I peered out my classroom door, looking down the long, quiet hallway. I could hear a class of kindergarteners counting together. It was my lunch break.
My heart beat faster as anxiety gripped it. I was torn… should I brave the hallway and go to the teacher’s lounge for lunch and sit in shunned, awkward silence, or should I keep to myself, knowing they would gossip about how antisocial I was?
Tears welled in my eyes.
My first year of teaching was a hard one. Sure, I wasn’t quite prepared for how emotionally and mentally exhausting teaching would be, but beyond the normal grind of work, there was one factor I could have never, ever prepared myself for.
Mean girls grow up to be mean women.
College had spoiled me. I had grown accustomed to acceptance, and I had assumed that snobbery was buried in my memories of middle school and high school, never to be experienced again.
How I wish my assumption had been right.
I worked at that school for two whole years. The second year, God answered my plea for a friend in the form of a creative, quirky art teacher. I adored her. I still wouldn’t go to the teacher’s lounge for any amount of money in the world. I had forced myself to go for the first semester of my first year, but the constant dripping of negativity and gossip was more than I could stomach.
And still, to this day, I refuse to work at an elementary school… because I am terrified of elementary teachers. Friends have assured me that my campus had been an abnormally bad one, and I hope that’s true. I’m still scarred for life.
So, why are women so… mean?
Gossip. Gossip creates an interesting phenomenon in that those sharing in gossip feel emotionally bonded with each other in their shared secret dislike of a person. It’s also more difficult to give approval to or be kind to a person you are gossipping about, mostly because you feel that you are somehow betraying the confidence of the friend with whom you are gossipping.
Jealousy. Women are naturally insecure and tend to be easily threatened by other women who are attractive and/or desirable in any way. This can lead to a need to demonize the woman who makes them feel insecure.
Comfort. Once a woman is comfortable with her life and her base of friends, she may be unwilling to welcome other friends into her circle.
Regardless of who you are and what you look like, the vast likelihood is that you’ve been on both ends of the spectrum at some point in life. Personally, I have more memories of being the brunt of someone else’s unkindness, but I’m sure that is because it was painful for me. I know I’ve been somewhat cool in my demeanor towards another woman, simply because I knew a friend disliked her and was carefully watching my reaction to her. I’m not proud. At the time, I thought it wasn’t harmful because I wasn’t being mean… just reserved. Now I know: that woman likely felt my hesitation acutely. It was likely very hurtful to her. I know that because I’ve now been on this side of the hesitation, where the only logical conclusion was that in the midst of a gossip session, a group of women had decided that I am unloveable.
I would like to challenge you, dear woman, to never, ever, EVER listen to that whisper that you are unloveable… and to never BE the voice whispering that another woman is unloveable.
Please remember, the Bible challenges us “To speak evil of no one, to avoid quarreling, to be gentle, and to show perfect courtesy toward all people.” (Titus 3:2, ESV)
Generally speaking, I really do avoid gossip sessions. They make me feel extremely uncomfortable, because beyond the obvious slighting of another person, I am reminded that there is just as much chance that the person gossipping will discuss ME as soon as I leave. Please remember that. How would you feel if those ugly words were applied to you? Because they likely will be.
But I digress. I hope that, in reading this, you have been made more aware of the cruelty and nature surrounding the mean girl mentality, and that maybe–just maybe–you’ll carefully consider your actions before jumping into a gossip session again. I also hope that if you are on the other side of the table, you will know you’re not alone, dear soul. And you are by no means unloveable.