After Backseat Writer reviewed her latest book, The Friends We Keep, Sarah Zacharias Davis, kindly agreed to share more of her insight into the friendships of women with readers (read review). The daughter of Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias, Sarah has forged her own path into the world of writing. Brilliant and well-spoken, Sarah Zacharias Davis is one author you don’t want to miss. So, get started with The Friends We Keep–after you read her “Take 5 with Backseat Writer,” of course.
Your book takes an incredible look at the depth of women’s friendships. But I know women who would rather “hang with the boys” because they’re tired of the cattiness that can come from friendships with other women—why should these ladies give female friendships another try?
I think you’re right; it’s easier to feel like giving up on women’s friendships altogether, especially after we’ve been burned – and more than once. But there is a depth of understanding, a connection that exists in female friendships simply because we share a gender. I read a book called The Female Brain, a fascinating book, and it charted the behavior of females from infant stage to menopause. The book was profound to me because it gave explanation to many of my own “idiosyncrasies”. I think it’s a book that can bring great understanding to women and to men about the female psyche. Armed with that understanding, I think we are able to be more gracious in our awareness amidst cattiness and disappointment that can often occur and also appreciate the rich texture that is also present in these relationships.
As a woman, I want to go the distance for my friends. I will literally give until I’ve got nothing left and I completely shut down. In your book, you talk about how we need to accept that our friends can’t fulfill all our needs, but how can we learn that we weren’t meant to fulfill all our friend’s needs?
That’s a great question! We can often draw so much of our own value by our ability to meet others’ needs – without even realizing it. We have to intentionally choose to know and accept our limitations, our humanity, to say this far and no more, and to be at peace with the natural boundaries of relationship. I believe that a healthy friendship with self will not only bring understanding of our own responsibilities to self and not expect others to meet our every need, but what will also emerge is a confidence in what we are able to give and what we are not.
Growing up in church, I’ve learned that we must always confront the “sins” of our friends so we won’t cause them to stumble, which seems a little ridiculous. I appreciated your thoughts on when to confront and when not to confront a friend—can you give readers a brief recap on this idea?
It is an enormously difficult decision to know when to confront and when to stay silent – at least I believe it should be. If there isn’t some tension over the decision perhaps we do think it’s our obligation to always confront. There are times when we need to listen, we need to ask questions, we need to remain silent, or we need to confront in a loving way. I tell the story in the book about an intervention that I participated in. It wasn’t something I was comfortable with, but I was encouraged to do it and did so for what I felt were the right reasons. It didn’t go well and I think our relationship ended over it. Maybe it was the right thing to do, maybe not.I think an important thing to note is that the reaction of the receiver, does not necessary determine whether the action was “right or wrong.” We are responsible for what we choose to confront or not to confront, how that person responds is up to them. If we feel we should confront in a loving way, it is still not our job to convict. We are not the Holy Spirit.
Another friend shared with me her own experience as she considered whether or not to confront her friend. In the end, in examining the example set by the person of Jesus, she decided to ask questions and give her friend the time to think through those answers and choose what her course of action would be. I thought this was a beautiful story of a friend who sincerely wanted to do the right thing for her friend. She was concerned for her and any confrontation came out of a heart of care and love, not judgment or superiority. After wrestling with her decision, she chose to follow the example she felt had been left for all of us to follow.
One issue I’ve heard discussed very little is the idea of “friendship with self,” which sounds narcissistic at first glance, yet it’s vital to knowing ourselves as women. What exactly is “friendship with self” and why is it important?
Friendship with self has been a life changing relationship for me. It has transformed my relationships and what I expect from them, it has also been vital in my spiritual journey towards growth and even in just simply being “comfortable in my own skin” It is knowing self, being truthful with self, being contemplative, and learning to draw on your own God-given resources. God has set within each one of us a will, an ability to think and feel and differentiate between the two, awareness, and an ability to know God in relationship. A relationship with self helps us know and use all of these gifts. It is cultivated the same way we cultivate outside relationships – appreciation, quality time, grace, caretaking, understanding, honesty, and just being.
Your insight to issues like gossip is spot-on. How damaging is gossip in the world of women?
I think gossip is enormously damaging to relationships, to individuals, reputations, and to integrity. It is really about sizing up and then tearing some else down. It is going for the jugular, so to speak, and going after our own – our friends. We think we will feel better by talking about someone else’s flaws or downfalls, but really if we’re honest, we slink away from a gossip session feeling a little slimy and even more insecure. It is not life-giving to anyone.
Even when we participate in gossip we know it is a guilty pleasure, and often we may have the best of intentions in not participating the next time around. Yet amidst a juicy gossip session those best of intentions slip away. We have to bring intentionality to our conversations and be accountable for what we say. In the end it will not only ensure a sense of trust and honor in a relationship, I think we will feel so much more at peace with ourselves when we practice that discretion.