A new girl shows up in your church – she’s pretty and different and international – and all of the guys seem intrigued. Guys that used to pay attention to you and your friends. When someone introduces her to your friend group, your first reaction is to:
- A. Freeze her out. Make sure she can only befriend the ugly and boring girls – the guys are certain to lose interest quickly if that’s her crowd.
- B. Smile and chat with her church, but warn everyone who asks (and a few who don’t) that she seems a bit flirty and they better keep their godly boyfriends far, far away.
- C. Invite her out to dinner with your friends, welcome her with sisterly warnings of how she shouldn’t get too attached to those boys, “you’re just the flavor of the month, so I don’t want you to be surprised when he finds a new girl.”
- D. None of the above.
What about when one of the cutest boys in your college ministry just went Facebook official with a girl that everyone knows has a past. When the two show up hand-in-hand on Sunday, is your first reaction to support and congratulate or make derogatory comments to your friends about what that kind of girl does to snag a guy?
Or when a newer member of your church is promoted to the leadership team ahead of you? Are you excited at their opportunity or is your first instinct to fill your ladies Bible study welcome time with snide whispers and catty manipulation disguised as spiritual concern?
Meet the Mean Girls
The Urban Dictionary defines “Mean Girls” as girls who are bullies and use “girl aggression” (nasty comments, trickery, deceit, excluding people from events, spreading rumors, stealing boyfriends,etc.) to manipulate other girls.
Mean girl behavior permeates our society, from school aged girls to grown women in the workplace. Women can be incredibly mean to each other. General mean girl tactics include bullying, gossip and cattiness. HuffPost Blogger Laura Sessions Step wrote in 2012 that reality TV encourages the idea that women are prone to be at each other’s throats. She wrote, “It’s not surprising that some women assume the worst about other women. Female nastiness is celebrated on television these days in shows such as “Real Housewives Of…” (name your city).”
Meghan Casserly of Forbes said in April 2012 that women are prone to cruelty toward each other: “It sucks to say, but sometimes women really are just mean. And I don’t mean ‘some women are mean.’ I mean sometimes all women can be mean. Most often to each other.”
Mean Girls in My Church?!
The general reaction of the Christian crowd when I mention mean girls in the church is shock, skepticism and disbelief. Mean girls have no place in the church, they all say. And they’re right. As children of God gathered together to bring Him glory, there is no place for sin. And while it is true that mean girls shouldn’t happen in the body of Christ, the reality is that they do. Just as there is anger, lying, immorality, greed, and pride among members of all ages.
I’ve seen it personally, girls in tears over a thoughtless comment or a well-place jab in the name of spiritual concern. And sadly, I participated in such behavior in my younger years: excluding the new girl because I felt insecure and threatened, exchanging tid bits of hurtful information before Sunday school started so that every eye was on me.
Of course there are mean girls in the church, because the body of Christ is a hodge podge band of messy, misfit, sinful people who have found redemption through Jesus Christ and are currently, slowly, being molded into the image of their Savior. Mean girl behavior is a widespread epidemic that needs to be recognized and addressed in our discipleship, mentoring and accountability relationships so there can be repentance, restoration and unity within the body of Christ.
Why are Mean Girls Mean?
I can’t speak for mean girls everywhere, but in Christian circles I don’t think the majority of mean girls in the church set out to be malicious to other women and girls in their sphere of influence. I think they are merely acting out the jealousy (she has the looks, boy or friends I want), insecurity (she is better liked, prettier, funnier) and pride (who she is threatens my status, reputation, or popularity) in their hearts.
Will they like me? Do they like her more? Is something wrong with me cause guys like her better? Why is she getting the attention – I’m the better Christian! Why can’t I look like her? All of these me-focused questions are inevitable result of a girl not believing God.
Jealousy is not trusting that God has given you exactly what you need and has good plans for you.
“And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28
“But, as it is written, “No eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him.”1 Corinthians 2:9
Insecurity is not believing God created you unique for a great and specific purpose – to bring Him glory in ways that only you can.
“I praise you, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made. Wonderful are your works; my soul knows it very well.” Ps. 139:14
“For you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.” 1 Corinthians 6:20
“So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31
Pride is not keeping a humble heart, that apart from the work of Jesus Christ in your life, you have nothing of worth to offer God. It’s all Him.
“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9
“Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5
At the root of mean girl behavior is the heart of a girl who doesn’t know who she is to Jesus.
Is the Mean Girl Me?
The difference between the mean girl character portrayed so long ago by Lindsey Lohan, or lived out by any of the Real Housewives, is that mean girls in the church have the power of Christ in them to transform their hearts and change their behavior.
Mean girls in the church are simply girls in bondage: bound to the opinions of men (or other women), bound to constant comparison to others, bound to strive for perfection without the power to achieve it. Because a life lived in the redeeming grace of Jesus does not produce jealousy, insecurity, pride, gossip, or cattiness.
In complete opposition to such bondage, God’s plan for us as women is to flourish in freedom from sin through Christ (Rom. 6:22), to be confident in our redeemed position (Rom. 8), celebrating each other’s’ victories (1 Cor. 12:26), and live secure in His love for us so that we give love freely to others (John 13:34-35).
Even as believing girls, we’ve all been a mean girl to someone. And chances are, we’ve been hurt by gossip and bullying of other girls. But thanks to Jesus, we can repent of all things mean girl and start fresh today.
The mean girl is you:
If you have a sinking feeling in your gut that this article is about that conversation you had last week, or the way you treated that girl at church…. then don’t ignore the truth written here! Repent of your sin, ask God to help you love others, find a mentor to offer guidance, and use this lesson to teach others that mean girl behavior has no place among the people of God.
“Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Ephesians 4:31-32
“Accept one another, then, just as Christ accepted you, in order to bring praise to God.” Romans 15:7
The mean girl is your friend:
If you read this article and a friend immediately popped in your head – God has placed you in their life to speak the truth in love about their behavior and contribute to their growth as a believer. If you, as their friend, don’t express concern over their gossiping conversation or bullying behavior, who will? Maybe it starts with sending them this article to start a conversation.
“Let us think of ways to motivate one another to acts of love and good works. And let us not neglect our meeting together, as some people do, but encourage one another, especially now that the day of his return is drawing near.” Hebrews 10:24-25
“And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone.” 1 Thessalonians 5:14
You are the target of a mean girl:
If you read this article and recognized yourself, not as the bully, but as the girl in tears because of the words and actions of another girl, then hear this: God is calling you to forgive her. Pray for that girl. Stand firm in who you are in Christ. Turn to Him with your hurts. And in doing those things, He will heal you of any mean girl wounds.
“Finally, all of you, have unity of mind, sympathy, brotherly love, a tender heart, and a humble mind. Do not repay evil for evil or reviling for reviling, but on the contrary, bless, for to this you were called, that you may obtain a blessing.” 1 Peter 3:8-12
“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you… For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? And if you greet only your brothers, what more are you doing than others?” Matthew 5:43-45