As most of you know, I spent a week in January, pausing my life in order to refresh my spirit, recharge my batteries, and reconnect with some of my girlfriends. I had a wonderful time laughing, crying, praying, resting, exercising, and being challenged by some wise and wonderful women. I highly recommend taking some time for yourself and your girlfriends every so often. It’s that important!
Sadly many women do not have good girl friends nor do they experiences close relationships. Recently I’ve gotten several questions regarding trust issues and relationship problems with girlfriends.
Question #1: Why are women so nasty to each other? It’s so hard to make female friends. I asked the Lord to bring me Christian friends. Then I was invited to a weekly bible study, just 3 women. It started out fine but then one woman used me against the other. Why are women so competitive and catty? Don’t get me wrong. I’m sure I have been that way myself in the past but I long for closeness with some female friends. Help me understand what’s going on.
Question #2: I notice that in your book on depression, you encourage women to find a support group or trusted people to talk to. Here is my problem. I have issues trusting people with my feelings and thoughts. I don’t really even have any friends to speak of. How do I overcome this in order to find help and support?
Answer: Female friendships are very important and the older I get the more I realize how important they are. Even the best man/husband doesn’t understand us the way our girlfriends do. Plus, statistics show that most women will outlive their husbands and research overwhelmingly confirms that having a supportive group of loving friends is crucial in one’s ability to handle life’s stressors.
That said, relationships take work and finding and maintaining good friendships is not always easy. Just as in marriage, we can get in some pretty unhealthy and even destructive relationships with our female friends. In addition, some women have been burned, hurt or wounded so deeply, their ability to trust others has been impacted and find themselves shutting down or pushing potential friends away.
So what’s the answer? Whether you’ve been discouraged or hurt in your friendships with women, don’t give up. God knows our need for friends. Even in a perfect world God told Adam that it was not good that he was alone, void of human companionship. In addition to making us physical and spiritual beings, God also made us relational beings and we do not function well isolated from connection with others. He knows we need relationships to thrive as human beings. That’s why he created families and the church (family of God). However, if your biological family was abusive and your ability to trust others damaged, learning to begin trusting others is very difficult for you, even if you are a Christian.
Second, start small. Don’t give all your trust to every person you meet. In other words, keep your emotional clothes on until you have known someone for a while and she shows you her trust worthiness. Often we can be attracted to people who ooze personality and charm, but lack godly character. That kind of woman might be a fun person to hang out with at a retreat or social event, but without godly character, she will not make a good close friend.
When you’re with other woman, especially one that you might want to get to know better, observe how she interacts with others. Does she keep their confidences or does she talk about people behind their back? Does she act one way with the person in front of him or her and another way when they are not present? Does she respect a person’s feelings and opinions, and listen when they talk?
If you’re not ready to join a bible study or a specific women’s group yet, volunteer for a committee. Work on a project – a women’s retreat, setting up for VBS, serving a meal for the teens, cleaning up after a church event. Notice how a woman you might want to get to know better handles herself when she’s frustrated, doesn’t’ get her way, or someone else annoys her. You can tell a lot about a person simply by watching the way she treats other people. (We all have a bad day so don’t judge and please be forbearing as James tells us that we all stumble in many ways. But when you observe someone over time consistently treating others with kindness, respect, and honesty, she might be someone you want to get to know better.)
In my book The Emotionally Destructive Relationship, I write that there are three necessary ingredients necessary for healthy relationships. They are mutual caring, mutual honesty, and mutual respect. If one of those ingredients is not mutually demonstrated, the relationship will not flourish. That doesn’t mean someone doesn’t sometimes act rudely or isn’t totally honest. But when she does, is she able to accept responsibility, apologize and ask for forgiveness? Or does she blame you, deny what happened, or refuse to share any responsibility?
You ask why do some women act nasty and catty even in the church? I think partly it’s because they haven’t matured and are still functioning as they did in junior high. They are insecure woman and and feel better when they put others down. Even Jesus didn’t trust everyone. It says in John 2, “but Jesus didn’t trust them, because he knew human nature. No one needed to tell him what mankind is really like.”
Two final cautions: If you’ve been burned in relationships or have trouble trusting others, your internal radar is already on high alert and it enables you to detect even the slightest nuance of annoyance, disappointment, or negativity emanating from other people. The problem when you detect these very human foibles is that you personalize them. In other words you think someone is mad at you, someone doesn’t like you, or you’ve done something wrong. That interpretation is probably is not true, although you are correct in picking up some negative vibes. It may be that the person is tired, busy, distracted or needs to take care of something else right at the moment and isn’t able to give you her full attention. Try to not take these things personally so that you run away or shut down before you even give that person a chance to be a friend.
Second, although we definitely need friendships, our friends can never meet all of our needs. When we expect them to, we will surely be disappointed. Once you find a good friend who you trust, be careful to not become overly dependent on your friend to always be there, totally understand you, and meet all of your emotional needs. No one can always be there, never tire, and be totally selfless and loving. That is God’s job. He uses our human friends to meet some our needs, but not any one person to meet all of our needs. When we lean too heavily for too long on our spouse or girlfriend, the relationship is at risk of becoming unhealthy and the other person will eventually fail us and we (and they) will get hurt. They cannot be nor should they try to be God for us.
Readers, can you give us some other tips on how these women can begin to build some good friendships with other women?
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Unfortunately, I think I am one of those "immature women" not necessarily in relationships, but most definitely recently in my work area. I can feel justified all I want, as comments I've made have been in response to someone else's unkind comments, but it still comes back to my responsibility as a Christian to not respond in kind. It's cost me the respect of several people and has become a wake up call to me that I most definitely need to change my ways.So glad I found this post. God knew what I needed to hear.
Thanks Shauna for your vulnerability and honesty. God will help you mature into the person he's called you to be. Now that you see some areas you can work on, ask for his help and when you mess up, quickly own it. I find often it's not sin that breaks relationship but our unwillingness to own it, take responsibility for our failings and make amends that destroys relationships.