Female friendships have been celebrated throughout time. Anne had her bosom friend Diana. Elizabeth Bennett had her sister Jane. And DJ Tanner had Kimmie Gibbler.
One of a young girl’s first desires is to have a “best friend” — someone who is like her, who shares her dreams, who keeps her secrets. A boy just won’t do. When I was 8, my best friend Julie and I spent hours playing house, making strange crafts out of paper towel rolls and staying up late giggling at sleepovers.
The days of childhood sleepovers are gone, but I still crave the feminine connection — a sister and friend to be my advocate, support me in doing the right thing and remind me where my true beauty lies.
The Lord has blessed me with some exceptional friends throughout my life — college buddies, housemates, teammates, coworkers, accountability partners — and many of the most influential have been women. Whether we women are aware of it or not, female friends contribute to our emotional and spiritual lives in a unique and essential way. Even married women need the intimacy and connection that comes from female friendships.
There seems to be a trend toward the rejection of female friends these days. TV often portrays women who hang out with guys as having more sexual power or being somehow above the emotional fray of womanhood. I’ve often heard a woman say, “I’d rather just have guy friends. I get along better with guys.” But friendships with men — as fun as they can be — will never replace the joys and benefits of female friendships.
Friends for the Journey
There are five female friends every woman should have:
The intercessor. Two years ago, Melissa and I began meeting on Thursday nights to fix a meal together and pray. As 20-something career women preparing for marriage, Melissa and I share many of the same life experiences, frustrations and hopes for the future. When we get together, we pray about challenges we’re facing, decisions we have to make and God’s provision of our future husbands. Even on weeks when we can’t get together, we lift the other up in prayer.
There is something sweet and refreshing about having a friend who understands you and can pray for you precisely. And it is encouraging to have someone who is faithful to do it. Whether you are single or married, an intercessor provides essential spiritual support.
The celebrator. When I first met my college roommate, Gretta, I didn’t see much friend potential. A spunky brunette with a loud voice and quirky sense of humor, Gretta’s personality grated against my reserved, studious self. But in the four years I roomed with Gretta, I came to cherish the way she celebrated life. She was the one who would suggest we go sledding on the hill by the library on a snowy day or go out for ice cream at 10 p.m. during finals week or make up an impromptu jingle to celebrate laundry day.
Gretta not only celebrated with me, she celebrated me. She would write encouraging notes on our mirror or present me with thoughtful, little gifts. I still keep a voicemail that she left me last summer: “Suz. I just read your article, and I had to tell you that I feel like a proud mother or sister or something. I wanted to call up everybody I knew and say, ‘My college roommate wrote that!'”
A celebrator helps you enjoy the beautiful moments the Lord provides and rejoices with you.
The encourager. No one encourages me to live for Christ like my friend Sarah. She is constantly pointing out the areas of my life where she sees good fruit. When I make a difficult decision on behalf of Christ, Sarah is the first to affirm my obedience. And when I’m going through a valley, Sarah holds my hand, prays for me and reminds me of God’s goodness.
In high school, I heard this anthem from a Mennonite women’s college:
Yield not to flirtation
For yielding is sin.
Each sister will help you
Some brother to win.
Strive womanly onward
Dark passions subdued.
Don’t chase after boys, girls,
Let them chase after you.
Though my friends and I giggled at the song’s lyrics, there is truth in its premise. Female friends help us avoid temptation, encourage us in godly living and may ultimately help us marry well. Women have bridesmaids stand up for them for this very reason.
I love the community found in Song of Songs. The beloved has a circle of female friends who rejoice with her over her betrothed, give her advice and surround her with protection from sexual temptation. Each woman should seek out friends like this who have her best interest — emotionally, physically and spiritually — at heart.
The teacher. I love having lunch with my friend Joan. Even though I was born 20-some years after her, we are likeminded in many ways. I always feel like I’m receiving a full meal of thought when I spend time with Joan.
In Titus 2:3-5, Paul encourages the older women to teach the younger women, specifically in the areas of self-control, purity, industry, kindness and submission. Having at least one seasoned friend who can mentor you is extremely valuable.
A teacher may also come in the form of someone your own age who is excelling in a character trait, life stage or ministry you aspire to. When I spend time with my married friends, I glean valuable knowledge about what makes for a successful marriage.
The questioner. My friend Krishana is a great listener. We meet for breakfast once a week, and she always asks me lots of questions. Not content to let discussions stay on a surface level, she will always dig deeper.
Recently we were discussing boys. I was fixating on whether a certain young man was interested in me. Krishana proceeded to ask me a series of penetrating questions: Is this guy living for Christ? Are there any specific ways the Lord has provided for the relationship? Are you confident this man would help you grow in your walk with the Lord? Instead of indulging my crush, she probed the heart of the matter, redirecting my thinking to a godly channel.
A questioner is not only available to lend an ear but to challenge and exhort when we’re getting off track.
Cultivating Female Friendship
I know that many women reading this article have been burned by female friendships. Perhaps you’ve encountered the gossip, backstabber or fair-weather friend. Maybe you’ve poured your heart into a friendship only to receive disloyalty in return. You may be thinking, “Why bother?”
Many of the emotional and spiritual intimacies mentioned above are inappropriate between a man and woman who are not married or planning to be married. Forging a close friendship with one guy (or several) is asking for the confusion that accompanies intimacy between sexes.
If you have a bad taste in your mouth regarding friendships with women, ask the Lord to challenge your biases and provide the kind of godly friend you need. Look for a woman who makes her relationship with God a priority. This type of person will be more likely to rise above some of the sin issues that can plague female friendships.
Don’t expect perfection. Cultivating friendships with other women requires effort, patience and flexibility. Jenny Schroedel gives this advice in her article “Friendships Among Women:”
Years ago a pastor offered this advice. He said, “Expect nothing from other people.” At the time, I thought this was a strange idea. I figured that if you expected nothing, you would get what you expected. Over the years, I’ve come to see that while I do need to set reasonable goals for myself, I do well to keep my expectations for others modest. If we can break free from high expectations for others, than we are more likely to be able to accept — and enjoy — them as they are.
When it comes to female friends, seek to be the kind of friend you’re looking for. Then seek out the intercessor, celebrator, encourager, teacher and questioner. These are the women who will help you grow and be your best. Celebrate feminine friendship. It’s a gift.
Copyright 2008 Suzanne Gosselin. All rights reserved.