I was scrolling through social media and came across a meme that read:
Your circle should want you to win. Your circle should clap the loudest when you have good news. If they don’t, get a new circle.
I immediately hit the “love” on it. A statement that both celebrates a loyal tribe and appeals to the unappreciated, this meme testifies to the tension many women feel in their relationships. The meme also illustrates how tempting, and sometimes satisfying, it is to weigh the women who inhabit our circles on our personal scales, sorting them into categories defined by our standards and expectations.
Working for One Another Instead of Against One Another
However, this measuring of the women in our lives can be emotionally dangerous. Not only does it fall short of the charity Christ calls us to, but it also begs the question: how would I measure up? It probably depends on who is holding the yardstick.
Throughout my life, I’ve fluctuated between having healthy and toxic attitudes towards my relationships with women.
In my thirties, the busyness, complications, and disappointments in my life had worn me down. I just wanted to enjoy other women for once. I began to see the example of how to do this in the Visitation, and it became a favorite Scripture passage of mine (Luke 1:39-56).
This past Advent, the Abiding Together Podcast put out a series called “The Fellowship of the Feminine Genius.” The passage at the heart of the series was the Visitation, where Mary and Elizabeth encounter one another as women fully living in unity with the Lord. Each recognized the work of the Holy Spirit in the other and responded in humility with encouragement and praise for the Lord.
While I may seek to imitate the model of the Visitation, I confess that I often fall short of this ideal. I know I’m not alone. Even as Scripture reveals the examples of Mary and Elizabeth or Naomi and Ruth, there is also the enmity and hostility of Sarah and Hagar or Leah and Rachel. Brokenness among women seems to be as old as sin.
In my thirties, the busyness, complications, and disappointments in my life had worn me down. I just wanted to enjoy other women for once. #BISblog //Click to tweet
Reverencing One Another
How can women move forward from brokenness and achieve healing and authenticity with one another? As Mary and Elizabeth show us, the key lies in reverencing one another.
Reverencing another is intimate and personal. To acquire a disposition of reverence, I must adjust my eyes to see God in another. I must be vulnerable and receptive to God’s power working in others. This means I must shed the lenses of competitiveness, jealousy, egotism, and insecurity.
Reverencing another is not merely being kind. Rather, it is an encouragement of another in the grace God has bestowed upon her in the ways she says “yes” to God’s plan for her life. When I reverence a sister in Christ, I do not impose my own ideas upon her. Instead, I accept the invitation to truly see her. Reverence is an acknowledgement of the sacred reality of who she is—of who God made her to be.
Reverence is an acknowledgement of the sacred reality of who my sister is—of who God made her to be.Click to tweet
Glorifying the Creator
Here is where Mary and Elizabeth’s example contains the most power. Reverencing another not only enhances my relationships, but it can become an act of prayer. When I reverence other women as uniquely called, gifted, and graced, my reverence praises and glorifies the Creator.
It’s easy to fall into the temptation to indulge in self-pity and point my finger at women who have hurt me. However, in order to grow as a sister and friend to others, I must acknowledge the ways I have not reverenced the women in my life.
In the Abiding Together series, the ladies spoke about the need to “be the kind of friend that we want.” Heather Khym challenged me when she said, “It’s not always about what we’re going to get.” Instead, I need to discern what I have to offer. In the Visitation, Mary and Elizabeth’s example of reciprocal reverence for one another shows two women never consumed by what they were going to get. Rather, we see two women offering to one another.
Putting on the disposition of reverence towards other women in my life requires grace, which requires prayer. One of my favorite forms of prayer is the litany. I wrote out my own for the grace to grow in reverence for the women in my life.
A Litany for Female Friendships and for Women in Relationship with One Another
Mother Mary, I long for authentic, holy relationships with other women. I seek to receive mercy from your Son for the times I allow darkness to seep into my relationships:
For the times I judge women on appearances or material possessions . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I compare myself to other women instead of looking to You, Lord, for my worth . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I expect other women to validate or fill me in ways that belong to You alone . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I avoid friendship with women because of fear, jealousy, or judgement . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I envy another woman’s gifts, talents, possessions, or relationships . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I do not listen well when another woman is being vulnerable with me . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I lack compassion for another woman in her pain, suffering, or hardship . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I destroy another woman’s dignity through gossip . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I diminish another woman in order to feel better about myself . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I indulge in suspicion and choose to assume the worst of another woman rather than seek out Christ living within her . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I harbor anger, hatred, or resentment towards another woman . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
For the times I choose unforgiveness over reconciliation in my broken relationships with women . . . Jesus, have mercy on me.
Mother Mary, along with St. Elizabeth and through the example of your holy friendship, show me how to reverence others as you did. Teach me how to bring Christ to others and to receive the miracle of Christ other women bring me. Walk with me as I grow in vulnerability with other women, being honest about who I am and receiving other women as they are.
May I seek to be an instrument of authentic love towards my sisters in Christ, always remembering that each are made in God’s image and likeness. Help us all work together to restore one another, our Church, and our world. Amen.
Blessed Mother, and St. Elizabeth, pray for us!
A Litany for Female Friendships #BISblog //Click to tweet
Jacqueline Hollcraft lives in central California with her husband and seven vibrant children. She is a lecturer in the English department at Stanislaus State, and she is an editor and contributor for The Daughters of Mary Blog. In her free time, she enjoys serving with her husband in their parish’s hospital ministry, hiking (especially in Yosemite), drinking craft beer, and reading or watching murder mysteries.