On women (dis)connecting women

‘Just come on Friday afternoon with your kids. We’ll be there. Pull in!’

The ‘there’ was my house. I was overhearing my friend Michelle inviting another mom, and her kids, to a mass play date that I’d be hosting.

Later Michelle half-laughed, half-apologised, because Gosh, she said, what was I thinking? It’s not my place to be inviting other people to your house!

But I was seriously chuffed. Pleased and grateful and honoured that she felt so at home in my home – so free within our friendship – that she knew it would be totally fine with me.

Years ago I met Michelle through a mutual friend, Kim. Michelle and I both love and trust Kim completely. So when Kim – our common denominator – introduced us, there was an immediate and satisfying solution to the friendship equation:

If Kim loves and trusts Michelle, and I love and trust Kim, then I can love and trust Michelle too.

Boom. A brand new friendship was born and it felt like we’d been doing life together for decades.

As women, we’re powerful connectors.

We know how to let love cover (1 Peter 4:8) and we throw cloaks of soft, sustainable connection over families and friendship circles and career spaces. We make sure the dinners and reunions and sleepovers and Skype chats happen. In a busy, distracted world fraught with division, we swallow pride and impossibility to throw ropes across abysses and build the swing bridges that bind our communities.

Except when we don’t.

Because as women, we’re powerful connectors – and disconnectors.

As much as women are able to love and link and keep channels of communication open, we’ve likely all got stories of how irrevocably – unspeakably – we’ve been hurt by other women.

A painful past

Sometimes we hurt each other because we’ve been hurt. Our own wounds haven’t scabbed over – and if the scalpel of another woman’s words gets a little too close to our already bleeding lesion – we make sure we’re ready with a scalpel of our own. We don’t just want to get even. We want to get ahead. So the hurt we inflict on others is our disproportionate backlash.

An insecure present

Sometimes we hurt each other out of insecurity. We feel constantly inferior as we try to conform to a real or imagined standard – trying to find our footing where we’ve landed in the seemingly hostile here and now. And our own understated or palpable self-loathing warps into a tendency to put others down – so that we feel elevated or superior or generally less crappy about ourselves.

A doubtful future

And sometimes we hurt each other because we’re jealous. We hurt each other with snide remarks and unsubtle exclusions because, if we’re honest, we’re angry that God hasn’t set things up for us they way He’s set things up for our friend or boss or sister.

Yet, if we stop the ranting and resentment for long enough, we may hear echoes of Jesus telling the parable of the vineyard workers. The landowner’s response to the sour-grapes labourers who’ve worked a whole day for the same wage as those who’ve only worked a couple hours, is:

‘Should you be jealous because I am kind to others?’ (Matthew 20:14, NLT)

Our jealousy also reveals that we don’t really believe our generous Father has anything good laid aside for us, for the future. We’ve forgotten that, as daughters of the King, we can go to the storehouses of heaven and with gratitude make our requests known to Him (Philippians 4:6).

John Newton’s hymn reminds us,

Thou art coming to a King

Large petitions with thee bring

For His grace and power are such

None can ever ask too much

So maybe we could ask God to remind us that, as believers connected to Jesus, He’s our common denominator. He’s our mutual – loved and trusted – connection.

I have to believe that if we remembered that more often, we’d behave better. We’d want Jesus’ other friends to think well of us. We’d know that your win is my win and my win is your win, because we’re all on His team – shooting for the same Kingdom goals. That perspective makes any jealousy, mistrust, defensiveness or competition seem ludicrous.

I’m not talking about being everyone’s BFF. We don’t even have to be Facebook friends. But as and when our paths cross or our journeys take us down similar roads for a season or even a moment – we should be safe in each other’s presence. When our eyes meet across a room or a cup of coffee – we should know we’re seeing the soul of someone who is for us. Not out to get us.

Because our love for each other – our deep affection and sincere celebration of each other – that’s how all people everywhere will know we’re His disciples (John 13:35). It’s that kind of connection that will change the world.

friends.jpg

. . .

Originally written for and published in Scripture Union Magazine.

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