As middle school pastor, I often hear about middle school drama. By drama, I don’t mean the school plays but the kind of drama in relationships. This drama causes unnecessary relationship strife. This drama seems necessary if personally involved, but to outsiders almost seems laughably unnecessary.
To be honest, I’m not sure if middle school drama is worse than other kinds of drama. Certainly high schoolers, college students, and adults all experience their own form of unnecessary relationship strife. But I sense that when people look back on their middle school years they consider those years particularly awkward and hard. I have heard parents express frustration and bewilderment when their child is dealing with dramatic friendships.
In this blog I want to offer eight things that can help the middle schooler, or any person for that matter, deal with drama. The kind of drama as Proverbs tends to define it: unnecessary relationship strife. Proverbs addresses the topic well. From my count, a little over 50 verses speak about relationship strife.
- TAKE RESPONSIBILITY
Taking responsibility is an overarching theme to the other seven things that follow below. It is easy for us to passively think drama happens to us. We might say, “I find myself in drama all the time.” Or “Those people are so dramatic.” Or “It’s weird how drama happens to me.” Proverbs paints a different picture. Proverbs calls us to own our relationship strife by either wisely taking action to prevent drama from happening or dealing with it when it does happen. My impression after reading Proverbs on the topic is 80-90% of the drama we experience is something that we should take responsibility for; the other 10-20% is the inevitable result of sinful people encountering other sinful people. But even then, within the last 10-20%, the Bible prescribes how we should deal with it.
- BE CONTENT
Proverbs 6:34-35 – For jealousy makes a man furious, and he will not spare when he takes revenge. He will accept no compensation; he will refuse though you multiply gifts.
Proverbs 28:25 – A greedy man stirs up strife, but the one who trusts in the Lord will be enriched.
Jealousy and greed, the opposite of contentment, create drama. When we want something that someone else has, our relationship with that person suffers. The way it works is that I’m envious over a person’s shoes, I then want those shoes, and then I dislike the person because they have what I want. The same scenario could be explained for when I’m jealous over another person’s hair, clothes, money, reputation, looks, skills, friend group, boyfriend/girlfriend, sport team, or anything else. The convicting question is, “Are you content with what God has provided you?” You should take responsibility for your own contentment.
- MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS
Proverbs 3:30 – Do not contend with a man for no reason, when he has done you no harm.
Proverbs 9:7-8 – Whoever corrects a scoffer gets himself abuse, and he who reproves a wicked man incurs injury. Do not reprove a scoffer, or he will hate you; reprove a wise man, and he will love you.
For some of us, we like to involve ourselves in other’s problems. While there is certainly a place for helping people through problems, it is possible to excessively involve ourselves. Two examples mentioned above are correcting a scoffer who does not want our correction and contending with someone who has done us no harm. If we are not careful, we can contend with others through our complaints, off-hand suggestions, and criticisms.
How do you know if you should mind your own business or get involved? To answer, I’d advise to know your role. If you have a God-given role in another person’s life, then your involvement is necessary. Otherwise, there is wisdom in minding your own business. What are some God-given roles that might apply? Generically, one is when you as a Christian see drama involving another Christian. In such an instance, out of Christian love, you may (and many instances should) assist in bringing reconciliation. This is particularly true when Christ’s reputation is at stake. A second role is found by asking, “Who is the authority?” Middle schoolers nearly all the time do not have the authority to really settle a matter of strife among their peers. Therefore, their involvement would consist of telling the matter to an adult, teacher, coach, pastor, or parent. Lastly, I’d also remind students to be aware if any person is in danger. If drama increases to a level where someone is in danger, students should step in.
- COOL TEMPER/IGNORE INSULTS
Proverbs 15:1 – A soft answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger.
Proverbs 17:27-28 – Whoever restrains his words has knowledge, and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is deemed intelligent.
Proverbs 12:16 – The vexation [or annoyance] of a fool is known at once, but the prudent ignores an insult.
Proverbs 19:11 – Good sense makes one slow to anger, and it is his glory to overlook an offense.
Lots of Proverbs deal with the topic of having a cool temper and ignoring insults. One of the most practical things a person can do to avoid drama is to simply talk less. Proverbs says, “even a fool who keeps silent is considered wise.” Students should also cautiously withhold from complaining about the things that annoy them. Drama is the result of speaking our complaints and failing to overlook an initial offense.
Often we may try to excuse ourselves by saying, “I just have a bad temper.” But a bad temper is not a good excuse. When we say you have a bad temper what we are really saying is, “I don’t listen well or I lack good sense.” It denies taking personal responsibility. Proverbs says, “Good sense makes one slow to anger.” A bad temper is therefore just a lack of sense.
To clarify, the Bible is not against complaining. It is just against complaining without first bearing with others. Colossians 3:13 provides a good step-by-step model when it says, “bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other, as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive.” Notice that Colossians 3:13 gives permission to bring a matter of complaint to another with three steps. First, bear with others. Second, give a matter of complaint. Third, forgive as Christ forgave you. It tells a person to bear first, and then complain. Even then, the purpose for complaining is so that the matter can be acknowledged, and forgiven. Complaining with no intention of forgiveness stirs up drama. A complaint with the intention to forgive ends drama. But overlook an initial offense first.
- DON’T TELL SECRETS
Proverbs 16:28 – A dishonest man spreads strife, and a whisperer separates close friends.
Proverbs 20:19 – Whoever goes about slandering reveals secrets; therefore do not associate with a simple babbler.
There is a love/hate relationship with secrets for middle schoolers. They love telling and hearing secrets; yet, they also fear when they see from a distance someone else telling a secret. Secret telling comes in various forms today. When it used to include whispers in ears or notes passed, today there are a growing number of anonymous driven apps.
A less direct way of telling secrets is vague comments. In some ways, we tell people we have a secret without telling people the details. Sometimes the statements made online like, “Some people just make me so mad” or “Well, it happened again!” Such comments not only reveal a hot temper, which in its own way stirs drama, but also contains an element of secrecy.
What’s just as hard is not listening to secrets. Sometimes people will ask beforehand, “If I tell you a secret, promise not to tell anyone.” Agreeing to such terms easily stirs drama. It puts us in an a near impossible position to mind our own business.
- AVOID DRUNKARDS
Proverbs 23:29-30 – Who has woe? Who has sorrow? Who has strife? Who has complaining? Who has wounds without cause? Who has redness of eyes? Those who tarry long over wine; those who go to try mixed wine.
Middle schoolers are not far from being surrounded by a drinking scene. They can know early the practical benefit of staying away from those who are drunk. Such avoidance helps a student stay away from drama.
- DEAL WITH DRAMA QUICKLY AND DIRECTLY
Proverbs 6:2-5 – if you are snared in the words of your mouth, caught in the words of your mouth, then do this, my son, and save yourself, for you have come into the hand of your neighbor: go, hasten, and plead urgently with your neighbor. Give your eyes no sleep and your eyelids no slumber;
Proverbs 25:9 – Argue your case with your neighbor himself, and do not reveal another’s secret,
Proverbs 17:14 – The beginning of strife is like letting out water, so quit before the quarrel breaks out.
All of Scripture encourages us to go directly to the person we have wronged. It likewise tells us to go directly to the person who we think has something against us (Matthew 5:21-26, Luke 17:3-4). So, whatever side, whether we have wronged or been wronged, we should deal with the matter directly and quickly. Sharing the matter with an outsider to the situation stirs drama.
In fact, and this may seem strange, it vitally important to state that the ultimate goal is not to stop the drama. Rather the ultimate goal is to do what pleases the Lord. Indeed, we do not want to stop drama by not pleasing God. The fear of some is if I go directly and quickly, then the drama may escalate. And truth be told, that fear may be true. Drama may escalate. However, the ultimate goal, again, is not shying away from drama, rather it is being obedient to God’s word.
- DON’T ARGUE WITH FOOLS
Proverbs 23:9 – Do not speak in the hearing of a fool, for he will despise the good sense of your words.
Proverbs 29:9 – If a wise man has an argument with a fool, the fool only rages and laughs, and there is no quiet.
Romans 12:18 says, “As far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” The truth is, we are responsible for ourselves, and can’t control how another person will respond to us. We may do everything right; yet a fool may continue to despise or stir up drama. In such an instance, continual arguing is not the solution. Rather than argue, there comes a point where we are responsible to mind our own business.