While it took her a while to develop close friendships with women, Cathy Madavan shares why she believes they are invaluable


Truth be told, I was not exactly the popular kid growing up. In fact, I was the insecure, skinny kid with braces and super-short hair (some people thought I was actually a boy). Alongside my physical awkwardness, I couldn’t seem to access the apparent female code – the cliques, the flirtatious behaviour, the relational drama and the obsession with fashion. Indeed, during my teen years, many of my closest friends were teachers and fellow musicians (a bit nerdy I accept) or boys, who seemed so much more straightforward.

As the years progressed, I often worked with more men than women, and it wasn’t until I became a mum that I was catapulted into a more feminine world. Slowly I began to form some fantastic female friendships with motivated, feisty, godly and fun women who inspired me and welcomed me into their world. Finally, I discovered why great girl friends are indispensable. Here is what I’ve learned.

1 They share significant seasons

It takes another woman to understand certain things (and not just my shoe obsession). When it comes to the physical and emotional implications of different seasons and navigating issues such as gender bias, pregnancy, menopause, managing children or older parents and balancing a demanding career with other responsibilities, women resonate and support one another, even if our experiences differ. We get it. Frankly, we deal with a lot, and we need each other.

2 They listen with empathy

A great friend is sometimes like an excellent therapist! What a joy to know somebody who will listen, care and let you talk without rushing to resolve your problems. To be fair, I have some amazingly empathetic male friends and I’ve also been deeply hurt by both women and men over the years. But close female friends you can trust will give you the benefit of the doubt, trust you with their problems too and listen if you need them to. No friend is perfect, and no friendship is easy all the time, but faithful, empathetic friends are worth treasuring. 

“sweet friendships refresh the soul”  Proverbs 27:9

3 They don’t get bored 

It’s not that I am incredibly dull, but I have been known to externally process a lot about the minutiae of life with certain friends, such as: which colour to paint a wall (big decision), whether to get a fringe cut again (ongoing discussion) or whether flared trousers would work with a particular outfit.

Now I am sure my husband is riveted by these things (OK, he’s not at all riveted, he’s genuinely bewildered) and of course my male friends often have excellent advice to share – but would many enter a lengthy discussion about any of these mild obsessions? Unlikely. I present to you the female friend: the perfect person to babble on endlessly with.

4 They are battle-smart

I have not always found being a woman in ministry, a female author, a mum or a wife easy. Other women have experienced similar or different battles and they are now stronger and wiser as a result. Some have parented strong-willed children, empty nested, navigated testing seasons of health or relationships, and/or juggled demanding roles and survived. Women who have faced these battles have invaluable advice, wisdom and insight to share and there is huge power in realising we are not alone. 

5 They are cheerleaders

However old you are, it is all too easy to fall into the female comparison trap. Other people seem determined to grade our looks or our intelligence – and we sometimes do the same to ourselves. Indeed, advertisers spend billions targeting our perceived need to self-improve so it is not a surprise that our self-esteem can be damaged as a result.

A good friend is the perfect antidote to the world’s relentless messages. How precious is a friend who might kindly tell us the truth if we need to hear it, but who also celebrates with us, cheers us on and wants the best for us. Proverbs 27:9 says: “sweet friendships refresh the soul” (The Message) and I couldn’t agree more.

So, why not take a moment to thank your soul-refreshing female friends for being fabulous. After all, what would life be like without them?