“I’ll be there for you…” rings a familiar refrain from the popular sitcom, “Friends.” If you watched the show, you became familiar with each of the characters and how loyal they remained under the best/worst of life’s situations.
“Sometimes you want to go where everybody knows your name, and they’re always glad you came…” is another familiar refrain from yet another show where the characters hang out in a bar called “Cheers.” Patrons clink their beer mugs in a gesture of solidarity to whatever life brings, because they have each other. No drunks over in the corner crying in their beer; all are “cheery” comrades, helping each other through. T.V. is not real life, but these two programs did such a great job depicting how we see ourselves with our friends, they both have won numerous awards, and with catchy theme songs that practically guaranteed their success.
I am extremely blessed to call many different women my friends today. My bestie and I have had each other’s backs since we first met in 8th grade. I’m in some delightful friend groups including Moms in Prayer, small group Bible study, writers groups, and friends who motivate me to exercise. And my husband, God love him, is an amazing friend to me, too. But I have not always been a good friend. After seeing the movie, “Mean Girls”, I was struck by the truth: that used to be me.
Sixth grade was the worst. Our little clique was merciless, and more often than not, I was the instigator against one childhood friend, in particular. I must have been quite jealous of her, with her long, shiny dark hair and slender physique. The clincher was cheerleading tryouts: she made the squad and I didn’t. When you’re not in touch with your own jealousy, it can become a very ugly emotion. I think I even woke up plotting behind her back. I could assassinate her character before I even understood the meaning of that term.
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My tongue became the weapon of choice.
I gossiped about her, as if I had more dirt on her than what was going on in my own life.
“Let’s not let her sit with us during mass,” I’d whisper, conspiring to reject her from our cluster. We progressed to outright bullying, making fun of her and causing her to cry.
My blatant cruelty guaranteed I could:
- Keep the negative focus elsewhere. Thwart any unwanted attention of me, and the dysfunction going on in my home.
- Being the instigator at school gave me a sense of empowerment I couldn’t find any other way.
Fast forward to adulthood, and I’d moved far away from my childhood home. I’d become a sober adult, and thankfully, somewhat more mature. Looking back over the mistreatment was painful. What had I done? Yes, it was kids’ stuff, but I recall the young girl on the other end of my bullying as having had a difficult time in high school. To the point, she left school, got her GED, and now I wondered: What was life like for her today?
We read of biblical friendship that transcends jealousy, danger, and murderous plotting when we read of the mighty strong friendship story in 1st Samuel. Understand, it is King Saul, Jonathan’s father, who is obsessed and jealous towards young, charismatic (and future king) David.
1st Samuel 18:3 and 20: 17 highlight their devotion.
“Jonathan swore eternal friendship with David because of his deep affection for him.”
“Jonathan loved David as much as he loved himself.”
When Jonathan’s own father seeks to find David and kill him (out of jealousy) Jonathan warns his friend in 1 Samuel 20:30-42. And he prays for David.
“God be with you!”
I found my childhood friend on Facebook.
When she chimed in on a number of posts I’d made, and she sounded perfectly reasonable–not in the least bit bitter–I began praying about approaching her, then contacted her privately. We met for lunch. I was prepared to not just apologize for making her the object of my scorn, but to accept whatever she had to say.
She was shocked and hurt to find out I was the one who had instigated so much of her rejection by our group of friends. She had assumed it had been another girl, which proved to me how subversive and cruel I’d been. But the adult years had been good to her, and I was relieved to discover she was living a victorious life. Her faith in God was her guiding light.
Owning up to my actions, making amends was a step in the right direction, though she told me afterward, when she found out I had been the instigator all along, it had really crushed her.
True friendship consists of trust, authentic caring, and love:
What concerns you concerns me. What grieves you grieves me. What you celebrate in your heart, I celebrate too. God be with you!