January 28, 2015

Women in Ministry: Should I Pursue Male Friendships as a Single Woman? (1)

I was recently approached to participate in a Singleness, Dating, and Contentment seminar. As I started to prepare for my session, I was reminded just how important this issue is, not only for women on schemes, but in general. How I live my life as a single woman has consistently been one of the best conversation starters with my non-Christian friends. They want to know why I don’t date just anyone (‘put myself out there’ they’d say)? They are fascinated by my assertion that not just any man will do. He’d need to be a godly Christian. This is so against the grain in a single culture where the prevailing thought (and practice) is to ‘try before you buy’! How women are single within schemes culture has so many ramifications across a number of levels. It is just so important that if we are single we do it biblically and we do it well for the glory and honour of Jesus Christ.

Here are some key things to think about if you are single.

Can you be friends with the opposite sex? To be honest, I don’t think this is really a straightforward Yes/ No answer. My personal view is yes, but with solid boundaries. Of course, the sexes have different ways of thinking which, when we aren’t wise, can make for much messiness and confusion. Shannon Etheridge has a really useful chart in her book ‘Every Woman's Battle’ that lists the differences between men and women. These are basic generalisations, but I think they are really helpful to think about. Consider the following:

Men                                                                                 Women

Crave Physical Intimacy                                          Crave Emotional Intimacy

Stimulated by what they see                                   Stimulated by what they hear

Recurrent physical needs cycle                                Recurrent emotional needs cycle

As women we can emotionally invest in a man and get attached way before he even realises that there’s something going on. Oftentimes men are just oblivious, and so we do have to be very careful. Getting friendships wrong can lead us to my second point.

Be careful about getting unhelpfully attached. It’s really easy for one person to get unhelpfully attached to the other. Proverbs 4:23 ‘Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it’. We need to be guarded in our friendships so that we do not step over the line and start to have the intimate‘exclusive’ friendship that should be reserved for those who are dating (or married). If we aren’t careful, someone can get unintentionally hurt so by guarding our friendships and having clear boundaries (and sticking to them) we can protect those we care for. Therefore:

You must know yourself well. When we are honest about ourselves it is much easier to put good boundaries in place to protect ourselves and others. I know myself really well, and so I know my wee signals and danger signs that serve as a warning light for me to be careful and not have a needy unhelpful diva moment with the wrong person. It is uncomfortable being self-aware because we don’t really like to admit our foibles. But, it is definitely much easier, as the old saying goes, to ‘shut the gate before the horse bolts’.In all things we should pay heed to Paul’s words in Ephesians 5:1–4:

“Follow God’s example, therefore, as dearly loved children and walk in the way of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. But among you there must not be even a hint of sexual immorality, or of any kind of impurity, or of greed, because these are improper for God’s holy people. Nor should there be obscenity, foolish talk or coarse joking, which are out of place, but rather thanksgiving.”

What are your strengths and weaknesses and what is your plan to avoid putting yourself in compromising situations? What accountability structures do you have in place?

Don’t be embarrassed to allow someone to ask you the difficult questions.

Part II to follow.

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