Blog/My Relationships/Teen Relationships Authentic Sisterhood by Maddy Bass In high school, I met three gals who soon became my lifelong best friends. We did almost everything together. We even found this pair of jeans that surprisingly fit us all perfectly! Yeah. Right. Unfortunately, my friendship story isn’t much like “The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants.” While I would love to travel around Greece with my best friend Blake Lively, this glamorized depiction of sisterhood is something I only dreamed of in my female friendships. Instead, I was constantly comparing myself and my relationships to social media photos of “girl squads” that looked too good to be true. Admittedly, I floated between many different groups in high school. Name any women’s group, Bible study, or book club and you’ll probably find my name on the roster. But, sisterhood never came easy for me. During my sophomore year, I joined the cheerleading team with the intention of finding my own squad of gal pals on campus. I was totally defeated when each practice became a series of body shaming and self-criticizing. “Wow, you’re so skinny! How much do you weigh?” “I wish I looked more like you.” “Why doesn’t this uniform ever look good on me?” Every hope I had for true, authentic sisterhood where women built each other up was shattered by the words of women who put themselves and others down. I lived in the comfort of shallow female friendships that only knew me by my appearance, not my heart. And I convinced myself that all future friendships would look like this too: unhealthy and unholy. If you’re reading this and feeling like you’re settling in similar relationships, I encourage you to abandon your comfort. There are real, authentic communities out there worth investing in. I’m no friendship expert, but I’ve accepted the fact that finding holy sisterhood takes patience and courage, especially when the road to heaven can seem lonely and narrow (see Matthew 7). Remembering that our longing for friendship is natural and beautiful is the first step in pursuing sisterhood rooted in Christ. Accountability is More Than Calling Each Other Out I’m sure that you’ve gone to a women’s session at a retreat or conference that at some point recommended finding accountability partners, or women in your life that you can rely on to “keep you in check.” Accountability partners aren’t suggested for you to be criticized on your messy journey toward heaven; they are opportunities for you to be reminded of your goodness by women who are willing to walk with you on that journey. Of course, accountability requires hard truth and tough love. But, our intentions for offering and accepting constructive criticism in our friendships should always redirect us toward holiness. If our intentions are as pure as we say, then we should precede our attempt of accountability with an invitation on how we can become saints together. Quality Over Quantity I opened up to one of my gal pals over dinner about something that was weighing heavy on my heart. It took one second for her to respond with, “Hey, do you want to go to Adoration right now?” We paid the bill, hit the road, and drove to several different churches looking for an open chapel. We ended up in front of a window on the side of the street looking into a chapel with a view of the tabernacle. My friend melted to her knees as we both simultaneously put our hands on the window. She wasn’t just a good friend who sat with me through a hard time. She was my sister who desired to meet me in my messiness, kneel on the dirty sidewalk, and pray with me. And I think that this was what Jesus was doing, too. It was my friend’s change in posture that reminded me of the sacred daughterhood we share, a union that unites us and invites us to embrace each other’s openness in order to experience divine freedom. I have found so much joy in knowing women who give me permission to openly express what is going on in my heart without feeling like I am stupid or dramatic in doing so. As the Father’s adopted daughters, we are made sisters through Christ’s suffering, death, and Resurrection. We become irreplaceable instruments in the Body of Christ who share in a special intimacy with Jesus, one that allows us to empathize with both the suffering and joy we experience uniquely as women. There is Good News in Your Friendships I believe that comparison is the thief of joy. That’s not to say I haven’t scrolled through social media posts of women I know and experienced major FOMO or wished my life looked a little more like theirs. But, I’m afraid we’ve started viewing other women as subjects for comparison instead of sisters of individual beauty. First, we have to believe we are the Father’s chosen daughter. Second, we have to believe that every woman is the Father’s chosen daughter, too. Instead of asking “why can’t I look like that,” we can turn our jealousy into praise to God for the beauty and joy of every woman we see, whether our friends or not. As witnesses to new mercies and stewards of faith, we can share the Good News by finding the good in our sisters and moving toward virtue in our current relationships. St. Pope John Paul II once said, “Friendship, as has been said, consists of a full commitment of the will to another person with a view to that person’s good.” When we pursue virtuous friendships, we are actually pursuing a taste of the Father’s love for us. And our Father’s love knows no convenience, conditions, or consequences. He always chooses a relationship with us even when we are at our lowest. And yet He continues to see the good in us. Centering all our relationships in Christ grants us a greater love to see ourselves and our sisters, despite all imperfections, as people of Good News. Think about the friends you hold close to you or even the people you struggle to call a friend. What is the Good News of that person? How can you redirect your friendship back to the heart of God? Pray for Holy Sisterhood My friend Catie once told me that God never abandons a cry for community. If I heard that when I was a senior in high school, I would have laughed (and probably proceeded to cry). But, she is right. You might be reading these words about sisterhood and friendship and feeling like you haven’t encountered these kinds of relationships yet. I seriously encourage you to bring all of these desires to the Lord in prayer. There is nothing desperate about desiring something we were created for. God knows our wants better than anyone else could and He would never exclude us from a friendship that allows us to experience His love even more. While we might be anxiously stepping into new friendships or deepening old ones, we should trust in His plan over every relationship in our lives, which asks for us to strengthen our own relationship with Him through prayer. 1. Let thanksgiving always be primary in your prayer. Remember the ways the Lord has blessed you with past friendships, and trust in the ways He will continue to be faithful in His promises with new friendships. 2. Don’t desert the friendships you already have. See the goodness that already exists in the relationships you do have even if they seem temporary or seasonal. If you enjoy the people you hang out with, you should continue to see the good in those friendships and still invite them into new depths of conversation. 3. Wait on the Lord. I’m not going to give you the whole “patience is a virtue” spiel, but I’m also not going to promise you that a dozen virtuous women are going to pop into your life tomorrow. Maybe this could happen, I don’t know. But, we have to believe that our Father is a faithful Father that will never abandon us, even if waiting tests our patience or challenges our desire for convenience. Be Not Afraid If I’m being honest, I have a ton friend crushes. You know, the women you just really want to be pals with. So, one day, I decided to spontaneously ask a friend if she wanted to go to a concert with me. The night included ridiculous dancing, falling on the floor laughing, and belting every song regardless of if we knew the lyrics or not. And the most memorable part? We went from singing loudly in a concert venue to singing worship together in a nearby chapel that same night. It wasn’t just the fun of dancing without embarrassment. It was the freedom of being seen and loved by a friend who prioritized an understanding of our daughterhood with the Father in order for us to grow in sisterhood together. Maybe we didn’t share the same pair of jeans, but we shared in this mutual and intentional invitation to care for one another spiritually. It’s comforting to only pray and wait for good things to happen in our friendships without actually doing the real work that friendship requires. But, we can’t expect that community is going to easily come to us. Real sisterhood exists when we make room for intentionality. Sometimes we have to be the ones to boldly take a leap of faith and create community in a place that needs it, whether that’s in creating a women’s Bible study on campus, texting our friend crushes to meet up, or extending an invitation for women’s fellowship with someone who needs it. Searching for and creating friendships can be discouraging, but hold faith. Start small. Dive into the discomfort of pursuing others, and don’t be afraid of letting yourself be pursued. “For where two or three gather in my name, there am I with them” (Matthew 18:20).