Last Updated on March 20, 2018

A few nights ago found me at a dinner theater, silently viewing the musical Annie from a darkened front-row table. I watched with mixed emotions: A lot of nostalgia, yes; but high school also marked the upturn of one of the most challenging years of my life, replete with ostracizing social experiences, mostly of a “mean girls” theme.

I remember many vignettes from that year. There was the day when someone said, “Wow! You actually dressed cool today!” Or the time when I walked away from a group of girls and heard them mimicking things I’d said. I recall the fear that seized my heart whenever certain girls would pass me in the hall and the jealousy when people admired them. Even more, I remember the cute guy a grade older than me who made barking noises at me as I passed him and his friends during lunch hour.

A handful of pubescent pounds added to my social awkwardness and the middle of the year saddled me with oral surgery and braces. More critically I hit a crossroads in my faith: I was trying to pull out all the stops to serve God. Why was He letting me suffer like this? It was then that I discovered passages like the end of Isaiah 40, gently swathing me in God’s compassion and faithfulness.

At the end of the year, it shocked me as much as everyone else when I was handed a lead role in the musical. I’m sure this made some people more irritated than ever. But during the long evening practices, I made a few friends in high places and began to walk with a little more ease between classes.

There in the audience last week with memories swirling with each tune, I contemplated what I’ve come to know of God since then. After all, that certainly hasn’t been my only era in the outside circle. He knew I’d eventually face it at work, occasionally at church, and in college. I probably always will periodically, though it’s taking a break. Most of us know well the pain of being outsiders in some way.

God has used my times as an outsider to prepare me… to grow me into the woman He wants me to become. I am changed (am still being changed) because—like many of you, like many of your daughters—He has asked me to trust Him even when I am excluded, mocked, snubbed, ignored, unappreciated, marginalized, or in pain. And THAT is something He knows well. After all, He was like one from whom men hide their faces. But with Him, I’m always an insider. I can approach Him with confidence. And because of Jesus, I am always embraced.

4 ways to help your daughter through a mean girls experience:

1. Keep communication lines open, and be a safe place. Grant her encouraging, compassionate care. Do things she enjoys and invite friends with whom she feels secure. Without preaching, reassure her where her value comes from (i.e. God!)… making sure it’s modeled in your own life. (Tip: This is groundwork you can lay before anything bad happens—talking with her frequently, and praising her apart from her achievements and ability to win others’ approval.)

2. Pray with and for her.

• Pray for her wisdom and discernment.

• Pray that she would unfailingly return blessings for every insult, like Jesus did.

• Pray that God’s comfort, peace, and strength would surpass anything people can dish out.

• Pray that she’d have everything she needs to be godly.

• Pray for friends that will be a tangible expression of God’s love to her.

3. Help her to bless her enemies. Pray for the girls who are being so cruel. Remind her of what they may be going through (one of the girls who disliked me so strongly saw her parents divorce shortly after I left high school). Speak about the girls with respect; encourage her to guard her thoughts of them, never losing sight of their need for a Savior—and her own.

4. Look out for signs of depression or other clues that she may need to see a counselor. And if present seek help.


Editor’s Note: I think many of us can identify with at least part of Janel’s story. Mean girls (and boys) are everywhere. What would you add to the list above?


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  1. Thanks Janel!! How timely. I have 4 teenager girls at home and as they walk out their personal relationship with Christ, they need an encouraging word from me. Thanks for the wisdom.

  2. One other thing I would add which I've learned through my girls, is to give them freedom to try out different youth groups. My daughter always thought she'd be on the outside because of her experiences. Then after a few visits to a new youth group realized.. .it wasn't her at all!! One group was accepting and open to meeting and knowing people of all shapes and sizes, and many were not. Once she established some good friendships during those youth meetings the relationships extended to other times. It's also taught her a lot about how to treat other girls.

    1. That's very good advice, Carla Anne. God blessed me by having accepting friends that were a refuge for me in different places. So glad your daughter found that!!

  3. So timely, we are still reeling from a weekend of lies that were spoken about my daughter.My daughter was so upset that her side of the story would not be believed.It was a good opportunity for me to share the scripture " No weapon formed against you will prosper, and every tongue that rises in judgement against you, I will show to be in the wrong." At the time it may not have been of much consolation, but today the person who lied was exposed. I'm grateful for these lessons, but it just hurts a mother's heart to see her daughter go through this. Thanks for the helpful suggestions.

    1. I'm so glad this is helpful, Joanne, and my heart hurts for you and your daughter…this post was even hard for my parents to read today, 17 years later, because it was such a painful time for them when I was going through this. May God give you the wisdom you need to love your daughter and these girls well!

  4. Mary Walker says:

    I wish I would have had the helps and wisdom that you young mothers now have…..
    However, I have learned that enduring those unpleasant experiences equip you to be stronger later in life when you are faced with strong willed people in the work force; it sort of acts like an immunization…
    With the Lord’s help; in later years, my motto is ‘if I can please the Lord, my mate and myself’ I don’t worry about anyone else~~~~if there is an ‘issue’; it is their problem….

  5. Wendy Donley says:

    Thanks so much for sharing, Janel. We've been addressing this issue in cyclical fashion with our precious 11 year-old. Appreciate the personal examples and encouragement. You are a treasure!

    1. You're so generous, Wendy; my heart just hurts for you and your daughter. Praying for you guys, especially that she'll feel embraced by God. Hugs to both of you!!

  6. As someone who was a victim of mean girls, my heart goes out to both you and your daughter. I know my mother did what I asked, but I realize now that I should have let her speak to the principal. I begged her not to and she didn't. When my son was bullied in elementary school, I called the principal and voiced my concerns. Just love your daughter. All of the suggestions are really good ones.

  7. Sandy, you make an interesting parallel. This can become a form of female bullying–not often physical, but in a way filled with fear, self-loathing, and tremendous insecurity for girls (things that God obviously doesn't want for us, but are very real concerns–especially to adolescents and preteens). It's often so much more subtle that it flies under the radar of authorities, or at least their level of intervention, in my estimation. I'm sad to admit that a lot of my people-pleasing hit a high point in those years, simply from fear and wanting to be liked.

    I'm so glad you were aware of what was going on with your son and were able to do something about it.

  8. unfortunately, My girls are experiencing this within their youth group. You'd think that Christians would be better at treating people but unfortunately my girls are so ostracized and left out & then laughed & talked about & even lied on. IT's sad….I almost think it's harder for the parents because honestly I want to just rake through the youth group & tell them all about theirselves. Shew, pray for me. I pray allthese little busybodied mean girls get found out for what they really are because the church we attend thinks they are as innocent as the day is long. It's so disheartening.

    1. Brandi, that sounds incredibly painful. I *am* praying for you, esp. for wisdom and the discernment to know how to love well when people are being so cruel. I know this was exquisitely painful for my parents, and still is to some degree. Lifting you up this morning.