Truth #10: KINDNESS is more important than POPULARITY.
Sadie knew how mean her friend Abbie could be, but since Abbie rarely turned that meanness on her, it wasn't a big deal.
In many ways Sadie liked having a strong, bold friend like Abbie because it made her strong and bold too. I t also protected Sadie. At their school there was a lot of bullying, but no one messed with The Queens—their group of friends—because messing with a Queen was messing with Abbie, and anyone who knew anything knew that was a mistake.
During lunch one day, Abbie announced a game she wanted to try.
"I have a great idea," she said, her face glowing. "Every week, we're going to leave out a different Queen. I decide who, and you can't talk to anyone in the group, sit with us, or make eye contact. You can't talk to anyone else either, because the point is to look like a loser so we can laugh at you. It's all a joke, so no getting mad."
Abbie locked eyes with every Queen at the cafeteria table. Apparently, being in her circle wasn't so safe after all. "Okay?" Abbie asked. "Everyone in?"
Sadie thought this was the dumbest idea ever. It really made no sense. But like the other five girls, she nodded, because when Abbie spoke, a nod was always an appropriate answer.
"Fantastic." Abbie grinned. "Let's start. Who will be the lucky girl this week?" She glanced around and stopped at Sadie. "You. Get up."
"Me?" Sadie was shocked.
"Yes, you." Abbie pointed at an empty table nearby. "Sit over there."
"But why?" Sadie felt a little sick. She and Abbie had been friends since birth. Their moms were college roommates.
They'd taken dance together for three years. What was the point of this? For some reason she couldn't explain, Sadie's eyes began to water. Abbie was quick to notice.
"Are you crying?" Abbie laughed and looked at the other Queens to see who else thought this was funny. "I swear you're such a baby sometimes. It's just a game. Toughen up."
Sadie wiped her eyes. She forbade herself to cry any more tears. "I don't want to sit by myself," she replied, holding her chin up.
"Too bad"—Abbie leaned in and narrowed her eyes on Sadie—"you don't make the rules. Now get going and do what I say. I'm going to take your lonely picture and post it all over the Internet. I bet I'll get two hundred likes!"
Sadie hated when Abbie got bossy. Why did she always call the shots? Why did no one ever challenge her? Sadie hoped that another Queen might stick up for her, but no one did. They were probably too relieved that Abbie hadn't chosen them.
Seeing no other option, Sadie walked to the empty table. They were ten seats on each side, and she sat in the middle. Sadie heard the Queens giggle, and when she looked up, they snapped her picture with their cell phones. Not only was Sadie embarrassed, she was mad—mad at them and mad at herself for going along with this.
Why did she let Abbie rule her life? Why did she give her that power?
Deep down, Sadie knew why. To be a Queen and enjoy popularity, you had to follow Abbie. There was no way around it. Pplus, Abbie could be really fun sometimes. She organized great parties and made a big fuss over everyone's birthday. When she wasn't making life miserable for someone, Abbie could be sweet.
"You mind if I sit here?" a voice said. Sadie looked up and saw Krissie Ppratt, the school's star tennis player, standing across from her with a lunch tray. Sadie had never talked to Krissie, and all she really knew about her was that she'd raised $50,000 for Children's Hospital last year through a tennis tournament fund-raiser.
The Queens weren't supposed to associate with outsiders. But since Sadie was in a defiant mood, she did the unthinkable.
She let Krissie sit down.
Her intention was to spite Abbie, but as Krissie began talking, Sadie realized how much she liked h er. Krissie was real and funny. Not rude-funny like Abbie, who made jokes at people's expense, but funny in her perspective. When Krissie described how her brother's iguana escaped from his cage the night before and snuck into her bed, Sadie nearly choked on her turkey sandwich. She hadn't laughed that hard in a long time.
On the table, Sadie's cell phone buzzed. Abbie had sent three texts.
Text 1: You're laughing???
Text 2: You broke a rule.
Text 3: We'll now ignore you for TWO WEEKS!
When Sadie looked up, Abbie smiled smugly. It gave Abbie tremendous pleasure to get in the last word. In that moment, Sadie made a choice. It was a big one too. She was done with Abbie, done with The Queens, done with the kissing up. It was an exhausting way to live, and for what? What did those girls give her besides constant insecurity?
From now on, Sadie wanted friends like Krissie. She wanted to spend time with people who made her laugh until her stomach hurt and would never force her to sit by herself so they could post her lonely picture all over the Internet.
WHY ARE MEAN GIRLS POPULAR?
Chances are, you've met some Abbies in your life.
Or maybe you are an Abbie, the ringleader everyone worships.
Either way, I'd like to share some thoughts about the social scene you're currently in and how it will evolve over time.
Generally speaking, girls want to be popular. Popularity is the Holy Grail, what the vast majority of girls compete for. With only a few coveted spots at the top, it can get ugly. Oftentimes, girls will turn on each other and use each other to gain popularity. They'll trade in their values and virtues for pride and selfish ambition.
In some classes, the most popular girls are kind. They may be the cheerleaders with a tight-knit circle, but they're nice. They set a bar of kindness at the top that trickles down and sets the tone for everyone. If you're in a class where kindness is the norm, consider yourself lucky. Not everyone is so fortunate.
Because far too often, the most popular girls are mean. They run the show like Abbie, and since everyone is scared of them, they rarely get challenged. When you see a class that tolerates a lot of cruelty, look at the top of the social food chain. Chances are, the bullies call the shots.
What you should know is this: The mean girls are a minority that feels like a majority. They're a small core of the population that seems big due to its power and influence.
Who gives mean girls their power? Their followers—the girls (and guys) who tag along and tell them how great they are, sacrificing their own voices and losing their identities to be in the cool circle. Without a posse, mean girls are powerless. They have no hedge to protect them, no one to cover up the big truth lurking behind the scenes; they're just as insecure and ordinary as anyone else.
Why would anyone follow a mean girl? Typically it's not because they like her. The most likely reasons are listed below:
They want to be popular—and popularity by association works fine
They crave security (not knowing it's false security they get)
They want to stay on her good side
They're unaware that better friends exist
They're using the mean girl for personal motives
They're scared to leave
You know in The Wizard of Oz when the curtain gets pulled back, and the Great and Ppowerful Oz is revealed as an ordinary man, not the image in front of the curtain? Mean girls live in fear of moments like that. They know they're frauds, less powerful than people think, and to be exposed would be their ultimate humiliation.
It takes time, but girls who act mean inevitably get what they have coming. Eventually they fall from grace as their peers wise up, get a spine, and stop bowing down to them. If you're in a mean girl's circle, you'll go down too. Don't expect your friendships to resurrect themselves either, because they were a house of cards to begin with, too fragile to last.
You want to put the mean girls out of business? Then band together as much kindness as you possibly can. Show the power of real friendships and good intentions. Stand up for anyone being taunted or bullied. Love is a universal language, and when you base an alliance on that, it attracts people. You gain strength and a solid foundation to build friendships upon.
Mean girls lose power when their followers jump ship. And since their followers are often like Sadie—blindly obeying—they may have to get burned before pulling back and considering alternatives. Some girls never learn, but many do. They meet someone like Krissie and realize what they're missing. Once they recognize true friendship, they don't want to settle for a phony substitute.
We all have some mean girl in us, and certainly mean moments, but most people want to do the right thing. Most people want friendships where you celebrate each other instead of tear each other down. Being mean may give you a place in the popular crowd, but it won't endear you to anyone. And since popularity is a moving target, always subject to change, there's less security than you think.
The happiest, healthiest friendships are based on love—not love for yourself, but love for your friend.
WHY DO FRIENDS HURTT FRIENDDS?
I hear so many stories of girls being mean, and they all break my heart.
But the worst stories are those where friends turn on friends. It's one thing when an acquaintance attacks you—but quite another when a friend does.
The people you're closest to have the most potential to hurt you. Yes, they know your private life details, but more importantly, you trust them. You value their opinions and care what they think. So when they betray you, or you betray them, it's a dagger to the heart.
Imagine scrolling through your social media news feed and seeing that your "best friends" have posted an unflattering picture of you captioned Loser. They're mad because you left them for three weeks to attend summer camp. On top of that, you made new friends. The nerve! They all agreed you deserve payback, and now it's you against twelve of them.
If your friends act like this, I have two words for you: distance yourself. Don't waste time trying to please them and earn their favor. Whatever spin they put on the meaning of "true friendship" is wrong, because girls like this have it backward.
They care more about how they feel than how you feel.
A true friend doesn't intentionally hurt your feelings. When you're sad, she's sad, and if she needs to apologize, she will. When two girls respect each other this way, valuing what the other one thinks and feels, the best possible friendship results.
If only girls could see what happens at home, in the privacy of their friends' and classmates' bedrooms, I guarantee a lot of cruelty would stop. Consider this behind-the-scenes glimpse of a girl who has been mistreated:
She comes home from school, and immediately her mom asks what's wrong. She can tell something isn't right by her daughter's lifeless face. The daughter says, "Nothing" and goes to her room. The mother debates whether to leave her alone or check in. Fifteen minutes later, she goes to her. She knocks on her daughter's door and asks to come in. The daughter replies, "No," but when the mom hears her sobbing, she enters the bedroom anyway. She finds her daughter curled up in a fetal position on her bed. She is choking back tears, her cheeks are red, and her hair is sticking to her wet face. The mom starts crying too. What happened to her baby?
The mom scoops her daughter into her arms and rocks her. Her strong, big girl is now a limp, vulnerable mess. She hugs her child, kisses her, and tells her she loves her. "Whatever it is," the mom says, "we'll get through it together." The girl is embarrassed to face her mom, so she keeps her head down as she talks. It turns out her old friends ganged up on her today. Again. She tried ignoring them, but they followed her around. They posted a video about her eyebrows on Twitter and called her Thunder Thighs while dressing for PE. They were sneaky, as always, so the teachers didn't see.
With swollen eyes, the girl looks up at her mom and begs to stay home from school. "I can't go back. I can't face them." The mother is sad and furious. She wants to call the principal and the mothers of these girls, but the daughter begs her not to. "You'll make it worse," she says, "Please don't."
I want you to reflect on this scenario a minute, and then ask yourself, "Do I ever want to make someone feel that way? Is that the legacy I hope to leave? Do I want girls sobbing uncontrollably as they tell their mothers about me or smiling because I turned their day around? Do my words and behavior build others up or break their spirit?"
I love girls, and I see so much good in our gender. But lurking inside all of us is a competitive monster that, left unchecked, can create a nightmare. When girls get jealous or insecure, we start tearing each other down to build ourselves up. We let personal motives take over. Our competitive monster doesn't go away, and whether we're fifteen years old or fifty, we need to control it.
The easiest way to make yourself look good is to make someone else look bad. It takes no effort, right? So when your insecurities get triggered—maybe because your best friend just announced she's going to Costa Rica for spring break, or your neighbor received a new car for her sixteenth birthday—be aware that your jealous monster will itch to come out. That is the reason you may make flippant comments like, "I heard a family got kidnapped in Costa Rica last year," or "Mmy mother thinks sixteen-year-olds who get new cars are spoiled and entitled."
Love wants what is best for a person, but when you're jealous, you don't desire the best. You may want what is good, but the best ? Well, that means you hope your friend gets a hundred on her history exam when you get an eighty-six. Can you handle that? Will you be okay when she falls in love first ... wins the election for class president ... earns a full college scholarship ... and gets recognized as Mmost Outstanding Senior?
Time and again, your jealous nature will be tested as good things happen to your friends. Jealousy is natural and nothing to be ashamed of, but you should recognize when your monster gets stirred. Otherwise, it will ruin your relationships.
Love is patient, love is kind, love does not envy or boast (1 Corinthians 13:4). Love is hard to practice in a broken world, but that's no excuse. Your greatest call in life is to love God. Your second greatest call is to love your neighbor as you love yourself (Matthew 22:36–40). Are you doing this already, or is there room to improve? Have you figured out yet that when your self-love is pure and genuine, your love for others falls in place?
All this meanness and friends hurting friends has to stop. Maybe if we quit taking our insecurities out on each other, we can love each other properly.
REAL FRIENDS AND 50/50 FRIENDS
When I was your age, I had great friends. But one mistake I sometimes made was expecting my friends to be perfect.
It was an unfair expectation, because only Jesus is the perfect friend. The rest of us are human. We have bad moods; we make mistakes; we say and do things we regret. Leave some allowance for this in your relationships, and understand how no one friend can meet all your needs. Everyone has different strengths, and when you love your friends based on their unique strengths, not weaknesses, you'll be happier and more satisfied.
Having a lot of friends takes the pressure off any one person. Your network can look like this:
Sally, who shares your passion for basketball
Lizzie, who makes you bust a gut laughing
Kate, who gives great advice and listens well
Ann, whose courage inspires you to be brave
Leah, whose gentle spirit touches your soul and draws you closer to God
Add these friends up, and you get a sum greater than the parts. You can appreciate each girl for who she is—not who you want her to be. This makes you a better friend. It makes you the kind of person others gravitate toward because you're pleasant and not impossible to please.
Just as you shouldn't set the bar too high for friends, you also don't want to set it too low. In every relationship, you deserve a certain level of trust and respect—and nothing less. Toxic friendships can wreak havoc on your life, your psyche, and your heart, so avoid them. Don't fall into the trap of putting up with more than you should and paying the price in emotional distress.