We women tend to have bad reputations amongst ourselves, don’t we? I’m referring to our reputation to be hateful towards one another. It seems that a good number of us haven’t graduated from junior high – in attitude. If you think this might not apply to you, let me ask you something.
Do you, or have you recently, given someone you love the silent treatment, refusing to talk to them even when they have tried to make up with you because, “I’ll show them”?
Do you, or have you recently, talked about someone you love in an uncharitable manner – this spans from saying something true, yet undesirable about them, or speaking downright lies and gossiping about them?
Sound familiar? It does to me. I struggle significantly with the remnants of my ‘junior-high-itude’ - acting all high 'n mighty when I don't get my own way. I know men who struggle with this too, but we women, by our very nature, are orientated towards the relational, and as such tend towards sins of the relational variety.
Not only have I been on the ‘giving’ end more often than I’d like to admit, I’ve been on the receiving end of the venom of those bubbling over with the ‘junior high-itude’. I remember starting a new job several years ago and upon being introduced to the one hundred women working there, I thought “Oh my goodness…what am I getting myself into?” I turned to my tour guide and asked, “Just how many women work here?” I had just come from a job where I worked directly with a few ultra-catty, gossipy women. Not only did they make life miserable while at work, they tipped the scales in favour of moving on in my career. I was honestly very worried as I walked around my new job!
Reflecting back on that time, it makes me sad to think that I was afraid of other women, those of my own kind, because I know the great solace that women have the power to extend to other women. Ladies, one of the greatest gifts of our sex is also, potentially, one of the worst vices we struggle with. We have this ability to really feel what others are feeling, to hold and heal others’ hearts and lay our own hearts and souls on the line for those in need. Yet what do we do with those unique qualities? We bear down on others who struggle with different sins than our own, judge our dear friends and family by impossibly high standards and ourselves by embarrassingly low ones, and create little gossip-girl-groups in order to make ourselves feel superior to the ‘lowly’ around us (and we make sure they feel it too).
It hurts – we wound ourselves and each other deeply. We fracture our communities and even now, twenty years after junior high we’re lumping our friends and neighbours into ‘cool’ and ‘uncool’. While the moment we feel threatened, our claws come out, just as sharp as they were in grade eight, and we’re not afraid to use them to decimate the gal who last week brought us some tulip bulbs or shared her lunch.
And frankly, my dear sisters in Christ, this behaviour is childish, superficial and utterly devoid of Christian charity. I speak from experience – on both sides of the spectrum – and am so deeply humiliated at the way I’ve treated people in the past, that when I received this in an email from a dear Sister in Christ who, like me, is striving to live true femininity, the words of the “Promise of Friendship” went straight to my heart; challenging and convicting me to (finally) drop the ‘junior-high-itude’. Can you imagine how different life would be if your friends gave you this promise?
“I promise never to speak an unkind word to or about you. I promise never to compete, abandon or betray you. I love you, I will pray for you.”
How different would you be? How would you live? Isn’t this revolutionary? I cannot comprehend my friends committing themselves to me in this way, not because I haven’t had beautiful and deeply meaningful friendships (I have) but because I’ve hurt others and been hurt and I know how hard it is to change myself, how can others change? So I have slowly closed myself off to new friendships just to avoid the hassle. I’m not sure when my cynicism and jadedness got the better of me, but I have become so suspicious...and cautious…when meeting new people over the years. It seemed better to me to just forgo the whole "friend-making" experience.
But it makes for a lonely and unnourished existence. Cutting myself off from others doesn’t help me to grow, but drives nails into the casket of my selfishness. Does me no good whatsoever.
So today, as Lent 2013 approaches, I set out with a fresh and forgiven spirit and a new outlook. I hope to extend the promise of friendship to my loved ones (and perhaps eventually even my enemies?) and to live by it, in the hopes that I will stop being part of the problem in my community, and instead be part of the healing process - allowing God to soften my own heart, and also the hearts of my sisters around me.