Would you believe I was a bully?

Being a “mean girl” gave this teen a sense of identity she didn’t want to lose. But a fresh, spiritual take on individuality changed the way she saw herself – and interacted with others – for the better.

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During my sophomore and junior years of high school, I was pretty mean to several of my classmates, particularly a few girls who used to be my friends. I would talk negatively about them to other people, be rude to them in front of others, and even manipulate them.

I knew what I was doing was wrong, but that didn’t stop me. I liked how my behavior made me feel: cool, powerful, even unique – like being a mean girl gave me a sense of identity.

Around this time, I began to develop a really good relationship with my mom. When I was younger, we hadn’t often got along. But we became closer when I was in high school, and our relationship meant a lot to me.

Unfortunately, my unkind behavior at school began to affect my mom. When she would volunteer at my siblings’ schools or at my sporting events, some of the other parents wouldn’t talk to her. They knew I was being mean to their kids or their kids’ friends, so they didn’t want to be around my mom.

To my surprise, once I learned that my actions were putting my mom in such a tough position, I stopped bullying almost immediately. The decision actually felt natural. I really didn’t want my mom to have these bad experiences, especially since they were my fault. This desire to change my behavior for her sake opened me up to interacting with my classmates in a kinder way.

But putting an end to the impulse to behave meanly was still difficult. In a way, it felt like I was admitting defeat – like the other girls had won because I wasn’t bullying them anymore. I also had a hard time letting go of my identity of “high school mean girl.” I began to feel I had lost something valuable, even though I knew that wasn’t the case, since bullying is never OK and had never brought me real happiness or peace.

As I searched for guidance, I turned to prayer, as I often do as a Christian Scientist. For me, the most important aspect of prayer is listening to God for practical, spiritual inspiration. One idea that came to me as I prayed was from one of my favorite hymns in the “Christian Science Hymnal.” One of the verses begins, “God could not make imperfect man” (Mary Alice Dayton, No. 51).

It was refreshing to realize that God had already made me perfect. I didn’t have to change my identity or come up with a new one. That would be impossible! Instead, I needed to think of myself more as God thinks of me – as kind, thoughtful, and content.

I was even unique. This statement from “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures” by Mary Baker Eddy reassured me: “This scientific sense of being, forsaking matter for Spirit, by no means suggests man’s absorption into Deity and the loss of his identity, but confers upon man enlarged individuality, a wider sphere of thought and action, a more expansive love, a higher and more permanent peace” (p. 265).

I had adopted this role of notorious “high school mean girl” that made me feel like an individual. But I began to realize that seeing myself as a child of God was actually the way to experience true uniqueness. The reason for this is that God is the source of all good qualities, the source of individuality. I would find more ways to express those qualities as I understood my good nature and let God direct my activity.

As I started my senior year, these ideas resonated with me more and more. I found that I was able to make good friends, and I even rekindled an old friendship from my sophomore year. I also later found meaningful friendships in college and beyond. And my mom and I are still close.

I can’t say that I’ve never wanted to be mean again. But this experience helped me understand that hatred and revenge really aren’t part of me and don’t help me express my God-sourced individuality. I’m grateful that Christian Science has helped me continue to learn more about my real, spiritual nature and how to express it.

Originally published in the Christian Science Sentinel’s online TeenConnect section, Aug. 30, 2022.

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