[This post is inspired by the Bold Boundaries Conference going on yesterday and today in Chicago! Follow along on Twitter (@Sacred_Friends) and check out the hashtag (#BoldBoundaries) to experience it for yourself!]
I need to confess that recently I told a group of guys that I was facilitating a dialogue for around the issues of pornography, lust, and dating, that we shouldn’t be in close cross-gender friendships because one of the parties is bound to be attracted to the other and wind up getting hurt.
I said it without even thinking. That’s how deeply this mentality has been ingrained into some of us.
The guys looked at me and some of them started to nod their heads. My mind was racing. “I shouldn’t have said that! Why did I say that? Well they’re nodding so it must be true of their experiences. I’m not getting any push back. I guess I’ll let it go and move on.”
Ehhhh. WRONG decision.
In my silence I perpetuated a damaging yet pervasive myth that is running rampant in our society.
Men and women cannot be friends because…
one of them will be attracted to the other…
Well, yup, you’re probably right seeing as we were wired to be attracted to people.
To be attracted to someone else is not a bad thing. In fact, it is a very good thing! It is the way God designed us. Shoot, if you aren’t attracted to the people you’re friends with, what the heck are you doing being their friend! On some level you’re attracted to them. You’re attracted to their character, their personality, and even their physical appearance. Our definition of attraction needs to be broader than romantic attraction. That is certainly one kind, but absolutely not the only kind.
Also, rest assured, attraction does not equal lust. Attraction can certainly lead to lust, if you allow yourself to go there, but that is your choice. That is every man’s choice, every woman’s choice, and everyone in between’s choice. God equipped us with our will to be able to combat our thoughts and emotions. We were not created as slaves of either.
one of them (or perhaps both of them) will get hurt…
Welcome to life post the fall of mankind.
I think it’s fairly safe to say most of us are wired to ensure our own self-preservation. I will do anything to avoid getting hurt. Following this logic, I should just remove myself from all relationships because people hurt each other. Welcome to life post the fall of mankind. This is not a unique characteristic of cross-gender relationships. The hurt can appear in unique ways perhaps in those types of relationships, but it is pain all the same.
At some point you have to decide that the potential pain is worth it. At some point I have to decide that the potential pain is worth it. For those of us who are single, cross gender relationships are not only valuable because we could potentially gain a significant other or spouse from them.
They are worth it because they are beautiful, joyous, fun, and give us a more holistic picture of God in all of his fullness. For those of us who are single, cross gender relationships are not only valuable because we could potentially gain a significant other or spouse from them.
Pain is a very real part of being human- part that we are oft too quick to run from. Sitting in pain and walking with one another through pain is one of the experiences of being human.
AND their friendship will not be able to move forward after this happens.
Come again? One of our central characteristics as Christians should be our ability to forgive one another and show one another the love and grace of God. Not that this will necessarily be a simple or easy process, and not that I’m good at it, but it should be our aim. It is what Christ is calling us to do. He does not call us to take the easy way out. It is certainly not impossible or a far-off notion. We are all human beings created in the image of God and we should seek to grow together on our journey with God and each other.
Last year I experienced this progression play out in one of my relationships. Myself and this guy were pretty good friends. I was attracted to his character, his personality, and his interests- both those that were similar to mine and those that differed. It became clear that one of us had developed feelings for the other- feelings that the other did not reciprocate. So like all mature, Spirit-led Christ followers, we talked through it, displaying Christ-like grace and love towards one another…please, who am I kidding? We booked it out of there so fast you would have thought a black bear had just awoken from hibernation and was coming after us! That’s right, we ran from the awkward, emotional mess. And I mean we ran fast. It’s been a little over a year now and we’ve talked to each other maybe two times. Both times were at events where we simply exchanged greetings. Two years of friendship over.
That, my friends, is sad and not how God would have us live or relate to one another. Even though we ran, we didn’t escape the pain of a friendship abruptly ending. Tonight, as I sit here writing this, I feel the loss of that friendship and have the desire to reconcile that relationship.
So what about you? What’s your story involving cross-gender relationships?
How has your understanding or image of God been shaped as a result of your relationships with the opposite sex?