Things have changed, and our attitudes have changed. Once we enter the teenaged years, we’re bombarded with various aspects of maintaining friendships with those of the opposite gender, some good and some bad. The topic of interaction between guys and girls is a hot topic that generally gets tossed into either one extreme camp or the other. In the end, youth end up with a lot of wrong assumptions and beliefs about how guys and girls should interact. So today, we’re going to look at a way to hopefully dispel some of those myths you might have grown up with.
Let’s start with revealing the opposite camps. The first one we have is that every guy or girl we come across is potential dating material, so always keep it in the back of your brain that they might just like you. The second is that you should never, ever look at a guy or girl, think about them, and don’t even think about talking to them. Guys and girls should never interact with each other, as it leads to imminent sin and thus defiling their purity and righteousness. We'll cover the second one in the next part.
You probably fall under one of these categories, or at least a form of them, whether you realize it or not. I’ve heard countless testimonies of girls who talk the talk of keeping to a courtship-only, uber-purity philosophy, and then turn around and gab about who’s cute and who they like. Even those who claim to believe a certain thing find that often, in their heart of hearts, they have a different leaning.
We all have a natural draw toward the opposite gender in these years. It's the way God made us. And those feelings will be handled, one way or the other. Sadly, many times they are either shaken up and let loose for a flirting spree or bottled up in the form of very little or completely non-existent interaction with the other gender. While both of these ways have certain pros and cons (which we will enumerate below), neither one is particularly healthy.
Why does this happen? Most of the time it comes from what we’ve grown up hearing. We learn to obey our parents in every aspect of life when we’re young, and as we grow older, we begin to decide things for ourselves, and determine what we personally believe about various things in life. Usually our ideas about guy/girl interaction stimulates from these teachings. If you grow up with the idea that all guys are potential husbands, then you’re most likely to still hold to that when you’re in your teen years. If you grow up learning that you must never look at a girl because it will degrade your purity, you’re more likely than not to continue to think that it’s true throughout your teen years. Now, don’t take this as your parents don’t know what they’re thinking so spurn their advice and instruction and listen to what is being said here. Take everything you hear with a grain of salt.
So let’s focus on the pros and cons of the first camp to start with. I’m not going to condemn you if you fall under this line of thinking, but I’m going to take you through a logical examination of the good, the bad, and the ugly of this philosophy. Please listen and honestly consider your own life in how you deal with the other gender.
You’ve met them before. The sometimes come in the form of girls who are “just friends”, while quite obviously crushing on that guy they spend so much time with. They sometimes come in the form of the guy who’s constantly trying to get the girls’ attention on the basketball court or the football field. Whatever package they come in, you’ve seem them; they’re quite common. These are the people who look at every guy and girl as someone they could end up dating, or [in their fanciful, wild imagination of high-school-sweetheart-happy-endings] wind up marrying. Every guy and girl is examined through the lenses of “might I want to date them?” and therefore treated as such. And as a result, every “friendship” is formed from back-and-forth flirting.
What’s wrong with this picture? The verse that typically gets thrown out from the opposing side of the opposite camp is “treat younger men as brothers … and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity” found in 1 Timothy 5. Being that this is in scripture, we’ll take a look at it for a minute. “Treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters.” (Those of you who aren’t privileged to have one, pretend you have a brother and sister for a moment.) Do you look at your brother and think, “Oh my word, he is so cute, I wonder if he’s looking at me”? Do you try to flirt with your brother and try to get him to notice you and flirt back? (Please say no…) The same principle applies with you guys. Boys, please tell me you don’t try to draw the eye of your sister in an inappropriate way.
Where does the “with absolute purity” fit in here? Does this mean we have to be religious prudes who walk around never smiling at a guy or girl because it might not be “with absolute purity”? Of course not. To do so would be falling under the other camp of which we’ll get into in just a minute. To treat every girl and guy with absolute purity, a rather frequently brought up principle is to treat every guy and girl like they were your own brother or sister. Don’t flirt with them unless you’d flirt with your own sister. Don’t stare at them wistfully from across the room unless you’d do that to your own brother. Don't make comments to other people about their "hotness" unless you'd do that to your own sibling (which you'd better not). Which you hopefully wouldn’t, so you shouldn’t have to worry about the fine line of it then!
Now, I said I would address pros and cons, and all I’ve covered so far is the cons. The pros – one day, you will most likely meet a girl or guy that you will end up marrying. And it has to start with a friendship somehow. So while we should not go looking for “friends” to examine them as potential spouses, it shouldn’t exactly be thrown to the curb, especially if you’re older, that a guy or girl you meet might not one day be your spouse. I say this with a sense of wariness – please don’t think “oh, I wonder if I might end up marrying them” as you go about making friends. But you’re not going to have a Disney princess moment of suddenly falling madly in love with the guy/girl of your dreams, and automatically knowing that they are the one. Keep this in contrast with a point I’m going to make about the opposite camp in regard to viewing each guy and girl as a potential spouse.
In a capsule, consider your own friendships with the opposite gender. Do you value them as friends, not as prospective dates? Do you sincerely enjoy their company and learn from them and with them, not simply hang out for the attention they give? Are you handling your friendships in a wise, Biblical manner?