Where would I be without my friends? It’s something I’ve wondered many times throughout my life. I’ve been blessed with friendship abundance from way back and I know that not everyone can make this same claim. So I don’t take it for granted in the least. However, over the last decade or so I’ve begun making a powerful distinction among the women who I count as my closest, dearest Sisters, and what I’ve discovered, is that friends are awesome, but sisters are completely off the charts.
Friends, I’ve come to realize, are those beings who I have fun with, who I recreate with, who I turn to in rough times and who’s shoulders I can weep on. We have history and companionship, which can often transcend time and distance. There really is nothing like a tried and true friend. At least that’s what I thought until I discovered the preciousness of a Sister.
A Sister, I now know, is someone with whom I enjoy all the benefits of a friend, but what I can count on with a Sister, that is not necessarily inherent in a friendship, is that my Sister also holds me to my highest. While she has compassion and care for my feelings and life journey, she also is devoted to helping me see beyond my limiting, not so self serving behaviors that keep me small, keep me the victim, keep me living the same struggles over and over. A Sister is a friend who tells me the truth even when it’s not so pretty, and doesn’t collude with me when I blame or judge others. Instead, she holds up a mirror so I can look at myself, take responsibility for whatever is currently at play in the drama of my life, and helps me lovingly and wisely take the steps to move out of self-pity into empowered action.
I have to say that being a Sister is a lot to take on. Frankly, it’s scary as hell to tell my Sisters the truth at times. After all, if it’s not so pretty, she might consider me the enemy or resent that I’m not taking her side. This used to come up for me a lot. For example, whenever a dear friend would go through issues with her significant other, whether it was a dispute, a betrayal, or a disagreement, I’d always “side’ with my friend, become embittered towards her mate and even go so far as to barely acknowledge him any longer as a friend, in order to stay loyal to her feelings. In hindsight, I now see how that enabled her and perpetuated immature and self-destructive behaviors that didn’t serve her, or him, and ultimately didn’t even really serve our friendship. So I decided to take a good look at my own behavior and here’s what I explored and consequently discovered.
I first asked myself, when a friend seeks me out for support what makes me want to support her? What motivates my desire to be there for her? Well, my honest answer surprised me. What I discovered is that I love to be needed. I loved to feel confided in and have my wisdom appreciated. Of course, I also hated to see a dear friend suffering and if I could I wanted to help relieve that suffering, or so I thought.
You see, if what motivated me was the need to be needed, then wouldn’t suffering be necessary? After all, if I helped relieve her suffering, she’d logically no longer need me. It was really hard for me to look this square in the face. I felt ashamed, embarrassed, and selfish to learn this about myself.
And then I looked at the kind of support I typically provided. I colluded with my friend and stoked the fire of her bitterness, which only kept her suffering and in the pain of denial. I also took a good look at the kind of support that I’d had the benefit of over the years and what most and least served me. What I learned here is that while being understood by another helped tremendously, being agreed with didn’t necessarily make a difference in the sought after outcome to relieve suffering and shift the issue at hand. Being agreed with actually often only increased self-righteousness, anger, blame and powerlessness.
Agreeing with our friends is usually the most natural course of action when they are suffering. It helps them feel loved, and it helps ensure that they will continue to love us back. Telling the truth when you don’t agree, even gently and empathically is scary because you risk losing your dear friend’s love. The problem with that is you stay in a dishonest, lacking in true intimacy friendship at the expense of true growth and learning. This is how friends often blind themselves and each other in a co-dependent dynamic that gets in the way of each person expanding emotionally, psychologically, and spiritually. This kind of friendship will likely fade away or self destruct eventually anyway because both parties will feel the stagnation and consciously or unconsciously seek out higher ground to ascend to on all levels in new and more honest connections; more of what a Sisterhood offers and encourages versus a friendship.
I believe that in taking stock of our friendships and sisterhoods we can, in our growing awareness, help elevate all or most of our current friendships to the status of sisterhood. First we need to choose this for ourselves. The next step is to do the honest and self-loving work of looking closely at our own motivations and actions in each of our relationships in order to consciously choose and catalyze the evolution from friend to Sister in each case. Here are some questions to ask yourself again and again each time you find yourself wondering if you are being a Sister or a friend.
- What is motivating my behavior?
- What is the quickest pathway to my Sister’s inner peace?
- Am I afraid of losing her love if I tell her the truth now?
- Am I confusing understanding with agreeing?
- Am I helping her be empowered or be the victim?
- Do I need to be needed by her in order to feel our connection?
You will have specific questions of your own that pertain to your shared history and the specific issue at hand. What’s important is that you ask yourself the hard questions that will give you access to the truths at the heart of your being that lurk deep down, buried beneath fear, need and beliefs that keep you and your Sisters merely friends.
An important aspect of the Vividly Woman Embodied Leader Training is raising our consciousness in sacred circle to the place where we each Sister channels wisdom for her own and each others healing and growth. We do this in circle by creating sacred space and moving from the mundane to the divine in how we relate and show up for ourselves and each other. A circle is a container that holds the space for our own highest and authentic wisdom to be shared. I believe that the connection between two sisters can be a sacred circle unto itself and holds this same potential if we so desire it.
The potential to benefit in your own life and the blessings for the world at large are great when we each take inventory of what is driving us in our closest connections. The gifts far outweigh the risks to be sure. Expect your life to expand and shift profoundly when you surround yourself with Sisters simply by being one first!