Powerful women have always been my heroes.
Even as a little girl, I had the sneaking suspicion that women were supposed to be amazing. After all, I grew up in the era of Police Woman, Charlie’s Angels, and Wonder Woman. They were modern day role models who were crime fighters and female champions. Once in high school, someone even told me I looked like Lynda Carter who was Wonder Woman. I liked that. Not only was she beautiful, but the girl also had brains! Who wouldn’t want to be a superhero? You get a great suit, gorgeous hair, and magic equipment. And you get to help people, even rescue them from life and death situations. You have a supernatural power to overcome evil and set things in order. In the world of the superhero, good always wins, and evil is always overcome.
It seems that the Wonder Woman I longed to be always had a clear picture of good and evil and an enemy that was easy to define. She only had one obstacle to overcome at a time—one skirmish to enter—and one outcome (success) which was guaranteed by TV ratings. Today I still want to be like those female heroines of my youth—a wonder woman. The difference is that being a powerful woman isn’t really quite that easy.
As a matter of fact, being a woman isn’t always cool, and it’s almost never easy. The obstacles of life are many, and the battles come often. Success is not a guarantee. More than that, you and I are not in a single skirmish. Rather, we are in a war. It is a war over our gender, our power, and our ability to give life. Although we instinctively realize we are in a war, we often misidentify our enemy. We target our own gender as the opponent when the real problem is a satanic assignment against our femininity. We are battle ready when it comes to another female, but we are losing the real war. Today’s media is one of the most challenging and pervasive methods of war being used in the assault on the character of women.
Over the past 50 years, the media has become progressively negative about women and progressively more influential. Women as a whole are routinely portrayed as mean, manipulative, selfish, or stupid. The launch of soap operas in the 1960s began to slowly erode the value and beauty of women. Day after day, viewers lived vicariously through the dramatic stories of seemingly perfect people who only appeared to live in reality. As our mothers and grandmothers drank the Kool-Aid of daytime TV, their sense of what was normal, healthy, and appropriate in relationships was altered. Recently we’ve seen the impact of reality TV on our culture. Many of these shows take the relationships of women to a whole new level of ugly. Episodes are often full of a verbal barrage of cursing, backbiting, and injury. We get a weekly onslaught of treachery, verbal abuse, slander, plotting, and pain. Everything confirms our worst fears—women are our enemy—and our cultural lies—women are untrustworthy and likely to turn against you.
Women are now being portrayed as a strange mix of friend and enemy (frienemy) who relate to one another through catfights and competitions, leaving our young girls to wonder if the only way to be seen and heard is to follow this insane model. Even the media aimed at our youngest girls has exploited the ugly side of female relationships. Cinderella had a wicked stepmother and two hateful stepsisters. Snow White was betrayed and almost murdered by a jealous woman who despised her for her beauty. Ariel spent all her time longing for something other than who she was and working hard to forfeit her royal position for an emotional fantasy even if it meant defying her father and neglecting the needs of her sisters and her commitments to the community. One of the latest Disney princess movies, Brave, has a plot focused on the strife between a mother and a daughter, with the implication that a daughter must rebel in order to get her own way. These stereotypes are subtle and prolific.
You and I are in a war, and our youngest warriors are the ones taking the brunt of the fight. Many of our youngest and most innocent daughters believe lies about themselves and are even warring against each other. Bullying, comparison, meanness, and name-calling are common in our society.
How many moms of young girls would say they are concerned about their daughters? How many of our daughters have already reported being spoken to in a derogatory way and are struggling with negative feelings about themselves? Many of us can trace back our own painful experiences to an early “sister wound” that happened in elementary, middle, or high school. And it’s not just girls behaving badly. It’s you and me often fighting for position, attention, or the affection of a man.
Sometimes we act like the original sister wives of the Bible: Leah and Rachel. They were continually locked in a battle for the affection of a man, neglecting the strength of their sister bond, and birthing division instead of a family. I know God eventually created an entire nation from their wombs, but not without war, division, and eternal consequences. As a pastor, I am deeply saddened by the devastation and pain women who war against each other cause themselves, their families, and their friends.
Have you ever considered what our world would look like if girls could just get along? What if women cheered for one another rather than competed? What if we were the first place of encouragement a girl turned to?
I started out as a young woman with a lot of casual friends, but somewhere along the way I separated myself from almost every healthy and powerful female relationship in my life. In high school, I began to hold all girls at arm’s length. I don’t remember ever thinking of having a relationship with my mom’s friends. And when I entered the workforce, I distinctly remember hoping I would have a male boss. My life was void of the benefits, joys, and challenges of female friendships for many years. I didn’t even realize that I was so relationally destitute.
It wasn’t until I was almost 30 years old that I began to develop a really healthy and strong friendship with another woman. This friendship was a huge blessing for me and a major turning point in my life. It changed my perspective, my heart, and my relationships. I discovered that healthy female relationships are not only possible, they are powerful.
Here are a few questions you can ask yourself to reveal how you are doing with your own view of female relationships.
1) Do you find yourself avoiding situations that involve other women? Maybe you’ve never really given this question much thought, or maybe just asking it makes you realize it’s familiar. Is there is a place in you that avoids “drama” or doesn’t “do” women? Do you avoid small group gatherings or “girl only” moments? Would you rather be with the boys than run with the girls?
2) Are you glad you are a woman? Do you really embrace your gender? Maybe you are glad you are a woman, but are you glad in general that God made women? How much value do you place on the unique characteristics of our gender?
3) Do you enjoy being around your mom? We often don’t realize the impact of our first female relationship—the one with our mother. If you are fortunate to have a strong and healthy relationship, you will be grateful. But if this relationship sets off with a rocky start, it can really confuse you about the value of your femininity. Pain and wounds from our moms are some of the most deeply seated and widely impactful in our lives.
4) Do you fear you won’t be a good mom? I include this question because it is often the moment when we begin to consider starting our own family that really opens our eyes to our opinion of women, especially in our role as moms or sisters or grandmothers. I’m talking about more than a general uneasiness about motherhood. I’m talking about the kind of fear that keeps you awake at night or causes you to ask God for a son instead of a daughter. 5) Are you disappointed in many of the women you meet? Sometimes women are continually disappointed in other women. They’ve been so wounded or disappointed that they’ve kind of given up on our gender. They expect and find cattiness, comparison, and competition everywhere they look. This type of thinking almost always isolates us from potential healthy female relationships.
Take a moment and just think about your experiences with women. Consider your first relationships with your mother and your sisters. Have you allowed culture, propaganda, or your painful experiences to shape your opinion of women and even of yourself for the worse? If you’ve been deeply hurt by another woman, you may find it difficult to imagine how you could ever move beyond the pain of your past. Maybe you don’t even really want to. Maybe you have no desire for healthy female relationships. But let me encourage you to allow your pain to be a catalyst for change.
Let’s do something about this epidemic of our gender. Let’s overcome this pattern of pain. We can begin by laying down our carnal weapons of fear, self-defense, and hate and picking up some righteous weapons that are effective for overcoming the lies and wounds of our true enemy.
For though we live in the world, we do not wage war as the world does.The weapons we fight with are not the weapons of the world. On the contrary, they have divine power to demolish strongholds. We demolish arguments and every pretension that sets itself up against the knowledge of God, and we take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ. (2 Corinthians 10:3–5 NIV)
Rather than rejecting other women, why not use your righteous weapons (which have immense power) against the real enemy and watch God demolish the strongholds of your hurt? Here are three simple steps you can take to begin creating powerful female relationships in your own life.
1) Declare a cease-fire
In the movie, Miss Congeniality, Gracie Hart is asked, “What is the one most important thing our society needs?” She answers, “That would be harsher punishment for parole violators.” And after a long pause, she adds, “And world peace!” Me too! I want peace. Everyone wants and needs peace. It is a requirement for a healthy soul. If you grew up in chaos or danger or a sense of fear, you know how important and how elusive a sense of peace can be. I realize it’s a bit naive to think we could all just hold hands and make up. I don’t want a false kind of peace—the kind that requires many rules and giant consequences. The peace I am thinking of comes from within, and it happens one person at a time.
2) Walk in True Power
The most important key to creating powerful relationships is love. All the fruits of the spirit are excellent keys and have purpose, but love is the most powerful tool we have to transform the human heart and make an impact on generations for good. It is also the source of all true power. Love is a universal language. It bypasses every cultural barrier, racial difference, language challenge, and religious persuasion. It is far more powerful than any talent, skill, or experience you have. Love will move mountains, mend hearts, and transform relationships. It will also break every bondage, overcome every rejection, and heal every wound. If you want to be a powerful woman, walk in love.
3) Leave No One Behind
There is a military code of conduct called “No one left behind.” On the battlefield it says, “I won’t leave you to die alone or be captured by the enemy. You and I are in this together. We are getting out of here—together.” This is the heroic attitude that you and I must adopt. Some of us need to be willing to go first. It means we have to stay in the fray. It means we have to be willing to take a little collateral damage in order to protect a sister, a daughter, or a friend. Those of us who are more battle savvy, better armed, or just more fortunate must step up, risk our own comfort, and begin to rescue our sisters.
Now that I’m a grown woman, married with four kids, I live a seemingly ordinary life. I am swiftly passing my midlife years, watching my children become grown-ups, celebrating thirty-plus years of marriage, and daily trying to keep up with the demands of a full time job. I am often overwhelmed by my many failings as a woman. If I’m not careful, I’ll concentrate on the wounds of my past and the lies of our culture, and then become convinced that I am weak and powerless. But the truth is, somewhere inside me there is still a whisper of a Wonder Woman. I’m guessing that whisper is within you too. We were wonderfully made in our mothers’ wombs. We are equipped, suited, and empowered by the Holy Spirit to be heroes and to lead people to places of wholeness, love, and victory.
We are powerful because we want love more than we want war. We want peace more than we want to win. We are very capable of creating powerful female relationships, and together we can bring peace to ourselves and to our girlfriends too!