March 23, 2009

She's So POPular

Popular [pop-yuh-ler]
1. regarded with favor, approval, or affection by people in general

The dictionary may sum up “popular” with a simple phrase, but life paints a far more complicated reality. And no where is “popularity” more complicated, or destructive, than among middle school girls.

Who’s in? Who’s out? Who’s the Queen Bee and who are the wannabes? Who’re so far out, they’ll never be in. It’s an ever-present reality of adolescence. The Queen Bees sort, shuffle and determine who worthy and who’s not. The rules are unwritten, but understood by all…eventually.

Yet with one misstep, one careless comment, one fashion faux pas you might be reassigned. The muffled giggles, cold shoulders and exaggerated eye rolls issue the verdict -- “You’re not one of us.”

“It’s better that you don’t sit at our lunch table anymore. You never really fit in with us.”

My daughter is in eighth grade. And this year she's experienced high highs and low lows. I’ve watched from the sidelines, listened, consoled, advised and cried with her. I’ve witnessed meanness that breaks my heart. It’s all an unfortunate, but painful reality of growing up. I pray the wounds don’t leave devastating scars.

I bet right now you’re recalling times in middle school or high school when you were cast out. Left behind. Dropped. Humiliated. Voted “off the island.” I know I am. I’m 43 years old and it still hurts.

Some can leave the past in their behind and laugh about it. But, far more women still bear the scars inflicted by the emotional bullying and rejection of others, and to feel like they belong. Millions of young women have eating disorders. One in four women suffers from depression or anxiety. And based on my non-scientific observation, more than 75% of women suffer from esteem and self-worth issues.

We can be so mean to one another. Advancing ourselves at the expense of others. Always competing for our place. Why? Because deep down I think we all want to fit in and be accepted, first by our parents and then by our peers. And even long past adolescence, we strive for our place in the “lifeboat.”

In his book, Searching for God Knows What, Donald Miller proposes his lifeboat theory, based on an elementary school question his class had to answer: "If there were a lifeboat adrift at sea, and in that lifeboat were a male lawyer, a female doctor, a crippled child, a stay-at-home mom, and a garbageman, and one person had to be thrown over to save the others, which person would you choose?”

Miller says he doesn’t remember who they threw overboard, but he does remember the class had no trouble deciding who had value and who didn’t.

In the lifeboat of life, each of us is constantly evaluating our and others’ worth as compared to those around us. Are we cool enough, pretty enough, stylish enough, funny enough to keep from being pitched overboard? We punish those deemed unworthy for a seat on the boat and promote others to the front row. As Miller says, “After our fall into sin, however, humankind began to suffer from a kind of compulsion to keep the number of seats in the lifeboat scarce.”

But this is so messed up! And it’s so contrary to the way God created us. As Moses says in Genesis 3, God tells us who we are in relationship to Him. Within that relationship, we are valuable and beautiful and loved. Outside of that relationship we have no worth.

Jesus came and literally turned over the lifeboat. He didn’t follow the unspoken rules of the “in” crowd. He basically said they’re rubbish. Instead, he gathered up a band of outcasts as His closest friends, broke down societal barriers and didn’t look to others for one drop of self-esteem.

When Jesus walked on water and approached his disciples, they looked on, afraid. But, He encouraged them to have faith and get out of the boat. “Come,” he invited. (Mt 14:30)

What if we choose to step out of the lifeboat and walk toward Jesus? To listen to His voice as our sole source of validation and worth. What if we teach this truth to our daughters and sons? And they do the same?

What if we aren’t supposed to have any glory of our own? What if all our glory is supposed to come from Jesus shining through us? “What if in the same way the sun feeds the plants, God’s glory gives us life? What if our value exists because God takes pleasure in us?” (p. 108)

What if. . .


Saleslady371 said...

I wonder how it would be if all of us found our worth in Jesus alone. Can you imagine what kind of planet it would be? Can you imagine the purity of our love? I love to think about this and I truly agree we should raise our children to find their value and identity in Christ. You always give me so much to think about!

an ordinary Saffa girl said...

Amen to that!!!! We give ourselves such self importance, how arrogant are we??? ALL things are done through Christ Jesus! Thanks for a lovely post - rings so true...

JerryLyn said...

Kelli, this post is excellent and rings so true! How often we think our worth comes from what others think -- we so end up being people pleasers instead of God pleasers! This comes at a perfect time for me as I'm really struggling with some of these issues. We were created for His glory. Thank you for this reminder and wonderful truth.

Sassy Granny ... said...

Somewhere along life's pathways I decided I didn't much like the female sort (I had three older sisters that I adored/loathed). Then, later in life I came back around to seeing women quite differently. Where once they were mean-spirited & competitive, they were now just spirited, unique. I learned to run my own race, valuing them with my eyes wide open. A lioness is a beautiful creature too, unless you forget she has teeth.

We (me included) women can be so short-sighted. I'm thinking I would have been cheering Eve on ...

Oh that we would find our true worth in Christ alone, and then encourage our female sojourners to do likewise.

Great reminder today!


Sue J. said...

Wow, is this GREAT!!! (And, I may have to get that book, too.)

I'm watching my daughter, far from 8th grade but still going through the beginnings of this phase. I don't want her to experience what I did. (6th grade definitely left scars that counseling helped heal...and God uses that experience continuously in helping me look at things differently now.)

I watched the latest American Girl movie, Chrissa, with my daughter (it's about bullying with girls). It is very good, but it really does point to the sad reality that you did here in this post.

We need to make Jesus popular at an early age, not in the sense of "a preferred club" but as having a genuinely perfect friend for life. Who doesn't want that?

Tea With Tiffany said...

I am so sorry to know your girl is dealing with mean girls. I sense my time with my daughter is still coming. She is in 6th grade. But her friend experience is so different than her older brothers. Girls are mean.. Catty. I don't like it.

I loved your added thoughts about this. The lifeboat idea, the invitation from Jesus. Great way to pull in truth and let that be our life perserver. Thank you...

Runner Mom said...

I will be praying for your little one,Kelli! So sorry that she's dealing with these issues.

I loved this post! There is so much to think about...finding our worth in Christ...not in our neighborhood or our clothes or in our friends, etc. Your writing is simply awesome. Thank you!!

Chatty Kelly said...

What if indeed! The correct answer seems to be that "I" would give up my seat on the lifeboat...yet that wasn't even an option.

I learning more every day to find my worth as a child of God, cause that is really all the the true worth any of us has, isn't it?

elaine @ peace for the journey said...

When I was growing up, I had some wonderful, godly parents. That being said, while I was privately suffering my "angst" about who I was, I don't think they knew to point me to my true identity in Jesus Christ. It's taken many (did I say MANY?) years to walk in God's understanding regarding my worth, etc.

I still have moments (actually, days) of pause where I concede my worth to the enemy's lies about me, but I am learning to cast aside his opinion, along with man's, and to walk on the water toward my validation--Jesus Christ and Him alone! Funny, the closer I get to him, the more beautiful I feel.

I hope to be able to give my daughter the "gift" of her true identity in Jesus Christ all along, so that when she gets to her "wonderings", she'll have a better foundation to work with.

Great post, Kelli. You're doing a good job, mom!!!


Lori said...

Great post Kelli! How I remember those high school years of just feeling like I wasn't pretty enough, thin enough, smart enough, cool enough, rich enough, just "enough!" How I wish I would have just known that I was "enough" for God just the way I was. What a valuable lesson we all should be teaching our children. I have a 12 year old daughter who already has suffered from an eating disorder. Luckily we were able to help her with it before it got out of control, but how sad that she already feels the pressure to fit into the mold that society has crammed down her throat.

Thanks for reminding me that God sees me as His pleasure! That will keep me going through the rest of my day!!!

Cheryl Barker said...

Kelli, I read Donald Miller's book a couple of months ago. The lifeboat picture was very thought-provoking and shined some light on areas we may not like to look at too closely. Great idea to pass along some of his thoughts to your readers -- and sorry your daughter is living through some of the realities of the lifeboat theory right now. She is lucky to have you for a mom!

Terri Tiffany said...

A great post for me to read today! It still happens when we get older, doesn't it? Who's in and who isn't? Instead accepting value and worth in all of us, we often make an internal decision about people.
Thanks too for your awesome comment on my last blog post. You are an encourager!

Joy in The Truth said...

I'll be praying for your 8th grade daughter! These can be tough years. She's got a great mommy to guide her along the narrow road that leads to life. :)

I remember 8th grade well. It was actually my favorite year of school, but definitely the "popularity" issue was there. I was "in" the popular crowd and didn't realize what a huge responsibility that was until I accepted the Lord in 10th grade. After giving my heart to Him, popular didn't so much matter. Loving others mattered.

Already, one big lesson the Lord has impressed on my heart to teach our children regularly (1st grade and 3rd grade) is to NOT jockey for position in relationships. I am not sure that they know what "popular" is yet, but we try to teach them that, the only "positions" to desire are "follower of Jesus" and "servant of the Lord".

Loving Him and honoring Him. It may not be the "popular" thing to do in today's culture, but it's the only way to live.

(now I have that song running around in my head..."She's so POPular"...was that from the 80s?)

Blessings to you, Kelli!