When life gives you children, you’d be wise to get yourself some girlfriends. Being the only one procreating in my group of work friends and as the only one planning on staying home with my baby amongst my very few mommy friends, I was a fish out of water learning how to buckle in a car seat or figuring out what diaper bag to order. Don’t even get me started on walking amongst the intimidating aisles of Babies R Us for the first time – a store I had never set foot inside until I needed to register for my impending delivery.
If I had an acquaintance expecting my usual M.O. was skip the baby shower to avoid the gross “guess what’s in the diaper” game and have my favorite shop send a monogrammed sterling silver pacifier clip. You know that gift never saw the light of day in what mommies actually use let alone need! When it was my turn to welcome my firstborn I literally felt like new mom Miranda on Sex and the City clueless in saying “what’s a bouncy seat?” And I never found the need to order my offspring a sterling silver pacifier clip.
A few months after delivery I started to feel my baby blues subside, my ability to function in the fog of no sleep was the norm and showering wasn’t just wishful thinking. I had gotten over the embarrassment of hauling that darn inflatable donut around with me and I was determined to get this mini me out of the house. Heck, we had all of the gear and then some – enough to make a Sherpa groan. Time to show it off! Time to make some mommy friends.
My first stop was a new mommy tea that our church hosted on a Saturday morning at a lovely woman’s home where the new moms shared looks of horror that this was their first time away from the newborns (and in my case fear of milk let down from the baby crying in the parenting video they showed) while the veteran “new” moms kicked back enjoying the chatter, compared ages of kids and pretty much never checked their phones or their watches once near as I could tell.
All I recall is meeting a few girls at my table who invited me to join a mom’s book club where you could bring your little ones and discuss a Christian parenting book. And I also recall the girl next to me with the 1 month old who took a pregnancy test at the tea then returned to the table in utter shock that it said “yes” repeating over and over again “I thought you couldn’t get pregnant if you were exclusively breastfeeding.” Sad to say I wasn’t much comfort to her as my shock was in thinking “who the heck is having sex with a one-month-old?!” She went on to have Irish twins as they are called and I went on to the book club where I learned that just because they are good Christian girls doesn’t mean they are good girls.
Maybe Even a Mean Girl ?
Gossip is like barnacles on the soul. Ever seen those yachts in the Monaco harbor? Stunning. And if seen in person even more awe-inspiring. I remember sailboating down in Florida and jumping off a friend’s boat to swim around. Grab a snorkel and at fish eye’s view underneath you quickly realize that all that glitters isn’t gold, or at least spotless. Barnacles are those nasty, sharp, horrid growth colonies attached on the underside of the boat. Similar to a gossip girl, she can be all neat and pretty on the outside, but what her mouth shares so shows her soul.
And like a barnacle that attaches to a yacht it’s one here and one there, but all of the sudden there’s a bushel of them. Gossip can start out seemingly innocent too. “Did you hear that her marriage is on the rocks? Poor girl.” Or another common gossip trend of “Let me tell you what so and so told me the other night at Bunko!” All harmless sharing in most situations, but with a sharp edge to harm or hurt a reputation.
Barnacle girls use the guise of information that they are being helpful, or even sharing someone else’s story to be prayerful, when all they are doing is corrosively destroying another. To remove barnacles there are many schools of thought. Some say blast them off using hydrochloric acid or even sharp knives yet the realization is that they will come back. Similar to the scars gossip leaves – even “well-intentioned” gossip – sharing another’s personal stories, struggles or even personality failures sometimes take years to forget. If at all. Gossip has undone friendships, small groups, mom support gatherings, church bodies, marriages, and families.
This sweet on the outside girl doesn’t make her mean streak obvious out the gate a la Bon Qui Qui at King Burger. She’s usually the most gregarious one of the bunch, quick to pull you in and make you feel so welcome. I’ve even known backstabbers as part of a church welcome committee because their history of cheerleading or pageant queen just gives them an extra oomph in appearance and confidence to make anyone follow. If she allows you into her circle your excitement to be “part of the gang” supersedes your internal red flag to miss mean-spirited chatter about another not present for her tongue lashing.
This girl can work her angles, always making herself either the victim or the victor. Or both. Your head will spin so fast that she has already presented her side of the story to all of the other members of the group when she turns on you before you even knew there was a problem. Maybe someone will call you out or call you up to chastise your non-Christian behavior based upon the Backstabber’s side of things. Sometimes this is all news to you!
And if you go to confront her, then wow you really see her magic. In public she maintains the perfect image, all smiles that nothing is wrong, it was all a misunderstanding or someone else’s fault yet you can’t help but think that you aren’t getting the full story. You’ll keep hearing bits and pieces about yourself knowing that someone is still talking, but gosh she’s just so smiley and kind that surely it can’t be her!! Note to those living in denial about backstabbers in our midst . . . if she talks about other girls when they aren’t around, she talks about you when you aren’t around. True story.
Wikipedia details the eating life of this type of snake as lying in wait for the appropriate prey then lashing out to strike with it’s teeth to slowly constrict the victim little by little, day by day, taking up to six days to digest. For a Boa Constrictor girl she is able to squeeze the life out of your worth, confidence, talents or joy much longer than a few days. The Boa Constrictor girls in church are usually sitting back to evaluate the competition. Perhaps watching other couples in a small group looking for cracks or waiting to pounce on a mom at the church playground when she spots one who obviously doesn’t have it all together. And let’s be honest, none of us really have it together. At some point in time we could all be her prey.
In a fellowship gathering, she’s well versed on who has what weakness and how to lash out putting the spotlight on her newest victim all in an effort to feed her own lack of self-worth or esteem. You may bare something private with her only for her to use it later in a twisted manner questioning your judgment or integrity. If you grew up with an emotional or verbal abuser as a figurehead in your life, then the constrictor can easily pick up where that person left off bullying you in a group or one on one. She can get you to watch her kids out of guilt, fat shame you in the mom’s group if you grab a donut instead of fruit or in a witty fashion mock your decision to have more kids as you announce your next pregnancy in a small group. On line in a mom’s private Facebook group she’s cunningly ruthless and seems to always know your weak spots in how to make you just feel awful, let down or beat up.
The blessing of fellowship is to see, behold, feel, experience the power of Christ together. We are instructed to share with one another, be a light, offer grace and fellowship together. It’s not a noun. It’s a verb. We will never exhaust the resources of Jesus Christ. Forgiving doesn’t mean allowing one’s self to be a punching bag time and time again for abuse or mistreatment. There is forgetting, moving on, deciding not to talk about the situation with others and not dredging up the past again. All part of the formula for healthy forgiveness. Yet being aware of someone who is out to harm, even in a church, is protective and something you might have to take up a notch by speaking either directly with that person to suggest she get help or confiding in a church elder who might be able to step in and shepard her if she’s willing to accept guidance. There’s a saying that hurt people hurt others which I’ve found to be mighty true.
And how on earth did I get to meet all of these colorful church girls in my lifetime? Am I just a walking target? No, unfortunately I’ve been the Barnacle Girl or the Backstabbing Girl or the Boa Constrictor Girl at some point in my life. It’s embarrassing and uncomfortable and ugly to admit. I’m certainly not proud typing this up as I recall situations I wish I could do over simply because I wasn’t happy with me at the time. Oh, but for the grace of God. His ability to change character, priorities, hearts and egos beats everything in the self-change aisle of Barnes and Noble.
So I am on alert for mistreatment from these types of mean girls and plenty of others, but now I try to see their hurts in their hearts before I judge their harsh behavior. I have a ways to go on extending His grace instead of my judgment, but in looking back I at least don’t recognize the mean girl in me. And I’ve forgiven the mean girl in others.