“Look at Addi! I wore hair clips like hers when I was 5!”
Every head in the seventh-grade class turned to look at my hairstyle. My cheeks glowed with embarrassment. It was Janelle again.
She was ruthless. If it wasn’t my hair, it was my clothes or my shoes or even my teeth. I didn’t want her to see me cry, so I excused myself and walked down the hall. In the bathroom I removed the new clip and shoved it into my backpack, my eyes stinging with tears.
Unfortunately, when Mom picked me up from school she noticed that the hair clip was missing. “What happened to your hair clip?” she asked.
“It makes me look like a baby,” I told her.
“What? You didn’t think so when you bought it,” Mom replied.
“Janelle said I looked like a little kid.”
“Who cares what Janelle says?”
“I do. And all my friends do too.”
Mom shook her head. “Real friends like you the way you are. Even if someone says your hair clip looks childish, what’s the problem? You are a kid. And if you like it, that’s what matters.”
“I am not a kid!” I protested.
Mom sighed. “Addi,” she said, “being a kid isn’t a bad thing.”
I thought a little about what Mom had said and tried not to let Janelle’s mean comment bother me.
Two weeks later I got my hair cut. I thought this would solve my problem—no more wearing clips to keep my hair out of my face. But when I looked in the mirror the next morning, my heart sank.
“Mom, it’s too short! Janelle will call me a shaved sheep or something!”
Mom suppressed a smile. “You don’t look like a sheep. Do you think your hair looks bad?”
I paused, then said, “Well, I don’t know. Maybe not.” It felt good to have my hair out of my face. And I didn’t look like a boy or anything. I just knew Janelle would make fun of it.
“All the kids at school will tease me,” I whined. “Maybe I’m sick and should stay home.”
“Addi, you’re not sick,” Mom said. “Your own opinion is the one that matters. Come on, let’s get in the car.”
When Mom pulled the van up to the school entrance, I started to whine again. “I can’t go in there! People will make fun of me!”
Mom paused. “Honey, how do you react when Janelle teases you?”
“Well, sometimes I yell something mean back to her. Or I go to the bathroom so she won’t see me cry.”
“But don’t you think she knows what’s going on when you go into the bathroom?”
“Maybe.” I hadn’t thought of that before.
“You know what works for me? Heaping burning coals on the heads of my enemies.”
What? So I should throw fire on Janelle?
“It means,” Mom continued, “that when Janelle makes fun of you, give her a compliment. Do something nice for her. She’ll be confused and wonder why you aren’t running away to cry. You’re taking away her power to make you feel bad. We shouldn’t give anyone power to make us feel bad about ourselves. Jesus is where we find our self-worth.”
I didn’t like the thought of Janelle having power over me. So when the bell rang for recess later that day, I knew it was time to put Mom’s suggestion to the test. As I sat on the swings, Janelle started toward me, her friends walking beside her. Mean girls always travel in packs.
“What did you do to your hair?” Janelle smirked.
“Oh, I got it cut.” I tried to sound brave.
“It looks like your mom put a bowl over your head and then cut around it,” Janelle said. One of the girls next to her giggled.
I bit my tongue to keep from saying something mean. I planted my feet; this time I wasn’t going to hide in the bathroom. Remembering what Mom had said about coals, I took a deep breath. “You know, you’re really smart, Janelle. Those jokes come to you pretty quick.”
Janelle cocked her head and looked at me strangely. “Yeah, I guess.”
Her confusion gave me courage to continue. “You could do stand-up comedy or something for the talent show coming up. I think I’m going to sing a solo, but a lot of people do songs. It might be nice to have something different.”
She paused. “Really? I’ll think about that.”
Then, just as quickly as they had arrived, Janelle and her friends walked away. And I hadn’t cried or yelled or gotten upset. I had talked to Janelle, and she hadn’t made me feel bad about myself.
Mom, your advice worked!” I said at the kitchen table that afternoon. “Janelle tried to make fun of me, but I was nice to her, and she stopped!”
“Well, it wasn’t my advice,” Mom said, smiling. “It was King Solomon’s. He wrote about coals in Proverbs 25:21, 22. He said that when your enemy is thirsty you should give him something to drink, and when he’s hungry you should give him something to eat. In other words, be nice to him.”
“Or her,” I said as I stuffed a chocolate-chip cookie in my mouth.
“Do you still hate your haircut?” Mom asked.
I shook my head. “I never did hate it, really. I like it, and that’s what matters. You know, maybe I should wear that hair clip. If Janelle tells me I look like a kid, that’s OK.”
Mom handed me a glass of milk. “Your being a kid is just fine with me.”