My junior year in college I served in an organization with a girl, we will just call this girl Dora, and Dora was funny. We served together every week, and we enjoyed each other’s company. We would hang out with other friends, go to dinner with friends, and genuinely cared for each other. We were both single, and we were completely content with that. However, our friends were not. They noticed that we laughed together, shared stories together, and were developing a strong friendship.
Many of you know the feeling; the push from the culture to date. My friends would always comment to me, “I don’t understand why you don’t just date her, it just makes sense.” The problem for Dora and myself is that we were friends, and staying in that place was ideal.
As a college minister, it is my joy to meet with several guys a week, and in those meetings numerous topics come up; everything from roommates, jobs, school, family, but the one that comes up more often than not is how to be friends with the opposite sex.
Is it even possible to “just be friends” with the opposite sex? If so, why is it so difficult?
The Awkward Turtle
First, we have to admit something that lies deep within the soul of every guy. We. Are. Awkward. We simply just do not know how to have a normal conversation with someone from the opposite sex. You know that moment when you see that girl at Bible Study, she speaks a word to you, and your response is, “my, um, day was good.” Quickly followed by an, “okay, see ya later,” as you scamper off to your dude click.
The problem is twofold:
- Internet, gaming, and pornography.
I recently heard a talk by Philip Zimbardo entitled, “The demise of guys?” You can look up his talk online, and, although I don’t endorse everything he says, I think he brings to light some important information. Internet, gaming, and pornography are arousal addictions that make you excited to engage in them. By the time a guy is 21, he will have played 10,000 hours of video games. He also claims that a college-aged male watches an average of 50 clips of porn a week. Let that blow your mind. I am not sure of his sources, but it is scary enough that I don’t think that he is unreasonable in suggesting such a high number. We are constantly updating our twitter feed, watching the next episode on Netflix, and staying up until 2 A.M living in the fantasy world of that video game. Zimbardo claims that all of this has contributed to the idea that, as guys, we no longer know how to interact with the opposite sex in a normal setting.
- Pressures within the culture of Christianity
I spend the majority of my time on the campus of the University of Mary Hardin-Baylor, and in my experience (like the one I shared before), there is a sense of “I have to find my future spouse before I graduate or I am a failure at life.” With this kind of mentality it makes it difficult to simply. “be friends” with someone from the opposite sex, because of the social pressures of finding that spouse and living happily ever after. When it comes to being friends with the opposite sex, may I make one suggestion?
A lot of this can be solved with a simple look at what scripture says about singleness. With the pressures of arousal and a “I gotta find my spouse” mindset, it can be easy to think that the purpose of our singleness is to figure out who we are going to marry. This is very dangerous territory. This can introduce a lifestyle of relationship brokenness, going from girl to girl, simply because they did not live up to your expectations of a wife; meanwhile, leaving a trail of sin and brokenness as see out your goal of finding a wife while you are single. Paul addresses singleness in 1 Corinthians 7
I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to please the Lord. But the married man is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried or betrothed woman is anxious about the things of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit. But the married woman is anxious about worldly things, how to please her husband. I say this for your own benefit, not to lay any restraint upon you, but to promote good order and to secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.
(1 Corinthians 7:32-35 ESV)
To summarize, your singleness is to “secure your undivided devotion to the Lord.” So relax. When you enter into a conversation with a girl, don’t let the pressures of finding a spouse rule you. Your devotion is to the Lord, and therefore, it’s okay to be “just friends.”
Okay, so what do I do?
- Clarity Always be clear about your intentions. This is both with word and actions. Dora and I had made it clear that neither of us had interest in dating, and our actions reflected that. We were not texting all day, hanging out alone, or talking late into the night. All of those are red flags for emotional connections. The last thing your want to do in the murky waters of opposite sex friendship is to mislead someone into thinking that something is more than it actually is.
- Stick With A Group Develop friendship under the protection of a group. It is easier to protect yourself from getting too emotionally connected or letting your mind wander when you are with friends.
- Autonomy What do I mean by that? Girlfriend or not, you are not her leader. A girl is led by two people: 1. Her Father. 2. Her Husband. Reality check: you are neither. The Bible defines her as your “sister.” So that’s how you treat her. You treat her with gentleness, brotherly love, and respect.
A side note: if you are in a dating relationship, she is not “your” girlfriend. She is not “your” anything. You have no ownership over her at all. You have no commitment to each other until you are married. So relax. Don’t try to pull things from your “significant other” that you only receive from God. God is the only One who can satisfy you, and therefore, use this time in your life to be undistracted from your devotion to the Lord.