So this has easily been the most popular, most viewed and maybe the most shared blog series I’ve written so far but following a few conversations with readers, I’ve been wondering for a while whether or not to write a final follow-up piece to close out the series and answer a couple common questions I’ve encountered. If you’re reading this, I guess I went for it. If you haven’t kept up and you don’t want to be confused, I’d recommend you head back to Part 1 and Part 2 before reading this conclusion!
This series has been intentionally over-simplified because the counter arguments are hugely pronounced in our culture. I don’t wish to disregard any of the often painful and confusing experiences people have had that have shaped their thinking on this topic. My thoughts are largely based on my own experiences too (which means they might not be correct or helpful). Although I wholeheartedly believe that guys and girls can and should be great friends (with no funny business), I do think you can put unhealthy pressure on these friendships. I think I also agree that “Best Friends and Spouses are Made Up of the Same Stuff” and so I think this calls for wisdom. Friendship between guys and girls can be a powerful agent of growth in our lives but I’d like to take a little time to try and offer some non-exhaustive thoughts and just generally bring balance to everything I’ve said in this accidental series.
I’d definitely love to hear your thoughts and I think others might benefit from your hilarious/heart-breaking stories and experiences of this in the comments section below, on Facebook or in person!
So after a super long intro, let’s jump in!
Your Heart Is Not Nearly as Clever as You Think
There’s a lot of reasons that Proverbs 4:23 (and our youth leaders) tell us to guard our hearts but I don’t think it’s simply to protect them from potential attack. I’m sure you’ll agree that our hearts are often far more like toddlers on E-Numbers than the wise, all-knowing philosophers we pretend they are and so guarding them sometimes means keeping them from running blindly into traffic chasing a ball, biting the neighbour’s dog or trying to catch a flame and take it home.
The world teaches us to “follow our heart” and to trust that it will always let us know when things are right or wrong. A quick glance at the Cross should cure us of that fantasy.
There is probably no one on the planet who has lied to you more than your own heart has and so, although disregarding it altogether is equally as ridiculous, giving it the driver’s seat and making it the navigator is also a really bad idea. When it comes to being friends with the opposite sex, we do need to be wise. Knowing your own heart and being honest with yourself and with God is important too. Just because someone else is able to have tonnes of close friends of the opposite sex, doesn’t actually mean you should too. But if you do, the next point might be helpful for you.
“There is probably no one on the planet who has lied to you more than your heart has…”
The Wise Man Didn’t Build His House Next to the Cliffs…
If you build a fence right next to a cliff edge, accidentally falling over the fence will kill you but if you build a fence a small distance away from the cliff, a slight fall doesn’t have to be fatal. You can still recover. It’s important that we set boundaries in our own lives for our friendships in order to protect them and ourselves. Although I don’t believe that every friendship between a guy and a girl is teetering on the cliff of wild romance, I do think that there’s obviously some things you can do that give a friendship the Spartan treatment.
Talking for hours late at night, cuddling up to watch a movie or regularly going out alone together on “non-dates” are great ways to blur the lines of friendship and shotgun mixed signals all over the place! Your guy friends are not your stand-in boyfriends until someone better comes along so don’t treat them that way (same goes for us fellas). It’s also important to remember that people think very differently about what’s acceptable behaviour in a friendship. The next thought might be good to put into practice before things get weird…
Hinting is the Weakest Form of Communication
We don’t protect our friendships out of fear, we protect them because we value our friends. One of the simplest tools for protecting our friendships with the opposite sex is clarity. You know, like, actually saying stuff! Be clear! There are good ways and bad ways of doing this though. The good ways tend to require courage and display honour, the bad ways tend to lack honour and display cowardice. I once sent a mass text message to all of the girls on a Christian team I was going to be part of for a year to let them know that I wasn’t romantically interested in any of them because I thought ONE of them might like me. I wouldn’t recommend that! Unless you want to be reminded of it for years to come or you want hilariously awkward stories to use as ice breakers at dinner parties!
Come on, don’t make it weird but don’t be afraid of being “too clear” either. Clarity protects hearts, displays value and can save friendships. Some people just don’t get the subtle hints you’re sending and so you may need to honour that person and their heart by clearly Defining the Relationship. Don’t become a weirdo who screams “GET BACK IN THE FRIEND ZONE!!” whenever you feel a friend might be developing feelings for you or ideas about your friendship. I’ve tried it, it’s no fun. Instead try to have a mature conversation about it before it becomes an issue. If you’re the one with the feelings, don’t wait until you’re drunk in love and about to burst before saying something. A strong friendship can probably handle a light tap from some misplaced feelings but it’s a lot more difficult if your heart is on steroids.
“We don’t protect our friendships out of fear, we protect them because we value our friends. Clarity protects hearts, displays value and can save friendships.”
Hollywood Has Lied to You About Your Feelings
You know how you believe that the fact you have feelings for someone means something deep and significant? Like, that maybe this was “meant to be” or that they must be The One, or that you have to explore this and take a chance on love? The heart wants what it wants right? That seemingly simple belief continues to assassinate countless marriages with spouses who meet someone else they have a spark with! Don’t be another victim!
I remember when I was about 18 and I decided not to rush into a relationship for no reason. Having been to an all boys’ school for 7 years, I somehow moved to a university to study a course that seemed to be 80% female and I just realised something. Girls are pretty. And that’s ok! It doesn’t really mean anything. Most of my friends at uni were attractive, fun-loving, intelligent, wonderful women! The killer combination! If I’d been an adherent to the Hollywood religion, I’d have been done for, wrecking all my friendships thinking I have to push for more! Instead I got to have some great, life-enriching friendships with some awesome people, some of whom I’ve kept in touch with.
Your heart and your feelings are not as wild and uncontrollable as you may prefer to think (especially with self-control as a fruit of the Spirit!). Come on, let’s be honest. You feed an obsession and it grows. That friend who became a crush who became a stalkee, it wasn’t a totally random accident was it? You spent hours scrolling through their facebook pictures and posts. You threw open the gates of your heart and bore your soul to them and it felt good for someone to see you and accept you. You spent hours on the phone or in the pub or on some kind of instant messenger. You fed those emotions until they were strong enough to overpower your better judgement. Maybe just stop it? A wise man once told me that we make a decision and then our emotions follow the decision we made. Regardless of what the world teaches us, we are not ruled by our emotions. Let’s make wise decisions that honour God and each other.
Vulnerability is a Choice, Never a Right
Treating others as you would like to be treated does not mean that others will actually treat you that way. That also applies to vulnerability. I see a lot of friendships get weird because one person wants to bear their soul to another person to feel connected to someone and they then expect that person to reciprocate by also divulging the inner workings of their heart. When that doesn’t happen, one person feels short-changed and exposed and the other feels pressured and manipulated.
Opening your heart to people and making yourself vulnerable can be a great and healthy practice in the right context but it’s always your choice to share your heart. Shared vulnerability produces intimacy and too much intimacy in a friendship between a guy and a girl isn’t clever.
This is another place setting healthy boundaries comes in. Having areas of your heart and topics of conversation that aren’t just open to anyone, particularly people of the opposite sex. Having boundaries also means we need to respect the boundaries of others. As a very controversial author once wrote: “Intimacy is the reward of commitment.” Vulnerability has to be a choice or it loses its value. Forcing emotional intimacy is no more acceptable than forcing physical intimacy.
Planning for Marriage
As the Relevant Magazine article said best friends and spouses tend to be made of the same stuff and so I think having a best friend of the opposite sex is pretty silly for a load of reasons but the one I’m thinking of now is marriage. If you’re planning to get married and your best and closest friend is of the opposite sex, your friendship will have to change pretty dramatically in order to not make marriage super-weird. You could end up losing a friend altogether. I really don’t know much about this so that’s all I’ll say on that topic. Feel free to contribute!
Phew! All that being said, they do say that love is friendship set on fire. Sometimes feelings are going to develop and sometimes it’s not the worst thing in the world. Don’t make it weird but this is true. If you get on well with someone and you have similar passions and you find them attractive, you just might develop some feelings. Let’s be mature and value one another with honesty.
I’ll end with the words of Paul the apostle to the Romans:
“Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.” – Romans 12:9-10
Thanks for reading! Do share your thoughts in the comments below or on Facebook and be sure to check the related articles, blogs and funny videos too!
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