A Christian Science perspective.
In the United States, women have made much progress in their efforts to achieve equality. But a recent awareness has emerged that women could improve their lives more if they had a greater respect and appreciation for, and trust of, one another. A survey in a book by Kelly Valen to be published by Random House later this month reports that 97 percent of the women questioned believe that “it is crucial that we improve the female culture in this country” (“The Twisted Sisterhood: Unraveling the Dark Legacy of Female Friendships”).
Female relationships that could otherwise be of great mutual benefit are at times undermined by duplicity, untrustworthiness, and guile – qualities that many associate with Eve in the Bible. I’ve found that the study of Christian Science provides much spiritual guidance on improving relationships, enabling me to overcome negative qualities in myself and to bring out harmony in others where I’ve seen discord.
Certainly the Bible indicates that genuine kindness, rather than hidden manipulation, is a better basis for relationships among women, whether at work, in neighborhoods, or at church. “Let love be without dissimulation,” wrote the Apostle Paul (Rom. 12:9). As “dissimulate” means to “hide under a false appearance,” this tells me that hypocrisy shouldn’t characterize human relationships.
Mary Baker Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, held women’s capacities in high regard and believed that the ability to express genuine love was indigenous to female identity. In “Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures,” she wrote, “The ideal woman corresponds to Life and to Love” (p. 517). Surely seeing and/or embodying “the ideal woman” – expressing Love to all with whom she comes in contact – is the antidote for any bitterness or envy that might characterize women’s relationships. This approach helps neutralize the stereotype of the conniving, gossipy female promulgated by such films as the 2004 comedy “Mean Girls,” which helped define the malaise in female relationships, at least for teens.
Mrs. Eddy wrote, “The imaginary victories of rivalry and hypocrisy are defeats” (“Miscellaneous Writings 1883-1896,” p. 268). Employing rivalry and hypocrisy doesn’t bring happy results. Recently I had occasion to put into practice through prayer some of the concepts that heal such conditions. A woman friend of mine seemed to be behaving in a way counter to my interests and, I believed, to hers. This was an issue in which simply going to the individual and discussing my concerns didn’t seem like a realistic option.
I’m very grateful that I could pray for relief from unfairness and from the feeling of having been wronged. For a start, being able to pray helped me avoid talk or actions that might have made the situation worse. I realized that instead of dwelling on what was wrong, I needed to elevate my concept of my friend, to affirm her spiritual perfection – as well as my own – as a daughter of God. In this view of womanhood, she could never be the victim of the negative qualities associated with Eve.
Although at times it wasn’t easy, this prayer brought much progress. The situation improved, and I’ve been able to forgive in ways that have brought me freedom.
If we are willing to tackle through prayer whatever discord comes our way, we will be stronger and more complete as individuals. We’ll find freedom from the notion that women can’t sincerely and wholeheartedly get along with other women. Healing of this pattern will promote true sisterhood, radiating pure love that uplifts humanity.