Catch up on the story now if you need to so you can truly appreciate Morgan's perspective!
Pt. 1, Pt. 2, and Pt. 3 (Middle School Mean Girl Drama)
Now, to set the scene, I asked Morgan what her personality was like in middle school. Britni was a strong personality, a leader, a go getter. Morgan was quiet, sensitive, compassionate. She said if someone looked at her the wrong way, she might have cried back then. However, with Britni, her crazy silly side was brought out also, in their very comfortable friend moments. They had a lot of fun during their many good times!
In Morgan's own words....
"I love Britni, and I have since we were in middle school together. I think what really drew me to Britni was the fact that even though she was going through so much pain- and at times she was not always the truest friend- I would see these glimpses of her strength, love and loyalty to me. I always knew she was going to do big things, and now she is out traveling the world for Jesus! (You can see what Britni's currently up to at http://britnibersin.theworldrace.org/). When Britni says to me 'I'm sorry I wasn't always the nicest to you', I have to refresh my memory to even remember some of the situations that took place. It's really amazing how forgiveness can do that.
I do remember days when my so called "best friend" would blow me off to hang out with the more mean and dominating girls, or when she would point out a flaw in me, in front of others, for her own attention. It was very painful at the time, but I seem to always remember back then that hurt people hurt people, and Britni was hurting. I realized that I wasn't going to do any good hurting her back, so I tried my best to keep on loving her, even when it was so hard to do so.
What I couldn't understand is why Britni was trying to have these relationships with these dominating mean girls during her difficult times, trying to win their approval when she didn't have to do anything for mine.
Many times when Britni said something mean to me, I'd run to my mom and cry. My mom always tried to protect me when I was upset or she would encourage me to take breaks from my friends when they were hurtful. She was compassionate and also a problem solver, so on occasion, my mom approached Britni's mom and together they talked us through problems.
My mother is really a good woman and I am actually very grateful she is so strong & wise, otherwise I don't know if I would have survived school and some friendships when I was younger.
There were times that Britni and I may have hung out less but I can't remember if that was by our own choice, or moms encouraging a break. (It's nice to know what seems traumatic right now may not be remembered in a just a few short years!)
I remember feeling like I had this mission to be at my friend's side through her pain, even if that meant I would be hurt at times. I realized the pain that my friend was going through was real. Deep down I knew the other girls were just taking turns hurting one another, and if I could stay out of it as much as possible I could avoid some pain.
I did choose to forgive Britni and other girls that hurt me. But honestly, I didn't always know how to protect myself. Looking back, if I could warn young ladies of anything, it would be that it's so crucial not to allow the way others treat you affect how you feel about yourself. Growing up, I always had people who I thought were friends take advantage of me and treat me unfairly. Sadly, my insecurity made me believe it was okay to be treated this way as long as I just loved and forgave everyone. Later in life, girlfriends who treated me unkindly became boyfriends who treated me unkindly. I eventually had an abusive boyfriend for the majority of my high school years.
Now I believe it so very important to always stand up for yourself. We won't always have the control to make others treat us kindly or fairly, but we can choose how we react. I believe it is important to remember to love God, love others, but also to love yourself. I needed back then to know that it was never okay for people to treat me this way. I had to grow to learn who I am and how to be my confident, fabulous self!
Above everything, we must always take our pain to Jesus. He is by far the ultimate healer. Without feeling His acceptance, we won't know how to stand against the cruelty of others.
Looking back on this story, what is so neat to see is that God uses what we have gone through to strengthen us and to help us help others. Through the persistent love I have had for Britni despite of what we went through, it's amazing to see God in all of this, and that our friendship has carried on. We now love one another and push each other towards the things God has for our lives. I am so blessed to have her in my life!"
I'm so happy to tell you Morgan married a wonderfully kind (and good looking!) husband on December 11, 2010 and is happily married, still growing in her understanding of all these life issues.
When I asked what she wishes she would have done differently back then, she had an interesting answer.
"I wish I'd known who I was, who God made me to be..and had been confident in that. If you don't know who you are, you'll let anyone tell you who you are. In Christian schools, kids often don't want to be there, but even the ones who do may not understand their relationship with God and how that should affect their daily life. They can be in church and chapels all the time, so FEEL like they are being spiritual, but my challenge to those kids now would be this- spend time with God alone, ask Him "Who am I? Who have You made me to be?" I wish I would have concentrated more on my one on one time with Jesus, my personal relationship with Him. If I could have understood who I was in His eyes, I don't think I would have listened to other people so much. "
My observations from Morgan's story...
1. Morgan's personality is a gift- a compassionate loving supportive friend. One of life's greatest treasures. In that compassionate gift, she now sees that she needed boundaries also. Girls often can love potential and good traits, while overlooking negative behavior. It took the help of her mother to know what behavior from a friend should not be overlooked and where boundaries were needed to protect herself.
2. Morgan felt her choices were 1) hurt Britni back or 2) just keep on loving and forgiving her even when it's hard. Morgan isn't alone in thinking those are the only choices. I've seen that with many girls over the years. In our efforts to teach them the "Christian way", we have taught them is to be kind and loving and forgiving, but we may have slacked on teaching them boundaries and conflict resolution. Knowing what to take and what not to take from someone is a subject we need to roleplay with our daughters. Standing up for themselves, or even knowing when to, is not a natural ability in middle school. It has to be taught and it's a crucial life skill.
3. What boundaries could have been set? Looking at their situation objectively, with no emotion, I could envision this scenario...
When Britni starts to tell Morgan what to do, who to like and who to be mad at, she can say, "Britni, I don't let anyone tell me what to do or who to like. If you're going to be that way, I'd rather not hang out. I like you, but not the way you're acting." If Britni changes her ways, Morgan can keep hanging out with her. If she doesn't, Morgan can stop hanging out with her, at least for awhile. She may be able to say, "Britni, why are you acting that way?" or "Hey I miss hanging out with you, are you still hanging out with the mean girls? How long are you gonna do that?" If Britni begins to miss the friendship, she may be more inclined to change her ways and go back to the true friend. If not, Morgan may need to leave Britni alone until Britni amends her ways.
4. In her insecurity, Morgan internalized mistreatment and allowed it to affect how she felt about herself. She recognizes the only thing powerful enough to combat her inner feelings was her own relationship with God. Being older now, she realizes the strength and healing that is possible with God's help. I thought that was interesting she knows now that a stronger relationship with God would have helped her at the time.
5. It's possible to be mean without thinking you're mean. Britni said in her post "I wasn't intentionally mean to Ellie". But she said mean things to Ellie. So from Ellie's angle and in reality, Britni was mean (at the time). Britni judged herself at the time from an internal perspective, that she was just dealing with life. The truth was, which Britni acknowledges now, is that she was mean.
Lesson from that? Girls you are dealing with now, maybe even your daughter, may say they're not mean, and truly believe it, while they are acting out very mean behavior. It takes a lengthy look to get to the bottom of things.
Back in Pt. 3, I said it must be such a relief for the "Ellies" of the world to realize the mistreatment they endured wasn't because of their own failings, but because of the meanness of the perpetrator. After hearing Morgan's side, it's only a relief looking back, when the situation is over. It doesn't save the Ellies from the pain put upon them at the time it occurs.
It's not okay to be mean. It's not okay to hurt people or cause them pain. Britni agrees with this now. She's been portrayed as mean girl for a few posts, and she was, but it was only a small portion of her life. Morgan says "Now that Britni and I are older its nice because we have each others back when we are going though things, and there is this 100% acceptance for one another. I can't honestly remember the last time we had a disagreement." Here they are at Morgan's wedding last year :)
Tomorrow, you'll get to meet Britni's mom. She has some encouraging words for moms out there. You won't want to miss it!