Throughout the world, be it in corporate or social life, there’s a prevailing narrative that ‘women can’t deal with women.’ Perhaps there’s an element of general truth to this. In fact, a secular Dr Andrews, in his Forbes article (21 January, 2020) appears to verify this phenomenon and attests this friction to an invincible abstract natural law called ‘the power-dead-even rule.’ This rule, he mentions, is prevalent in the feminine culture and shapes how women interact with other women. The rule explains that for a healthy relationship to be possible between women, each woman’s self-esteem must be, in the eyes of the other woman, similar in weight to their own self-esteem and power. One may even differ and argue that it is this very self-esteem equality that creates competition and envy between the respective women in context. Also, is this analysis true even through the lens of our Christian faith? In light of my own personal story, I don’t believe that it has to be so. I will highlight the five truths that can help strengthen Christian sisterhood for better relationships.
A sister’s story
Some years back, when I was in corporate, the company I worked for underwent some restructuring. As a result, I received a new line manager. Usually this wouldn’t have been anything unusual, but in this instance there was one particular issue with this manager. She was very young. I asked myself what she could teach me and how I would ever respect her as a leader.
In the next leadership meeting, it happened that my young superior had to give a report on a struggling project. I was scared for her, and anticipated that it wouldn’t be an easy session. To my surprise, she completely nailed every question, and she didn’t throw anyone on the team under the bus. She was witty, articulate and confident in that meeting.
After that long session, I began to listen and pay attention when she spoke. I realized that she had knowledge that could help my professional and personal development, despite her being younger than myself. As in any corporate field, there were many challenges along the way in our work relationship, but they all reaped positive results. We were of different generations but we found sisterhood in our work relationship.
Perhaps this story defies the ‘power-dead-even’ rule. She had more power than I, and possibly even more self-esteem, but we got along. The point is, women don’t need to
get along ONLY when their self-esteems find equality. Women can get along the moment they begin to seek value in the other, regardless of age or confidence.
Ruth and Naomi embody this thought. Think about it: which widow prefers to live with her mother-in-law even though she is free? The Bible does not tell us if Ruth had a mother that was still alive. But what we do know is that Orpah returned back to her mother’s home, but Ruth chose to cling to Naomi. I believe that Ruth found sisterhood in Naomi. According to scripture and Hebraic traditions, Naomi was no longer a “mother” to Ruth, since her son (Ruth’s husband) had died. She was now more of a sister than a mother. However, Ruth saw value in Naomi; that value was the Israelite God. She wanted to associate with that God. This is clear in her response to Naomi’s proposition:
“Don’t urge me to leave you or to turn back from you. Where you go I will go, and where you stay I will stay. Your people will be my people and your God my God. Where you die I will die, and there I will be buried. May the Lord deal with me, be it ever so severely, if even death separates you and me.” — Ruth 1:16-17
Ruth loved Naomi as a mother, but now she was willing to love her as a sister, despite the gap in generation. Naomi also embraced Ruth, and the rest of the story is history. In my own life, if I had continued to look at my younger manager as having less life experience, I would have missed the value she brought to my career. Her knowledge became my knowledge. Humility is the first step to true sisterhood.
Here are five essentials I’ve learnt about sisterhood:
True sisterhood requires humility
It’s not easy for a leader to lead a leader, for a woman to lead another woman. To reap the sweet fruits of sisterhood requires one to open oneself to being lead. Once our hearts and spirits are receptive to being led by other women, even if they’re different to us, we can:
listen to their wisdom meaningfully and with greater intention.
accept correction or redirection from them and learn from it.
grow in areas we didn’t even know we needed to grow in.
2. Sisterhood can be found with the most unlikely people
Do not limit the types of relationships you can have to specific types of people. If you’re mature (or old) in age you can still learn from a 20 or 30-year-old. The same is true if you’re a young person. Some of the most remarkable friendships can be with people who are very unlike us, from a different background to sometimes even a different generation.
3. “Nice” is not a prerequisite to sisterhood – honesty and confidence are
The hallmark of a solid sisterhood is trust, not pleasantries. It’s nice for someone to cook your family a plate of food when you’re all in quarantine. But it’s trust and honesty that gives you the confidence to tell them you don’t like the food. When we can’t be fully honest within our relationships, they become shallow interactions. Enduring sisterhoods create a confident environment for everyone to be honest and vulnerable, but firm, because there’s a confident trust between people that lets you know that you can count on them, regardless of how heavy or intense your honesty is.
4. Genuine sisters pray for each other
Here’s the hard truth: if you cannot find it in yourself to pray for someone and ask God to bless them, then there’s still room for growth in that sisterhood. One of the ways to learn how to love someone is to pray for them and to ask God to do great things for them. This action drastically exposes our heart posture – what if God does answer your prayer and blesses your enemy with the wealth that you, yourself, do not have? So, being able to pray and move heaven on a sister’s behalf demonstrates the highest form of love. It means you genuinely seek better, greater things, not just for that person, but also for their children, spouse, parents, career, business and peace. That’s real love.
5. Fancy lunches, spa treatments and visits aren’t compulsory for friendship.
If you’re looking for authentic relationships, you won’t find them at the table of an expensive restaurant. Often, some of the most enduring friendships are between people who hardly see each other, but communicate effectively, meaningfully and consistently, even if that just means 1 call a month. There’s no picture-perfect template of sisterhood and you definitely won’t find it on the pictures of your social media feed. Authentic relationships require time, investment, patience and endurance through challenges.
It was Margaret Mead who once said: "Sisters relationships are probably the most competitive relationship within the family, but once the sisters are grown, it becomes the strongest relationship.” Sisterhoods can start off shaky, but with time, growth and trust they can become they can become a formidable force.
Women of Reverence welcomes guest blogger Rose Petje.
I’m Rose Petje, the co-founder of Goodcraft.co.za. I am a digital entrepreneur with a passion for everything God, family, and business. In the winter of 2020, during the first wave of Covid, I launched Goodcraft.co.za — which is now a fast-growing eCommerce store that offers thousands of faith-based products to an ever-growing audience. My vision is to establish an online ecosystem where Christians can access products, services and content that are in alignment with their values.
When I’m not fulfilling orders, or innovating the next big idea for Goodcraft, I love spending time with God, my husband and my kids. Moreover, I love books, music and exploring new food!