Elementary school can be a tough gig.
Early in September of first grade, my little Mary sobbed into my arms, “Alice told everyone not to play with me at recess. When I walked past, she and her friends started saying, ‘Mary is mean. Mary is mean.’”
“And what did you do?” I asked, my mother heart constricting.
“I just walked away,” little Mary replied, “and found some friends who like me. If I yell back at them I really will be the mean girl.”
I remember feeling stunned at the time at her simple wisdom and six years later, I often reflect on her astute observation: “If I yell back I really will be the mean girl.”
As an adult, it’s easy to see the wisdom of turning the other cheek on the playground. If Mary responded to Alice’s taunts, she’d validate the accusations. Over that year I saw in Mary a new sweetness and increased compassion as she comforted other girls on the playground and beyond.
Observing Mary has given me a renewed understanding of our Saviour’s advice to “whosoever shall smite thee on thy right cheek, turn to him the other also.” I once believed it was for the other person (and wondered why they could get away with doing whatever they want); I now understand Christ wants me to turn away for my sake– so that I don’t turn into that mean girl.
Now, we don’t just let bullies run rampantly. I talked to Mary’s teacher and to the recess monitor about Alice and friends. Similarly, we need to speak out against injustice in our families, schools and communities and reach out to others who have been hurt.
I love the words in 2 Chronicles 20:17, “Ye shall not need to fight in this battle: set yourselves, stand ye still, and see the salvation of the Lord with you, O Judah and Jerusalem: fear not, nor be dismayed; to morrow go out against them: for the Lord will be with you.”
Years later, Mary doesn’t spend much time with Alice, but she’s still polite and friendly when their paths cross. Alice will grow up or move away, she won’t be part of Mary’s life forever, but Mary’s character and disposition is formed every moment, by every choice she makes. I too, want to form a Christlike disposition with every choice, every moment.
I believe in Christ. I believe God will set things right in His time.