Showing posts with label friend. Show all posts
Showing posts with label friend. Show all posts

07 February 2013

Best of both

We take a look at the risks and likely benefits of platonic friendships between men and women. How acceptable is it for believers to have close friends of the opposite sex? And even if it's acceptable, how useful is it? Perhaps the benefits outweigh the difficulties, at least sometimes.

Childhood friends
This post is part of the February Synchroblog 'Cross Gender Friendships'. Links to all the contributions are listed at the end of this post.

Cross-gender relationships of any kind (except for romantic love and marriage) have long been regarded as 'dodgy' in church circles. There is, of course, the potential for inappropriate romantic feelings to develop and that's something to be aware of, but is that risk a valid reason to avoid such friendships altogether? I think not.

Platonic friendships have long been regarded as not only possible, but potentially valuable. If we avoid them out of fear or anxiety are we missing an important aspect of human social interaction?

I have a wide circle of male and female acquaintances of all ages as well as a smaller number of close friends, again both men and women. Some of my close friends live nearby and we meet more or less regularly. Some live far away and we meet very rarely.

Rather than try to analyse this topic I'm just going to share some personal experiences and observations. Read on and see what you think.

Relationship, energy and danger - I'll begin by telling you that I am a man (in case you haven't already worked that out). I generally find friendships with women go deeper than those with men. For one thing women tend to be more relational and less superficial. Let me point out right away that I'm generalising here - there are plenty of exceptions to what sounds like a general rule. It's no such thing. Don't be fooled for a moment!

I have something of a shepherd's heart and like to encourage and build up. So I get a lot of energy from conversations and relationships where I can listen and respond, but very little from talking about football or fishing. I find women are more likely to engage in ways I can relate to.

Turning to the dangers of relationships becoming more than platonic in nature, in my experience I can honestly say this has never been an issue. It seems to me that most women are quite unwilling to allow a friendship to develop unless and until they are sure it will not go in an inappropriate direction.

What I have valued most in cross-gender friendship has been the opportunity to learn and grow in understanding and mutual respect. I've had many rich conversations on a host of topics, the benefit of peaceful and thoughtful insight, shared appreciation of music and literature and the natural world, and a great deal of wisdom and sound advice.

A balanced life - I am blessed by good balance in my friends. Here's a diary of my current week; it's as good an example as any.

  • On Monday mornings I meet with Paul for coffee, a chat, and some Bible study. We are currently working through John's gospel together.
  • On Monday evenings I meet Sean at his house to chat, read the Bible, pray, and listen. We watched a DVD of Victor Choudhrie.
  • On Tuesday I meet my friend Chris for a coffee in town and we'll talk and pray about a house of prayer for St Neots and the area around. He is very keen on following up the Ffald-y-Brenin approach to local prayer and blessing.
  • Later on Tuesday I met Megan for coffee and a chat at Caffe Nero's.
  • In the evening Donna* and I joined her Open Door Small Group in a nearby village. We ate a meal together and spent time in prayer and praise and discussion.
  • On Wednesdays I usually meet with Roger, but not this week. We are working through 'Freedom in Christ' together. 
  • At lunchtime on Wednesday I visited Jody to catch up and hear news about the meetings she and Peter host at their home every week.
  • On Thursday evenings Jim, Sean and I usually meet to chat and pray.

That's a grand total of four men and two women (*Donna is my wife) that I have spent one on one time with this week. All of them are friends, all are valued, all bring something special and unique to my life. In addition there'll be others, men and women that I will meet singly or in groups, and others that I'll contact by email, text, phone or on Google+. They are all special and they all contribute something valuable and irreplaceable.

What I'd miss - I would miss any of these people if they were removed from my life. Without them I would not be me. Or at least I would be a different me, a poorer me. What would life be without the richness of community? Our communities are not islands, they overlap in significant ways. Important lines of communication go out joining communities into a single, huge, world-wide network.

I can hardly imagine what life would be like if I had only male friends. It would be greatly impoverished. My advice to anyone without cross-gender friends is to be wise and careful, but to certainly consider broadening your range of friends. A friend cannot be manufactured artificially. But as friendships develop naturally around shared interests and ideas, don't say 'No' merely on the basis of gender. Far more important is to hear what the Spirit of Christ is telling you. Pray about it and be guided by what he shows you.

Another observation that I can share is that, in friendship as in marriage, the different approaches of men and women to so many things in life are complementary and have a counterbalancing effect. We have to pay attention to one another to benefit from this; we have to listen and watch and learn. But friends are usually pretty good at doing that and do it very naturally.

Here's one final point. Amongst my closest friends have been two married couples. Perhaps this is where the greatest freedom in friendship may be found. In my experience there can be no closer togetherness than a group of four or six consisting of happily married couples. As in any kind of friendship there will sometimes be fallings out and misunderstandings, disappointments and confusions. But there's real joy in it too. If such a thing happens in your life it may turn out to be truly blessed, and very, very special.


Questions:

  • Have you limited your friendships due to a fear of disapproval by others?
  • Jesus related well with both men and women. Did he follow the social norms of his day?
  • Can you leave a comment to share your own experiences of cross-gender friendships?

See also:


Synchroblog links:

21 October 2011

SOCIETY - Goodbye Facebook

Goodbye Facebook? Yes, I'm leaving, it was good to know you but I'm moving on. I'm tired of the constant changes. I have the feeling Facebook doesn't listen to its users as much as it should. The frantic response to Google+ was the last straw.

I won't be reading material on Facebook regularly from now on - follow me instead on Google+. You don't need to be logged in to read my public updates.

My Google+ pageI'll continue posting blog articles to my Facebook wall for the time being, but nothing else.

If you choose to sign up to G+ yourself you will be able to respond to my updates just as you have on Facebook.

I've been happily using Google+ almost from its launch in the summer. I like just more or less everything about it, especially its clean, uncluttered appearance. The only drawback is that so few of my friends are on G+ but I've decided to lead the way by closing down Facebook sooner rather than later.

So remember -  Visit Google+ to read most of my stuff even if you're not on G+ yourself.
Set up a G+ account if you want to respond to me. Or stick to good old email if you want to say something to me but don't wish to join G+.

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