What I Have Learned About Sisterhood
Article by Fatoumanta B. Diallo
When I looked up the word “Sisterhood”, I came across the following definition “an association, society, or community of women linked by a common interest, religion, or trade.”
I found the definition interesting because, prior to looking the word up, I would have defined it a bit differently. I used to think that sisterhood was simply a group of women that were really good friends, so much so that it felt like they were sisters; which brings me to my next point – what has happened to the notion of non-biological “sisterhood” in today’s society? Why has it become so difficult to witness or achieve? Why do we, women, compete with each other so much? Why are there so many of us that, instead of lifting other women up, bring them down? Interestingly enough, countless women are quick to explain how other women have done them dirty; BUT they will never mention what they have done to others.
I recently discovered that someone who I believed was my friend was not who I thought she was, far from it in fact. There were warning signs, mostly gut feelings, that I should have paid more attention to – but I did not because I did not think I had a reason to. She is married, she has beautiful children, and she is smart and studious. At first glance, she has everything one needs to be happy.
However, during our friendship, there were a lot issues she was dealing with. Things were not as beautiful as I thought they were. I noticed that when things were going great for me, she would not be happy for me; she would not congratulate me or be present to celebrate with me. When I came over to her house she would not come downstairs to greet me. However, when I had problems, she would show up and pretend to be the comforting voice, despite the fact that she seemed to enjoy the situation.
It was really crazy for me to realize that someone so close to my family and my kids, someone who easily had access to me, someone I considered a friend, did not wish me well. She smiled with me, joked with me and pretended until she had the chance to stab me in the back. Why pretend to like someone you clearly resent? And how is it possible to dislike someone you have never had arguments or tensions with before?
Is it envy that leads to it? Jealousy? Did I unintentionally do something to her? I sometimes wondered but, as time passed, my interest in finding out an answer to these questions decreased. Especially because it was revealed that she had been feeling like this towards me for over a year and never said anything about it. I believe that communication and transparency are crucial in any meaningful relationship. But in this case, the failure to let me know what the issue was and to pretend to smile while feeling differently towards me, damaged our relationship. The potential for our friendship to evolve into a sisterhood was doomed from the minute she decided to keep silent.
Now, why am I sharing this story? Certainly not because I’m trying to rally support against her and empathy towards me. I think that this experience is very common among women and, as far as I am concerned, it was an extremely valuable learning opportunity.
This incident has made me realize that sisterhood is not automatic. Being from the same country, being the same age and gender is not enough. For sisterhood to occur, conditions need to be met. Here are a few I believe are essential:
- There has to be common interest between the people involved. “Sisters from another mother” need to have worldviews that are similar. They can have different personalities, but not different values.
- “Sisters” need to be God-fearing. Why? Because, God-fearing people strive to have wisdom and to be patient, kind and positive, which are helpful qualities to have in a friend.
- Sisterhood starts from within. In order to support another person, one needs to know who she is. Confidence, assuredness, and high self-esteem (not arrogance) are important traits to have. La charité bien ordonnée commence par soi-même! In other words, one must help herself before helping and lifting others up. It starts on the inside.
- Sisterhood is destroyed by assumptions and appearances. Instead of just assuming, go ask the person in question. Most of the time, the root of the problem is (a) not that big of a deal and (b) not quite what you think it is. But keeping silent and never communicating the problem leads, overtime, to much bigger issues, resentment and, sometimes, permanently strained relationships.
- Finally, it has to be established in a positive context. For example, the other day I was watching Vines on YouTube (It’s one of my guilty pleasures ;-)) and they were making fun of how girls become best friends: “I hate her. You hate Suzzie too? Let’s be friends” the actors were shown saying. I thought it was hilarious because it is so true. You cannot build a healthy relationship on a common dislike for someone (or anything negative, whatever it is!)
I am sure that I could add more to this list but I will stop there. The points above were enough to make me realize that not everyone is meant to be a part of your life and circle. And that’s perfectly fine. The older I get, the more I understand the value of life. And that’s why I have decided to make a conscious effort to stay away from hypocrisy, negativity and drama from now on. “People come and go in your life, but the right ones will always stay”. These are the folks I am interested in creating a sisterhood with.