When I was in the 6th grade, there was a girl at my school that I will call Kelly. I’m not quite sure why but Kelly chose me as the person she was going to take all of her anger out on. She taunted me, threatened me, spread rumors about me and said terrible things about me and to me. She made fun of my looks, combatted anything I said and constantly said she was going to fight me. The worst part was when her friends and other students would laugh and join in with taunting.
I had no idea what I had done to make this girl hate me and come after me the way she did. But I will tell you that it was one of the most painful things I have experienced in my lifetime. As a 6th grader at a new school, you believe the things that classmates and teachers say about you, especially when your self-esteem is already as low as mine was. Not only was I hurt, but I was genuinely afraid of her, thinking that at any moment she and her friends would actually jump me or try to fight me and I was SO not a fighter.
My school offered what they called “peer mediation,” where a teacher and two eighth grade students would sit in and try to mediate any situation a student or students was facing. After enduring for a while, I went to my guidance counselor and asked that we go to peer mediation. Kelly & I were both called to office from class and expected to talk it out.
I don’t think she looked at me once during the meeting. She stared at a wall, face angry and arms crossed. I explained my side of the story to the team and Kelly explained hers. She said that she had heard people saying that I didn’t like her, that I was calling her names and saying that I was going to beat her up. It was all hearsay and most of it wasn’t true. (I’m sure I said I didn’t like her and called her names too after all the stuff she had said to me.)
And so, our peer mediators made us talk out how we were going to resolve the situation. After this, Kelly and I were never friends and never really associated with each other, but she left me alone and I left her alone.
Jesus taught us how to handle a situation like this.
Matthew 18: 15-17 MSG “If a fellow believer hurts you, go and tell him—work it out between the two of you. If he listens, you’ve made a friend. If he won’t listen, take one or two others along so that the presence of witnesses will keep things honest, and try again. If he still won’t listen, tell the church. If he won’t listen to the church, you’ll have to start over from scratch, confront him with the need for repentance, and offer again God’s forgiving love."
As an adult, I have to wonder what would have been different if Kelly, when she heard these rumors, had come to me and talked it out. Obviously, that’s not a 6th grade mentality. She chose to be spiteful and it caused division, anger and bitterness, not just between Kelly and I, but between our friends and other students in our classes. Now, I find this utterly ridiculous and frustrating. This was something that affected me for years. YEARS! I wish I would have gone to my guidance counselor sooner than I did because I was not guilt-free either.
Romans 12:16-18 ESV “Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.
We have to stop acting like 6th graders. We have to walk in love in wisdom. It is not ok to tear someone down. It is not ok to spread the rumor. And it is not ok, whether we are right or wrong in the situation, to convince people to be on “our side.” We have to go to the person who wronged us, not our friends, not our family, not people in the community, THAT person. We have to talk it out with them, not accuse them hatefully, not attack them verbally, but speak in love and be understanding. We have to be honest, not beat around the bush, not say it’s ok when it’s not, but tell the truth about what we are feeling. And we have to forgive, not stay angry, not let bitterness set in, not convince others to join us in our offense, but recognize that they were also made in the image of God as we were and that they deserve grace and mercy just as much as we do. We have to grow up and make peace.
Matthew 5:9 ESV - “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.