Friendship Series #3: Familiarity Breeds Contempt... Or Love
Ever noticed how in books and movies the guy always gets the girl by the end of the story? Have you ever wondered how it happened in such a short period of time, generally less than even a week? My theory is that it has something to do with an age old adage – familiarity breeds contempt. Or, to rephrase it more appropriately to the topic, time breeds love.
Let’s face it, guy/girl friendships can get complicated, and fast. You can be going along being great friends with someone, when out of the blue – you find out that s/he likes you, and you don’t, or vice versa, and it gets all awkward. Or you realize you like them too much, so you withdraw a bit, and then they wonder why, and you can’t figure out how to say it, and – and –
Yet still other friendships can remain solid, uplifting, and yet solely platonic between a guy and a girl with no issues whatsoever. With these relationships, simply being good friends has never been simpler. They are open, honest, and when the time comes, they move easily out of each other’s lives. How can these types of friendships be so different?
Why is it so easy for such friendships to become awkward? Well, one factor is that we are all wired for love. Deep in the core of our humanness, God created us to desire love, and to be loved; to have that deeper connection with a person on a soul-to-soul level. It’s a rare person who loathes even the thought of marriage. So the more often you are vulnerable with a guy (or vice versa) and the deeper you go into the friendship, it will eventually get to the point where it has become more than just platonic. It is then that romance begins to look pretty good. And in a lot of cases, this is awesome. If both are saved, mature people who understand what an incredible privilege and responsibility marriage is, a friendship’s progression to a relationship can be a great blessing. But this article is about friendships and not dating relationships, so the main question I hope to answer is this:
How can you have a healthy platonic friendship with someone of the opposite gender?
From the best I’ve experienced and witnessed, these are just a couple of points I have found to help keep such friendships (and hearts) intact.
1. Limit your time with close guy/girl friends.
Spending voluminous amounts of time with someone is generally what sees them married by the end of the movie. People who didn’t have a hope of falling for the geek or the loser find themselves hopelessly in love with them simply because they ended up being thrown together on some intrepid adventure for two hours of screen time. Folks, falling in love and living happily only goes as far as the credits in this context. As you may have guessed by the title of this post, I believe this point to be key. Spending consistent time with someone – even someone you don’t think you’d fall for – can often result in something you didn’t foresee happening. If you have a good friend you feel nothing more than friendship for, don’t spend every spare waking moment talking to them or being with them. If you don’t want things to go any further, why invest the time developing it? I have seen friendships evolve like this firsthand, and it’s saddening. Friend meets friend, friends start to email, which slowly but surely progresses to FBing, chatting, Skyping, phonecalls, texting, and before you know it, they’re in love and not right for each other, which eventually leads to a heartrending breakup. And in case you were wondering, yes: time spent with each other even “technologically” is time spent. We live in a day and age where we separate “real life” from our “online life”, when they’re actually one and the same thing. Newsflash: if you wouldn’t be saying, doing, or spending as much time with an individual in real life as you would online, then you shouldn’t be doing it at all. Guard your time, and spend it wisely on the right people. Consistency often creates expectation, so if you feel let down you didn’t get to talk to a “friend” at 7pm today, perhaps it’s a sign you should re-evaluate the way you spend your time.
2. Build close guy/girl friendships with likeminded Christians.
Acquaintances and casual friendships with any and everybody is for the most part, a good thing. It’s a great way to witness, it teaches us so much about how to love others from different walks of life, and we can also learn how the world views Christianity (and what things we may be able to change, because that picture can be scary!). However when it comes to building close friendships, be choosy. It’s not a bad thing to be accused of not opening up about everything going on inside your life or your heart. It is actually quite healthy to be somewhat guarded. So If you’d like a person to know you on the inside, you will want – no, NEED – someone that is filled with the Holy Spirit. Seriously, who wants to take the risk of allowing our hearts to be swayed by someone who is not governed by the Lord but by their own flesh? Eeesh, makes me shiver. If we’re going to be honest about the very real risk of falling in love with a close friend, do yourself a favour and make sure the only friends you get close enough to fall for are strong Christians. Friendships are unpredictable. If you form a close friendship with someone who is not saved, it opens the doors to a whole lot of potential heartache you could well avoid by choosing your friendships more wisely.
3. Don’t be “best friends” with your guy/girl friend.
Now I’m going to totally cheat on this point because RELEVANTmagazine nailed it with this article. Click here. Go ahead and read it. I’ll wait until you get back.
4. Be Honest
I’ve saved the best for last. The best kind of friendships I’ve ever had with a guy, are the ones in which we are the most honest. If you see the relationship going places, ask about it! “Where is this relationship going? I’m not looking to take this friendship any further at the moment. Are we okay?” Even if this is asked before you become super close friends, it’s still okay. Sure, it might weird some people out and make them back off. Sad, yes, but then at least you’ve discovered they weren’t good friendship material in the first place. If they aren’t the kind of person you believe you’ll eventually be led to marry, but you want them to remain a good friend, say so. It’s okay to be open about what’s on your heart. You’re friends, right? So why not save yourself a lot of heartache and trouble by just being honest about where you’re both at? This also creates security for you in the future because if their feelings end up changing while yours remain the same, you can return to that earlier conversation where things were made clear and reinforce those former statements once and for all.
And yet, alas, even for all the wisdom in the world, no numbered point list has ever been bullet proof. We are all human, and that means we are flawed and full of mistakes. For the amount of mutual encouragement, exhortation, joy and fun I’ve found in many friendships with amazing guys, there has still been heartache and hurt. As friends, we will hurt each other at times, but I have truly found that these four points have made much of the pain a worthwhile and growing experience in many ways, not just for me, but for others also. God truly does take everything and work them together for good for those who love Him.
And this is why the most time we spend with any one person, should be spent with our Father in Heaven. He loves us and cares about our relationships even more than we do, and He longs to share with us His wisdom, knowledge, and insight so that we might make wise decisions that help us and others, not to cause harm. If you want to have healthy relationships with everyone you meet and have the discernment to navigate the waters of friendship wisely, get close with God. Familiarity with Him will breed no contempt, but reap eternal rewards of peace and the joy of intimacy with Him; not to mention being the best foundation for any kind of friendship.