My Dearest Hemlock: On Female Friendship

My dearest Hemlock,

It’s never too early to start thinking about how to approach your patient’s female friendships.

Obviously, these relationships can be quite dangerous. Friendship, as the Enemy intends, is a salve on the weary and painful parts of the rodents’ lives. Friendship can lead to delight, humor, fresh perspective, practical help, evangelism, spiritual growth, and the spurring on “to love and good deeds.”

On the other hand, the drive to friendship and belonging these humans experience is also a powerful tool for us. Women evangelize one another—why should they not evangelize for us? Women advise one another—why should they not redirect and distract one another all the day long, giving irrelevant advice to fix one another’s minds on false hopes? Women warn one another—why should they not be busy at our work, stirring up fears about anything and everything except robust fear of the Enemy? (which is not our kind of fear at all!)

With this kind of potential for gain and loss, you should see how important it is to get involved with these friendships early. I generally try to get them securely on the right path starting in grade school. Then it’s best to check in on her trajectory periodically.

Your approach will depend some on the personality of the patient:

  • Is she naturally independent? Encourage her to keep distance between herself and other women, never to need them more than they need her. You can use the ground of friendship to strengthen her impulse to guard herself from the discomfort of anyone else “meddling” in her heart’s affairs. This will of course include the Enemy, who is the most meddlesome of all.
  • Is she naturally clingy and emotional? Push her towards a woman she can wrap her whole heart around, thus beginning a good healthy idolization. Bring in many moment of uncertainty to the relationship, and teach her to dwell on the uncertainty. Gradually, you may get her to watch her friend’s face with more earnest attention than she ever gave to the Enemy’s.
  • Is she competitive? Bring her thoughts regularly to questions of superiority—who is “better,” herself or her friend? It is interesting how we’ve been able to blur the line quite a bit between hatred and friendship for some of these patients. Even among women who know the Enemy, the competitive ones may often have moments where her desire to dominate, to maintain ascendancy over certain friends, will completely overwhelm any actual affection she feels for them.
  • Is she lazy and self-indulgent? Encourage her to stay out of friendships that require effort on her part—she will easily be taught to stear clear of friendships that might require physical service, truthful advice, or active prayer from her. (This means she’ll be stearing clear of all true friendships, but she can be made not to see that.) She will have a clear picture in her mind of a friendship she’s never had, one that is easy and intimate, with deep heart connection and a steady stream of fun. This imaginary friendship never involves moments of listening without talking, of praying for someone who is in a season of dry prayerlessness, of service that will never be returned.
  • Is she given to constant fears about being “left out?” Encourage her to dwell on that; twenty minutes a day or so will keep her well out of harm’s way. Again, there’s an imaginary place she wants to reach, one of security within her circle of friends, one that makes her feel she’s arrived. Never allow her to examine this desire in literal terms: how much friendship would be enough? Who could actually love her with a love that grounds her whole existence? She must never think of Him. Keep her eyes on the friends who had lunch without her, and then give her lots of busywork to do, to “make sure it never happens again.”
  • And is she the natural leader of her friends? It is excellent fun to isolate this kind of person inside her charisma; she can be brought to treat all her friends like minions or admirers. It is a secure place to live, and yet she’ll always secretly suspect that her friends are not truly her friends—they never do seem to challenge her so much as bask in her leadership. If asked, she would still express a loneliness and longing, and still, with a little guidance, be taught to imagine that this is because the right match in friendship has never found her.

 

Neither Having Cake Nor Eating It

What is the goal, you might ask? Big  picture, it’s the same as in any other area of life. Your aim is to create distance between your patient and the Enemy. So when you look at her female relationships, you must always keep that greater goal in mind.

But you want distance between the women as well, I should add. Even when you’re actively encouraging a co-dependency between women, it’s not true intimacy you want to achieve between them. It’s usury. We don’t mind them being physically or emotionally close—they can climb all over each other, for all we care. It’s the closeness of a certain kind of like-mindedness we abhor, where they worship the Enemy together and thus are joined in bonds that will last—I am not exaggerating—forever. That is what we want to avoid.

In the Enemy’s view of friendship, the women reach for Him and get friendship thrown in. Instead, we want these women to neither have their cake nor eat it. We want them to turn away from the Enemy towards their friends, and in the end, to find that their friendships are also poor and shallow, unsatisfying and short lived.

For these humans, the main question we don’t want in their minds is, “As I begin my day in unity with Christ, in security because of Him, how can I love my friends well, by preferring their true needs, drawing their attention to Christ, enjoying them, enjoying a shared love with them, or praying for them?”

None of these questions are helpful. All will lead to abominable moments of joy, delight, growth, and aid for the humans.

So I find the best tack is not to try to counter these unhelpful questions directly. Instead, I try to keep the women busy asking other, better questions. Here are three of my favorites:

 

  1. Do my friends love me enough?

Of course, this is the same question we like her to be asking about her husband or her parents. But in those familial relationships, the question tends to cause irritation. In female friendship, the question tends more to anxiety.

We want her to feel that the role of her friends is to validate her existence. “I have friends, therefore I am,” that sort of thing. This is a very fun thought. But even more fun is the inversion of this: “I have no friends, therefore I am not,” which is the thought we thrust upon her whenever she gets a declined invitation or catches a glimpse of two of her friends in deep conversation.

It sounds like a stretch, but believe me, it isn’t to these overgrown Kindergarteners. They learned their habits of female interaction in that early age of friendship bracelets, “you can’t sit here’s,” etc. Now she is a grown woman she can’t unlearn all that at once.

The problem you might be worried about is that the Enemy has already declared their existence and worth; he declared it eternally in fact. But it’s strangely easy to make the humans forget this. She wakes up many days of her life with the subconcience question: Am I? And if she attempts to answer this question through her intimacy with other women (or men, for that matter), she’ll be on a merry ride for the rest of her life.

As long as you keep her mind on the way she’s being treated, you can turn friends into enemies very easily in her mind. Nobody will ever consider her enough, admire her enough, think of her enough. And once you get friends into the category of enemy, it won’t ever occur to her to approach them the way the Enemy did in his Terrible Talk on the Mountain.

How if she were to apply the Enemy’s words to her real life friends? “Love your enemies,” his nonsensical command, is hard enough to think about when she has a clear enemy. But what about when her “enemy” is just a friend who has forgotten to include her in a text invitation? What about when her “enemy” has slapped her on the cheek, by repeating her private prayer request to a third party? What if the person “taking her tunic” is just a lady from church who borrows her Instapot and doesn’t bring it back quickly enough?

Never allow her to turn this question around and consider, “How can I love my friends today, not so as to secure their affection, but to honor my Lord and enjoy the beings made in his image?”

Another good question:

 

2. How can we define this relationship?

The female creatures love to assign names to their relationships. “This is my boyfriend,” “this is my mentor,” and “this is my best friend.”

They find security in these titles, because the titles denote exclusive rights and commitment. And there are some human relationships where excusivitiy and commitment are mandated by the enemy: marriage is one, and it could be argued the paternal/maternal relationship is another.

But in relationships where exclusivity is NOT commanded by the Enemy, we find it helpful to encourage humans to demand it. And women are particularly prone to desire this.

We want them endlessly gazing at the relationship itself—analyzing it, inspecting it, checking it for integrity. This is much more useful to us than when they start to gaze on SOMETHING ELSE, together. When two women are drawn together by a common interest, be on your guard, Hemlock. It’s not that we can’t use these interests in quilting or books or exercise. Of course there are openings for idolatry in any of these things. But generally speaking, an innocent activity that involves the Enemy’s physical realm is much more dangerous to us than not. More on this later.

At the very least, we like to temper the pure enjoyment of things outside herself with side questions: How do I look when I’m doing this thing? This thing I’m enjoying, do the important or interesting people also like it? If I do this thing, can it carry me up the social ladder? The main thing you don’t want is just the creatures, being HIS creatures, enjoying a thing HE made, and recognizing that HE made it. So it is in friendship. We are on dangerous ground when two of them see each other and naturally begin to enjoy the Enemy’s created thing at the same time, side by side. It’s worship, Hemlock, nothing less. Don’t underestimate the danger of this.

You must be careful about your patient’s connection to the woman named Mary; it has a worrisome tendency. The two of them both love to cook, and they seem to talk about this and the Enemy when they’re together, almost interchangeably. This is the very thing we do not like.

 

3. “Who is in charge/superior in this relationship, her or me?”

This final only works with a more competitive personality, as I mentioned earlier. The competitive woman will not say this aloud to anyone, least of all her friends. But if you peer into the mind of this type of woman, one who is well in hand, you’ll find that for each of her female acquaintances, she has a subconscious answer to this question. She fully believes that some of her friends are (slightly) her superior, and others are (slightly) her inferior.

In this we, as you know, relate to them very well. We also understand hierarchy; don’t we know how completely all interactions are ruled by it! (Naturally you and I are an exception, my dear. I’ve always considered you my equal in every way!)

Your girl will place some friends in the “superior” category. These are the women she’s driven to make a good impression on, to pursue for closer intimacy, or to avoid. Those are truly her only options. She cannot completely ignore the “superior” friend. She’ll find she’s incapable of it.

A good example of this dynamic is your patient’s friend from work, Rachel. Rachel has been placed firmly in the “superior” category, and she knows it. Though the two go out to lunch together, are both high school teachers, and occupy much the same place in society, your patient ceded a position of authority to Rachel when they first met. I understand it’s on account of Rachel’s good looks and outgoing personality.

You may wonder if this recognition of superiority may backfire, by causing a sort of humility in your patient. This raises the question to answer your question: When women sort themselves into hierarchies, are they working inside the Enemy’s sort of economy or inside our sort of economy? Clearly, it’s our sort! We know that in all relationships, there must be a dominator and a dominated. (Always excepting you and I, dear!)

What you are seeing in your patient is not true humility. When she arranges her day, bending over backwards in case Rachel deigns to be available for lunch, she is actually serving her own ends. She believes that mixing with a person she deems “superior” will somehow elevate her; she expects something of Rachel to rub off. Rachel is also a Christian, so your patient even thinks she’s doing “relationship,” when actually she’s hanging on for dear life, by her thumbs, to the rungs of a social ladder.

This is where we want to keep her.

When she places a new friend in the “inferior” position, her reaction is quite different but equally positive for us. Here, she’s the one deigning to spend time with the other person. She’s the one who feels secure and unruffled when plans are canceled. She’s the one who doesn’t have to spend time thinking of the other when they’re apart. She never replays what was said and plans for their next meeting. All of that sort of thing falls to the “inferior” friend.

Either way, the sort of interactions that result are rarely honest, rarely free, and rarely do anything to promote true intimacy or lasting relationship.

Tell me more about the patient’s other church friends. If the girl insists on mingling with such a crowd, at least we can look for ways to turn it to our advantage.

 

Your friend,

Madame Helvetius

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