Over the years, I’ve spoken to so many women who’ve felt heartbroken by a sister. Betrayed, misunderstood, abandoned, rejected, judged, iced-out, lashed-out at.
It’s had me think about the difference between sisterhood and close friendship, and the relationship between receptivity and boundaries. Some thoughts…
Sisterhood is the connective tissue that runs between all women.
Embracing Sisterhood means celebrating one woman’s deep joy as a win for the collective. It’s refusing to play a game that requires us to be against each other, and instead standing in solidarity. It’s honoring all people as inherently beautiful and whole, as they are. It’s acknowledging the value of emotion and sensitivity. It’s encouraging her courage. It’s standing for our collective freedom. It’s bringing compassion to others and ourselves, understanding that every human experience is a messy tapestry of heartache and wonder.
The Sisterhood is in a period of being repaired. There are layers upon layers of patriarchal conditioning, both within society and within our individual psyches, that we are working through.
We are chipping away at generations of “divide and conquer”, and it takes a lot to lay down our weapons and armor and be together.
It takes a lot to individually and collectively face and work through our jealousy, competition, comparison, judgment, and fear of rejection.
Close friendship is another thing, but not entirely. It has many of the qualities of sisterhood, but brings another depth of commitment to listening, showing up, laying down our armor, sharing our deepest vulnerabilities, and courageously asking to break through another’s.
As I see us moving through these wounds in the greater sisterhood, so much is coming up in close friendships. All of this pain and hurt, longing and heartbreak.
The antidote, as I see it, is to begin by taking the bird’s eye view, recognizing that we are in this messy dance TOGETHER.
No matter how separated we feel, we are united in that we are collectively rising through generations of oppression.
Some are moving more gracefully right now, some are struggling more. But we are in this messy learning together. None “greater” or “higher” than another, each in our own individual evolution as part of the collection evolution.
We must have compassion for one another in this dance, which doesn’t mean we have to relate. We can think “she’s not acting in a way I understand”, but also understand “life is complex and humans are complex, and she’s doing her best.” The more that we simply bring our understanding… The more we all soften and unite.
This is part of how we repair the wounds in the larger sisterhood, as well as in friendship.
But in friendship, we go deeper. We bring that compassionate frame, and then… We ask questions, we get curious, we reveal where we’re struggling, we share our secret desires, we ask for what we want.
Friendship – like any close relationship – requires a mutual leaning-in. But sometimes (usually?) there is someone leading the leaning. One friend who is asking for more closeness, depth, intimacy.
In addition to putting up hardened walls of resentment or frustration, this is where we often stop short in friendship. We don’t lead the leaning-in. We want THEM to notice their wrongdoing, we want THEM to see how we’re hurting, we want THEM to respect our unspoken boundaries, we want THEM to make the invitation, we want THEM to say sorry or thank you first. We want THEM to lead the leaning-in. So we wait, and we get more hurt and frustrated. We reinforce the walls of resentment and frustration. We shut out love.
Shutting out love is not the same as a *healthy boundary*. A healthy boundary is a receptive heart with a clear understanding and articulation of our own willingness.
It has nothing to do with another, really. Our boundaries do not exist “out there”, they live inside of us. And therefore if our boundaries are thorny, and tangled with bitterness and resentment towards another person, perhaps there’s still work to do…
If we are to repair the greater sisterhood, we’ll have to do it together, understanding that we are climbing out of the rubble of deeply entrenched patriarchy together.
It will require our focused solidarity, our patience and understanding, our generous compassion.
If we are to have deep friendships, it will require all of that, plus choosing to LEAD the leaning-in at times… even and especially when it’s hard. Willingness and receptivity. Humility and honesty. Forgiveness and apologies. Requesting and releasing. Vulnerability and trust.
It’s not in someone else’s hand to lead, it’s in each of our hands.
True sisterhood and deep friendship, like romantic or business partnerships, sometimes take work. It’s not all flower crowns and happy hashtags.
With unrelenting faith in sisterhood,