It’s a verb that most of us have not considered very much. And yet all of us have been both negatively and positively impacted by the relationships we have with other women.
How well have you sistered? Or been sistered? Do you have a deep fear of other women? Or do you long for their presence in your life?
Do a quick sistering self-check right now:
- Of all the relationships you have had in your life, where have you been betrayed the most deeply by girls or women? Do those hurts still sting (or worse)?
- How have you betrayed or hurt other women or girls? How does this impact your life right now?
- On a scale of 1-10, how much do you trust other women or girls?
- Do you have a group of girlfriends with which you can completely relax, unwind, and laugh your head off? If not, how much do you long for this?
- How many women live inside your small friend group? Do you have a main squeeze – who is your ‘person’ (as Meredith and Christina from Grey’s Anatomy would say)?
If I were to answer my own survey, I would say that one of the greatest wounds that I have inside myself, was the loss of a woman friend who suddenly ‘broke up with me’. I still miss her. And yes, as painful as it is to admit, I have done precisely the same thing to other girlfriends I’ve had. And despite the fact that I teach women about sisterhood, I still struggle to find my own friend groups of women where I can completely relax, laugh my ass off, and be my wild, gross, crazy, silly-assed self. But I count myself very lucky to have three women who I would consider to be my besties.
I think it’s important to take a self-survey, and look inside. Especially as we approach the end of this decade, the end of this year. It is such a good time to reassess and reconsider – how do we want to do this next chapter of our lives? How do we want to sister?
Before we answer that question, let’s take a long look backwards, into the root of the word. We can learn so much from studying the beginning, the intention of a word.
You will love this: the Latin word ‘sistere’ means ‘to cause to stand’. The idea here is to ‘set something up in a standing position’. Isn’t that amazing? And true?
When we are well sistered, we are so deeply stood for.
A sister’s support can whip us from the very edge of collapse, straight into revival, redemption, and reclamation. There is nothing more profound than having another woman stand for us, when we cannot stand for ourselves.
Now, this is super interesting because sistering does not mean climbing down the well of mutual victimization, sadness, or grief with someone. It does not mean losing oneself on behalf of another. It means ‘to stand’ – to be with her, and to reflect her power with ours, by standing firmly in our own truth, strength, and power.
I was ‘taught’ – meaning, I learned from the culture – that good sistering meant to give up my own stand, in order to collapse with my collapsed friend. That good sistering meant to do things her way, give up my home plate, and join her in her victimization. I learned that compromising myself was the first step into being a good sister.
None of this is true.
To be able to be a good sister means we have to know and own our home plate, our own stand.
The deeper origin of ‘stāre’ is the proto-indo-european ‘sta’, which means ‘to stand’ or ‘to place a thing that is standing’. There is even a building term wherein a builder can ‘sister a joist’, meaning you place a strong board right next to a weaker one, to beef it up and straighten sagging joists. Sistering is about both sisters gaining strength, rather than either one of them weakening. That is why good sistering has to begin with really good self-care.
We have to start with sistering ourselves.
You in? I know you are. Every time we take that moment to invest in ourselves, it pays off in every single relationship in our lives.
You will not believe how many words that we use on the daily, that have sistere as a root. This thrills me. It feels like the hidden power of the word is now ours to reclaim, redefine, and own.
Each of these words is a small, perfect study in pure feminine power.
Yes, we will persist, and if needed, resist. We will insist that we exist. We will never desist, and yes, wherever, whenever, count on us to assist. That is what it means to sister.
There are billions of sisters in this world, endless opportunities for each of us to sharpen the sword of sistering.
What is one small way in which you will sister – and be sistered – today, this year, this decade?
How can you give and receive sistering?
Here’s my give:
Yesterday, a neighbor of mine asked me to join her at the church on the corner, and help with a Christmas give-away and breakfast for people in our neighborhood. I am jumping on that train with gale force enthusiasm.
Here is my receive:
Tonight, a girlfriend is coming over to hang with me and dream about what we each might want our next year to look like. She knows the depth of my fragility as I transition from one way of working and living, to some unknown other. I can be myself fully, and know she will return that gift, exponentially.
There is no force that adds more consistent radiance to my life than sistering.
My prayer? May this force surround you, me, and all of the billions of our sisters in this world. May we sister in new ways, every day. May we each persist, desist, exist, insist, resist, assist on behalf of ourselves and one another. And may we each stand more and more powerfully in our sistering, as we slowly and magnificently transform the world with our ever-expanding sisterly love.
With so much love and pleasure,
Regena is a feminist icon, a teacher, a speaker, a mother, a best-selling author, and creatrix and CEO of The School of Womanly Arts.