Just Friends

7:30 AM



If the filmmaker asked you, what would you say?

It's the question every young woman breathlessly wonders: Is it possible for guys and girls to be "just friends"? On the one hand, some of us would like to say no, for the simple fact that it would double upcoming marriages. Obviously, men were made to be married. Or gushed at. On the other hand (and hopefully on a couple feet, too), we want to say please, yes -- it would make life so much simpler.

I find this video very fascinating on many different levels. All the girls said yes. All the guys said no. The question begs itself: Are all women obtuse in affection and are all men driven solely by physical attraction? And I wonder if the answers would vary more if asked in a Christian setting, where physical attraction is not trumpeted as a virtuous instigator of "hooking up." In other words, is it a natural drive or a cultivated drive? (And am I the only one who noticed that every single person could easily fall into the beautiful/handsome category? Perhaps the story might be different if a more diverse and less physically attractive bunch had been interviewed.)

If one reads conservative books and articles regarding love and courtship, she comes away with the impression that girls have this irrepressible drive to marry -- that they are desperately unable to control their crushes, that it's an incredibly awkward thing to talk to a guy and an even more incredible sin to befriend him. I always thought that this was primarily a Female Thing.

Interesting how every girl said yes -- even after admitting the supposed admiration.

I would have said yes too. As a general rule of thumb, guy-girl relationships are more nuanced than girl-to-girl friendships or guy-to-guy friendships. To deny any difference between the sexes is to walk in denial. It's plain ignorant. It buys trouble. And so is denying the possibility of guy-girl platonic friendships "under any circumstances." (He regretfully forgot to interview me.)

If we followed the logic of this video (and other well-meaning teachers), every single young man I have ever befriended has a secret crush on me. Every one. Even if he has other female friends, apparently -- I take precedence. Unless men keep separate yet equal affections going at the same time.

I can cede the rarity of a guy and a girl meeting and not having any subtle questions and curiosities as to whether (s)he is The One. The impossibility? I can't agree. One of my best camp friends was a guy -- a guy with a girlfriend. Never once did this issue of awkwardness, of curiosity, of anything other than mutual likes come between us. I like to think there was more to our friendship than the fact of him thinking me pretty. I have many other guy friends I hit it off with -- mostly because we're all obsessed with theology and controversy and randomness. Not physical attraction. And these aren't group circle relationships: we care about each other, we pray for one another, we love each other because our friendship has never been based on the fact that we're the opposite gender or that it takes one guy and one girl (hint hint) to fall in love. We like each other for who we are, not who we might become.

At one point, I didn't believe this. For one thing, I didn't think it was humanly (or rather womanly) possible. For another, I didn't know if it was right.

There are some strange ideas floating about regarding the interactions of guys and girls, which, if you will permit me, I will bunny trail off to in a moment. Most are based in general truths; most set rules where none should be and do not place boundaries where boundaries should go. The idea that mere friendship between a guy and a girl is a sacred thing only to be reserved for marriage. The idea that not talking to boys somehow decreases the attraction of us to them and vice versa. The idea that purity involves cold shoulders and closed hearts. The idea that controlling outward friendships will inevitably control inward feelings.

If you've ever pined from a distance, you know that one well.

I do not only believe that it is possible or permissible to befriend gentlemen, to care about them as brothers and to talk about more than the weather, but that is an absolute mandate. We are to love -- in purity. We are to care -- in purity. We are to encourage -- in purity. Because some male-female interactions may have to be curtailed or abandoned altogether does not mean that all of them must be scrapped. All this of course must been done in genuine love and in genuine purity, a love and a purity that sets boundaries if need be and breaks them down if more beneficial.

Ironically, love is the only thing that keeps pure intergenderational friendships going. It isn't based on physical attraction. It isn't based on selfishness, self-interest or a wild desire for a match unmade in heaven. It is based on what any other friendship is based on: mutual interest, common goals, pure affection. If it isn't based on that, it isn't friendship, it isn't love, and it's best to leave that alone.

It must start and stop at the heart level. Even with strict standards on courtship and friendship, a girl can be secretly "impure" in the sense many advocates put it -- crushing on every known male, discontent with her lot, obsessive about a certain young man from a distance. She can harm a brother in Christ more by giving a cold shoulder and a curt remark to the offer of friendship than by being genuine. And it's so awkward to see some girls interact with guys -- as if it's a great abnormality or a guilty pleasure to be talking to a BOY. I think that is more unloving and attention-drawing than "more extreme" measures (like saying hello first). It's also very possible, if my life is any indication, that rules are more lax than conscience: there is a way to get around any external rule possible but very few when one's heart is set in love and purity beyond outward standards.

Paradoxically I feel that my friendships with guys has lessened my tendency to crush randomly in a far greater way than reading up on how to do it (with the detachable list of rules in the back). Not that standards aren't good. But I feel now that I have grasped the heart of those standards -- love and purity. I see guys as friends, brothers in Christ, people -- not potential suitors, not objects of affection, not handsome faces.

Can men and women be friends? Yes. I believe they can.

If not, I'm wearing a burka for the rest of my life.

NOTE: Each woman, each man and each situation is different. There is no one size fits all approach to friendship with the opposite sex, but that does not mean that boundaries and standards do not come into play. It is a brave girl who knows her own heart in regards to her true feelings toward men (or a man) and acts on it. This post is to probe that understanding -- merely to challenge whether our preconceived ideas of "purity" are really stemmed from lust, obsession or misunderstanding rather than from genuine love and purity. I'd love to hear your opinions and experiences on this topic!

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22 impressions

  1. Well...

    *sticks neck out*

    The reason I would be "just friends" with a young man would probably be because there was something about him that would not let me let the relationship get any closer than that.

    If I was friends with a guy that was all the right things that I would love in a husband, it would be a lot harder for me to be "just friends".

    My two cents! :D
    ~Julia

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  2. Very interesting post. I think you are absolutely right that your friendships with guys probably helps you avoid randomly crushing on every male you meet.

    I disagree with the filmaker on two points. 1. He assumes that because the girls said the guys they were friends with were attracted to them that nullifies their initial answer that guys and girls could be just friends. I don't think it does. A pure friendship benefits both members in all sorts of ways that have nothing to do with physical attraction. The fact that those boys may also be physically attracted to those girls does not mean they are getting nothing out of the friendship and that it is "one way" as the filmaker said. I also do not believe that being physically attracted to someone interferes with the ability to be friends with them. There are guys I know that I can objectively say are "attractive", but nothing in me - not deep down and hidden and not on the surface - is actually "attracted" to these men in the sense that there is no part of me that wants to be romantically physically affectionate with them. I am married. The only man I am attracted to is my husband. It's not that I successfully resist temptation or anything - I simply do not want anyone else.

    That leads to my second point of disagreement with the filmmaker. You pointed out that all the interviewees were attractive. What I noticed was that they were all college-age and single. Regardless of what their conscious goals were, the primary driving force of their lives at that point is to find a mate. That's just biology. I will acknowledge that it may be much harder to have platonic friendships between men and women if both the man and the woman are young, single, adults. I continute to maintain that I was friends with my husband before I was romantically involved with him. Yes, I would have answered that he was attracted to me and would have "hooked up" with me when we were "just friends", but I do not believe that negates our friendship. Nor, do I believe the fact that we eventually ended up married means we weren't really friends or not "just friends" before. However, the filmaker would probably argue against me. A more conclusive argument on the basis of time in life is that I now have at least one male friend who would agree that we are "just friends". I know this because I have heard him say it. He is married to a lovely woman and they have three beautiful children. We are friends - we care about each other and also care about each others families - we work together, talk together about things both work-related and not, and also play cards and have fun. We are friends, and just friends.

    Adele

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  3. This is such a great post! I have always asked myself this question. Thanks for posting this :)

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  4. Julia, no need to fear! We're all girls and can greatly sympathize. ;o) I think what you're saying is true -- attraction-wise, anyway. But even though it may be harder, it's not necessarily impossible. It's a form of love and self-sacrifice to swallow our wildly-beating hearts and crazy imagination and still act unselfishly in his best interest. It's like any other relationship: ever have a day where you want to scream at the little siblings you swear you love? I don't think that our feelings of anger and frustration toward them negate the fact that we love them...so too with guy/girl relationships. We can fall in love. It happens. But out actions can show a purposeful friendship and suppress the butterfly flutters. I totally get you, though -- a lot easier said than done!

    Love this, Adele: Yes, I would have answered that he was attracted to me and would have "hooked up" with me when we were "just friends", but I do not believe that negates our friendship. It's still possible to hang onto friendship during the crazy emotional roller coaster.

    Easy? Nope. Possible? Definitely. (I sound incredibly cavalier right now. I'm sure I'll be bowled over by some handsome godly guy in a couple of weeks as punishment. *sigh*)

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  5. "I'm sure I'll be bowled over by some handsome godly guy in a couple of weeks as punishment."

    Oh, what a cruel punishment! :-D

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  6. Very interesting post!

    I have always wondered if it really is possible for guys and girls to "just be friends". It's only been recently that I've come to the place where I'm comfortable being "just friends" with a few guys. Before that, there were too many emotions and worries clouding my thoughts to even offer friendship. To my shame, I've been that very girl who gives guys the cold shoulder because I'm uncomfortable and trying to 'protect' myself from possible crushes. I'm very happy to say that I've finally gotten past that stage! Now I think I can say that I, personally, can be "just friends" with guys, but that is why I found the video interesting. Are they just friends with me? I highly doubt any of them have a 'crush' (for lack of a better word) on me, but it's something to think about. It reminds me to be thoughtful of their thoughts and feelings in my interactions with them.

    Thanks for giving me something to think about!

    Oh, yes, and I've still been here, following along, I just have a little less time to comment. =( I've been enjoying your blog very much, as always! =)

    ...And I'm sure it's obvious, but I'm not the Julia who has already posted. ;-)

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  7. I pretty much agree with everything that's been said. Three of my best friends are guys. Two of them I know to be attracted to me. The other I am deeply attracted to myself.

    I am beneficially and calmly friends with all of them.

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  8. I'd answer but apparently this post is only for ladies. Bailey, you know what I'd say anyway. I'm obviously not the typical guy because I do have many friends that are young ladies, without having a crush on them. That many crushes would pull any man's heart apart.

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  9. Thanks so much for posting this! I enjoyed the video, your thoughts and all the comments. I had to laugh out loud at your last sentence (in comment). ;D

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  10. "If not, I'm wearing a burka for the rest of my life."

    HA! Love it.

    It is so sad to see all these guys saying "no."

    They need to grow up.

    Such a perspective is not Biblical and it's not mature. Not only can a guy be "just friends" with a girl, he is commanded to.

    Not that it will be easy, especially at first.

    But really, guys- when you get married are you never going to get to know another woman again?

    I'm thinking philosophical cause-and-effect for a moment- let me know if there's a whole in my thought process.

    Good ol' egalitarian feminism, making women objects to be used and not treasures to be cherished. Thus, the men don't have to be men because the women are doing that quite well. Thus, the men don't grow up. Thus, they can't have mature relationships. Thus, women grow more disgusted with men and become more feministic. And the circle continues.

    (I'm sure you've heard of "It's Not That Complicated," Bailey, but that's definitely a book that I recommend on this topic- though I haven't read all the way through.)

    Your Friend,
    Gabriel

    ;-)

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  11. Oh, and loved what Mrs. Adele said.

    Perhaps that filmmaker should do some defining. Physical attraction and marital eligibility do not nullify a just-friendship, if there's a Biblical purity undergirding it.

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  12. I've been thinking about this a lot lately.

    I don't meet an awful lot of attractive, godly, "eligible" (I feel like I'm in a Jane Austen novel when I use that word :) young men. So when I do, it's such an unusual thing that I start to wonder about them and daydream more than I should. I'm so quiet and reserved that nobody would ever know, but I always wonder...could he be my future husband? And for me, that makes it a lot harder to be "just friends" with someone, when you're secretly harboring such a question.

    I have had guy friends in the past, and although we were just friends, I may have had tiny crushes on a few of them, and they may have liked me, too. But it's been several years since I've had guy friends.

    I agree with Adele, I think it will be much easier for me to have guy friends when I'm already courting/dating, engaged, or married, because that question won't be at the back of my mind.

    But...I've been praying about it a lot lately, and I'm asking God to help me see guys as just guys instead of potential husbands. :)

    I will say that, in my experience, the quickest way for a guy/girl friendship to end is if one of them keeps pushing for something more when the other doesn't want it. A couple of years ago I had a guy at church who liked me and followed me around. It got to the point where he wouldn't leave my side at functions. I got so creeped out and awkward that I started avoiding him, and we really couldn't even be friends after that.

    ~Kristin

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  13. Adele -- LOL!

    Julia (the Second -- now you're royalty ;o)), I remember sitting on the gray carpet of the girls' room with my best friend when we suddenly hit on this realization: "We can be just friends with guys."

    Light bulb ding!

    It was a hard road up until that point. But that's for another post. :P

    Jake, when I call for a girls' huddle, I just mean that the opinions will be all girly. If a guy dares to pop his head in, it's at his own risk, not ours. :o)

    Gabriel, go get 'em! I think your thought process is valid, though I think it might have to do more with a flood of humanism than feminism, per se. (Freud, anybody?) I see so many kids -- guys and girls -- who grow up with only their innate desires and "inner heart" to guide them. That's reality, they're told: you and your feelings. And we'd all have to admit -- slipping into helpless attraction to the opposite sex is no hard feat. It's perfectly normal. I doubt many of those guys ever considered the idea of suppressing their feelings or clearly defining relationships. People seem so helplessly in love nowadays. Hence the slew of immorality, unfaithfulness and hormone-driven young people.

    Kristin, I resonated with your comments. So true about misplaced affection ending an otherwise innocent relationship! You poor girl.

    In short, I think we all agree that "just friendship" would be absolutely simple were it not for curiosity, imagination and the proliferation of the opposite sex. There. That was simple.

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  14. That's true as well, though perhaps a different cause contributing to the same effect.

    (Did I really just say a "whole" in my thought process? :-( )

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  15. I do think people can be platonic friends even when one or both parties are more than just intellectually attracted to the other party.

    That being said, I am curious... Could someone, please, cite a passage of the Bible that commands platonic relationships between differing sexes?

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  16. Gabriel, you just imagined you did....

    Tragedy101, I'm thinking of "Love one another." "Let love be genuine." "Love one another with brotherly affection." Actually, that's not really platonic. :o) Am I understanding you correctly?

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  17. And I'm thinking "Do not sharply rebuke an older man, but rather appeal to him as a father, to the younger men as brothers, the older women as mothers, and the younger women as sisters, in all purity."

    That's the one that always comes to mind for me.

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  18. Yes, of course they can. I'm married. I am friends with many men at work. It will never be anything more than that. I am not attracted to them in any other way. I think if two people are attracted to eachother it probably isn't possible to be just friends.

    So yes, you can be just friends with men or guys. It may not seem possible when you are young but it's true.

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  19. Thank you for the quotations.

    Miss Bailey,

    A subtlety on the terms "cite" and "quote" is cite is generally seeking where to find the referenced idea in a source [a citation], whereas quote is generally seeking the complete referenced statement. [a quotation] In college professors will generally use this subtle difference to explain how a paper should be constructed, that is "Quotations should be cited."

    Don't worry, I will find them for myself.

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  20. *not to be outdone, the persistent Hudelson returns, citation in hand*

    1 Tim 5:1 and onward. :-)

    (Of course, you probably already found it, but...)

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  21. Just letting you know, Bailey, that I loved your article, it made me think lots and I linked back to it in an article I wrote about the same subject on my blog. Thanks so much for all the inspirational, edifying, encouraging, convicting and enlightening posts! I enjoy each one and read all of them, even though I don't have time to comment on them.

    Thanks again!
    Melinda

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  22. I think the most effective way to relieve the tension between opposite sexes is simply to talk. Have conversations with men and boys. Find things you have in common. Pretty soon, you will actually forget what he looks like on the outside, and find that, on the inside, a man is a person, just like you are. He has thoughts, dreams, opinions, just like you do. He's a fellow human, not some sort of demi-god. And like anything else in life, talking to men can feel uncomfortable at first, but gets easier with practice.
    In short, I agree with this post. ;)

    <><

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