Friendships between men and women are fun and complicated. I had a hard time being friends with women because I did not know how to treat them well. There was a conscious fear that I had to make sure that I always said the right things and did not say anything that could be misinterpreted. Rooted in a mix of unhelpful advice, bad teaching, and my own fear of rejection, I had become paralyzed. I thought that my silence was good because at least I would not cross boundaries. However, that causes more hurt than help. Instead of trying to learn on how to love those around me better, I succumbed to living in my own ignorance. I am convinced that my silence (as a man) is not loving to my female friends. I am called to love them well.
After this epiphany of sorts, I had conversations with a couple of my Christian female friends and their unfortunate declaration is that Christian men are horrible at affirming their Christian women friends. As a Christian man, I understand the struggle. I understand the desire to not want to want to lead someone on simply because I affirm something that I see. So here are some things to think about as we (men and women) seek to have healthy relationships:
- Love God and Neighbor
The gospel is where men and women can find hope to be friends. What makes Christians “Christians” is not only their confession but their actions (James 2:17). Christians are saved by faith alone, but we also know a tree by its fruit (Matt. 7:15–27). We ought to be those who love God and neighbor. You cannot separate the two and assume that we are faithful. If you find that it is really hard to be a Christian, welcome to living by faith. It’s not always easy, nor do I think it is meant to be. Jesus stands as our hope and righteousness if we would turn to Him. Since we can find our hope in Jesus (God the Son) for our right standing before God the Father, we can act with wisdom and freedom.
- Stop Being a Narcissist
Not everyone is attracted to you. Just because someone says something nice to you, it does not mean they must be romantically interested in you. If you want to know if they are interested in you, sit down and have a civilized conversation. Men: ask her out; see what she thinks about you; and take the risk (because it’s not easy). Ladies, be gracious to us. If you are wondering if there is anything happening, ask him. It’s not sinful for you to put your foot forward. Clarity is better than confusion. In fact, it’s a holy thing to have clarity (1 Cor. 14:33).
- Affirm and Encourage
Because we can rest in Jesus as our hope and our righteousness, we can freely say things that are for the encouragement of the whole body (which is made up of both men and women). There are ways to equally affirm and encourage one another. Affirm all areas, not just one aspect.We should not shy away from affirming both outer and inner beauty. As a man, affirming outward beauty can be harder than inner beauty because of my own insecurity and not knowing how to do this well. My rule of thumb: I will affirm outer beauty if I think someone looks nice and it is not sexually objectifying the other person. There is no sin in affirming outer beauty or fashion. Sin is corrupting good things and turning them for our selfish gain.
Men, affirm beauty. God created beauty, therefore we ought to look at one another and see beauty. However, do not stop on the outer beauty. One of my female friends helpfully articulated: “More than being told I look nice, or that my dress is pretty. I need to be encouraged in the Lord, and affirmed of my gifts.” We encourage and affirm the outward beauty and the transformation of the inner–being. Consider it like this: We can show godly care to our sisters in faith by showing them that their affirmation does not have to be found in those who are not believers, but by those who trust in Jesus. We can point them to Jesus by our love for them.
- Be friends
Just do it. Be friends. We over complicate things by over thinking everything. In our desire for perfection, we seek to make sure that we never make any mistakes. We do not say things that we ought to say and say things we should not say. The New Heavens and New Earth are not here yet, so you and I will mess something up. Instead of fretting if you’re always doing something wrong, just be friends. See one another as equals and humans.
- Love God and Neighbor
Ultimately, if you want to be friends with someone, you just have to do it.