Girl on Girl Betrayal

Sarah and Hagar ChagallHere’s a post for the ladies:

I have always been a girl’s girl.  This doesn’t mean I’m holier or more compassionate than the next person, but Girl On Girl Betrayal is a peculiar disturbance in my gut.  Why would a woman betray another woman?

Yes, we’ve all fallen short of the glory of God.  Yes, we are all miserable offenders. I totally get this.   But . . .  don’t we identify with other women in terms of relationships and work and daily life?  I (totally judgmentally) have a hard time understanding women who backstab other women.

My mother was not one to give advice to her children, but I have a clear memory of Mom announcing at the dinner table, one night, a rare and valuable declaration to my brothers:  Never Date a Girl with No Girlfriends.   I agreed with this admonition absolutely from personal experience and I would find in the years to come that women with no girlfriends had (not always but often) found themselves girlfriendless because they had consistently betrayed their friends for the sake of selfish, often man-centered pursuits.

This is not to say that we women must personally like all other women, or that we understand all other women, or that we are responsible for all other women. But the least we can do is not sabotage each other.

Maybe it’s the particular soup I find myself in lately, or maybe I’ve been walking alongside too many sisters with similar stories, but here are a few questions I would like to ask, in hopes of receiving authentic and wise answers:

1.  Why are the critics of clergywomen most likely to be other women? Are they upset that they themselves didn’t go to seminary?  Did all those generations of men in the pulpit serve as idealized husbands or eye candy or father figures?  Are they jealous?  Are they self-loathing?  Honest explanations would be appreciated.

2.  How can a woman have a sexual fling with a married man without thinking about the sister she is betraying?  Has she been told that The Wife is cold/gay/sick/tired/in-love-with-someone else?  (Believe me, what you’ve been told is not always the truth.)  Is she herself vulnerable and lonely?  Was everybody simply drinking too much and caught up in the fun of being at a conference together?  Did it seem harmless/meaningless?  Am I just a dork who takes marriage vows seriously?  What’s up with this?

3.  Why can’t we women be happy for each other when something goes well?  One friend remarried after becoming a young widow and another friend rued the fact that “Two people fell in love with her, but nobody has fallen in love with me.  It’s not fair.”  Another friend said, “I can’t believe she got that job.  What does she have that I don’t have?”  And yet another recently shared with me, “I don’t trust (that clergywoman) with my husband’s church committee.  I’m not comfortable with him going to meetings led by a woman.” Really?

Yea, yea, yea I know that all of us are occasionally catty and immature and all-about-ourselves, but these things happen in the church (In The Church) every day.  Am I asking too much to expect women to work alongside, be friends alongside, live alongside each other without stabbing each other in the back?

Anonymous responses especially welcomed in this post, but I’d like to know if you are male or female as you respond.  Thank you.

Image is Sarah and Hagar by Marc Chagall (1956)

5 responses to “Girl on Girl Betrayal

  1. Best advice you ever gave me… and I remember it til this day. I’m always extremely cautious, but generally disinterested in making friends with women who do not have girlfriends or actually say to me (in one way or another) that they always seem to lose all their girlfriends. As Christians, we are called to unity. I’m at an age where I’m completely suspect if you don’t have one or two good friends.

    I don’t think anyone ever intentionally intends to betray someone else, but I believe that because some women don’t understand their relationship with Christ… they adopt like orphan-mentality, rather than that of being a child of God. When you think you have to figure it all out on your own to survive… All rules and reason go out the door. This manifests in a singular focus on that which they want/believe they don’t have and will make them worthy (fill in the blank here) and absolutely no concern for the collateral damage (friends lost, breaking up families, creating a culture of distrust in communities). It’s not even a thought that anyone else might be hurt … And if it is… Then that hurt is deemed less important that the ‘singular focus’

    Women who put down on other women… Actually… Anyone who puts down on others…. I’ve observed that this is always rooted in their insecurities. This is not always obvious at first…. But repeated interactions with folks like this make the pattern clear: this thing that you continually hate on in someone else is directly related to your deepest insecurity. After all, the best way to keep others from seeing into your heart is to create a diversion/ distraction and project your junk onto someone else. It’s one of the most tragic forms of self-loathing: I hate who I am, so I disgrace others. Again, if you knew your rightful position in relationship with The Lord… It may not be a perfect path…. But you’d be working this heart stuff out in different ways.


  2. I have always worked in a profession that is predominantly women. Many of us in our profession initially change job settings every 3 to 5 years – to specialize, to expand our skill base, to become private practitioners. I preface my response with this because I have been in a variety of workplaces, workplaces dominated by women.

    It has been my experience that the degree of cattiness, backstabbing, gossip, distrust that is tolerated in a setting is directly related to the leadership within that setting. A leader can say, even a couple of times, “Don’t tell anyone, but she…” or “I should not be telling you this, but she…” or, empathetically, “She has done that to me.” Trust within the organization will erode. Not maybe erode. It will erode.

    Leaders set the tone and set the culture. Leaders can subtly give permission for negative behaviors. It does not matter what a leader says is right if they are subtly not walking the walk. Subtle is so loud.

    Why is cattiness seen so often in woman of all ages, including young girls? I believe it is for the same reasons we see more tendencies in boys to be aggressive. These are our socially acceptable norms. Parents may model it in some families. Or families may accept tendencies in their children or in other children saying. “She’s just being a girl.” or “Boys will be boys.”

    Leadership is important, in a family, in a workplace, in a church. The culture can suck us in, can suck in the leaders. That is why learning to follow Jesus is so much about being counter cultural. And it is freaking hard, especially for a leader or a parent.

    As for me, I have the profound task of motherhood. The serenity prayer comes in helpful. Like all the time. “God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change; courage to change the things I can; and wisdom to know the difference.”

    By the way, I recognize all that I have just shared because a use to be a gossip girl in a former life. It was my go to place when I was angry. And it made me part of the club, the league of women. I am grateful I have a God of forgiveness. Especially when I regress. And a faith that points me to Kingdom building.


    • Thanks for this Kathy. I agree that most of us have been/can be gossip girls, but I think back to when our daughter was in middle school – ground zero for gossip girls. For some wonderful reason, she and her group of four friends (all female) were outliers. Teachers marveled at them for their utter support of each other and lack of meanness. They attended each other’s soccer games and swim meets, each other’s concerts and plays. They worked very hard academically and they were kind to each other and to others. Their English teacher told me long after they’d graduated from high school, “I’ve never known a group of middle school girls before or since that were so mature and encouraging of each other.” Me either. They were all confident leaders and maybe that was part of the secret.


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