Last week when I blogged about the human Trifecta I mentioned something about the difference between a friend of convenience and a true friend. There is a difference between someone who is there for you some of the time and a true sister (or brother) in Christ. As the title of this blog implies, there really is something sacred about true sisterhood and the life it can breathe into a woman’s soul.
Aristotle (whoever thought that nearly six years after the fact I would STILL be referencing Dr. Thuot’s class?) divides friendship into three types (or modes, as I can still hear Dr. Thuot saying).
- Friendship of utility
- Friendship of pleasure
- Friendship of the good.
Friendship of utility is a kind of friendship that has little to no regard for the other person at all. One example of this would be between a buyer and a seller – they have little to no regard for each other so long as they each get what they came for. Nowadays we would call this mere acquaintance, not really friendship.
Friendship of pleasure is one that arises through a mutual hobby or the mere delight in the company of others, but goes no further than surface-level. These friends may meet to watch a football game or enjoy a drink together at the bar, but their friendship goes no deeper than their mutual enjoyment of a given activity.
Friendship of the good, as you may have guessed, goes much deeper. This kind of friendship is referred to in Greek as “philia” which roughly translates to “friendship” or “brotherly friendship.” This friendship (or sisterhood as I shall now refer to it) goes much deeper. Sisterhood exists between two-like minded women who care for each other, who share many (though not all) of the same interests, and challenge each other (in a caring way) to grow to be holier, more well-rounded people. Sisters care for each other on many levels: emotional, physical, intellectual, and spiritual. So long as both people keep similar interests and beliefs their friendship will endure because the motive for the friendship is the good of the other. If, however, their interests and/or beliefs change, it is quite likely that the sisterhood will devolve into a friendship of pleasure or of utility. Aristotle writes,
Now it is possible for bad people as well [as good] to be friends to each other for pleasure or utility, for decent people to be friends to base people, and for someone with neither character to be a friend to someone with any character. Clearly, however, only good people can be friends to each other because of the other person himself; for bad people find no enjoyment in one another if they get no benefit (Nichomachean Ethics, 1157a18–21).
Only good people (which I would define as those rooted in, or striving to be rooted in Christ) can be true friends to each other. Just as your “St. Paul” can become your “Timothy”, so too your friends of utility or pleasure can become your friends of the good, your sisters…and vice verse. There is something about sisterhood, something that even now I’m struggling to put into words. We need it as women. We need it almost as much as the air we breathe, because without we become lost, we begin to lose who we are as women.
Now, I love Mr. Irish and spending time with him does wonders for my soul and for my mental sanity, but if I spend all of my time with him I become…not me. I become, I don’t want to say ‘lost in him’ because that’s not quite right, but I begin to lose who I am as a woman. That’s not Mr. Irish’s fault for he is a wonderful individual, but he can’t bestow femininity on me, he doesn’t share in some of the things I struggle with as a woman. Surely he can share in my everyday struggles, but he doesn’t know what it is like to deal with raging hormones on top of headaches and a long day of work and, and, and, the list goes on. Guys’ brains simply don’t function the way women’s do. (If you want to see a video that brilliantly explains the difference, click here.) Just as guys need their guy time, we women need our “girl” time, but more importantly we need sisterhood.
Only a woman can bestow femininity on another woman. Only a woman can share in the struggles of trying to understand the male brain (and that darn “nothing box”). But if we just stopped there, if we only shared in our mutual struggles, this “friendship” would be one of pleasure, not one of the good. Sisterhood is friendship of the good – it goes deeper. It gets at the heart of the woman or women we are spending time with. We have the ability to get at the heart of our problems, of our struggles. We have the ability to lovingly challenge each other. We can laugh about the crazy things guys do, we can have half-hour conversations about how fascinating it is that guys can pee standing up, and how they can still get pee all over the seat (yes, this conversation has happened a number of times), and we don’t judge each other for such conversations. We understand each other. We spend time together and we remember what it means to be a woman, we understand that it is normal for us (as women) to have such crazy thoughts – we find normalcy and peace with one another.
Because sisterhood is so deep, so challenging, so life-giving it doesn’t come easily. It fades. It is an effort that takes both parties – otherwise the friendship becomes one of mere pleasure or utility. It is something that must be worked at. Like the “love fern” in “How To Lose A Guy In 10 Days” sisterhood must be nurtured. We need a Barnabas, yes, but even more importantly as women, we need sisterhood-that kind of friendship that gets at our souls and gives us life (and keeps us sane). If you don’t know who your sisters are, pray that God would show you. If you don’t feel as though you have any true sisters, pray for some (it can be quite difficult to have countless sisters, remember, quality over quantity here). May sisterhood run deep in your life, may it inspire and challenge you, may it, as all good things should, move you closer to the heart of Christ. Seek Mary as your truest sister in Christ, she can and will bring you sisters, and she will bring you all to the heart of her Son.