“Bethsaida, your epidermis is showing! Quick, go in the bathroom and fix it!”
We’ve just finished the human body chapter in our sixth grade science book. Based on her horrified look and speed as she disappears into the girls’ room, my suspicions are confirmed: Bethsaida did not study the chapter as thoroughly as she should have.
Five minutes later, Bethsaida cautiously returns, glancing at me for approval.
But the intoxicating power of words has gone to my head, and Bethsaida is an easy target.
I widen my eyes, clasp my hand over my mouth, shake my head, and point back to the bathroom.
Bethsaida dashes back into hiding.
While I and most of my peers don’t even need training bras yet, Bethsaida spills out of DD-cup underwires. Her low-cut tight-fitting tops inspire snickers from the boys and envy from us girls.
But right now, I have the upper hand. I know something she doesn’t know, and I’m not going to tell her. At least not until I’ve had my fun.
The next time Bethsaida takes a tentative step out of the bathroom, several girls have joined me to whisper in chorus, “No. It’s still showing!” and collapse in a fit of giggles when her face reddens and she retreats once more.
Not until Bethsaida locks herself sobbing in a bathroom stall do I have the slightest clue what I’ve done.
I try to repair the damage.
“But Bethsaida, epidermis just means skin! You can come out. It’s okay.”
But I have no idea how deeply my careless prank has hurt.
Nor do I have the any idea how many old scabs I’ve yanked open with my oblivious cruelty.
Bethsaida stays in the bathroom until school is over. When she finally escapes, she throws on her coat and zips it up to her neck despite the 90 degree heat.
30+ years ago ago, the phrase “mean girl” wasn’t in use. Bullying wasn’t a hot topic. And although my actions that day were more immature than malicious, I discovered a horrifying but vital truth about myself:
I have a Mean Girl Mouth.
When I’m not intentional about selecting my words with care and noticing the impact they’re having–whether on a friend, my daughter, or my own mother–my communication is typically self-serving.
I don’t want to be a mean girl. I still shudder when I remember how awful I felt when I realized how awful I’d made Bethsaida feel. I’ve taken to heart these three pieces of practical wisdom that Ephesians 4:29 (NLT) offers for the prevention of Mean Girl Mouth:
Don’t use foul or abusive language.
Let everything you say be good and helpful,
so that your words will be an encouragement to those who hear them.
Have you ever been surprised by a case of Mean Girl Mouth? How are you intentional about watching your words…and their impact?