5.19.2004

Wisdom from community

In view of the Christian community--and from the married types particularly--is it possible and realistic to think that cross-gender friendships are effective and appropriate? I'm suffering from a bit of "When-Harry-Met-Sally-Met-Joshua Harris" (Harris wrote the Christian popular "I Kissed Dating Goodbye" book...) CAN CHRISTIAN MEN AND WOMEN BE JUST FRIENDS WITH ALL THE INTEGRITY OF HONORING EACH OTHER AS SIBLINGS IN CHRIST AND NOT HAVE THAT SEEN AS SOME ANOMILY THAT UNDERMINES MARRIAGE OR IS A "SECOND-BEST" LIFE AS A SINGLE PERSON? I am beyond tired of the rant that says if you aren't married you're less than a person--and that's prevalent in the Christian church--not of course by public proclamation, but by constant subtleties that omit participation by singles in the vibrant life of the church. (Take this with a grain of which churches I've experienced salt). However, I am a person with a long history of both female and male friendships that until recently haven't seemed a big issue in how we've related...I realize that relationships change significantly between married and single people on sheer dynamics of life levels and that's fine. I also realize that I (and we all) are people created for relationships--and I struggle as a single female with an almost entirely set of married friends to figure out how to "do community" well. This rant comes from opening this can of worms with a male friend tonight, as we discuss what are appropriate ways for us to interact, as members of the same fellowship group (fairly small) and among the singles in the group. Our ideas differ significantly: his coming from a more conservative zone where potentially very little is "safe" about the ways men and women relate beyond superficial conversation; mine coming from an apparently more liberal zone of if I like someone and we share some interests, we'll be friends and while some "levels" or topics of conversation are "off limits," we can have a significant and real interaction that is deeper than surface level but not emotionally inappropriate. So, now in quasi-desperation, I seek more input. Thoughts on Christian cross-gendered non-married friendships? I welcome anything at this point to help me gain a right and godly perspective...

3 Comments:

Blogger Scott Sloan said...

Michelle,

You are right this is a "touchy subject" and you'll find different perspectives all over the map.

I believe that men and women can be brother/sister in christ and have a meaningful platonic friendship without any of the sexual/erotic overtones. However, boundaries do need to be in place, and unfortunately everyone has different levels of boundaries. Some people are more open about who they are, while others are more private. Some people believe that if their is an interest between two parties and their seems to be a natural connection involved, the "Harry Met Sally Syndrome" is possible. Others believe that one can have a good meaningful friendship without the "Harry Met Sally Syndrome" affecting their friendship with the opposite gender.

Things to consider when developing healthy heterosexual friendships.

1) Has your friend of the opposite sex been healed of any old wounds and scars that affect your friendship with them?

2) How are they affected by "pop culture" which eroticizes everything?

3) How well do they give their desires to God, and how do they deal with their lonliness issues?

To conclude, I believe that someone can have a meaningful, healthy friendship with the opposite gender even when a party may have feelings for the other individual. First, crossing the boundary from friendship to possible marriage/dating is in the arena where the Lord will direct the couple. Second, as a person grows more intimate with another person, feelings could develop. Feelings and emotions communicate what is going on in the heart, yet feelings come and go.

5/20/2004 11:08 AM  
Blogger e said...

i completely understand your frustration--as as married guy.

obviously the answer has to be related to the people involved. i think there's a problem when you're afraid to introduce other person to spouse, for fear that spouse will react negatively or make you stop hanging out. two reasons there could be a problem:

1. "perfect love drives out fear" --in a trusting marital relationship, there shouldn't be fear about adultery unless the spouse is divulging marital secrets or spending a huge amount of intimate time with this other person. if there is fear, there needs to be more work on the relationship. more trust perhaps.
2. if you aren't trying to bring this person into the two-person community of your marriage, you're not utilizing marriage as a God-given tool.

ultimately, i would say that opposite-sex friendships with single or marrieds is an excellent thing--you don't want the only other woman or man that you know to be your spouse.

if there is a history of cheating, untrustworthiness, etc., then all bets are off and you have to build that trust up.

so to your question: "CAN CHRISTIAN MEN AND WOMEN BE JUST FRIENDS WITH ALL THE INTEGRITY OF HONORING EACH OTHER AS SIBLINGS IN CHRIST AND NOT HAVE THAT SEEN AS SOME ANOMILY THAT UNDERMINES MARRIAGE OR IS A "SECOND-BEST" LIFE AS A SINGLE PERSON?" i would have to say "yes" but it takes work. the first thing to do is have the other spouse involved in that relationship too.

5/20/2004 3:58 PM  
Blogger df said...

michelle,

i dont know if you're single or married. but my 2 cents
for some reason varies wildly on that circumstance.

if you were single, i would (perhaps wrongly) enourage
a haphazard or "liberal" approach that downplays all
the pretense and just deals with stuff as it comes. so
he may come to like you. . . or vice versa. you communicate, and deal.

if you were married, i really don't know what to say
other than i wouldent be haphazard about that. as
singles may develop into lovers quite rightfully so, a married and another obviously best not.

i want to conclude by saying i am completly morally
and thoughtfully unqualified to give advice of this
nature.

5/20/2004 10:46 PM  

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