Why we need healing in our relationships with other women

The quest for gender equality has been much in the media lately with the start of campaigns like He For She, Malala Yousafzai’s story and many other brave women standing up for women’s rights around the world.

Women everywhere are advocating for other women.  Isn’t it often the men we need to convince? Cultural stigmas that we need to change? 

But let’s dig a little deeper for a minute.  What about here at home? In our schools?  Our jobs?  The PTA meetings?  Our church small groups?

We as women have a pretty sordid history of not being very nice to each other.  A few months ago, I wrote a post called How to Not Be A Mean Girl.  Most of us have been the mean girl to another girl at some point in our lives.  Most of us have also been the victim of a mean girl. 

The Kind Campaign is a program used in schools that educates people about girl-on-girl bullying and empowers girls to tell their stories, forgive each other and come together in reconciliation.  We have a great need for programs like this that promote a mentality shift.

As women, we carry the hurt of our childhood and teenage years into how we treat women throughout adulthood.  Deep pain caused by mothers, sisters, friends and bullies deeply impacts a woman’s self worth and ability to trust others. 

We often find it easier to forgive men who wrong us than we do to forgive women who commit lesser crimes against us.

Why is this?  What can be done to change it?  Here are three things we can do to start reconciling women to one another and using our words and actions to uplift rather than to tear down:

1. Know when to apologize.

I have experienced the horror and shame of realizing that I did something that hurt a girl I considered to be a friend very much.  At the time, I justified myself, I refused to acknowledge how what I said or did could affect her and I allowed myself to wallow in self-righteousness.  Because my pride was so strong, it took a long time for me to be able to truly apologize to her for hurting her.  But it was worth it.  Being honest about where my heart was helped me to realize issues I was avoiding, and it started us on a path of healing and authenticity in our relationship that hadn’t been there before. 

2.    Always forgive.

Forgiveness may be one of the hardest things for the human heart to do.  We are prideful, stubborn and self-righteous by nature.  We crave apologies, even revenge, when someone hurts us.  However, it is our lack of forgiveness when we are wronged that ends up wounding us even more than the girl who caused the pain to begin with.  Forgiveness may take time, but the more we are able to let go of what someone else has done to us, taking the steps we need to in order to heal, but not expecting an apology, the sooner we are free to love other women.

3.    Learn to recognize what is really happening and what you are projecting.

We are quick to blame other women.  This happens for a number of reasons.  Maybe we have been hurt in the past and now look for similar patterns from other women – leading us to jump quickly to conclusions about their motivations.  Maybe we are unwilling to admit something that needs to change within our hearts, and it’s easier to blame another woman for our problems.  We frequently take our past experience and hurt and allow it to alienate us from other women simply because we are projecting something onto them that isn’t there.  The sooner we can learn to distinguish between our projections and reality, the sooner we will be able to look at other women as humans deserving of love and respect just like us.

As women, we have a wealth of knowledge, talent, beauty, drive, skill and intelligence.  Unfortunately, because we live in a self-made culture that encourages us to push everyone else down to get to the top, we have to fight hard to recognize the worth in each other.  But we need to – because when we do, we are empowered to love better, to achieve more and to make the world a better place.  

By Kate McGaughey