"I Have to Love Jerks?"

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Q. I know I'm suppose to love others, but what do I do about people who are just mean or who seem to hate me? I find myself wanting to react in an ungodly manner. What can I do?

A. Loving everyone no matter what isn't easy, is it? Well, even though it's not always possible to have warm feelings toward jerks who mistreat you, it is possible to treat them with a loving respect.

How? It begins with trying to ignore them. Sure, their words and actions hurt, but don't let them know they are hurting you. Find some trusted friends or a teacher or counselor to share your hurts with and try your best to stay away from them.

If these mean people are deeply affecting how you view yourself or causing you physical harm, you need to talk to someone at school about ways to get yourself out of the situation. You don't have to be treated this way. You don't have to just take the hatred. But whatever you do, try to show respect for both yourself and them. Keep treating them how you wish they'd treat you (Matthew 7:12). And as hard as it may sound, you should pray for them.

When my daughter Heidi was in eighth grade, three of her best friends turned on her. They treated her terribly. They spread lies. It hurt her badly. We'd often talk about it and pray for them.

Sometimes, if you ignore bullies they will eventually just stop because they aren't getting a reaction. Not these girls. They kept going even though Heidi never treated them the same way. She changed friends. She stayed true to her faith.

Heidi is now a senior, and just last week two of the mean girls apologized. Heidi forgave them, and she was also very honest with them about the hurt they'd caused. These girls will never be Heidi's good friends again, but the moral of this story is this: Even when you feel like it, do not stoop to the level of mean kids. Don't let their hate make you hateful, too.

Jim is an author, longtime youth worker and founder of HomeWord, a group seeking to honor God through strong families.

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