"Mom, why is Catherine Brooke so mean?"
Miss Catherine Brooke is the principal at Kingsport Ladies College, a prestigious school for well-to-do young ladies. She is a grumpy spinster who governs by strict rules and regulations. She never laughs (except in disgust ) and she never smiles (except in mockery). Her sarcastic, unkind words cut like a knife.
Anne Shirley, the main character, (who grew up as an orphan but was adopted at 13 by Marilla & Matthew Cuthbert, a sister and brother who own and live at Green Gables on Prince Edward Island), teaches at KLC under the leadership of Miss Brooke. Miss Brooke isn't fond of Anne and is quite mean to her. So much so that my boys couldn't help but notice.
No matter how hard we may try to protect them, our kids will encounter mean people like Catherine Brooke in this world.
Kids who bully them with aggressive behavior and cruel words.
Adults who scowl at and shoosh them.
Teachers who discourage and belittle them for mistakes and weaknesses.
Friends who stab them behind their backs.
Love interests who use and abuse them emotionally (even physically).
Bosses who take advantage of them and discriminate against them.
Strangers who deceive and steal from them.
We can't keep our kids in a bubble. Sooner or later they will come face to face with someone who is just downright mean. And as they curl up in our laps full of tears and sadness because of how they were treated, they will likely ask this same question: Why are some people so mean?
I can't help but think about how I will answer this question.
Have you thought about how you might answer this question?
Before a word comes out of my mouth, I will first need a whole lot of Jesus to help me control, even stifle, the mama bear desire I will have to attack and devour the mean person whose decided to mess with my kid.
Once my emotions are under control, I hope to use the story of Catherine Brooke as a means to healing. You see, there is this pivotal scene in the movie where Miss Brooke gives Anne a window into WHY she is so mean. She describes her life as a foster child living with relatives who never loved her and carted her to and from boarding schools that "froze in the winter and stank in the summer." She confesses that she hates teaching and has always wished to travel the world but lacks the finances to do so.
She says, "I know people hate me. Do you think it doesn't hurt that I'm overlooked at social functions?"
It's a powerful scene. In it Anne discovers that Miss Brooke is hurting and lonely. She's desperately hungry for love. It is with this new understanding that Anne no longer is hurt by Miss Brooke's cruelty. Instead, she hurts for Miss Brook. And she extends a kind and loving hand of friendship which helps to heal and restore Miss Brooke from the inside out. Watch the movie sometime and see for yourself.
The story is the same for all the mean people in this world. They are hurting. And likely because of pain they've experienced in their own lives. And just like Catherine Brooke, those who are hurting try to mask their hurt by hurting others. They have a twisted desire to want others to hurt like they do. So they try to lessen their inward pain by outwardly inflicting pain on others.
When it boils down to it, these people aren't mean. They are wounded and lonely. And they desperately need the love of Jesus and His church.
And that's where we come in.
Jesus commanded us to love our enemies and to pray for those who persecute us. Matthew 5:4
So, we are called to love them with the heart of Jesus. We tell them about His love. We demonstrate His love to them. We forgive them. And we pray for them.
Colossians 3:12-14a speaks volumes about holy living in the face of mean people: "Therefore, as God's chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience. Bear with each other and forgive whatever grievances you may have against one another. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And above all these virtues put on love..."
So I hope to comfort my children with this answer when they want to know why people are mean:
"I know you are hurting and this might be hard to believe, but you must understand that this mean person is hurting more than you. There is something that has happened or is still happening that has wounded them. They have great hurt deep down in their hearts. They have treated you with cruelty in hopes that it will lessen their own inward pain. But I promise you, they are hurting more now than before they hurt you. They aren't mean. They are wounded, hurting, and lonely. They are desperate for love. Comfort and healing for you AND for them can be found in the arms of Jesus. So let's pray they find Jesus. Let's pray for opportunities for you to share the love of Jesus with them. Let's pray and ask God to help you forgive them. And let's pray that you can clothe yourself with the godly virtues of compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, patience, and love as you interact with this person."
Friends, join me today and let's pray!
As my children come face to face with mean people, may they clothe themselves in holy living. Would you give them the grace to forgive, a tender heart full of compassion and kindness, and the humility and patience to gently love these people. I pray they would live out your commandment to love their enemies and to pray for those who persecute them. May my children's own hurt never blind them to the hurt of others. May they bear with others and seek to understand their pain. And I pray they would grow to understand that mean people are wounded, lonely, and in dire need of Your love. May this understanding help them to forgive those who are mean and may it motivate them to demonstrate and talk to those who are mean about the love of Jesus.