Today’s guest writer is author Cathy Gohlke. Ms. Gohlke explores the tremendous value of women who form life-long friendship bonds with other women. Using examples from literature, the Bible, and her book Ladies of the Lake, Ms. Gohlke explores the meaning of friendship. She also describes the pitfalls that come between some friends and what steps may be required to overcome them. I hope you enjoy the article! Thank you, Ms. Gohlke!
THE BONDS OF FRIENDSHIP AMONG WOMEN
Women have always known that we need the friendship, companionship, mentoring and sisterhood of other women. We not only live and thrive daily in those relationships but find them celebrated and strikingly painted in the Bible and in literature.
Don’t we love the close-knit bonds between Ruth and her mother-in-law, Naomi; between Mary, the mother of Jesus, and her older cousin Elisabeth; between Mary and Martha of Bethany; and between the women who stood at the foot of the cross as they watched their Savior die and as they prepared to minister to His body?
From childhood we’ve related to female characters and their friendships through literature, girls and women who stood in the gap for one another or helped each other grow—Diana Barry and Anne Shirley in Anne of Green Gables; Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy—sisters in Little Women; Jane Eyre and her mentor Helen Burns in Jane Eyre; Addie and Portia in Ladies of the Lake, as well as Addie, Dot, Ruth, and Susannah.
Such bonds are precious and can prove sustaining through hard times. Who, besides our sister or best friend—a sister of the heart—will tell us the truth, even when it hurts, will rejoice over the smallest of our victories, will stand with us through hard times when all others desert, and is ready to take our phone call even in the dead of night?
Ecclesiastes tells us that “two are better than one, because they have a good return for their labor; if either of them falls down, one can help the other up. But pity anyone who falls and has no one to help them up.”
Proverbs tells us that “iron sharpens iron.” The best friendships don’t try to copy or conform to the pattern of one, but each encourages strengths in the other while helping to soften rough edges. We are better together than alone.
Friendships don’t just happen. They require honesty, trust, nurturing, investments of time and means, and sometimes sacrifice. Our earliest friendships are formed during our growing years, as were those of Addie, Dot, Ruth, and Susannah in Ladies of the Lake. To share history, personal trials, and triumphs, to know and be known from the time we’re young is a rare and wonderful gift in our increasingly mobile and rootless world.
Few of us live out our lives in the communities in which we were born, requiring us to form new bonds, new friendships many times throughout the years. Especially blessed are those able to maintain close friendships even when time, distance, family, work, or life circumstances draw them far from each other.
But as the women in Ladies of the Lake learned, even the closest friendships can be sorely tested. Jealousy, misunderstandings, competition, bullying, secrets, lies, shame, arguments—any number of things can fray relationships or completely tear them apart. It takes great humility and great love to say, “I’m sorry. I was wrong. Can we begin anew?” In the case of Addie, Dot, Ruth, and Susannah, it took many years and required that each of them confess the role they played in the fracture of their friendship.
Most fallings-out are not pitted against a backdrop as dramatic as WWI and the prejudice Ruth felt against the German Meyer family for the death of her brother when the Lusitania was bombed by a German torpedo. Rarely does one friend simply disappear without a word, as did Addie in allowing her friends to believe that she died in the Halifax Explosion.
More often disagreements or vindictiveness come because of something more common—like jealousy, as in Dot’s anger and secret spite when Stephen’s affections turned toward Addie rather than herself.
Friendships can simply slide to the backburner of neglect when life, work, family, or distance intervene, as in the case of Susannah caught in her climb up the social ladder and in the raising of her family.
Despite their good intentions to remain close, each young woman played a role in the failure of their friendship pact, and each middle-aged woman played a needed role in seeking forgiveness, reconciling, and in taking steps to tangibly demonstrate a path forward that they might travel together.
The gem these women discovered is that although each needed to step out of her comfort zone and confess things she would have preferred to forget, each realized that in the long run, her discomfort was worth it, for herself, for her sister friends, for those who observed their relationships, and for the generations that would follow. Thankfully, for her daughter Bernadette’s sake as well as her own, Addie realized that our roles in life are not solitary but are intertwined, and that each is necessary to strengthen the whole.
At one time or another we’ve all been blessed with mentors or role models and hopefully dear friends. What greater legacy can we leave to those who come after or what greater blessing can we share with the younger women in our lives than to provide and model that gift to others?