of J.B. TOLS.
I am an interior designer, photographer, blogger, advocate, adventurer, and mom to five boys. I love advocating for others and exploring new places--both near and far.

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April 28, 2021

A blog post that I did for my church

I knew what I wanted to write about, but, I didn’t know how I wanted to approach the topic. So, I decided to do a quick Google search to see what—if anything—other people were saying on the topic.

It, genuinely, broke my heart to find scads of articles on the topic of mean girls in the church.

It is everywhere.

And, the topic has been wrecking my heart for a few days now as I learned that it is playing out around me…again; and, I just cannot come to terms with seeing the same ol’ people doing the same ol’ thing.

Dear God, what has happened to the maturation of your people?

I was taking a hike with my husband this weekend, trying to release the adrenaline that floods through my body when I encounter an injustice. And, I am not even kidding when I say that; I get hyper focused on the issue, I get cranky and, unfortunately, sometimes respond or act before I should. So, I have learned that I need to exercise or get outside to work things out of my system.

And, halfway through our hike I told him, “you know so-and-so…how everyone thinks that she’s so mean and so controlling because she is an alpha female? I would take her any day of the week…ANY DAY OF THE WEEK…because while, yes, she can be controlling, she is not out demeaning or mocking other women. She is an alpha female—while hard to work with, true—she isn’t a gossip, builds up other women, isn’t stabbing anyone in the back and is reliable.”

This is NOT what I mean when I say “mean girl”

So, I want to delineate the difference.

A strong woman is not equal to a mean girl.

I have a saying on the face of my phone that reads “Do not sit in the shade of a tree that does not bear fruit”. You can be an alpha female whose personality really rubs people wrong (which, alpha females darn near always intimidate other women), but look at their fruit. Are they a Godly woman who knows how to hold her tongue; who doesn’t gossip and tear down other women; who is a consistent and true friend; who makes room for the mess of others without condemnation? Or, is she marked by arrogance, a loose and gossiping tongue, intimidation and strife?

The “It’s all about Me” mentality runs scarily amuck in our female groups.

And, it needs to stop.

How do I define a mean girl?

I was sitting in a bible study a few years back with a round table of girls that all shared the same friend’s group, expect me and this other older woman. The older woman was a talker, I admit. And, she would go into great detail about personal issues, I admit, as well. But, it was all relatable and should have been safe in a group of Christian women.

This older woman got up and walked a way for a second. One of the girls at the table turned to the rest of us and said “I came here for a Bible study, not for her counseling session”, fully expecting the women in her friends group to praise her wit as hilarious and admirable; And, as I remember it, they did.

But, I didn’t.

I was appalled by her words. And, I hurt that this woman had trusted us and been betrayed by Christian women when her back was turned.

And, this has been typical behavior: cutting; mocking, back-stabbing; gossiping and just downright meanness towards other women.

That is how I define a mean girl.

I don’t know how right I am in this, but I have always felt that this behavior was driven by a spirit of death.

Wowza, you might say.

But, I am serious. Death of reputation. Death of position. Death of relationship. And, so much more. You find you a woman who is succeeding in the ministry and you find a bunch of mean girls attempting to kill her position, kill her reputation, kill her relationships…on and on, it goes.

Am I just complaining? I am just spouting off? I hope not. I have been trying to work this all out with the Lord. I have asked him what he wants me to say.

Here’s where I am at. Whether in the church or on social media, we sit and watch people get attacked and we say nothing for fear of being attacked too; You know the saying, ‘staying out of the fray’. But, I honestly think that it is time for us to put on our armor and fight for our women and jump right into the middle of the fray; to be strong, courageous women who defend and protect one another.

And, to do that, we have to start speaking up and doing battle. And, that means standing up to the mean girls.

Ughhh…did I just take you back to junior high? If so, I am so sorry. It is a scary request. Men are frequently labeled as narcissist; but women can be narcissist, too. And, when you confront a narcissist, one of the first things that they do to disarm you is to turn their clique/people on you and convince you that you are crazy–I know; And, that is scary.

But, it is time for us to rise up as strong, empowered women and protect one another. It is time for us to say “stop it”. It is time for us to expect better from those around us. If a group of girls in the church are gossiping and murdering the reputation of others, rise up and say “stop it”.

If just one person would be brave and take that step out, we can start a revolution within bodies of Christian women to do better and to be better.

You know a woman sowing strife? It is time to say, “stop it”.

You see a clique of girls who are banding together and sowing rejection into the lives of others? It is time to say “stop it”.

Do you think you are better than other Christian women because you keep your mess quiet?

Do you think that you are better than other Christian women because you think that you are more righteous?

Do you think that you are better than other Christian women because you think you have more gifts? Or, you do more works?

Do you think that you are better than other Christian women, period?

Stop it and do better.

I have been feeling this come on me for weeks, in fact. And, it is time—if only my time and no one else’s—to start expecting better. And, it is going to start with me, whether anyone else joins me. If I find myself trapped in a conversation where someone is murdering the reputation or hope of someone else or murdering the redemptive power of the Holy Spirit in someone’s life, I am going to stand up and say “stop it”.

And saying “stop it” and expecting a shift in girl culture is not the same as then turning around and shunning the girl who is mean. Absolutely not. We have to love everyone. Establishing healthy expectations and having boundaries is not the same as being mean.

I love this quote taken from an article on mean girls by Sheri Dacon:

“Jesus never shunned people. He didn’t go the long way around Samaria, the way any other Jew would have. He went straight through, stopping for some water and conversation with the adulterous woman He met there.”

I am going straight through, my friends.

You are welcomed. Your mess is welcomed. I love messy people! I have been a messy person and I am NOT afraid to talk about it; I must talk about it to be a safe place. And, I hope to do better and to be better. If not, I expect you to tell me to stop it because I want the church—and Christian women– to be safe and protective and healing. I don’t want God’s people to be like any given thread on social media.

We need to expect better until we are a church culture that is better.

The Lord stood by me and strengthened me, so that through me the message might be fully proclaimed and all the Gentiles might hear it. So, I was rescued from the lion’s mouth.

2 Timothy 4:17

Whatever things are true, whatever things are noble; whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy, meditate on these things.

Philippians 4:8

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  1. Lesley says:

    I identify as the oversharer in your article. I’m recovering from trauma in a new place and I overshared in a bid for support and prayer. I’m grateful that the women’s mean reaction in your article appalled you. I am responding to what I can feel in the air at church by withdrawing my physical presence. It is disappointing to feel social dynamics at church like junior high school bullying. It’s funny, pastor was talking about confronting problems and not being passive aggressive with each other, but that doesn’t work with women in mean girl mode. I just won’t go to in person church anymore. I don’t have hope that I will find friends there, and the message at this church is great… it’s a shame. Church shouldn’t be that way.

    • J.B. Tols says:

      I am very sorry that you had that experience. Those who have lived a protected life do not understand or even have the empathic bandwidth to identify with the needs of those who have endured trauma, most of the time. What, oftentimes, people who have endured trauma need is just someone to hear the “oversharing” and just simply say, “I hear you, see you and BELIEVE you”. It can be that simple. Just knowing that we are not invisible. We are called to carry one another’s burdens. I have decided that in the devils great intelligence he has done some very calculated, nasty work on the church’s ego…building it up to the point that we destroy one another from within. What is the solution here? I am still trying to figure that out. But, I know this: I think that the church has moved pretty far away from being the church. I pray that changes someday soon. Until then, I will do my best to continue being the church to those I meet. I pray that you do, too.


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