We women are an interesting lot. Nurturing and soft, tender and loving and yet can be so cutting and mean, exclusive, competitive and hurtful.
We’ve all been there.
Chances are, each of us have taken our turn in both roles: the mean girl and the one in the crosshairs.
What compels us to take an ounce of joy out of thrashing another woman. Cutting her down to her face, or behind her back it doesn’t matter, it’s just as vicious either way.
As a woman I have a difficult time understanding it, I can only imagine how confusing and annoying it is for our male counterpoints.
No matter our age, mean girls are a common thread in our lives.
Have you ever experienced the cold meanness of another woman? From a stranger, an acquaintance, a friend even? Her cold snub or jarring comment leaving you in bewilderment of what in the world just happened? Left you to simmer in the meaning of her harsh words or silent anger for days, or weeks….or months? Felt the chill from a group as one mean girl spreads her poison amongst them, slowly, but decisively edging you out.
I have. In fact, it’s been my life story. Don’t misunderstand me, I’m not complaining as much as I am just stating a fact.
Because just as brutal the rocky path of women relationships has been for me, I’ve been blessed with a multitude of very deep, meaningful, life-giving relationships with women all along the way. I think it’s the story God had for my life. The story He wanted me to know and the story He wanted me to tell.
From a very young age I’ve lived in the boundaries of extremes in female relationship. Punishingly mean, exclusive and hurtful…and unbelievably, incredibly rich, loving and full.
It’s an interesting paradox: to find security and love for myself, in this resting place between two extremes.
In the wake of a rift or bitter division, I’ve been left so many times wondering am I a bad person? A bad friend? Do some women hate me because of something I’m doing? Or is it just who I am they seem to hate? A compulsion beyond my actions.
I’ve discovered those are very difficult questions because of the richness on the other side of the equation. The depth and breadth of meaningful relationships, the ones not intimidated, competitive or insecure.
The ones where God is alive and present because He lives in each of us. The ones where intimate thoughts, hopes and dreams are shared in the space of safety, unconditional love, and positive regard. Where I know that I am deeply and fully loved.
How do these two very distinct worlds coexist inside of, and around, me? I don’t know, but they do. And I bet they do in you, too.
I remember in the sixth grade I took my turn in the mean girls cruel game. The awful one where every single girl hated me. Not one was allowed to play with, or talk to me for an entire week. I would go to school, sit by myself, be by myself, walk the playground at recess by myself. Wonder, hide, cry…by myself.
It’s not a tragic story, it’s the human story. And more specifically, it’s the female story.
I’ve lived it long enough that it’s become a second skin. The layer under the more beautiful one of thriving and rich women relationships. Scratch the surface and it’s there: fear, shame, bitter and brokenness reside in that subdermal layer.
But slowly over the last twenty years, and the last few years more strikingly, the power that subdermal layer holds on me is waning. Shame no longer holds a grip or I wouldn’t be writing about it now. It’s not shameful to have a history of some difficult female relationships. It doesn’t define me as much as the process that has resulted because of them.
These critical friendships, the young immature ones of my youth and the conditional ones of my adulthood, have carved out a deeper well of compassion in me than ever could have existed without them.
They have made me stronger in myself.
This is not to point fingers at every girl who was ever mean to me or left me out of their group. It has to be deeper than that or I’ve learned nothing, and am no better for the trial. What I’m here to testify is: although it seems impossible, in the wake of rejection and cruelty I have come to know and like myself even more.
I am stronger. Taller. Braver.
My faith has been renewed in the life-giving relationships that exist around me, the promises of God, and the lessons He wants me to learn from the journey. It has made me appreciate the women of strength and love that pour into my spirit, who share this journey, who love my children and fight WITH me for my marriage, my children, my life, our friendship. They fight FOR me.
Beautiful women who champion growth, maturity, and depth of character. Who hold me accountable to a higher standard. Whose very life sharpens my own. A maturing process of becoming less focused on ourselves and more on how we can love others well, give generously of what we have, pass over judgment and give grace.
Because it’s all about grace.
If this post resonates with your story – a story that desires more from your relationships with women friends, you might want to check out my new book, Pretty: Breaking Free From The Illusions of a Superficial Life. It’s available on Amazon kindle, iTunes and Barnes & Noble nook.