Hello, Tribelet, and welcome back to After School Wednesdays. I've been taking your questions about all kinds of bullying one by one, and today we're going to look at something both KAYLEE and WENDY asked about.
"My friends leave me out and are rude to me. They say things like, 'None of your business' when I ask a question."
That's the worse, isn't it? Seriously, it's one thing when girls you barely know treat you that way, but when it's people you've been hanging out with who you at least THOUGHT were your friends ... that's even tougher to handle.
It's not a new problem. The people who wrote the Psalms had to deal with it too.
"Even my best friend, the one I always told everything -- he ate meals at my house all the time! -- has bitten my hand."
(Psalm 41:9, The Message)
It doesn't seem like the things that apply to bullying from "other" people would work when the meanness is being dished about by girls who are supposed to be your friends. Do you save the tears and walk away? Deliver your one-liner ("I thought you were better than that.") and move on? If you do that, what happens to the friendship you used to have?
The way to approach bullying from "friends" IS different, up to a point. Let's take a look.
* The reason I use quotation marks around the word "friends" is that the first thing you need to do when they treat you like an enemy is look back and see if you were ever really "friends" in the first place. Ask yourself --
a. did she/they used to be nice to me and that's just changed recently?
b. or have they always done this to me since the beginning?
If the answer is b, they've never been your friends. People who genuinely like you for yourself, who like being around you, who trust you just don't treat you that way. Could it be that you WANTED to be in their friend group, but when you're honest with yourself, you see that it never has been a good fit?
The answer? Forget about being friends with her/them and look around for other people to get to know. See if you can find girls who are interested in the same things you are. Notice who laughs at the same things you do or excels in the identical subjects or activities you're good at. The "cool" girls aren't always your best bet for friendships, even if it seems like you could be "cool" too if you hung out with them. No need for a big break-up with the girls who have hurt your feelings and made you miserable. Just move on. It is, after all, their loss, because you are awesome.
If the answer is a -- the girls who are leaving you out really have been your friends up until now -- it's worth trying to find out what's going on before you decide whether to hang in there with them and try to fix the flubs or find new peeps to be with. This will take some rehearsing so get your mom or sister or some other woman you trust to let you try out your approach on them. In the case of friends saying, "None of your business" when you ask a question, you could practice saying some form of:
"Y'know what, guys, this has been happening a lot lately and I'm not sure why. We're all friends, so how come I can't know what you're talking about?"
If you rehearse it with someone she can tell you if you sound whiney or defensive, which you don't want. The goal is to be curious but confident. You just want to know what's going on so you can make a decision.
What if, when you try it for real on your friends, they say, "Seriously, it ISN'T your business so quit asking"? Ouch. That'll be hard. But at least you'll know where you stand and YOU can make a choice. You can ask why -- what you might've done to make them not trust you -- and as long as you do it with confidence, with an I-just-need-to-know attitude you might get an answer that makes sense. Maybe there really is a reason -- although the way they've approached it with you is entirely wrong. If you're willing to listen and say, "Okay, I get that I blabbed the last secret to the entire fifth grade. No wonder you don't trust me. But I can do better," you might just save a friendship. But if they're still pretty mean about it -- "We don't want you to know all our stuff because you're not mature enough. We outgrew you" -- you'll know these are no longer people you want for friends.
THEN the principles for dealing with bullies apply. Save the tears until you can get home and talk to your mom or your sister or someone who will understand. Refuse to let them bring you down or change who you are. Keep the power to be yourself. Find a place where you can be you without being criticized. Do things that interest you and you'll find friends who will want to be around you. Yeah, you'll feel hurt for a while and you'll need to grieve, but don't do it in front of them. Do NOT give them the power to hurt you any more.
Have we said anything about changing "friends" who turn on you? No, because we can't change other people's behavior. We can only change ours. When we do, sometimes others see that and they change too -- but that isn't our goal. Our goal is to be loving, authentic people. God-people.
Let's go back to that psalm-writer whose hand was bitten by his former best friend (just a figure of speech; his BFF didn't actually take a bite out of his finger). He goes on to say to God:
"You know me inside and out, you hold me together, you never fail to stand me tall in your presence so I can look you in the eye."
Psalm 41:12, The Message
Yeah, God's got your back on this. That's what I'm talkin' about, Tribelet. So if you see "friends" treating someone in their group like an enemy, offer her a seat at your lunch table. Smile at her across the classroom or sanctuary. Give her a genuine compliment. Let her know she isn't who they're telling her she is. Because our psalmist also says,
"Dignify those who are down on their luck; you'll feel good - that's what God does." (Psalm 41:1)
Keep those questions coming, Tribelet!