Monday, February 17, 2014

Mean Girls, Passive Aggressiveness, and Standing up for Yourself with Class

Have you seen the movie Mean Girls? You know the Burn Book? If you, for some reason, don't know what I'm talking about, this is a movie from 2004 starring Lindsay Lohan. She moves to the US after living in Africa with her missionary parents and gets taken into this group of mean girls who wear pink on Wednesdays. And if you get on their bad side, they put you in the Burn Book. For example, if they saw that I called them mean, they might cut my picture out of the yearbook and paste it in this book with the caption, "Jessie's freckles make her look like a leper and what's with her being so awkward anyway." Burn.

Well, all that to say I have a Mean Girl inside me sometimes. I mean, she's tiny, but she's there. She's like a tiny hibernating bear that only wakes up and walks out of her cave when someone really pisses me off. Despite having red hair, it takes a lot to make my temper flare.

But when she comes out, I get pretty awful.

I used to never say anything bad to anyone or even address the fact that someone might be treating me poorly because I can't stand confrontation. Need to confront someone? Hmm, actually better not because I have to else. That meant that I got walked on and taken advantage of and put up with a lot of crap from people that I didn't deserve.

So, how did I used to deal with that? Journals. Better to write all about it in a place no one will ever see, or at least not over my dead body. My past journals are not lovely. At all. My sister has already promised me that if I unexpectedly die, she will take every measure to make sure no one I love ever reads my journals. You know why? Because they'll think I didn't love them. Here's the truth: If I have a relationship with you past acquaintances, I've probably vented about you at least once in a journal. Those are my Burn Books. But that doesn't mean I don't love you! It means I loved you enough that I would rather get it out privately than to hurt you. Those journals are actually quite embarrassing, though. I might burn them.

Anyway. I think dealing with my frustrations and anger that way was okay, but it still didn't help that people may not have realized or cared that they were hurting me, so they kept right on doing it.  

Next, I got fed up with it--with caring more about people not being upset with me than about standing up for myself. So, I let out my Mean Girl a little bit.

After all, the people who hurt me with their words and their actions had no problem doing it. I see people stand up for themselves all the time. I admired my friends who were ballsy enough to speak their mind even if it wasn't what other people wanted to hear--and especially if they knew others didn't want to hear it. I wanted to be that because those people didn't get walked on.

I started standing up for myself the coward's way: Passive Aggressiveness. If you're passive aggressive, I'm sorry, I'm calling it. I've been there. I've done it a thousand times. Acting all pissed off until the person you're angry with asks what's wrong and then saying, "Nothing! I'm fine." Or, "Why would I be upset?" When clearly your body language says you are. Even worse is when it's done online where you safely sit behind your computer or phone and make vague, passive aggressive statuses that sound like, "Some people...really tickle my grumpy monster when they eat the rest of the Cocoa Puffs." "Thanks a lot for...being the greatest friend ever TO DISAPPOINT ME." "I hate when people post all their problems on Facebook, like we don't know who you're talking about." A passive aggressive status about passive aggressiveness is still being passive aggressive, you get me?  All you're accomplishing is showing people that (1) There is a problem and you're upset about it. (2) You aren't mature enough or bold enough to handle that problem with the person directly. It is simply child's play. I have been guilty of this so many times. If this strikes a nerve, I promise I'm not talking about any one person or even a few people because that would be me doing the very thing I'm talking about here.

I have also gone the way of talking about people to other people behind their backs, and that is just as awful. They say to pay attention to how people talk to you about others because that is how they will talk to others about you. It's true. I don't want to be that person. There's a difference between venting to a trusted friend if you're conflicted or hurt or whatever, and smack-talking everyone who upsets you to everyone who has an ear. I'm so careful now to even vent to someone because I don't want to cross the line.  

So, anyway. I did all those things. And then I realized how immature it is. And I said, okay, I can deal with people directly or not at all. If it's something I can't say nothing about, then I will take it up with this person like an adult.

Only I didn't do that with class either. I figured, if I'm telling them what's bothering me, I better not hold back. Just tell it like it is! Best to be honest.

Problem: I have honestly felt that a person was awful. I have honestly felt that I could never be friends with someone again. I have honestly felt that it was all their fault. Just because you honestly feel something doesn't make it true, and once you say it, it's out there and that person is not likely to forget it. I have said some ugly things to people, even recently, in the name of standing up for myself. In the name of standing up for the people I care about.

And afterward, I felt awful. Why? Because I stood up for what I felt was right? No--because I was mean about it. Because I didn't show love. And being mean or hastily saying something you honestly feel serves NO ONE. It hurts them. It hurts me. It damages my reputation as a loving, sweet lady. I'll be the first to tell you I don't always feel loving and sweet. Sometimes I feel mean and nasty. But which of the two do I want to be remembered by when I'm no longer on this planet? Which will make people more likely to trust me? Which will make people see my Father?

I want my life to reflect God's love. But I also want to stand up for myself. So, through many trials and errors, I think I have finally found out how to do both. By the way, I know this post has been long, so thank you for sticking it out. Without further ado, these are the valuable lessons I have learned:

1) The most important is that before you say anything at all, make sure your motive is love. Not revenge. Not proving that you're right. Love. If you can't get to that place right now, tell that person you need some time, and walk away or close your computer and let yourself simmer down. Get to that place of love first, and I guarantee nothing ugly will come out.

2) The other person does not need to know that you are right and they are wrong. Na na na na boo boo. Even if they are making the most obnoxious passive aggressive statuses about you, you do not need to point out that they are being immature. Be the mature one even if you are the only one in the world who knows you are acting maturely. This benefits you.

3) Use, "I feel" words. No one can argue against the way you feel. Avoid making accusations like, "you never" or "you always."
What to do: "When I hear that you talk about me behind my back, I feel disrespected. It's hard for me to trust you, but I want to."
What not to do: "I can't trust you because you always talk about me behind my back."

4) Sometimes you just need to remove yourself from a relationship.  If someone consistently brings you down or always takes you to your breaking point where you become the ugliest version of yourself, just let them go. You don't need that kind of person in your life, and you are not obligated. What if they are in your life and there's nothing you can do about it? Keep reading.

5) Protect your heart.  You can love that person without handing over your heart for them to pulverize. Don't allow them to have any power over you.

6) Remember that how you respond says more about you than about them. How they act has nothing to do with you, but you do have responsibility over your own actions.

7) Pray for God's heart to be your heart. When you ask God to show you a person through His eyes, and you surrender to that, He will. You will see how much they are actually fragile and vulnerable and thirsty for love. You will see that enough of people and life have already caused them pain, and that's why they lash out. They don't need you to add to that. No matter how they act toward you, they need love. Bottom line. God is patient and gracious to us, so be that for other people.

Say only what needs to be said and say it only out of love. Yes, stand up for yourself. But do it with tact. Be responsible for yourself. Be mature. Be gracious.  I have learned this not because I'm wise because because I've been an idiot and I got sick of hurting people out of my hurt, so I asked God how to deal with all this. He has been faithful to help me even out of my ignorance.

"When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly." 1 Corinthians 4:12-13

"But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control." Galatians 5:22  



  1. Beautiful Jessie. What courage to open yourself up like that for the benefit of others. I checked in to see how your writing was coming along and was moved as to how much you've grown in wisdom and the love of God. You're an inspiration. Sylvia