"If we do not transform our pain, we will always transmit it – to our partner, our spouse, our children, our friends, our coworkers, our "enemies." Usually we project it outward and blame someone else for causing our pain."~ Fr. Richard Rohr, Center for Action and Contemplation
Some call it the "law of the sisterhood". Others refer to it as "girl code". What it stipulates is that we don't go after each other's husbands or boyfriends. What it stipulates is essentially a sort of moral high ground, in which we respect each other's relationships, no matter how cute we think their significant other is, or how much he flirts with us.
But sometimes this sisterhood feels like we're the only ones in it. I sometimes think it's the lie of the sisterhood.
My 19-year-old discovered that this week when she learned that a close friend had hooked up with an ex-boyfriend. Now the rules get a bit fuzzy with exes, at least for some people. And I've gently reminded my daughter that she was well and truly done with this guy. That, she tells me, is not the point. What hurts her more than the two of them hooking up, she insists, is that her friend did it behind her back.
And so, my dejected daughter insists, she's wiping her hands of this friend.
And I'm (mostly) keeping my mouth shut.
But here's the thing: While I don't condone her friend's behaviour (if we're being sneaky about something, that's generally our first clue that we know it's hurtful to someone and we don't want to deal with the consequences), I can empathize. This girl has had a miserable childhood with a truly appalling mother and her series of equally appalling boyfriends. This girl gets into relationships with guys who treat her badly. She craves attention, no matter where it comes from. And so, with this ex of my daughter's, she was willing to gamble her friendship for the short-term thrill of his attention.
Does that make it okay? No. And she's lost (at least for the time being) my daughter's friendship. As my heavy-hearted child noted, once someone has broken your trust, you never quite look at the them the same way again.
Tell me about it, I want to say. But I bite my tongue.
Hurt people hurt people, we often say on this site.
Father Richard Rohr says that if we don't transform our pain, we will transmit it. Those of us here were the collateral damage of that transmission.
But when we can recognize that, it helps us shake off any responsibility we might feel for how people treat us. It helps us realize that their pain is for them to deal with, that we cannot and should not be blamed, including by ourselves.
My daughter's black-and-white view of the world might soften as she ages – my own certainly did (though I remain an adherent to the law of the sisterhood). But she has reminded me what it looks like when we hold hurt people accountable for the pain they transmit. It looks like self-respect.