She’s probably the first person we phone to share news with of all kind – good or bad. She’s a partner in crime when we’re up to a bit of mischief, and she’s certainly all ears when we exchange classified information. She always takes our side, except for when it suits her. She offers us free concierge services and listens to all our gossip (about our parents, mostly). She understands us.
Yes, she’s probably the one who knows us the best and yet loves us unconditionally. That’s just the way we roll in the sisterhood. Our sister: stylist, confidant, emissary, confederate, collaborator, counselor, conciliator and most of all … friend.
I hadn’t seen my sister* for an entire year. Bolting through the airport to catch the last leg of my trans-Atlantic flight was not part of the plan. “Please let me go through, I’ll run fast! My sister is waiting for me on the other side!” So I ran; I ran really fast! And as I stepped off the plane, there she was with helium balloons and a hand-drawn “welcome home” sign. She hugs me tight, stares blankly at my hair, and before saying anything else, greets me with “Wow, your hair is so long!” So far, so good. “I don’t really like it, but I’ll cut it for you while you’re here.” I begin to laugh; only a sister could be so direct. Without a doubt, my sister is one of my favorite people on earth. She always has been and always will be. Let’s add this one to our list, too: a sister tells us when our hair needs re-styling.
As children we share so many memories with our sister. Now, we’re all grown up. We’ve abandoned the childish love-hate relationship. We’re not jealous of her clothes anymore, or at least we don’t steal them out of her closet. We don’t tattle on her to mom or dad. Yet, this isn’t to say that the sibling dynamic becomes smooth sailing in adulthood.
So, how do we keep the bond strong and spread the sisterly love?
One of the best ways to keep a sisterhood flourishing is to invest time. This means we are accessible, answer her messages, check in on her (a lot) and most definitely support her through difficult times or circumstances. We give advice when it’s needed and lend an ear or a hand whenever we can.
Some other attributes of a good sister? Let’s take a personal inventory to see how we measure up by looking at these six qualities:
Who would you rather spend time with? Someone who is dull, unhappy and miserable, or someone who is playful, spirited, vivacious, cheerful and sparkling? A sister is worth investing in, as with any cherished friendship. Let our words be kind, showing self-control when we speak; building her up rather than putting her down. Create memories with tender acts and times of adventure.
Be dependable and reliable, and remain committed to obligations. It’s important to be there for her when we want to be, but also when we don’t. Not honoring a commitment to our sister will send the message that our relationship isn’t important, even when it’s not what we aim to communicate. Being a great sister means that we always have her back, and try our utmost not to let her down.
Tell her the truth even when it’s difficult. If she trusts our judgement, honest feedback can steer or protect her when she’s headed into a precarious situation. Acquaintances and friends are often too timid to speak up when we appear to be headed off course, but a sister is the perfect person to step in and offer some solicited (and sometimes unsolicited) advice.
Just remember that not every thought that pops into our head needs to be expressed under the guise of honesty. Error on the side of grace, rather than that of nit picking. This requires us to think before we speak and to gauge what is helpful, versus what is opinionated or unnecessarily critical. We should ask ourselves if we are reacting to her or offering candid cautions. Occasions may also arise when we need to be honest about boundaries that we want her to respect. Let’s just be careful that we assert ourselves in a way that honors her individuality, character and space, as well as our own.
Acquaintances and friends are often too timid to speak up when we appear to be headed off course, but a sister is the perfect person to step in and offer some solicited (and sometimes unsolicited) advice.
We can be her constant encourager and cheerleader. Let’s aim to be kind, caring, understanding, compassionate and empathetic to our sisters. Those are all big words, but there are few people more deserving of our energy and unconditional love. If we’re kind to our friends, we can certainly be kind to our kin.
For goodness sake, if we can’t keep her trusted secrets, who will? Remember that in addition to being a good listener, we must also learn to lock our lips and throw away the key. Being a faithful sister requires us to keep confidences, and especially not talk badly about our sibling behind her back.
Conversely, the uniqueness of the sister relationship runs deep and there may be times when we need to speak up out of concern. In some instances, this might require a breaking of confidence. Most people are aware that secrecy should be broken when someone is in physical danger or if there is great potential for harm. Therefore, in more serious situations, we may need to engage the advice of a professional or a trusted confidant. Choose one person who will maintain strict confidence and is best-suited to be a help in the situation. It’s also considerate to cause your sister the least amount of embarrassment in doing so. Discern what is necessary to share, and with whom to share it.
When sisters are separated by distance, there’s all the more reason to make the extra effort to cultivate your sisterly relationship. Call regularly, send funny emoticons by text, and remain spontaneous! Distance doesn’t have to keep us from being close or connected. Surprising our sister with an online purchase or some handwritten mail will surely make her day. Don’t forget to tell her all the highlights (and some of the mundane events) when they happen, too. This will make her feel more in tune with life on our side and hopefully we’ll get to hear more about hers.
The best part about being a sister? When push comes to shove, there will always be someone in our corner. And whether or not it’s fully reciprocated, we can certainly do our utmost to be a source of support and to be the best sister we can.
Some of us have sisters who are withdrawn, absent in the relationship, or who struggle with destructive tendencies that require us to create distance. As we make peace with the disappointment of an aloof connection or a broken bond, we can also chose to be long-suffering and patient with our sister – demonstrating love despite her inadequacies (or our own).
For those of us without a sister? Well, the good news is that sisterhoods can be always be formed between good friends. Just like with the sister relationship, a little love goes a long way.
Would your sibling(s) describe you as a good sister? How has your relationship changed over the years?
*Note from the author: This article is dedicated to my wonderfully fun-loving and beautiful sister, Kristy. You add joy to my life constantly.
Image via Sarah Cabalka on Flickr