Have you ever witnessed an awkward relationship between a guy and girl where maybe one has a crush on the other but has never said anything or where the boundary between friends and boyfriend/girlfriend is blurry? At the end of the day sometimes relationships with the opposite sex can be difficult to navigate and we might even be afraid of misconstruing feelings and boundaries. So how do we serve and help friends of the opposite sex grow in holiness towards Christ without blurring lines?
Foundation of Friendship
C.S. Lewis the great author and theologian argued that friendship between a man and a woman would naturally lead to eros or romantic love if unchecked. In doing so Lewis brought up the key question of can men and women be just friends? Some of the greatest love stories of are when two best friends fall in love with each other. So can men and women really be just friends?? The answer simply is, yes. Lewis’ point brings up the important point that while friendships of the opposite sex can lead to romance, they are not only possible but necessary and require real honesty and communication.
The Pit of Despair
We can all think of someone we have seen in the “friendzone”. The friendzone is often considered to be a dark place where someone in a friendship would like to (desperately) be more than friends with their best friend.. It can be likened to The Princess Bride’s pit of despair where there is no escape and life will be slowly sucked out of you. The friendzone in the media is usually associated with heartbreak, secret-keeping, and huge drama of revealing one’s true feelings. But is the friendzone really all that bad?
Check Yourself Before You Wreck Yourself
Most of us have seen the rom-com’s where one half of the friendship failed to check themselves and effectively wrecks themselves. We see this with broken friendships or feelings of embarrassment or awkwardness when feelings are not talked about at the right time and in the right way. Part of any healthy relationship requires first a relationship with yourself. Whaa?? This means knowing and understanding why you do the things you do and what feelings are building for you. If you are in a relationship with someone of the opposite sex and start to develop romantic feelings the first step is to accept them and not pretend like they aren’t there. Ignoring those feelings can make things worse and muddy the waters of the friendship. Taking time to reflect and pray on feelings can help you better understand what is going on with you, what steps need to be taken in your friendship, and what is best for both you and the other person. Having support through friends or Youth Minister can help you talk out what’s going on in your head and maybe clear up why you are experiencing certain feelings and thoughts. Feelings are normal and important to pay attention to in order to take the right action in our lives. On top of talking with friends, prayer and daily journaling can be a great way to put yourself in check and not wreck your friendships with the opposite sex.
Made for Love Alone
If you’re in the pit of despair or afraid of falling into the friendzone it is important to remember how we view the individuals of the opposite sex. Too often the opposite sex is objectified or idolized. This happens when we reduce someone to their looks, traits, or abilities. When thinking about the opposite sex it’s easy to create this mental image or fantasy of the person and neglect who they truly are as a child of God. When we reduce someone to an image or create a fantasy of them (like planning future wedding with a stranger), we fail to recognize who they truly are and what they are made for. In St. John Paul II’s book Love and Responsibility he emphasizes that man and woman are made for love alone. When we put someone on a pedestal as our “ideal” boyfriend or girlfriend we are limiting our ability to see them as the person God made them.
Male and Female He Made Them
In the story of creation, we see that God made Adam and then decided that something was missing and made Eve as the final touch of all creation. As St. John Paul II describes, men and women complement each other and therefore we need one another. Masculinity and femininity are gifts from God and go hand in hand. Friendships between men and women are not only essential but are a natural part of human life. Men and women need one another. These relationships are best nurtured and fruitful when we are able to recognize the other as a child of God and not solely as a potential date or future spouse. Having the opposite sex in our lives through Christ-centered friendships reveals a part of God to us. These reflections of God’s image in masculinity and femininity complement each other and allow us to help the other walk closer to Christ.
Defining the Friendship
As C.S. Lewis warned, friendships between men and women can lead to eros or romantic love. In this way friendships with the opposite sex that aren’t looking to pursue romantic love or a vocation of marriage require a few things. One of these things is the ability to set and define clear and healthy boundaries. It is essential that friends of the opposite sex are clear and honest with each other about their relationship and intentions. To put it simply, there are certain things that only boyfriends and girlfriends do together, like obvious ones of going on “dates”, holding hands, or putting your arm around the other. Healthy and honest communication is essential fir setting boundaries between friends of the opposite sex. It might be uncomfortable to talk about boundaries in friendships but that is necessary for healthy relationships. Don’t be afraid to talk with your friends about the nature of your relationship letting them know you value your friendship while also communicating healthy boundaries.
So ultimately, get in the friendzone. We are made to compliment the opposite sex and help our friends get to heaven. Don’t let your relationships become a pit of despair, and recognize that the other sex is made for love alone as a person by our heavenly Father. Don’t forget to put your feelings and thoughts in check and take the right steps to communicate, set boundaries and intentions with friends. These fundamentals of recognizing the dignity of the other person and yourself set the stage for a beautiful friendship rooted in Christ.
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