Monday, July 25, 2011

Lie #2: Men and Women Can't Be Friends

(The back-story behind this series of posts is "Relationship Lies Exposed." If you haven't already checked it out, that will clue you in on what this and the next post are all about)

Its incredible how much Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan have shaped our culture. In the 80’s, When Harry Met Sally took on the topic of male-female friendships in an attempt, perhaps, to prove that they can actually happen. Crystal and Ryan’s characters certainly made it seem that way for a good portion of the movie, as they shopped together for furniture for their separate New York flats and cried on each other‘s shoulders over the failures of their respective romantic relationships. However, as predicably happens in the chick flick, this friendship too turns to something more. Ultimately, the answer we come away with from the film is “No, men and women can’t be friends. Just when you think you are close enough to get all the attraction (or as Billy Crystal refers to it “the sex part“) out of the way, you realize you’re in love.”

The theory that I’m about to subject you to is quite a new thought for me. Up until the last six months, I was quite convinced that this (movie plot) was indeed what panned out in each and every real life circumstance. Many a blog entry and 16-hour bus ride across the Australian bush was devoted to describing the pitfalls of platonic relationships.

“You can’t do it!” I would protest when someone insisted they were “just friends” with a person of the opposite sex. “I’m telling you; they’re either gay or you just don’t know they’re attracted to you“ (After all, this had been my story with every such friendship in my life. Surely, I could liken my experience to those of the entire world).

I’m sure it didn’t help matters that the first time I actually had friendships with guys (en mass, it seemed), was in college. Rife with hormones and ready to find a spouse (Christian guys, remember? They can‘t have sex till they get married…), both myself and my male friends were perpetually “on the make.”  I naively assumed that every time a guy shelled out $10 to treat me to a movie or devoted enough energy to maintain a three hour phone chat, that clearly something was up. Consulting my (ahem, single) girlfriends, I overanalysed every little hug, innuendo and last line of a phone call, over skinny lattes.

I don’t have to tell you how these conversations progressed. All you need to do is watch He’s Just Not That Into You. (Honestly, watch it. It will change your life). I intentionally waited to watch that film until I could admit that the title alone was my own story. As just so happens in the film, the girlfriends stereotypically gather round to console the rejected girl, whilst burning the arrogant boy, sputtering cliché’s like: “You deserve someone better” and “He doesn’t know what he’s missing.”

A brutally honest co-worker once had the guts to say it straight: “Girls always say ‘He just thinks of me as one of the guys!’ but that’s not true. He knows you’re a woman. You just need to face the fact that he can look right at you and not be attracted to you…”

Ouch. Harsh, but true. Even amongst the hormonal, Christian young adult population, we need to give ourselves more credit than to think that simply because we’re sitting beside a person of the opposite gender, we should (or do) automatically think of sex. Maybe those silly evolutionary biologists have poisoned our thinking, making us believe that we’re all just animals, and gratification by any quick and dirty means necessary is on par with eating and drinking. Let’s give ourselves a little credit here.

Scratch that, let’s give God a little credit.

Weird as it may seem, the very same God people search for, debate about and desperately cry out to kneeling beside their beds, is the mastermind behind this whole sex thing. Yup, no pious church ladies round here; we best be praising the Lord for this glorious invention! ;) And as the creator of sex, we must humbly concede that God knows what its best used for and how it can be harnessed. The Bible gives us the shocking command to control our bodies (Gasp…can animals do such a thing??). Why would we be commanded to do something that is not possible?

But it is possible! He is saying that humans are not animals, created to give in to every whim and desire. Through the strength of God within us, the ability to keep it in our pants is not only attainable, but can be taken one step further still. In the ideal world that the Lord desires for us to live (also known as The Kingdom of God; Jesus‘ most frequent topic of dissertation), men and women can be just friends. In fact, Scripture encourages it! It encourages men to be gentleman to the ladies in their life, and urges the women to do their male friends a favour and dress modestly to help them keep their minds pure.

I once thought “Friendlationships” were inevitable. This phrase, coined by Jeff Taylor in his twenty something Christian book with the same title, haunted me for a long time. Although the process certainly isn‘t easy, I know that I’m no longer fated to messy friendships with males. Even if the world can’t be “just friends” without motives getting mixed, the vision of having “brothers and sisters in Christ” compels me to strive for more. (Besides, I need more noogies and bear hugs in my life...)

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