It was a typical junior high situation.
“Mom, I don’t know what to do. I was going to go shopping with Susie, but somehow Janie heard about it and wants to tag along. What should I do?”
I smiled, gave her a little side hug, and said, “Well, what do you think you should do?”
Her shoulders slumped because she knew the answer. She had lived in our home long enough to know that hospitality is one of the number one ways we show love to strangers. My daughter had given up her bedroom countless times so that visiting pastors, missionaries, and friends-of-friends could stay in our home.
It’s what we do.
Still, she tried to argue her way out of the situation. “It’s going to be super-awkward with three people.” Uh huh. “She’s Susie’s friend. I don’t even know her!” Okay. “What if she’s needy and always wants to hang out with us?” Really??
This normally extroverted daughter of mine tried every trick in the book to talk herself out of the shopping date with her friend and friend-of-her-friend. Finally, in complete exasperation she said, “What should I do?”
“Well, you’re not going to like this,” I said, “but I think you should just let her come with you. Who knows? Maybe she’s a nice girl and you’ll end up making a new friend.”
Not the answer she was looking for.
The funny thing is, I saw so much of myself in my daughter that day. How many times have I felt possessive of my friends? How many times have I wanted out of a group situation just to spend time with one special girlfriend? How many times have I neglected to be inclusive of others and have resorted to the “Mean Girl” syndrome—the sickness of leaving others out?
The truth is, junior high might never end unless we choose to make it end, and the best place to put a stop to junior high behavior is, well, in junior high.
The next time your daughter is tempted to leave someone out, remind her of these three things.
1. Kindness first.
Always insist upon kindness. Yes, because it’s the right thing to do, but also because or world needs it so much today. Today our daughters are bombarded with anger, rage, bitterness, and blaming, both in the news and in their school. In fact, these attitudes have become the world’s default, so when we see true, from-the-heart kindness, we stop and take notice. Our daughters need to learn that their kindness might be just what someone else might need to see Jesus.
2. Put yourself in her shoes.
Try to get your daughter to see things from the “new girl’s” perspective. Maybe she’s lonely. Maybe she doesn’t have many friends. Maybe she’s a really nice girl and would make a really awesome new friend. You just never know what’s going on in someone’s life until you give them a chance.
3. Remember times you’ve been left out.
This is when the phrase “experience is the best teacher” really seems appropriate. We can probably all point to a time when we’ve been the “third wheel,” when we’ve felt left out of the “cool” crowd, when we’ve simply felt different from everyone around us. Even as adults, some of us still struggle to feel like we’re fitting in. Gently remind your daughter of times when she has been left out, and ask her how that felt.
God knows that we’ve all felt left out before, but he gently reminds us that this feeling has a purpose and that purpose is so that ourselves and others will know Jesus.
“But you are the ones chosen by God, chosen for the high calling of priestly work, chosen to be a holy people, God’s instruments to do his work and speak out for him, to tell others of the night-and-day difference he made for you—from nothing to something, from rejected to accepted.
Friends, this world is not your home, so don’t make yourselves cozy in it. Don’t indulge your ego at the expense of your soul. Live an exemplary life among the natives so that your actions will refute their prejudices. Then they’ll be won over to God’s side and be there to join in the celebration when he arrives.” 1 Peter 2: 9-12 (MSG)
Making new friends is hard, for some more than others, but our daughters can be taught to include the outsider for the sake of Christ. Who knows? Maybe one of her new friends might be interested in hearing more about Jesus simply because of our daughters’ kindness.