Nervousness clenched my stomach. We sat at a small coffee shop across the street discussing what the interview would be like.
“She’s pretty tough,” Dave said. “But, I think you’ll do just fine. Just act confident and she’ll like you.”
My first real “I’m-an-adult-trying-to-get-a-job” interview. It was actually just for an internship, but it was a paid internship. There aren’t many of those in Washington, D.C., a town filled with Ph.D.’s willing to work for free just to get their foot in the door. This was my big chance.
Dave reminded me of some of the common acronyms she would use to test my knowledge. He had worked with the company for a few years now. I was grateful for the insider information. Everyone knows it’s not what you know, but who.
I glanced briefly at my watch. It was time.
Dave walked me across the street and left me in the care of the receptionist. He wished me luck and wandered back a hallway to his office.
I paced around the small visitor’s sitting area. It felt like it was ninety degrees in that room. Or, more likely, I started running some freaking nervous fever because, that’s what I do when I get nervous. I overheat and then sweat. Not a little perspiration on my brow. No. We are talking large rings of armpit moisture. (It’s awful.) My suit didn’t help the matter much. I had never actually worn a suit before. That day I discovered that wearing a blouse and a lined jacket and skirt with pantyhose on a humid day in August will always yield uncontrollable sweating.
Every time a woman came into the room, I made eye contact and smiled. You know, just in case it was her. I knew all the tricks, I’d ace this interview.
Finally, the receptionist’s phone rang and the girl behind the desk told me to “Go on back.” I didn’t know the exact location of “on back” but started walking the direction she pointed.
Then I heard a voice. A woman, about forty, with long dark hair pulled back into a low ponytail and skin as weathered as the leather on my shoes, shouted from the door of an office a few feet away. “Heather, come in over here.”
By the time I got to her office, she had already taken a seat behind her massive mahogany desk. Her office hovered over the city. It was the type of room I’d always dreamt of working in–short of one thing. The smell. It wreaked of a foul concoction of cigarette smoke, peppermint, and some sort of chemical-laden floral scented smoke-neutralizing spray.
“Sit down. Sit down.” She said, interrupting my trek towards her desk to shake her hand. Apparently, she wasn’t into that sort of formality. I took a seat.
“So, what do you know about us?” She asked.
I rattled off the companies mission statement and what I knew about their work. I dropped Dave’s name into the conversation, hoping to assure my interviewer that I was well-connected and knew a lot about the company. I used a few of the acronyms and sounded as confident as my twenty-year-old, sweating-through-my-suit-self could sound.
Then, she surprised me.
Instead of asking me another question–a second question. (I had only been in the room for three minutes.) She picked up my resume and said, “That’s great. Good summary. But, you can’t work for me so you might as well leave.”
My lips and tongue could not figure out how to work together a form a response.
“I’m sorry?” I mustered.
“Yes, that’s just it.” She quipped back. “You’re sorry. You are too polite. You are a nice little Christian girl who went to a Christian college and has no idea about real life and hard work. You are weak and I’m prone to telling it like it is. I’m not going to watch my tongue around any little Christian girl. I’m a tough boss, I cuss a lot, and I generally prefer to work with men and women whom I know are tough enough to take it.”
My face went pale. I couldn’t feel my limbs as my body sat now frozen in the leather chair.
How do I respond to that?
I took a deep breath.
“I think I’m tougher than I seem.” I squeaked like a mouse trying to convince an elephant we saw eye to eye.
“That’ll be all.” She snapped.
Just like that my first real-world job interview had ended.
Fear of Wo-Man
Sure, I knew about mean girls. In high school my best friends voted for me not to become a part of their cheerleading squad. But weren’t we supposed to grow out of that?
And yet, I’ve felt the stabs in the back and learned that if you walk into a room full of women and they immediately stop talking, there’s a 50/50 chance you are the topic of their conversation. One time I had a mean girl co-worker intentionally tell me the wrong dress code for an event. Guess who showed up business casual to the dress-up affair? Sigh.
Truth is, I’ve always been more intimidated by women than men. Women are unpredictable. They can full-teeth smile while saying something that’s mean enough to make you cry. They dart fiery glares that seethe your insides.
Women can be scary. They can also be catty judgmental, moody, ambivalent, cold.
And, sometimes it makes me nervous. Afraid even. It seems like facing an actual firing squad would be easier because at least you know to expect bullets. One never can foretell what a woman’s weapon of choice will be:
Will she shoot gossip that will infect my friends and then affect my friendships?
Will she use her tongue as a whip to lash me directly with her words?
Maybe she’ll treat me with a silence more chilling than an Alaska winter.
Or, will she drop hints of poison–snide remarks or snarky comments that sting for weeks before they wound.
Dealing With Mean Girls/Women
So how do we deal with the mean girls in our lives? What do we do when we feel their burning glares, are scorned by their silence towards us, or when we’re struck down by their cruel actions?
Here are three things we can do:
First: Do not engage.
I repeat, do not engage. You don’t have to stoop to their level. But, in not stooping, don’t let your pride get so big that you fall down beside them. The right response is not to see yourself as “better” than the mean girls. Rather, look hard (and pray) for understanding. You can speak the truth in love, but don’t get in a cat fight. Chances are, they aren’t ready to hear anything you have to say. Don’t waste your words on a hard heart.
I know it hurts. It feels like you are all alone. But, you have a friend who sticks closer than a brother. That is Jesus. He will be with you in this storm too, even if every friend on the planet turns against you.
Ask God these three questions: Why are they treating me this way? What is it in their story that makes them respond to me with this cruelty? How can I respond to them in a way that is compassionate (without continuing to be a victim of any kind of abuse)?
Know that in almost all cases, unless you have unrepentant sin involving them, you haven’t done anything wrong. Their actions are internally motivated. Remember, Ephesians 6:12 says we wrestle not against flesh and blood. Our battles are always spiritually deeper than they appear.
Second: Recognize that fearing the mean girls is a trap.
Proverbs 29:25 reads, “The fear of man lays a snare, but whoever trusts in the LORD is safe.” If we are distraught by mean girls because we want them to approve of or like us, we’ll never be free to radically obey Jesus.
In my over forty years of life I’ve learned that there will always be someone who doesn’t like me. There will always be someone who doesn’t agree with what I’m doing. (In fact, I had a friend tell me I was sinning by pursuing my book dream.) But, it’s not my job to please them, but to please God.
Keeping a heart that is right and pure before Him is essential. He alone can guard our reputation. He alone can serve as our defender. (Psalms 18) We must unconditionally love others and give up any attempts to “win” the war with the mean girls. (Because, in truth, trying to win turns into a contest for our pride.)
I thought this was an especially insightful article about how we actually “obey” the one we fear. Engaging in these flesh and blood battles makes you a pawn in their game and distracts you from doing what God has called you to do.
Third: Take comfort in Jesus.
Isaiah 51:12 says, “I, I am he who comforts you; who are you that you are afraid of man who dies, of the son of man who is made like grass. . . ”
Though it seems like life would be a whole lot easier if everyone liked us, that will never be a stable way to live. Man is mortal, fallible, and often times, just plain wrong. If we can defeat our fear of man (wo-man), we will find freedom in all sorts of life’s struggles. (Including body image!)
Seek wise counsel, receive love and comfort from friends and family who support you. But, ultimately, don’t let other humans be the source of your comfort because they’ll die like the grass one day too. Depend only on Christ’s strength, love and support and this will keep you from the temptation to find solace anywhere else.
The Bible repeatedly tells us not to fear. This is the time to buckle in and rely on God’s word and promises to strengthen you.
When you feel afraid to face the mean girls in your life, read, memorize, and meditate on these verses and pray this prayer:
Isaiah 41:10— Fear not, for I am with you; be not dismayed, for I am your God; I will strengthen you, I will help you, I will uphold you with my righteous right hand.
Psalm 56:3— When I am afraid,I put my trust in you.
Philipians 4:6-7–Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.
2 Timothy 1:7-For God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control.
1 John 4:18-There is no fear in love, but perfect love casts out fear. For fear has to do with punishment, and whoever fears has not been perfected in love.
Dear Heavenly Father:
Please help me in my struggles with ______(insert mean girl’s name here). Please show me if there are ways I have sinned against her that I need to repent of. Otherwise, please help me have a soft heart towards her, knowing that you are my defender. Give me eyes to understand the hurt that causes her to treat me this way. Help me to love her unconditionally, though she slanders my name or maligns my reputation. Let me seek confidence and comfort in you alone through this situation.
In Jesus Name, Amen.