What Doesn’t Kill You Makes You More Compassionate

September 18, 2017

You guys, this life is hard! Childhood especially. It didn’t used to be as bad as it is “nowadays.” (My middle age is showing again). I remember wanting to fit in during those awkward pre-teen years. I remember wishing I had cooler shoes and maybe a trendier Trapper Keeper or feathered bangs like Farrah Fawcett, because surely that would solve every one of my problems. I remember being the target of mean kids sometimes, and sadly, I also remember being on the mean girl side of things (just once, but so regrettable even to this day) because I wanted to roll with the cool kids.

Maybe it’s a normal right of passage. It’s where we learn a lot about who we are, what we stand for and what we will and won’t tolerate. And usually these lessons come from huge mistakes. Middle school is all kinds of extra grace required. Good grief.

In today’s world this is all still very true, but guys…it’s one thousand times worse! Not only do social apps make it so much easier for kids to say terrible and hurtful things, but kids are finding a new bravery to speak horrific insults in person too. There doesn’t seem to be any regard for the person or group of people they hurl their cruelty toward. Surely they must know their words cut like salt-dipped rusty razor blades? Don’t they? And if they don’t already understand this, who will teach them? How will they learn empathy and compassion? Because Good LORD this world needs more empathy and compassion! Please tell me this next generation will get it figured out!

Remember how excited my kids were for the Homecoming game last week?

Lolo was especially eager to meet her friends at the game and “hang out.” She painted her hair, her face, chose her outfit carefully and nagged me 8,000 times about getting there on time. Although I didn’t WANT to go to the game, I was looking forward to watching her run around with her friends.

Well, those friends didn’t show up. I don’t know why – maybe they failed to ask their parents before making plans. Maybe they were grounded and their phones were confiscated so they couldn’t text Lolo. We just don’t know. Anyway, that was disappointment number one. She quickly located another friend and started walking around with her, only to be ditched shortly after. Now, my Lolo is pretty optimistic and resilient, so she set out to find other friends at the game. She walked confidently up to the middle school section of the bleachers with her red and blue painted pixie cut. While trying to locate friends she was called “Sir” and “trans.” She asked to sit next to someone she knew and was told no.

Soon she was back sitting next to me. She wore a brave face, yet I knew something was wrong. When I asked where her friends were, she started crying, blue face paint sliding down her heartbroken face. She asked if we could just go home. Gman was running around with his posse but spotted his crying sister. He ran up to her and said “Let’s go home. It’s fine.”

She apologized the entire walk back to the car. She was sorry for spending money on the game when we were leaving before the start of the 2nd quarter. Oh, how I wanted to comfort her. Reassure her. Somehow communicate that 7th grade is not as good as it’s going to get. Words just didn’t seem enough in that moment, so I put my arms around her and then we drove for an ice cream shake.

The next day we talked more about what happened. She’s such a smart girl. Intellectually she understands that these hurtful words and behaviors don’t define her. She understands the kids throwing verbal weapons towards her are either hurting themselves or lacking the self-confidence to behave like decent people. But she’s 12 years old and no matter how much she understands this intellectually, it still hurts. Man does it ever hurt.

I know she has a hard time fitting in. But I also know the reason why. She is smart. She is confident in who she is, even though that means she’s very different than “cool kids.” And this is not like the majority of kids she walks the halls with every day. And in addition to this, she carries a great big loss. Her heart is just beginning to heal and yet it’s being assaulted every day. Oh, how I wish I could protect her from this.

But what doesn’t kill us can make us more compassionate. It can also break us and make us bitter and lonely if we aren’t careful. But it’s my mission as her Mom, to foster compassion instead of bitterness. Life is hard. It’s also so good. Maybe it’s not so great in middle school, but it will be eventually. Maybe it’s not so wonderful in grief, but it will be eventually.

So to my sweet Lolo, I say, “Hang on, and stay kind. Remain confident in who you are baby girl, because you are amazing! I think so, your God thinks so, and eventually your peers will discover it too. He’s shaping you for great things, kid. This is NOT as good as it gets.”

Our words have so much power. Will we use them to comfort and show love, or will we use them to hurt? This is our choice every time we speak or type. Choose your words wisely. Choose love.

Extra grace,


*written with Lolo’s permission



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  • Reply Eleanor Ogbin September 18, 2017 at 12:50 pm

    This just broke my heart. Yes Lolo your mother is right. It will get better sweetheart. xoxo

  • Reply Lexie ofczarzak September 18, 2017 at 1:08 pm

    I remember my Marcella (now 45)quietly crying in her room one evening at about 12 yrs old. I went in to see why she was so sad. She told me she didn’t have a best friend. I was stunned because I knew she had many friends. I pointed that out to her and she replied , ” but, not a best friend”, that was what seemed important to her at that time. You see to have an exclusive “Best” friend meant excluding others from your relationship. Exclusion was not in her nature. Lolo will have many, many friends because she is learning inclusion and true acceptance. Marcella is, today, loved by more people than I even know and has Extra Grace she is always sharing. Bless both mother and child as you grow together in God’s love!

  • Reply Rod Snavely September 18, 2017 at 2:41 pm

    Thank you so much for sharing your stories. Middle school was the worst for my kids too. What made me smile was that your son was immediately ready to be with his family and to support his sister. You have great kids. All the best.

  • Reply Ruth Ellis September 18, 2017 at 2:55 pm

    Wow! It’s like you are living my life from five years ago! My daughter was 15, a freshman in high school, when her daddy died. Her friends rallied around her, ever so briefly, and then they forgot about her heart break. I didn’t blame them for that. They were just kids. But she was taunted by peers for so many other things, and we had a rough high school experience. But it wasn’t all bad! Michelle graduated top 10% and received a great college scholarship. She danced in drill team all four years. She met a wonderful young man her senior year and they are still dating. So I say all this so you can tell Lolo….it gets better! Protect your heart, pick your friends wisely, be strong and courageous.

  • Reply Cindy September 18, 2017 at 2:56 pm

    We don’t necessarily learn compassion or empathy by being included with the “cool kids”. Sometimes we learn it by the exclusion. As hard as that is, I made some of the best friends I’ve ever had in my 63 year old life by seeking out others who have been excluded. They often know and understand the outside, and are happy to be offered a smile and a seat at the table. Stay strong. Stay friendly. Stay compassionate. Wear your smile like a welcome sign. Goodness attracts goodness! God bless you, your loving momma, and your understanding brother!

  • Reply Marcy September 18, 2017 at 3:06 pm

    Jodi and Lolo…your lives inspire me to be a stronger Christian, to hang on when life throws you curve balls, and to know that the BEST is yet to come! With the Lord we cannot fail. We will be victorious through the shed blood of Jesus Christ! Thank you Father God for your love and tenderness and mercy towards us. Praying for your family.

  • Reply Dorothy J Wright September 18, 2017 at 3:42 pm

    As a bullied child growing up my heart goes out to your daughter. It ruined by self-confidence and self-esteem until I was married and even after. Children can be so cruel. I am praying that she overcomes this and finds the right friends to see her through this.

  • Reply Gail Davis September 18, 2017 at 5:51 pm

    Believe it or not, at the age of 62 I can still remember 7th grade. And, I have a 13-year-old who is trying her best to fit in. little does she know that when she does “fit in” the size changes.

  • Reply Pamela September 19, 2017 at 4:52 am

    Jodi, you are indeed “Supermom”. You are right, middle school in the mid ’70’s for me was much easier in retrospect. Smart, beautiful girls are intimidating at that age, simply because they are so rare. I don’t think that has changed in 40+ years. You are doing an amazing job with your daughter. Keep it up. Days will be tough, even without the extra burden you and your children carry, but with that “extra grace” that you carry and are instilling in your kids, you will all come through this beautifully. A day at a time.

  • Reply Terri September 21, 2017 at 7:54 am

    Thank you for sharing your world with us! Your stories are a blessing!

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