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Cultivating Friendships & Female Allies

Listen to the nightly news, read just-released statistics, talk to a few friends––and you’ll hear over and over again the hard realities of mandated isolation, increased challenges in daily life, and mounting obstacles as working women navigate the lingering effects of this pandemic. Now more than ever we need to forge bonds of sisterhood with the women in our circles.

Since our experiences and daily circumstances differ, no one-size-fits-all remedy will immediately bring forth a new community of supportive, understanding, and encouraging women. However, there are a few DO’s and DON’T’s we can all practice to cultivate authentic friendships and genuine female allies––both at work and in our everyday world at large. Let’s start with the DON’T’s:

Don’t Compare. Comparing ourselves to others destroys happiness and joy. Our world and social feeds are full of poster girls we wish we could be. Women who sparkle and glow. Gals who are smarter, wealthier, more beautiful, more fun. Social magnets who appear to have everything. Girls we know who tout what we desire most. Comparing ourselves to others ignites the fire of envy and jealousy. Comparison kills friendships and allies. Comparison prevents authenticity and hinders our ability to develop relationships without agenda. Comparison opens a trap with sharp teeth of discontent, disparaging gossip, and isolation.

Don’t Compete. Many workplaces breed no-mercy, unhealthy competition. And women moving up the ranks often find themselves thrown into an arena where success requires aggression and no-holds-barred tactics. Without warning, the road between “excellence for the glory of God” and “self-ambition for our own glory” morphs into quicksand and we can start sinking quickly. Friends, regardless of what kind of work we do each day, we’re called to work as if Jesus is our CEO and we report to him day-by-day (Col 2:17, 23). I’m not saying that all competition is bad––as an athlete and someone who sprinted up the corporate ladder decades ago, I believe certain types of competition can be healthy and good. But unhealthy competition breeds anger, bitterness, and a desire to excel at the cost of others. Unhealthy competition is not to the glory of God.

Don’t Condemn. Let’s face it, some people wear us down. Others drag us down. When we’re trying to move fast and pivot quickly, it’s hard to feel like we can’t get ahead because of excess weight we carry for others. Especially at work. It’s easy to begin making assumptions about why people say or do certain things. Storylines creep in and frustration mounts. But rarely do we understand the underlying hurts and backstory of co-workers and even friends. We haven’t walked in their shoes. And their struggles and reactions may be symptomatic of pain and hardship we know nothing about. So when a spirit of condemnation takes root in our heart, it’s time to hit pause and remember Jesus’ words on judging others. With the condemning measure we use to judge others, we too will be condemned and judged (Matt 7:1–5). Conversely, with the forgiveness we share freely with others, we too will be forgiven (Matt 6:12).

These three DON’T’s––Don’t Compare, Don’t Compete, Don’t Condemn––all focus on our thoughts, actions, and reactions to others. Now let’s turn to relationship-building DO’s:

Do Care. At work, we may feel hesitant to get too close to co-workers we don’t know well. Especially if we’re concerned they may actively practice the three DON’T’s. But approaching women with a heart of care and prayer opens doors to deeper conversations. If we drop strategic agendas and instead truly desire to get to know someone––truly KNOW them for who they are, right where they are––our words, tone, and demeanor change. Through prayer (praying for them) and care (simple words or acts of kindness), the love of Christ shines in and through us to the people we work with on a regular basis. Prayer and care will change our heart, and it can often soften theirs, leading to new opportunities for building rapport, friendship, and common goals.

Do Extend Compassion. We don’t know what others have gone through in the past, or what they struggle with now. But the more we can learn about others as we lovingly get to know them, the more we can see what it’s like to walk in their shoes. Understanding often becomes a first step to extending compassion. Compassion isn’t pity. Compassion isn’t feeling sorry for someone. Compassion is rolling up our sleeves and entering with someone into their real life. Think for a moment about difficult times you’ve gone through in the past. Now think about the kind of friend you needed to walk through those hard spaces with you. Whether or not you had a good friend to help you then, you can be that kind of friend now to someone else. Being compassionate towards others means being the kind of friend you’re looking for (2 Cor 1:3–4).

Do Grow Community. God created us to live and flourish in community. Research affirms that our happiness increases when we feel seen, heard, and loved. Ladies, we’re meant to walk the journey of life together with women who’ve seen behind our masks and love us anyway. Promote authentic community by asking thoughtful questions and being willing to share about your life story. Find ways to creatively spend time getting to know new friends and women you work with. Share a meal, grab coffee, or plan a happy hour (in person preferably, but virtual if needed). Go for a walk together and burn off stress as you bond. As you begin your journey together, explore common interests. Tell funny or quirky stories. Deepen connections. And pray about how you might be able to grow a community of two or three women who can gather regularly to encourage and support one another. There’s nothing like knowing someone else is in your corner battling life’s challenges with you.  

As we move forward from this unprecedented season, I think of the words of God to Joshua (Josh 1:9, 10:25) and David to Solomon (1 Chron 22:13, 28:20) as these young men prepared for a new mission, unforeseen circumstances, and undoubted opposition: “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.”

Receive these words today as you begin to cultivate friendships and female allies.

“Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid.”

Cultivating friendships and female allies takes time, and it requires risk. I know this firsthand. But I have also experienced the incredible rewards. Some of my dearest friends today are women I met decades ago through work. Sisters, be courageous in Christ within all of your circles of influence. We need one another. And God will pave the way as we:

Care, don’t compare.

Extend compassion, not competition.

Grow community, not condemnation.

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit (Rom 15:13).

Dr. Joy Dahl is a Jesus girl transformed by God’s grace. Through many trials she has learned to rise above the depths of real life by holding fast to truth and hope. Today Joy passionately helps believers embrace their calling as Christ’s ambassadors in the world. As a CPA and a Chief Financial Officer by trade, Joy has focused most of her career on start-up and high-growth companies in Washington DC, New York, and Texas. Joy earned three degrees from Dallas Theological Seminary: Master of Christian Education, Master of Biblical Studies, and Doctor of Ministry. Her emphasis on the integration of faith and work led to her current role as Executive Director of Polished Network, which gathers women to navigate the workplace and explore faith together in authentic community. Joy is the visionary behind the BOLDLY Conference (www.boldlyconference.com)––the first-of-it’s kind Faith + Work for Women Conference. Joy and her husband, Gordon, call Dallas home. Joy’s favorite things include: God’s Word, international travel, dark chocolate, horses, flowers, beach getaways, running, big dogs, and adventure!

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