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. . .