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January 22, 2007

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Frank Martens

Carolyn,

Thank you, Thank you, Thank you! You have no idea how many times I have addressed this with singles within the church. MEN AND WOMEN alike!

It is my firm belief that the gospel is affectively worked out in friendships within the church. People come to me frustrated that they don't have friends or that they weren't able to make friends and I always respond with... "but what did you do to be involved in the church?"

Us men cannot persue friendships with women in a sisterly manner if the women keep thinking that us men are always having friendships with them with expectations. Which is NOT always true, sure there are the week and immature, but really honestly there's a lot of men involved in these ministries that aren't putting any expetations on anyone. And the only way to meet them and develop friendships with them is to be involved in the church!

Thanks sister.

Grace and Peace

Nicole

thanks for these words... an encouragement...

Andrew Cairns

A gentle hint from a Christian male: if you want to be friends with a guy then don't associate with him on the basis of finding "Mr Right". That'll spoil any chance of a friendship altogether.

Most men will run a mile if they think you have a hidden agenda. So join a singles group to meet up with people in a similar situation by all means, but do so to make friends of either sex.

Both my wife and I were about 30 years old when we met. Both of us had decided to just get on with life and serve God faithfully -- with or without a mate -- when we stumbled upon each other.

We've been happily married for eight years and have two delightful children now ... all because we decided to relate to people as friends and not as "potential partners".

Fritz

Great advice Carolyn. It goes both ways too. While we may not like everything that comes our way, it should not deter us.

It's a little more difficult at my church though, because I don't know of any single women there. There is also no singles ministry.

I am particularly impressed about comment number 6. My older sister is the same way. She went camping with the whole family. She said that she didn't mind it, but wasn't sure about doing it again. There's still hope for you and her!

Ladie's, you can also help the guys to find other interests that you may have. Just be very up front about a relationship (yes/no).

Amy

This is my struggle, and I bet that many girls share it: as I make friendships with the Christian guys I know, sometimes I *really* want to be JUST FRIENDS with them. I do not know many guys that I think I could be interested in, but I do know guys whose fellowship I enjoy. But as soon as we get closer acquainted, even in a casual setting, I start getting that "interested" vibe. I am not AT ALL flirtatious and am not one of those gorgeous girls. I do not single the guys out or show them special attention. I really do not think that they are getting the wrong message from me. It seems that guys are just too eager. I feel that as soon as I start noticing that "adoring" look coming my way, I have to back off in order to spare his feelings and avoid yet another awkward situation. Help! I am in my mid twenties and I feel like we should be too old for this by now!

I work for a Christian ministry where people do not date unless they are serious about it or at least feel that there is serious potential. We are all co-laborers together, and I do not want to be unfriendly. What's a girl to do?

Kristy

Well, Amy is very fortunate to have guys that are interested and make it known and only date with intentions! It seems around my way that the guys only ever want to be just friends. :)

Jlynn

I guess I look at this from a different view... I used to believe that women and men could be "just friends". But ultimately, at some point, there is always an expectation from one side or the other. I am not talking about casual acquaintances....but someone you share your time with and deep thoughts with. When I look back at my past "friendships" with men, I can see this clearly. It would be nice if we could say we had no expectations from the opposite sex, but I truly believe that this is the God has made us. Although I appreciate my casual guy friends to ask a guys point of view on things, I know that if I am interested in a guy romantically, that it would be hard not to have any expectations from him. Just my two cents.....

Romi

Carolyn, it's eerie how a recent experience in the young adults ministry at my church serves as an embarrassingly appropriate example of your discussion.

I agree with Jlynn that there is always the potential for expectations from one side or the other, whether those involved have any initial intentions or not. Last fall the young adults ministry (for both marrieds and singles) at my church effectively relaunched itself after a period of vision planning. Having been involved in the planning myself, I showed up at the first young adults gathering with the sole, honest intention of just getting to know more people in my age group. However, when a single man I hadn't met before began talking to me, my honest intention eventually fell flat.

At first I really had no interest in him other than gettting to know him as a person; but because I have very little regular interaction with single men, I couldn't help being excited about the possibility of beginning a friendship as we continued to have engaging discussions at each gathering. Unfortunately, though I tried to fight it, my expectations grew. I prayed often and earnestly to God to help me see this man as no more and no less than a brother in Christ; yet it seemed that the more I tried to fight my feelings, the more they threatened to burst the dam I was desperately trying to fortify.

I'm not a flirt, and I don't like playing games. I believe I did my best to act honorably toward this man and keep my true feelings in check, at least on the surface. But he eventually picked up the scent anyway and began to distance himself a bit, though he was still politely friendly. I guess I inadvertently ruined any chance at a true friendship.

However, this was a lesson learned. I think God was trying first of all to teach me humility, because I believed myself to be more objective and discerning than I really am. Second, I think He was trying to teach me about blindness. No matter how hard we may try, the way God designed men and women to be attracted to each other will eventually have an effect on most opposite-sex relationships. Though it doesn't happen very often, I have also experienced the flip side of the coin, with a single man becoming attracted to me even though I only meant to be friendly as a sister in Christ. Yes, we ought to strive for relationships with the opposite sex that are free of hidden agendas; but due to the blindness of attraction, we may not always succeed. I don't believe there is anything inherently wrong with attraction; God made us to respond to each other this way and He did not create anything evil. What this teaches me is that I must constantly work at my relationship with God, learning to recognize His voice, so that I can lean on His understanding and not my own when human blindness causes me to stumble.

jenny

Great letter and wise response Carolyn. Oh, I love this blog - it's like water on in parched landscape.
God bless you Carolyn!

Jenny

Jlynn, I'm glad you posted your comment--I identify with what you said and agree with your conclusion. I had a very painful experience with a male friend of mine. We had a very close friendship for many years--my feelings grew into more than friendship, but his bounced back and forth, eventually (after 7 years!)landing on "I think of you as a sister". I am very cautious about forming close friendships with men now--whether that is right or wrong, I don't know. One of the reasons I feel this way is that there is no limit to how deep a same-sex friendship can grow. With my female friends, I will continue to draw closer and closer to them throughout my life. This doesn't lead to confusion or hurt feelings or awkwardness--it only leads to a deeper, more fulfilling friendship! With opposite-sex friendships, though, there comes a point where you are so close to the other person that you are experiencing the kind of emotional intimacy that, in my mind, a husband and wife should have, but you're not husband and wife! Not only that, but a close male-female relationship could easily keep one or both of you from building healthy romantic relationships with other people who come along.
I do, though, value my male friends--I just know the wisdom of setting limits and boundaries on those relationships!

GG

I would like to add one more vote for "No Singles Groups." Why? Everyone knows you would not be there if you were not single.

So, my solution is this:
Go to places where you are at your best and really shine. Be with people who respect and admire your talents and abilities.

For me that means:
1. Lots of volunteering for causes and organizations I care about.
2. Church involvement
3. Business/management conferences

In a singles group, I'm just a piece of meat.
At a business conference, I'm a highly respected senior level manager with an excellent track record.

Where do you think I get better contacts?

Men at the business conferences really enjoy interacting. I am valued for my insights and my personality. I don't have to work hard to meet anyone.

I know what it is like to really be loved, and true love is closer to respect and admiration than other feelings.

It is said:
40 is the new 30.

I will add:
"Respect" is the new "Love."

Lynne

Carolyn, thank you for your wise way of addressing the letter you received. I have so many questions from this blog and will try to keep it short.
Andrew says to not talk to guys like their "Mr. Right." What does that look like? I usually find it very easy to talk with men in the church. But sometimes I get the impression that they might think I am pursuing them with a purpose, as if I am pursuing them.
There is a delicate balance of creating and sustaining male/female friendships in the church. One of the best ways I know is caregroup. I am pushing 40 and the singles meetings at our church are mainly college and career singles that are in their late 20's maybe. While I enjoy talking to them and learn a lot from them, there are times I desire conversation with men that are closer to my age that are in a similar stage of life.
I think asking friends to arrange dinner parties or just a fun nights and invite a good mix of singles is an excellent way to get to know single brothers in the church. That way it is not too private and can be more relaxed because you are spending time with a bunch of folks instead of one on one. I have so many fun memories of getting together at someone’s house after meetings and just hanging out and talking with many folks for hours. What fun!
It can difficult to be in friendships with the opposite sex. Like the time I was close to a brother in my church. It lasted a couple of years and really enjoyed it. I think as women we really need to ask ourselves tough questions. Why am I spending this much time in deep conversation with him, especially for 2 years? What are my hopes for this friendship? Is it healthy spiritually for me to continue spending time with him? Why haven't I asked him what his intentions are in spending time with me or asking me to do things regularly? I think it is nice to have friendships with men, but we need to be real and understand that we are made to be attracted to the opposite sex . One person will eventually get hurt in most cases. My friend of two years got married to someone else and I was crushed. Even though I repeatedly told myself to guard my heart because he had not made any intentions known to me. It didn't work because the verbal intimacy was there and deep down inside, I wanted him to be my husband. I didn’t want to ask the question because I didn’t want it to be the “I think of you as a sister” answer. Lets face it ladies, our main reason for wanting to know brothers is for the "What if he is the one..." thoughts that run through our minds. Not that they’re wrong, they are very real.
A scripture Josh shared a few years ago at New Attitude (actually, I think it was 2003) is one of my most favorite scriptures and helps me when I feel alone in this world or why I am not married. It is Psalm 73:25-26 “Whom have I in heaven but you? And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you. My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever.” Though I desire to be known by single men and I desire to be married, I hold tightly to this scripture. I ask myself “What do you hope to get out of a friendship with that single guy that would be better than my relationship with my dear Savior?”
Sorry so long!

Katie

so true, Lynne. I love that verse, too.

I also agree that it is important to maintain boundaries in male-female relationships. Boundless.org has a great article called "Not Your Buddy." I found it quite helpful.

It's tricky to maintain the appropriate balance of interaction with men, but I think it is possible. I am very friendly when I see my male friends - as they are with me and the other single women at my church. We all hang out together - men and women - with suprisingly little to no drama. :-P Fortunately, the singles scene in my church is one of open friendship between everyone. [I have noticed in other churches, a strange "men on one side and women on the other side" intense pressure between the singles. If you talk to each other, it is such a big deal. How sad. I think it is the result of an extreme emphasis on not dating anyone until you think you are ready to consider marrying them. The stakes are so high, that talking is such a BIG deal. People get scared, etc.]

Anyway... Although I am friendly to my male friends when I see them, I try not to give them too much undivided attention, and I do not talk to them much on the phone.

These friendships are more superficial than many of my friendships with females. However, I think that is the way it should be. After all, we cannot continue in depth friendships with men after we are married - unless these friendships are between the married couple and the single friend. Even then, wives should not be cultivating emotional intimacy with men other than their husbands. We might as well get into the practice of setting appropriate boundaries now.

Lis

Carolyn,

Thanks for hitting the nail on the head once again. I think the thing I find most refreshing about your blog is that you combine the practical with a heart that seeks God for His specific guidance at every point and turn. I think it affects the atmosphere of the comments here as well.

This issue has puzzled me for years, actually! I've been trained to be reserved around men, and to avoid casual relationships. Add to that wise counsel a very self-conscious personality, however, and you have someone who can draw attention to herself by her very awkwardness! Too bad: men are, after all, people too. :O)

On the other hand, it seems that we are designed to fall in love with those we spend time with. When it comes to emotions, proximity often seems to trump compatibility. (In other words, crushes have no reasons!) I guess that's because "her desire will be toward her husband," to quote God's commentary on Eve.

So what do I do? I agree with an earlier commenter who suggesting sticking with group activities. And for that constantly questing heart, which is so frustratingly persistent and so frequently trips me up in relationships? I don't think there is any other remedy than constantly turning that heart to Jesus for help - as I was so grateful to hear from your friend Charlotte.

Here, as in most of life, it would be so much more convenient if I could understand these things with my head (or if there was an off switch for my emotions)...but He seems to want my constant attention instead.

Emma P

Thank you so much for your wise words. This is an area I really struggle with, and it is so helpful to hear others being honest. I find it very hard to work out how friendly to be with guys, too little and you don't have any guy friends(my default position!) too much and then you run the risk of expectations and trying like the girls above to be Godly and guard your heart. I don't know what the right answer is tho' I suppose it makes me more aware of my own blindness and need to depend on God. I did speak to my minister about what to do about friendships for people in their 30's but we came to the conclusion that GG did above. Also I don't wish to be defined by being single-I want to be defined by Christ- but still I end up with my problem of how to be Godly around guys and I do want to share their company and be friends- I don't want to go into purdah yet! So thank you for your helpful comments and I suppose I'll keep praying and trying to be Godly!

Jlynn

GG...I totally agree with your assessment of the singles class at churches. I would rather be with a group of singles and married couples incorporated into a meeting. After all, we are there to learn how to be a better disciple and to reach others for Christ. If people want to really see me for who I am then I want to talk about what God is doing in my life....not pin pointing that I am single!

Lynne...Once again, I too believe that men and women can never be "just friends"...you may not have to act on your feelings...but deep down there eventually comes an expectation.

It is good to know that the Lord loves us and is protecting us always! He will hold no good thing from His children!

Jay

Thank you all for these comments they are both enlightening and encouraging - I am about to meet with one of the Elders in my church as I am considering setting up a 'Social Group' with the single 30+ age group in mind - As I have sought God on this idea I do believe that He is asking me to open it up to married couples as they would be an invaluable source to us not only as friends, but as Christian counsellors for the unmarrieds, desiring to be marrieds, or the waiting to get marrieds. In my research (talking to various men and women; single and married), there are people in their 30's 40's and 50's who support this venture. I have just turned 50, still single and enjoying life in Him.

The 18's to 30 year olds have their own group 'Amplify' that meets on a Sunday evening and they also have weekends away and other social events.

Any ideas would be welcome.

I also take this opportunity Carolyn to thank you for your current series - I have learned a great deal about myself and most importantly, it has challenged me to re-examine my own attitudes in terms of my relationships with men and women in general and my desire to meet God's best for my life in a husband.

Joanne

This is a very interesting discussion. Can women and men be just friends? I've been asking myself that for a little while now. My boyfriend, who I've been seeing for about 5 months now (long distance), is a wonderful Christian man and I love everything about him. There is only one thing though: he has lots of female friends. (Some that he calls and who call him frequently and others he sees only occasionally.) My point is that I'm having trouble not feeling uneasy about this. I don't think anything is going on, but I am just that: uneasy. Do some men actually make friends easier with women? Could I just be being "jealous" or is there really something here to feel uneasy about? I've taken it in stride every time he's mentioned that such and such called or that he went to lunch with so and so, but I know in my heart that if we did get married, I wouldn't want the phone to be ringing off the hook with females wanting to talk or get together with him. (BTW, most of his friends are co-workers and women from church.)

I would appreciate any and all words of advice. I need objective Christian counsel.

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