Over the past few weeks I have shared bits of my story – how I wasn’t the popular girl and that people made fun of me for being a failure. I mean, who does 6th grade twice? —>this girl<—. 😉
But, things weren’t always like this.
Sometime between 7th and 8th grade, I became a cheerleader. This isn’t quite as cool as it sounds. Remember, I went to a small private Christian school. Pretty much anyone who tried out for any sport, made the team. ha!
Regardless, I was a cheerleader. At this time, I wouldn’t say I was super popular but I also wasn’t not popular. People liked Alana Preston. [Yep, I was a Preston before I became a Mokma.] Throughout most of my life, people have tended to follow me. I mentioned before the “tribe” that formed at camp. I do not say this to tell you how amazing I am. It is just important for the development of this story.
About this time in junior high, there was a small nucleus of us cheerleaders who were close and hung together. There were also a few cheerleaders on the outskirts of our nucleus. One cheerleader in particular seemed to want to be part of our inner circle and would do things – including purchasing the same shoes as me and another friend – to fit in. Now, I’d look at that as a compliment. Back then, my junior high brain said, Why does she keep trying to be like us? It’s so obvious that she just wants to fit in.
As a result, there was a core group of us cheerleaders – perhaps four girls or so – who began to form an elaborate prank on this other cheerleader. We came up with code words, planned out slumber parties where we would do mean and awful things, and developed rituals that we would perform with her as an initiation into our group. Bringing up this stuff now, causes me to want to vomit.
But this was us.
Everything we did became an obsession about how to completely demoralize this girl. And, I was the ringleader. Well, me and Jessie. [ha, you thought she was gone for good. Not quite yet]. There were times throughout this period where I would have moments of guilt, and want to stop what we were doing. But then I’d realize – If I were to stand up now and put a stop to this, I may become the target. Once I’d realize that, I’d just keep going.
I remember one particular day – I think it was in geography class – I was passing notes with the other girls about the prank, and our teacher saw the note. To teach us a lesson, she confiscated it and said, “What’s this? A _______?” [she read the title of our prank.] Thankfully, things were so coded in the note, they only made sense to those who were in our group. Everyone else probably thought we were crazies.
Our cheerleading coach had a daughter, who was also on the team. She was one of the few who wasn’t quite in our “cool” core nucleus. But she wanted to be. There were times that she would try to join in on our prank. At one point, it was brought to our coach’s attention – I assume by her daughter, but I never verified this – that some of us cheerleaders had formed an exclusive group with the sole intent of excommunicating our target cheerleader.
Ohmygosh, I remember exactly where we were sitting when this happened. We didn’t have a school gym, so we would practice either in the church sanctuary [my school was in a church building] or in the church lobby. When the coach brought us together to rail on us, we were sitting in the first few pews on the right side of the sanctuary. She told us it was brought to her attention that some of the cheerleaders were out to get one of the others. I believe she even mentioned – by name – the predators and the victim. I. was. mortified.
I was living a double life. I had those who thought, “Oh, Alana Preston. She’s so sweet and so kind! She’s always encouraging those around her…”
And then, this came out… the truth.
Since then, I have apologized more than once to this cheerleader for my actions. Even now, as I share this story, I still have guilt.
How could have I changed from the one who is ridiculed to the ridiculer?
You’d think that through experiencing a couple years of this myself, I would have known better than to do it to another human being.
Yet, how often does this cycle actually happen in our lives? We hear in the news that a Pastor in the church has been secretly sexually abusing young boys. Then it is revealed that he was sexually abused himself as a child. Or, the Grandfather in a family verbally abuses everyone else in the family. No one can figure out why and they are too afraid to confront him. Then, it comes out that his father verbally abused him.
These cycles will continue until we realize them and choose to stop them. And, it’s not easy. I will be the first to say this. Even now as a 32 year-old, I have “predator” traits that emerge from time-to-time. I’ve noticed they emerge most when I am feeling insecure in my own design and value.
I do not think it is okay for one to abuse others, but next time you notice this, consider the abuser. What may have happened in his or her past to ignite this pattern of behavior?
Question: What is a pattern of behavior you have noticed in someone else’s life that points back to his or her past? OR, if you are feeling brave today, share from your own personal story.