Several years ago I was asked to speak to a mom’s group on women friendships. The irony went several layers deep, I felt like the least qualified woman to speak on friendship. Though I was women’s ministry director for our church at the time, I felt lonely, socially too-much, over-extended in shallow relationships, I struggled daily against envy and insecurity, and to beat all, was wading through an active conflict with a woman friend I admired deeply. When it comes to navigating friendship among women, it would seem I was actually very qualified for the topic, at least in sharing what NOT to do!
So I’ll share 5 of those hindrances to healthy friendships in this 2-part blog post, though there are more ways, always. Like stabbing people in the eyeballs when you haven’t slept and are so hungry even your feet are growling. That’s not one of the 5 hindrances to friendship I share in this blog series, but it counts too.
For today though, our first surefire way to hinder forming a healthy female friendship is this doozy I’ll spend the bulk of my time on:
Compare & compete with her
It seems like every time I open my Inbox, I find another post addressing this topic, in some form. I also find myself needing to read it. Again.
There is job security for those who teach on this topic, because it is a common struggle for all of us, on some level. We know the harms of comparison and competition, we get that it messes with our heads and robs us of peace and joy in being who we are and having what we have. That being said, a lot of good it does us to tell us to stop comparing ourselves with other women, or suggest why we do it, when what we need to know is how to stop! If only there was a magic pill. Some things I read might as well offer a magic pill though, because they stop short of dealing with the heart of the matter.
There is hope though, and it’s better than a pill that just wears off leaving us right where we started. Here it is…
Turn back to God. Comparison and competition is a surefire sign you are walking in your sin nature, lusting after something God just hasn’t given you, at least not in the way you think you want. I know, ick. I said sin.
We are simply not in step with God’s Spirit when we look one another up and down and weigh ourselves against one another. As my loving but unapologetic Aunt Leslie would say, “Stop it”.
You, friend, have been called to liberty if you have trusted Jesus with your life, and he wants us to enjoy our liberty by reveling free in his abundance of love. Love and acceptance is a gift for us to enjoy, but instead our old devil master is trying to steal our liberty, and wants us to bite each other.
His tactics are lodged in missile thoughts, he wants us to believe God’s goodness is rationed, God’s resources scarce, the seats at the table are one short, and he has favorites. All this is false. There’s room for you, for her, and God’s portion of goodness for you, and for me, is plenty for us. God has more than enough for you, for this day, yet he still takes our prayers for more to heart, so go ahead and ask. But then, let’s trust him with the response, and thank him for what is before us. He sees what we don’t see. A regular go-to for me (read: weekly) that helps me center back in God’s Spirit is this beautiful verse:
“For the LORD God is a sun and shield: the LORD will give grace and glory: no good thing will he withhold from them that walk uprightly.” Psalm 84:11
He is both a sun and shield for us, so he will shine grace on us in gifts and favor, but he will also shield us from the not-good things, the things he is withholding from us. I breathe out scarcity, competition, chasing, in confession…and breathe in my portion, God’s attention and gifts that are mine, a promise of provision and unending grace.
My aunt must have read Paul’s letter to the Galatians, because he says “Stop it”, essentially, too. “I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh.” Gal. 5:16
If we want to have healthy female friendships, or healthy anything, we need to accept that we will need to get good at confessing when we are off-plumb in our hearts, and quick at returning to God’s Spirit. But the good news is this isn’t rocket science or a dozen flaming circus hoops to clear, not for those of us in relationship with Jesus. We simply observe our attitudes in light of Truth, agree with God – yep, that is wretched. Then we take back up what we know to be true, that we are loved, that Jesus lives in us and has all we need to become who we are meant to be in this life, that the other person is not perfect and has real struggles like us and needs hope too. We pray, we release control, we submit, we receive grace, we move on.
Consider becoming proactive about this friendship-buster too, ask God to make you generous toward the women in your life, to open your mind and stretch your heart to give freely in sincere compliments and praise. I don’t mean fake cheerleading just to invoke favor for yourself, that’s, ahem, manipulation. But we can pray for help here. God knows the difference between walking in the Spirit and manipulation, and he wants us to enjoy our liberty. Comparing and competing is not freedom, it’s bondage, and as I’ve said before but it bears repeating, Jesus is always working in us to free us.
The wisest non-Jesus man ever to live, Solomon, warned of “little foxes” or threats to a budding relationship that was about to bear life in marriage.
In our friendships too, we could heed the warning against “little foxes” like comparison and competition, because God-centered friendships among women have the potential to bear much goodness in our communities!
The 2nd surefire way to hinder friendship is also just no good way to live among humans.
Focus all on you, yourself and your problems.
We all have major life challenges, at some point. We can all feel overwhelmed, all feel stressed, lonely, wronged, misunderstood, unseen, unloved, rejected, afraid, and with constant images flashing before our eyes of acts of random violence – we are all traumatized, on some level. Our pain matters, though, and doesn’t need to be diminished just to fit inside of a friendship. But if our pain is center stage in every conversation, in every text, and the other woman never gets a chance to be heard and seen and valued as a human being with weakness and needs, then we aren’t building a friendship. We are in therapy.
Paul helps us become better friends by reminding us that our liberty is wonderful, but we are most free and honor God when we use our liberty to seek the well-being of others in our lives, too.
“Don’t think only of yourself. Try to think of the other fellow, too, and what is best for him.” 1 Corinthians 11:24, The Living Bible.
I like what The Message bible version says too, “…the point is not to just get by. We want to live well, but our foremost efforts should be to help others live well.”
If I want to hinder female friendships, it’s pretty easy. I just need to compare myself to her, or compete with her, or make my main effort to help myself live well and forget she has a day job and a soul with feelings. But if these don’t keep us isolated, I have 3 more surefire ways to hinder female friendship coming next time.
I should add these are surefire TESTED ways to hinder friendship. I’ve tried them all, they work every time.
But let’s not, let’s seek God’s wisdom and choose better ways, friends.
God, help us become givers, not takers only so we help, not hinder, our female friendships.
Speaking of giving, my own mama launched a new line in her hand-made children’s bow business called Wear One & Share One.
It’s sweet really, and was inspired by a darling little girl, Ava. Our families have been friends forever, and my mama would make a bow for her every month, but would send her two, with a love note. One bow was for her to wear, and one for her to share, because God loves it when we share with others. Each month Ava opened her package and her mama recorded her declaration of which friend would get the other bow. The delight in her giving overwhelms us every time, and we hope this friendship-builder catches on for women of all ages! If you want to subscribe to Wear One & Share One for a little girl in your life, you can join the Facebook group to get started!