There may be times when your child comes home from school and tells you about someone who is making their life miserable. As a mom, I know you want to go scratch that person’s eyes out. But let me tell you a story of how my mom reacted to a situation like that and how it helped me learn something that I still rely on today.
When I was in sixth grade, a seventh-grade girl who was part of the popular crowd repeatedly made mean remarks to me. She would look at me and say things like “I hate you” and “You’re ugly.” She wasn’t someone I wanted to be friends with. In fact, she was just an older girl picking on me. But it made me feel awful. I remember telling my mom about this girl and how she made me feel. My mom said, “Just smile sweetly at her, and pretty soon she won’t be able to think of any reason to be mean to you.”
I didn’t want to smile sweetly at her. I didn’t want to have any type of exchange with her. I just wanted this girl to move out of town so I never had to be around her again.
One day, as I contemplated how I could convince my parents into letting me go to a different school so I could avoid this girl, my mom came into my room and prayed with me that God would “soften the heart” of the person who was being hateful toward me.
The next morning, I repeated that prayer on my way to school. “God, please soften her heart toward me so she’s not so mean.”
Before school started, that girl walked by me and didn’t say a word. Either she didn’t notice me, or she just didn’t have time to be mean. I was relieved. The next day, the same thing happened. She ignored me. Yes! Maybe the harassment was finally over. The day after that, a friend of hers called me out for having pants that were too short, and this girl who was usually so hateful said to her friend, “Leave her alone. It’s not her fault.” She then looked at me as if to say, “I’m sorry.”
Could Miss Hateful have gone from hating me to defending me?
I don’t recall her ever being mean to me again after that. From that I learned that God can not only help me be more confident as I walk into situations that I dread, but He can change hearts. And He can change the hearts of the children who are bullying yours, of the teenage girls whom your daughter is trying to befriend, of the players on the team who want nothing to do with your son, or the people in your children’s lives who seem to have it out for them.
Had my mom chosen to talk to the school principal about the girl who was bullying me, it probably would’ve made my situation worse with that girl. And if my mom had just wrung her hands and told me how worried she was about me, it might have given me an ulcer! But because she taught me to pray for a softened heart, I learned some valuable lessons for life and a secret that helps me not worry when it comes to how others treat me or my child:
Instead of worrying, take your situation to God
Pray for God to soften hearts, and your perspective (dislike) of that person will change
God is concerned about the same things you are concerned about, but He can actually do something about them
God is in the business of coming through for those who lean on Him to meet their needs
Ever since, I have often prayed that God would soften the heart of someone who was causing me grief—a friend or boyfriend who wasn’t speaking to me, a family member, a college professor, my boss at my first few jobs, coworkers while working for a newspaper, women I’ve worked with (and disagreed with) in ministry. And every time I have asked God to specifically soften someone’s heart toward me, He has.
I believe you know where I’m heading with this. When moms rush in to rescue—or when they choose to worry—they are teaching their kids to rely on mom or themselves, not God and His ability to change the situation by softening a heart.
There are examples in Scripture of God changing the hearts of people, especially hardened, stubborn, unwilling-to-change people.19 And God can still change hearts today—the heart of your child’s teacher, the hearts of other children who don’t like your child, the hearts of young men or women who shouldn’t be dating your child, the hearts of parents who have misunderstood situations, the hearts of your children’s bosses at work, and the list goes on.
Can you find opportunities to pray with your children that God will soften or change the heart of someone who is causing them grief in their life? If not, you go ahead and start praying for the softening. I believe God will hear and act.
From 10 Secrets to Becoming a Worry-Free Mom by Cindi McMenamin