. Her friends are too gripped by jealous pangs to exhibit genuine happiness for her success.

So yeah, I know: That’s typical eighth-grade girl stuff. I was an eight-grader once — alternating between the picked-on and the picker-on-er.

But sometimes, the Mean Girl of our youth lurks in the murky recesses of our soul, ready to pounce when someone else gets the pay raise, the new car, the applause, the accolade, the book deal.

About 15 years ago, I worked as a news reporter at The Omaha World-Herald, a daily newspaper in Nebraska. A columnist’s job opened up, and a few reporters in the newsroom applied for the position. Among the applicants: me and Rainbow Rowell. We were two rookie reporters with ink coursing through our veins.

Only Rainbow was much funnier. And she had a cooler name.

I was jealous even before the selection process began. I pored over my writing samples, as if each word placed in the proper sequence might unlock the mystery of world hunger. But Rainbow won the position, and in 1995, she became the youngest ever — and the first female — columnist of the Omaha World-Herald.

The newsroom swooned over Rainbow. And she seemed so happy. Oh, the nerve!

I seethed. I had a tantrum. I pouted. I wrung my hands over the paper’s apparent lack of concern over world hunger or any other social injustice. I ate an entire package of Oreos. I flailed on the floor and plotted ways to rearrange the manila files in Rainbow’s cubicle.

Okay, so I’m exaggerating. A little. I only ate half the package of Oreos.

In the newsroom the next day, I gritted my teeth, and feigned happiness with a half-hearted hug. But I withheld from her genuine praise for her success, even though she was the obvious choice for the job.

On the inside, I was passive-aggressive Mean Girl.

All these years later, thanks be to God, Mean Girl is history. Or is she? Does she sometimes appear in the form of self-pity and jealousy?

Well today, I hereby evict Mean Girl from taking up space rent-free in this brain. How about you? Do you want to serve an eviction notice to jealousy and insecurity?

Today, let’s go out of our way today to encourage someone who has done well.

Let’s replace jealousy with genuine happiness.

Let’s cheer loudly for another’s success.

Let’s see ourselves in light of who God made each of us. When I get to Heaven, God isn’t going to shake my hand and say, “Wow, you did a really great job being Rainbow … or Deidra … or Michelle … or Ann. The Creator wants me to be the best Jennifer He made me to be. And He wants you to be the best you He created you to be.

No one else can be you as well as you can be you. (Say that ten times fast!)

***

Rainbow’s first book, “Attachments,” comes out this month. It will be funny and witty and engaging. And I am genuinely happy for her. I’ve got a mind to tell her so today. And when I do, I’ll genuinely mean it.

by | April 8, 2011 | 22 comments

22 Comments

  1. Wendy Paine Miller

    This post is why I love you.

    Let's squash our inner mean girls and run around like chickens instead. 😉

    ~ Wendy

    Reply
  2. Lyla Lindquist

    You would rearrange someone's manila file folders to seek revenge?

    And I thought I knew you.

    😉

    Reply
  3. Kay @ Off the Beaten Path

    Wonderful post Jennifer! I needed this today. I've put away mean girl too, but she does raise her ugly golden locks every now and again. I will try to be truly joyful for the joyful today and weep with those who weep.

    By the way, my daughter is coming to an International Thespians Festival in Lincoln this summer. Anywhere close to you? She'll be at the University of Nebraska 🙂

    Reply
  4. Christine

    I was that girl who made the squan and I've been the mean girl too. I love how you own it and give us permission to own it too. Thanks!

    Reply
  5. Jennifer @ Getting Down With Jesus

    Hey Wendy — You're one of the cutest headless chickens I've ever seen. Hands-down. Or, should I say, heads-down?

    Lyla — Can we still be friends?

    Kay — Oh, cool! However, I live in far northwest Iowa now. Lincoln is about four hours away.

    Christine — Thanks for your words here. 🙂

    Reply
  6. Lyla Lindquist

    Well, I don't think I really have anything you'd eat Oreos over, but just in case, I'm moving my files and taking down that picture of my office over at my place.

    All in the name of not causing you to stumble, you know.

    Reply
  7. Megan Willome

    Yeah, she'd wonder for years what could have possibly happened to those manilla folders to get them out of order.
    Wonderful post! I have a sixth-grade girl, and these issues are constantly being raised. And I still have one person who can turn me into a Mean Girl without a warning.

    Reply
  8. papa&nanaT

    Having watched an adult version of "Mean Girl" this week attack my precious daughter in law, I related to the pain you feel for your sweet niece. I know we need to pray for them but sometimes it is a hard thing to do. I am trying and even if I really don't feel it right now, I am asking God to bless her too.

    Reply
  9. papa&nanaT

    Having watched an adult version of "Mean Girl" this week attack my precious daughter in law, I related to the pain you feel for your sweet niece. I know we need to pray for them but sometimes it is a hard thing to do. I am trying and even if I really don't feel it right now, I am asking God to bless her too.

    Reply
  10. Linda

    Ah Jennifer – I lay in bed this morning and asked forgiveness for the very things you've written so eloquently about here. I don't want to be the mean girl either – passively or aggressively. Unfortunately, it seems to come so easily.
    You are the best Jennifer!

    Reply
  11. Beth.. One Blessed Nana

    this is so true and oh so hard to admit. we need to learn how to be happy for others successes even when it means that we didn't 'win'.

    love to you Jennifer!

    Reply
  12. Lindy

    That fit in perfectly with the book I'm reading for bible study "What Your Counselor Never Told You" by William Backas. It's about the 7 deadly sins. Oh I have the mean girl still. It's surprising when she comes out. I just want to let her go with all the melting snow!

    Reply
  13. Ann Kroeker

    Maybe we need to create cool, catchy pen names to secure our moments of fame?

    Let's see, Lacy Lee for you? Kat Kroeker for me?

    Reply
  14. Beth E.

    Ah, yes…I've been on the giving AND receiving end of Mean Girl-itis. I've banished her for good!

    Reply
  15. Lisa Petrarca

    Yes, I too was a former mean girl! Luckily, I've gotten better over the years & actually can stop my mouth BEFORE I speak, only through Christ who strengthens me. Believe me, my mouth had a mind of its own back in the day.

    Great post & love the honesty! Stop by my blog & check out my latest conviction (which was unfortunately at the expense of my son.)

    http://bowlofinspiration.blogspot.com

    Reply
  16. Taylor

    I am in love with your photography. For a while now, I have been at a place in my life where I have just put my camera down and set my passionate love for photography aside. But after coming across your blog, I am proud to say that I have picked up my camera again and my passion for photography is still burning as strong as ever. Do you have any tips for a young aspiring photographer?

    Reply
  17. Kelly Sauer

    I needed this earlier this week, and I've only just found it now. Though, I suspect what God wanted to do might have been pushed off if I'd found this before He got to me. I'm good at prevaricating with Him when it comes to my soul.

    Thank you for the challenge, for the reminder. I really, really appreciate this post.

    Reply
  18. Missie

    I love this, I can totally relate. It is so hard to not want to lash out in rage or think horrible thoughts. But we do need to remember that God is in control.
    Thank you for the reminder

    Reply
  19. nance marie

    i made cheerleader in 7th grade. four popular girls (not my friends) and me. two in each seat on the bus, and me.
    if i had it to do over, as soon as i saw no friends on the squad, i would bow out. my friends were ok with it, but the time with the snobs was a _____.

    also, why cheer, when you can play?

    sometimes not joining is success.

    Reply
  20. Michelle DeRusha@Graceful

    Oh my Jennifer — how dare you look straight into my heart like this?

    Seriously, I needed to read this post today, and I need to read it every day, because I am a coveter. And I get jealous of what I perceive as other people's successes, or what I assume is their easier road. Especially when it comes to writing and publishing and all that. How can I call myself a Christian writer, of all things, when I am a coveter and a seether and green with envy?

    Thanks for calling me to task. I need this wake-up call (my husband often tries to tell me…but I ignore his wise words, of course!).

    Reply
  21. Cheryl

    I've been there too. I was in 8th grade and insanely jealous of the senior with the most beautiful voice ever. I rearranged all her sheet music in her folder one day after school. I'm not sure I ever apologized, but we did actually become friends later – through our youth group. Maybe I'll look her up on Facebook and fess up…

    Reply
  22. Katreena

    Jennifer, just another reason my husband, my 9-yr old, and I all like your blog! The more time we spend with God, the more we begin to see things from His perspective. The reality is: we each have a gift and we need to use it. There are people in your life that only you can reach and things God has for you to do. Secondly, God is fair. When I win that means someone else lost. If I've done my best and lost, it must be someone else's turn to win. Thanks for keeping it real!

    Reply

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