Monday Musing: Friends vs. Sisters

The fourth Guide Law is:

A Guide is a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

As with some of the other laws, this one has evolved slightly over the years.  The original version was much less politically correct:

… no matter to what social class the other belongs.

Appropriate in the context of 1910 society, but these days I suspect it wouldn’t go down so well.  Mind you, the sentiment is still true – it’s just that it’s more politically correct to assume that when we say “all Guides” we do actually mean all Guides.

A Good Friend

What does it mean to be a good friend?

Arnold H Glasgow (a US psychologist) said two things which I think are relevant at this point.  Firstly,

“A true friend never gets in your way unless you happen to be going down.” ~ Arnold H Glasgow

A good friend is supportive.  They don’t stand in your way and say “no, you can’t do that, don’t be silly”.  They encourage you in your dreams and help you achieve your goals.

Unless your goals would cause you pain in the long run, and here is where the problem lies.  How do you draw the line between encouragement and blind faith?  Between being unsupportive and preventing disaster?

How do you know who is right?

Sometimes it would be obvious – if your friend has taken to drugs and thievery you should probably do your best to stop them.  But what if they have a bold new business idea which they are really passionate and excited about, which has the potential to be amazing, and you are convinced it will fail?

I would hope that if any of my friends thought I was making a mistake they would come and talk to me in a calm and rational manner, and explain why they were worried.

The second thing that Mr Glasgow said is this:

“Live so that your friends can defend you but never have to.” ~ Arnold H Glasgow

I like this.  Live your life well.  Live honestly and reliably, so that your friends can be proud to call you friends.  If you cause embarrassment to your friends, I don’t think you can truly call yourself a “good friend”.

A Global Sisterhood

I don’t have a (biological) sister, but I get on well with my brother.  We aren’t extremely close – he lives in another city so we don’t see each other often – but I would regard him as a friend.

A lot of people say the same about their own siblings.  Brothers and sisters are a lot like friends.  Just what is the difference?  Call me crazy, but I think there must be one, otherwise we wouldn’t need to specify that we were both a good friend and a sister to all Guides.

I turned to the dictionary as a starting point.

Friend, noun

1. A person whom one knows, likes, and trusts.
2. A person whom one knows; an acquaintance.
3. A person with whom one is allied in a struggle or cause; a comrade.
4. One who supports, sympathizes with, or patronizes a group, cause, or movement: friends of the clean air movement.

I’m interested that a friend can be someone you know, like and trust and also someone you merely know.  Perhaps that is the difference between a “good friend” and a “friend”.

Sister, noun

1. A female having the same parents as another or one parent in common with another.
2. A girl or woman who shares a common ancestry, allegiance, character, or purpose with another or others, specifically:
a. A kinswoman.
b. A woman fellow member, as of a sorority.
c. A fellow woman.
d. A close woman friend or companion.
e. A fellow African-American woman or girl.
f. A woman who advocates, fosters, or takes part in the feminist movement.

A sister defined as a “girl or woman who shares a common… character or purpose”.  That sounds a lot like Girlguiding to me.

I’ve also spotted the feminist aspect – and of course Julie Bentley described Girlguiding as “the ultimate feminist organisation”.

I can see a lot of similarities in these definitions – support of a cause, close woman friend.  The one thing that the definition of sister lacks, at least explicitly, is “a person whom one likes and trusts”.  Can you have common character or purpose, or even be close companions with someone, without actually liking them?

A lot of people fight with their siblings.  The one thing that most of them have in common is that they do love them.  They may fight, but if anyone threatens or demeans them they will defend each other.

Perhaps the difference is that you’re supposed to like your friends, but you are only required to love your sisters.

What do you think?


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