Letters to Everett: Balancing grace with bullies

Ah the vast gray realm of whatta ya do when what you learn at Confirmation doesn’t quite compute with the people who try to make you feel miserable from Monday to Friday.

Welcome to the awkward-est stage of formal education – also known as middle school (basically hell).

I heard someone put it this way this week, and I liked the positioning.

“You can give grace in your heart and in your head, while still not interacting [with the person who did wrong by you].”

That’s a confusing message for a 12-year-old, especially when not five days ago we sat at church in Confirmation, that very week’s lesson focused appropriately on Grace and Salvation because it is, after all, Holy Week.

But then Monday comes, and that mountaintop moment of clear-headed resolve fizzles unceremoniously out
because all sorts of people have all sorts of motives, and sometimes for reasons you will never understand, you become the target for their unhappiness.

I can think of a woman who to this day still tries to make me feel less than, if not downright invisible. Thankfully I’m no longer the emotional equivalent of the 7th grade girl she nicknamed Rebutta in Mr. McDougal’s computer class, and I’ve (thank you Jesus) outgrown the insecurity of her not liking me, though I’ve never once given her a reason to feel that way.

(That can also make it even more crazy-making, can’t it? When you haven’t done anything to provoke someone, yet they just randomly decide to treat you like you’re a total zero). P.S. – that horrible nickname did not stick, thank God, because people saw her meanness for what it was. See? Seventh graders can have evolved moments of considerate social behavior! 🙂

What does grace look like then? When you’re already in the most awkward stage of life so far and you have to deal with garbage like this?

Psst – if anyone says they loved their middle school years and looked their best during them, you best move out of the way because their Pinocchio nose is about to come in so fast and so strong, it’ll shoot your eye out.

I think it looks like the wise counsel this educator offered.

Your grandmother E would call it giving somebody a clean sheet of paper. And God love you, son, you do that already, and you do it naturally, because it’s part of your character. It’s truly who you are.

The crummy part is that some – not all – but some people, will manipulate that beautiful, Godly character attribute and use it to treat you poorly. That’s where it matters that you do all three of the things this individual advised.

  1. Give grace in your heart.
    • Practice intercessory prayer on their behalf. And on yours.
    • Name what they did. Describe how it made you feel.
    • Ask God to impress upon your heart forgiveness for the individual but also wisdom for the lesson learned.
  2. Give grace in your head.
    • Take some quiet time and think about it from their perspective.
    • Was there anything you could have or should have done differently?
    • Even if that didn’t excuse their actions, how can you come out of this being a more considerate, more self-aware version of yourself?
    • Are they just spiteful without any plausible explanation?
    • Pray for relief for whatever situation has them acting out.
  3. Don’t interact with them.
    • Cultivate within yourself, through prayer and through practice, the self-control and the self-discipline not to interact, no matter how badly the kind soul in you wants to see if it will be different this time. It won’t.

That last point is an especially hard one to do. I’ve only had to fully sever all ties with a handful of people in my life, and it’s the dickens on you emotionally. But let me give you the spoiler alert that took me four plus decades to learn, at long last.

It’s not your responsibility to try to change people. Period. If you really want to make yourself miserable, try wasting energy on it. Bonus points if you try it with people who don’t want to change. And while we’re at it, those who are painfully unaware of self.

I am so proud of who you are, and how the thoughtful old soul in you reflects upon the experiences you’ve amassed so far.

If ever you feel like you’re on shaky ground (because – again – middle school is a beast and then some), please remember these things above all else:

Keep Christ close to your heart. Put Him first in all your actions. Most of all, trust Him to give you the presence of mind to outmaneuver whatever the biggest bullies around can muster.

This ain’t His first rodeo.

I love you!


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