People are Mean

There was this kid at my high school that was rumored to be a circus performer. He was a year younger than me so I didn’t have classes with him or know him at all, let alone if that was true. Circus performer or not, he clearly loved to juggle and do other carnival-style feats and would practice his little stunts during breaks and lunch time.

I remember this one particular group of kids that would often ask him to do tricks in the middle of the jam-packed hallway between classes. They’d chant and clap and cheer until there was a ring of rubbernecks around him and he’d eagerly comply with their entertainment whims.

Unfortunately, they weren’t actually interested in his talents. They were just looking for someone to ridicule; just a bunch of heartless gawkers looking for a freak show, a dancing bear. There was a lot of muffled laughter and overenthusiastic applause to keep the show going. And it did. Because for a fleeting moment, that kid thought he was a star. It was like watching someone coerce their love-starved dog into doing silly tricks for a little appreciation and a pitiful treat. It was pathetic.

People are mean. Some people enjoy being mean the way some of us enjoy crumbling dirt in our hands and watching the grains sift through our fingers.

Middle school girls are especially mean. Gossip, insults, silent treatment, exclusion, out-and-out lies and bullying are what my daughter sees or is sometimes the victim of daily.

It’s really hard for me as a mom to not want to storm through her cafeteria and go all Jesus-and-the-money-changers on those kids and start flipping over tables and beating the bottoms of those sadistic kids with a big ol’ paddle. Instead, I’m doing my best to teach my daughter how to stick up for herself and others, to talk things out first and when that doesn’t work, tell the teachers about it. I am trying my darnedest to help her empathize with these bullies and remind her that when people are unhappy and unloved, they lash out.

Mostly, though, we talk about forgiveness. Because when the little tiffs blow over, when she moves on to high school or college – no matter where she goes – there will be more mean people and unfair treatment waiting for her.

I wish I could tell her it’s just the way kids are at her age. It would be nice if I could tell her that she won’t have to worry about getting hurt at church or other places that should be “safe”. I would love it if people simply grew out of their meanness.

But we all know it’s just not as simple as all that. Understanding and practicing forgiveness are the only ways to cope with this harsh reality.

Designed by God, forgiveness is a strange and beautiful paradox. When we forgive, we are healed; when our hearts are doused in pain, forgiveness ignites compassion. It keeps our spirit soft and our hearts intact. It strengthens resolve to say “yes” whenever you can, help whenever you’re able, support, guide and encourage whenever its needed because you know how badly it hurts to be ignored, rejected and betrayed  – especially by those you thought were on your side.

I don’t want my little girl that used to burst onto playgrounds looking for friends with her pigtails flying and arms wide to become jaded and reticent because of the thoughtless behavior of others. I would do anything to spare my daughter from unkindness, but people will always fail, including me. And when they do I don’t want my daughter to lose faith in humanity, I want her to find strength in the God that restores her heart and renews her mind so that she remains confident in herself and tender towards others even when they’re mean.

Angie Derrick 10/25/2012 ©

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  • I believe in Jesus, loving people, living fully and creating good things. Whether it's art, food or finding solutions, I am always in "creative mode". With this blog I hope to encourage and help others to live in whatever "mode" God has called them to.

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