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I am no expert on female friendship—just ask the precious, patient ladies brave enough to call me buddy!—but the questions and comments that I receive during and after the sessions I teach to girls’ and ladies’ groups lead me to believe that all women, inside and outside the Church, have one thing in common. We all approach female friendship with at least a touch of trepidation.

Why is that?

I think it’s a variable mix of several factors: past hurts that haven’t fully healed, personal feelings of inadequacy, lack of experience with and exposure to healthy female friendships, and awareness of our own fleshly tendencies and subsequent projection of those tendencies on others. Whatever the case, it just shouldn’t be, especially in the sisterhood of the Church!

What’s to be done? Simple. Be the woman you wish existed; be the friend you wish you had.

Not sure how to start? Here are three suggestions taken from a list of ten that I presented this past weekend at a ladies’ conference. We were able to go into more depth, of course, but you get the general idea.

  1. Give other women the benefit of the doubt. Unless you know that you’ve done something to elicit a negative response, assume that what you perceive to be negative behavior from another woman either isn’t or has nothing to do with you. Don’t dwell on it, don’t dig, and act as if nothing has happened unless you can’t get past it. In that case, ask questions free of accusation and trust the answers you receive. If you have done something wrong, make it right and help her move past it by cheerful example. Either way, practice compassion and patience, knowing that she will probably regret her behavior later, struggle with guilt and/or self-doubt, or feel and have to deal with the effects of the drama she created. We’ve all been there and can agree that it’s a terrible feeling!
  2. Welcome new women into your circle. We women can be pretty territorial when it comes to friendship,  and by “territorial,” I mean selfish. We assume that to share with others is to have less for ourselves. Not true! Friendship is not a trophy to hold above the heads of others, but a blessing that comes alive and multiplies when shared. That’s not to say you can’t have a best friend or an inner circle. Those can be healthy—notice that I said “can.” Just make sure that you give your friends the room and freedom necessary to broaden their friend base, putting their emotional health above your need to feel irreplaceable. Also, when you and your friends are around other women, make sure your group operates more like a lava lamp, warm, inclusive, and fluid, than like lava rock, cold and impenetrable, so that everyone around you feels welcome, safe, and accepted and your group of friends doesn’t become a stumbling block to other women.
  3. Stop competing. We all do it on some level. Maybe not openly, but we do. It shows up in even the tiniest choices we make. Which necklace to wear? Whichever one impresses. What topic to discuss? Whichever one makes us feel more successful than those around us. Whom to spend time with? Whoever provides us with the greatest social advantage. What status to post? Whatever makes us look the most connected, trendy, intellectual, spiritual,…(insert appropriate adjectives). Yuck! Isn’t it about time we started asking ourselves different questions? Here’s a start: How can I help? How can I encourage? How can I instill confidence? How can I uplift? How can I guide? How can I heal? How can I serve? If you want to stand out in the crowd, ladies, all you have to do is set your heart to “bless” instead of “impress,” and you’ll end up doing both!

Of course, all of this is much easier said than done, which is why it’s so important to keep in step with the Holy Spirit and rely on God’s strength to help you overcome selfish urges. In the end, you will benefit and He will be glorified through you.

Now, those of us who have been around the block once or twice know that doing the right thing is no guarantee that others will reciprocate. Even so, loving others the way God intends frees you up to live life with a lighter heart and at least a little less drama, and isn’t that worth the effort?