When Women Hurt Women

January 9, 2012 | 42 comments

It was rarely the boys who made me cry. It was almost always the girls whose barbed words made my eyes sting.

I think it was during the second-grade. It’s grainy on the playback. But I remember that is was one of those warm, late-winter days when the whole class had stripped off their coats. Three girls — who had just one day earlier declared that we’d be “friends forever” — huddled under the coat pile. That giant, colorful knot of arms and zippers heaved upward with their giggling and writhing.

I’d seen the girls dive under,  so I skipped across the asphalt to play along. They must have seen me coming, too, because they started a sing-songy chorus — a serenade to tell me I was a geek. I was ugly.

And I was crushed.

I remember standing there, shoulders slumped, thinking how cowardly they were: to refuse to show their faces.

And then I ran. I ran for the evergreen trees at the back of the playground, ran for a haven, a safe spot to cry, where no one could see me.


I’m grown up now, and I’m not scared anymore.  I have canopied grace-places to dream and grow and cry.

I don’t have to hide under the evergreens anymore. 

But I hear it from friends. They say they they are still afraid.

I spoke at a MOPS meeting last week about accepting ourselves, as-is.

“We might have reached the point in our lives where we can accept who we are in Christ,” I said, “but we still believe that others disapprove of our pasts, our parenting, our clothes, our home, our (you-fill-in-the-blank).”

I saw it in their eyes when I stood at the podium. I saw the walking wounded. So for a moment, I spoke to the rest of us, who might have inflicted that injury:

“What if we each found a way to love one more person today? What if we made a refuge where someone else could be real … really real? What if our default response was grace?”


One woman wrote me later that day to say that she fears being judged by other women because of her past.

Another said she feels like she’s been shunned by women who are jealous of her, instead of genuinely happy.

Another mother had received a gift card in the mail from an anonymous donor. The well-meaning donor included a note that mentioned how the woman’s child was dressed at church. The donor wrote that she hoped the money might be helpful.  The mother, while grateful for the generosity, cried when she read the note.


What if I remembered that Jesus came for sinners — for people with messed-up marriages and flailing dreams and naughty kids and hangovers? What if I remember that he came for the megachurch pastor, and the beer-swilling tavern owner?

What if I remembered that He came for me, that His grace saved a wretch like me?

How would that change my response to the hurting woman next door? 

A prayer:

 Father, help me find ways to create safe places for women to truly breathe.

And Lord, if I see a friend hovering under the evergreens, give me the nudge to sit beside her.

Writing in community with Michelle today:

by | January 9, 2012 | 42 comments


  1. Patti (PJ)

    Hi Jennifer! What a wonderful post. What you say is so true. Why are women so much more judgmental than men? After all, God formed us out of a man’s rib. I had the same childhood experiences. I was laughed at, whispered about and just plain “attacked” when I was little because I didn’t have “money”, or the fancy clothes. I wasn’t one of the “in crowd”. That problem stuck with me even through adulthood.

    I’m getting better, but I used to not even stand up in church and testify because I was afraid of the reaction of others, even though deep down the only one who matters is God, and I should remember that when I testify, I should be giving Him the glory and not worrying about what others think, but I still do.

    I have gotten better, but I still am guarded on what and how much I say because I don’t want repercussions for my family because of my past. I didn’t do anything unlawful or anything like that, but like many others, I have a past of which I am not proud of, that God brought me out of, and I know if I would tell the whole story it would help someone, but the thought of my family holds me back.

    God Bless,

    • dukeslee

      Hi PJ …

      It hurts, doesn’t it? We women can leave wounds with our words that take a very long time to heal. I’m so glad that you’ve experienced healing on this side of the pain … and I’m glad you’ve stood up tall to testify to what God has done in your life.

      May you continue to use your words to bring Him glory. You honor Him well with your courage.

      Love, Jennifer

  2. Brandee Shafer

    You were cute as a button, so they were just mean.

    I think you share some great thoughts, here: that you’re right: we should be kinder, less judgmental.

    But also? I think we need to buck up: hold our heads high. Lean into what the Lord whispers into our spirits and ignore those who can’t hear it.

    • dukeslee


      Brandee — Smiling here. “Buck up.” That’s what my Granny T. always used to say. And my Granny T. was one of the wisest women I’ve ever known.

      Thank you for your feedback. xxoo

  3. Megan Willome

    It’s funny, I love women, and I treasure my women friends. I enjoy making new ones (like you!). But I will not attend a women’s conference or women’s retreat for the reasons you described. I know I’ll spend the whole time in the bathroom, crying.

    • patricia spreng

      Then I feel especially blessed to have met you and your work, Megan. =) I was very afraid to be at LL, knowing no one. I’m thinking when the writer’s conference comes around again… we will need to be on the look out for the ones who may feel that way and take proactive steps te meet them before they hit the bathroom. I think I’ll be the greeter at the bathroom door giving out hugs and kleenex. Want to join me? 🙂

      • dukeslee

        Pat … You seemed so courageous and confident. Isn’t that something? That on the inside, part of you was very afraid?

        I’m so glad you took the risk. Love you…

    • dukeslee

      Megan — Crying at a conference? Who does that? 😉

      You know who… ME! I’ll never forget how you were the one to offer me a hug and a Kleenex during my own “spell.”

      Love you. Honored to call you friend.

  4. patricia spreng

    Preach it sister. I think I’ve played both sides of that scenario and both of my reactions are rooted in insecurity. I’ve allowed others opinions to define me into a crying corner, and alternatively I have come out fighting with an overly strong exterior shield to hide behind while putting others down. Neither one has worked. Grace is the safe place in the middle … to give and receive.

    • dukeslee

      I thought the same thing about myself, Pat. I’ve been on both sides of it. Thanks for your honesty here in the comment box.

  5. Jennifer Officer

    Jennifer, I just spoke with a dear friend on the phone who felt left out and isolated intentionally by a group of women – from church. It broke my heart that we as Christians would intentionally hurt another or that we would be so busy in our own stuff that we would unintentionally do so. Thank you for your words of encouragement. I plan on sharing them with my friend.

    • dukeslee

      Nice to have you here, Jennifer. Yeah. The church does a pretty good job of isolating those it wants to serve. Of course, in many cases, it does a great job.

      I’m still working on making grace my default. Thankful — humbled, really — by the enormous grace of the Father.

  6. Cindy Conner

    Wonderful and excellent post. Have a blessed day.

  7. Hazel I Moon

    Children can be cruel at times, especially if one of them is a leader and gets the chant going. The truth is that they were jealous of your potential and probably your cute looks too. Choosing to forgive even at this late date, will set the injured one free. Recent hurts sent my way, went over my head because I said to myself, “What do they know?” Turned out good in the long run!
    God is gracious and as long as He is pleased that is all I need to know!

  8. Lindy

    Beautiful. My mops group would have been captivated. I’m so happy with who I am as a Child of God, but it’s true that I can’t shake the feeling of what others think of me. Thankfully grace abounds.

  9. Joan

    What a great post! When we believe…truly believe that we are accepted and loved by our Savior, it makes the past hurts and feelings of nonacceptance fade away. Thanks for the encouragement today!

  10. Dea

    Ouch. I remember a “Truth or Dare” question that made me think that from that time forward, I would pick “Dare” over “Truth.” I was in the sixth grade and still remember the question and the shame 30+ years later.

    Today I wrote that “I won’t be playing keep away anymore.” I wonder if it all started way back when???

    I like Pat have to confess, I have been on both sides of the issue. Pains me to recall, but grateful to be forgiven—and to now be intentional about bringing others into the beauty of friendship with women who care for each other’s hearts.

  11. Katie

    Exactly what I needed to hear. Too often I am blinded by my own fears and pain and I forget that God calls me to be a refuge. It’s time I got outside myself and sheltered someone else. Thanks for blessing me today.

  12. Kathleen Basi

    The boys just made me mad; it was the girls who I wanted to approve of me and didn’t. You’re absolutely right. And even now, as comfortable as I am in my own skin–which is pretty comfortable–I still worry about being judged by people I hope to touch. I’m becoming more and more convinced that judgment is the root of so much of human pain.

    • dukeslee



      I wanted (still want?) the approval of women. I’m getting more comfortable in my own skin, too, but I am too often a slave to my “approval ratings.”

      Thank you for being here in community.

  13. Lea Culp

    I grow more and more at ease in my own skin with each passing year and I’ve had almost 60 of them. Yikes!! Great post and so, so much truth! Happy week!

  14. Lori

    I continue to struggle with how much of “me” I want to share with others. And I continue to be astounded by the assumptions others make.

  15. Positively Alene

    I loved the boys. They were the best of friends. But, I can see myself all over this post. I too want to have those eyes to see others who hurt. I not only want to see, but to reach out and comfort and be there for them.

  16. Sheila Seiler Lagrand

    This post just makes me cry. My best friends were always boys. Even now, I have few close IRL women friends.

    It seems like it’s too easy for us to say something that sounds sweet but is calculated to stab and twist.

  17. melissa

    I have noticed that the drama really never ends with women. Someone told me that even in the nursing home, there are cliques! How funny is that? I bet God shakes his head sometimes. We need to laugh at ourselves more often and maybe stop being so serious!

  18. Dolly

    Praying with you, Jennifer, to be one that creates safe places for other women…thank you for doing that with your blog 🙂

  19. Shaunie Friday

    I always had a hard time with girls too Jennifer. I was never quite thin enough, pretty enough, fashionable enough, whatever, and then it made me mad at myself for caring what a bunch of shallow, mean girls thought, but I did care and it did hurt. It’s easier now, but I know those seeds still lie (mostly) dormant underneath it all and sprouts of insecurity do poke their prickly heads up now and then. I still have to force myself to engage in situations where there are groups of women. I feel privileged to find myself on the same page with you today–“What if our default response was grace?” What if, indeed! There would be only squirrels and raccoons out under the evergreens.

  20. Cari K

    Perfect post….so so true….I am taking up your challenge today! Thanks, Jennifer.

  21. joan

    Love this post. I have someone in my life that due to her own insecurities and refusal to fully surrender her life to Christ, is jealous and envious of me. I have prayerfully asked God to assist me in dealing with this issue in His way.

  22. JoAnne Potter

    What if my default response was grace? Now that is a challenge worth taking on.

  23. Deborahjoy

    Oh my word, this really spoke to me…that awful burning feeling of shame, it sticks with us into adulthood.
    Even now, my shame-ometer is very easily activated, and I then scold myself for being too sensitive, for taking things too seriously, but in my heart I know others WERE being unkind. I wish my default response was grace…need to work on that x

  24. Christina

    This is a post I can definitely relate to. I was wounded not long ago by a close friend who was critical of my child and my parenting. In talking to my pastor, he reminded me of grace and said, “Didn’t Jesus forgive you for much more?” Then I remember how Jesus’ friends treated Him when He needed them most. Thanks for sharing this today.

  25. Alyssa Santos

    I think that those of us who’ve got stories like yours, from long ago or recently, can remember to ask Jesus for increased compassion for others who are hurting or whose past hurts are keeping them from grace. Grace is free to me and I need to remember to pass it along freely to others in need of it 🙂 blessings, Alyssa

  26. Jennifer_StudioJRU

    Jennifer… such a great post! I think we can all relate to this. I enjoyed so many sharing their hearts in your comments too! We are not alone. What if we made a refuge? What a wonderful thought that is!!

  27. Cheryl Smith

    You were every bit as adorable then as you are now. Love to you this day, and so proud of your Truth-speaking to women in hard places. Our identity in Christ is the one place where the enemy would try to kill, steal and rob. He tried with Jesus as well. Remember? “IF you are the Son of God…”

  28. Carey

    Ahhh…grace received leads to grace given. Loved received from above overflows.

  29. ed pilolla

    what’s especially interesting to me is that the past of a woman is more unforgivable than a man’s. that’s a cultural truth, in my opinion anyway. women buy into it. but its origin is the paternalistic and violent society we live in. the truth is that women who choose to come together in a community, like this one, are remarkably compassionate and fair. it’s these types of communities that really ought to be the basis of an evolved society.

    in school, we are all thrown together with all our young disfunction and sometimes spend a good portion of our lives figuring out what the hell just happened.

  30. Christine

    So beautifully written. Praise God for your mentoring to those Mamas! What a way to love them!

  31. Bina

    That one hit me deep…because I was also the girl running for the trees to cry alone and because I have watched that happen to each my own kids and it hurts me MORE to feel their hurt in life.

    I love how you are so real, my friend…you are amazing!!

  32. Jillie

    Sorry…I just have to add this silly little comment Jennifer. Your last photo of the ‘girlfriend toes up close and personal’ with one another. Love it. The toe rings caught my attention. I wear a simple little gold toe ring year round. My daughter told me that one of her friends at church, along with her family, believes that “toe rings are for harlots.” :o] I don’t happen to agree with that. I think they can be very lovely. 🙂

  33. Helen Murray

    I’ve just found this post because of a wonderfully encouraging comment you left on my blog on the same subject.
    So, SO good to find people who understand. I thought it was just me…
    Women can be so scary.



  1. Mid-Week Question of the Week~January 25 « Because Of Grace - [...] A post by Jennifer to read and consider… When Women Hurt Women [...]

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