I was at a party one night and different people were performing on stage. I can still remember the room was dark and I was sitting on a couch next to my friend when two guys strolled onto the stage. The shorter one had chestnut hair, green eyes, and a contagiously flashy smile. The way he sang I felt like he was singing to me. Then he flipped off his backwards hat and chucked it at the crowd, it hit me in the foot. What was I to do? This was fate. So I casually picked them up and, when he sat down, I asked if he wanted them back. “Keep them,” he had laughed and then “They were from WalMart.” I faked offense. At the end of the night he approached me and asked for my name so he could find me on Facebook. The next day a friend request was waiting for me and in the days that followed there were phone calls, Facebook chats, and hanging out. He seemed to be chasing me and I was enjoying it. But then he started telling me about other girls he liked and talking about how we were “just friends.” What had I missed?
Have you ever gotten into that weird situation where someone misconstrues what you meant as friendliness as something more? Or what about the situation where you think he/she is SO interested only to have them tell you that they’re just trying to be “friendly”? Why does this happen? Where’s the line?
I asked many young christians I know these very questions. Surprisingly I got many vague responses. A majority of young people do not know where the line is, they do not know if there is an actual line. Many thought it depended on the situation. In young people’s own words, “everyone perceives ‘signals’ differently when it comes to this kind of stuff”, ” I am not sure that there is a clear definitive line, it is unique in each situtation”, “It’s an ambiguous line” and “sometimes the line between friends and more can be rather blurry.” So I hope in these next few paragraphs I can shed some light on this topic for you young people who desire to honor God in your treatment of people you are not dating.
Here’s what God says, and please keep in mind that the Bible does not specifically address every modern situation but rather addresses general truths. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” (Galatians 5:13) What does this mean in regards to flirting? In my opinion, some Christians use “brotherly love” as an excuse to be intimate with someone of the opposite sex and indeed “indulge the sinful nature.” So if that’s not love, what is? “Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:6-7) I think the crux of the flirtiness/friendliness issue is honesty. You are not being straight up with your intentions and it will result in a lack of honesty. But love “rejoices with the truth.” What else does God say about our interactions with our fellow believers in terms of honesty? “Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to his neighbor, for we are all members of one body.” (Eph 4:25)
If you are really honest with yourself, you’ll see that those times where you lead on your brother or sister, you were looking to boost your pride. You liked the attention, and you were getting some sort of benefit. But God wants us to treat others “in brotherly love” and then the Bible goes on to clarify what that means, “Honor one another above yourselves.” (Romans 12:10) To truly love we must put our brothers’ and sisters’ needs above our own. To do this we must stop crossing boundaries that could hurt them and stop treating eachother so cavalierly. So we’ve been told not to make our brother stumble, “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God…For I am not seeking my own good but the good of many.” (1 Corninthians 10:32-33) What behaviors are leading to this? Which ones should we stop?
First of all let’s define the boundaries of “flirting”; something that we should avoid with people we are not interested in being in a long term relationship with. As Tyler said, “Flirting is purposefully trying to keep someone’s attention because you find them attractive.” So what behaviors should we avoid? According to young Christians spending time alone (just the two of you) is a big issue. Rachel asserted that, “Time spent alone is tricky in my mind because I would say that shouldn’t be happening at all, because that can be very misleading.” I know exactly what she’s talking about, as soon as doing something together becomes just the two of you, it adds a stigma to the whole situation. Also, there is no accountability. A lot can happen alone that cannot happen with others present. Even if it is not a stumbling block for either person involved we should still “abstain from all appearance of evil.” (1 Thessalonians 5:22)
When it comes to communication, things are much different than even a decade ago. If you wanted to communicate with a guy or girl, you’d have to call her or his house and talk with their parents first. Now, it’s easy to find them on Facebook, Instant Messanger, Skype or text their cell phone. What do we do with all this technology? How do we use it without abusing it? Erin, wisely noted that, “When a guy asks me for my number and makes an obvious attempt to communicate with me through phonecalls, IM, texting, etc. outside of just when we would normally see each other, I tend to take it as a hint that he’s interested. Also, if he invites me to a lot of things.” If you find yourself making a huge effort to communicate to a particular guy or girl that you’re not interested in, then take a step back. Some would say that they need to communicate extremely frequently with a person just to know if they like this individual. I say, that’s ridiculous! You can tell a lot about a person’s character by interactions in public and group settings without texting, calling, Facebooking all the time. Again, with all this technology, there is no accountability. I find that it’s a lot easier to type or text things I would never say to someone’s face. This can be dangerous to this generation. So, I urge you, think to yourself, would I say this outloud? or even say it outloud before you hit ‘enter’ or ‘send.’ Michele shared about her personal experience with abused technology, pertaining to a guy at work who told her that he wanted to be “really good friends” but then he was “constantly texting me and saying things like ‘i really miss you!’ and all the while he had a girlfriend.” Clifford, also had a story about constant communication getting him into trouble, “in eleventh grade I started talking to this girl even though I had a girlfriend already and I ended up cheating on her, we hung out all the time… talked on the phone every night.” Excessive communication is not a good thing.
How should we compliment the opposite gender? Or should we at all? I think we can all agree that it’s very exciting to be noticed in a positive way from the opposite gender. But as with everything, there is a line. Erin said, “I think girls tend to take comments about their appearance as an indicator that a guy is interested.” In this particular category, guys need to be more careful than girls. This is because girls have a desire to be told that they’re beautiful and guys are generally unaware of appearance changes. As Erin goes on to say, “Guys who aren’t interested normally won’t notice if you chop off half your hair or spend 20 hours curling it just right. If they do, they’ll just say something like, ‘woah… you got a haircut…'” and Carissa said, “it depends on what type of compliment it is….for example ‘I like your shirt’ simply means that. If you say something like ‘you have beautiful eyes’, a girl would most likely take it as some interest.” On the other hand, Caleb pointed out that, “some guys say things out of being nice, there is no motive behind any of [it].” And Peter said that, “we should… build up our brothers and sisters in Christ, reminding them that they have value and worth and are loved by the King so that they don’t go looking elsewhere for cheap love.” These are good points, so where is the line? I would say that guys should stay away from compliments that focus on a girl’s physical appearance. And girls should stay away from phrases like “You’re so strong,” and “Wow! What bulging muscles you have.” But we do have an obligation to exhort one another in Christ. If you’re trying to reaffirm someone’s value and worth in God then there should be no attempt to “keep someone’s attention [on yourself] because you find them attractive” going back to our original definition of flirting.
When it comes to physical contact I know this can be highly contended. Some people feel that if it is their love language then they are not doing anything wrong, while others believe that young people should never touch. My personal belief is somewhere in the middle. As I’ve grown older I see the wisdom in side hugs, high fives, and not much else. Holding hands in our culture implies commitment, guys picking girls up is a bad idea, and kissing is definitely out. But don’t take it from me, Rachel said, “I don’t really see much of a need for any physical contact…Not that we need to avoid all contact, but cut back on the unnecessary stuff.” And Ricky said that, “If a girl is flirting and touchy with every guy, and claims she is just “friendly”, then I normally just don’t even pay attention. I basically take that as a huge ‘do not get involved with this girl’ sign, though.” So girls, you want a godly man who will cherish you? Well, flirting and being overly physical with guys you’re not dating will actually turn the godly men away from you. And guys, if you want a godly woman who will respect you then don’t go touching every cute girl you know, the godly ones won’t be attracted to you.
Another thing that people need to be careful about is giving and receiving comfort from the opposite gender. When someone needs comfort they are more vulnerable and they are more likely to get emotionally and physically attached to their comforter. Likewise, the person who is comforting will get emotionally and physically involved. So in being careful, try to tell your emotionally charged stories to someone of the same gender and redirect friends of the opposite gender who need to be held and listened to.
So in lieu of all these lines we can draw in our friendships I hope clarity was brought to the situation. Maybe there were some points that you had not considered that you can be more sensitive to now. I’m not saying that every time these lines get crossed a person is sinning but I have thought hard about these and I think you should consider them. I’m not the ultimate authority on this, Cassy said that, “God can give us the wisdom we need to discern between friendships and ‘something more.'” Please listen to God and protect yourself and your friends. The important thing I want you to take from this article is that there is a way to glorify God in how we treat our brothers and sisters. “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” Galatians 5:13