Lauren and Mikaela--identical twins living on opposite coasts--blog about the story of life and their adventures in faith.

10.19.2010

An Honest Heart


Boys and girls…men and women: somewhere along the way, these relationships go from simple, delightful friendships to complicated interactions with expectations (or a lack thereof) on both sides. As a child, I would muddle through the scenes in a Louisa May Alcott book where a character tries her hand at flirting, only to realize its power and devastation. However, I honestly could not grasp the meaning of flirting. It took a personal experience—life mirroring literature, I suppose—before I finally comprehended the dangers of flirting and understood its power.

As a young woman who wants to keep her heart whole and pure for one man (please read our series on courtship), I do not cross certain boundaries that God has set in my life. The virtues of single-minded devotion to God and the dangers of entanglements with foolish people are advised on repeatedly in Scripture, and especially Proverbs. Thus, these boundaries I follow have been influenced by wise counsel (both from my parents and other wise people), wise examples (both from Scripture and daily life), and wise principles of the Bible. Proverbs 4:23 says, "Keep your heart with all diligence, for out of it spring the issues of life."

Men and Women Cannot Be “Just Friends”
What a great lie Hollywood and our modern, casual culture has sold to the general public. Trying to have a friendship with someone of the opposite sex is like trying to sleep with fire—it will almost always get out of hand. I cannot even understand treating a man as my “brother”—I have such a close relationship with my brothers that to treat another man as I treat my brothers would be highly inappropriate. Certainly, I know guys, and we talk occasionally. But any typical friend activity meant to develop a relationship (phone calls, emails, IMs, long conversations, repeated texts) is off limits because it knits us together in a way that is unprincipled unless we have defined a clear purpose for our relationship (courtship, engagement…marriage).

Men and Women Must Treat Each Other With Respect
Aah…where are the Pride and Prejudice days of old where everyone was “Miss” and “Mister”? This, of course, was just an outward sign of respect and distance between acquaintances. There was no “hon” and “sweety” and nicknames after one week of friendship. A life-changing moment for me occurred while sitting in a huge auditorium listening to a family answer questions on courtship. The wise mother gave some genius advice that I have never forgotten to this day: “Everyone says, guys treat the girls like sisters, and girls treat the guys like brothers. But this is not right! Such a relationship would be too close. I have come to encourage my children to treat every person of the opposite sex as if they were already married.” The majority of the population will be married, and God already knows each and every match—in His eyes, I may as well be married (if marriage is indeed His plan for me), because He is already preparing my future spouse and I for each other. How presumptuous and selfish and corrupt is it then, for a man to come and meddle with my heart, knowing that he has no intention of marrying me, and stealing affection that is not his? Or, how dishonest and despicable of me to do the same with a man! Thus, treating each other respectfully, as though the other person were already married, is a wonderful way to avoid most problems.

Men and Women Are Not Designed for Each Other’s Entertainment
Oh, how immensely diverting it is to talk with a young man and realize with excitement that he actually doesn’t seem to mind talking with you, that he occasionally even seeks you out, and that you might hold some sort of power over him! And the young man looks across the room at a girl and smiles, seeks out a place next to her during a church dinner, and compliments her on her looks. Just one of these instances is flirting—but flirting rarely stops with just one. It begins the progression of a friendship into something more, when one or both of the parties involved are merely enjoying themselves and the feelings of power and self-worth they experience. Meddling with another's heart and feelings with no commitment to him or her is the height of selfishness--don't do it!

It doesn’t have to be this way, though. I have been among forty or more Christian young people, living together, eating together, studying together. Together, we had mutual, serious goals—to know and glorify our God. Together, we encouraged each other to do this each and every day. No one was “scared” to converse with someone of the opposite sex, but everyone kept it in balance and kept each other accountable. Girls did not use the boys to make themselves feel prettier and more desirable, and boys did not use the girls to make themselves feel more powerful and desirable. There was no using, no flirting, no “innocent” friendships where neither person is innocent. Instead, there was Christian love, mutual respect, and whole, pure hearts. "Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God (Matthew 5:8)." This, ladies and gentleman, is one of the best ways I know to shine with dazzling intensity in your own corner.



PS--For an excellent read on this topic and the dangers of emotional affairs, check out the book above!

Picture Credit

Scripture taken from the New King James Version. Copyright © 1982 by Thomas Nelson, Inc. Used by permission. All rights reserved.

11 comments:

  1. Beautiful post, Mikaela :) Like you, I too, save my love and attention for the one man that I will marry some day. But do you really think that platonic relationships cannnot exist between two people of the opposite sex? (Two people who do not flirt or are intimate, that is.) And I'm just curious, but does the Bible say anything about this?

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  2. Again, your post has come at the exact time I needed it. Thanks to you both, for being willing to speak out when God impresses you with something. Your blog is continuing to bless not only me, but everyone who reads it.

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  3. Good post! There is definitely that line that shouldn't be crossed. I agree with you, nothing wrong with having a friendship with a guy..we can actually be an encouragement and "build each other up" in Christ. "Iron sharpeneth iron, so a man sharpens the countenance of his friend". Prov. 27:17

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  4. Maryam--woohoo! A name to put to the initials. ;-) First, just to make sure everyone is on the same page, let's define "platonic": "A pure spiritual affection subsisting between the sexes, unmixed with carnal desires, and regarding the mind only and its excellencies; a species of love for which Plato was a warm advocate." I don't believe that platonic relationships CAN'T exist between men and women--I have some platonic relationships myself. However, for me, a platonic relationship becomes endangered when I allow myself to spend unnecessary amounts of time with a guy. Now, of course, everyone is different--I have a sister who has NEVER struggled with flirting, keeping her heart pure, or having a crush on a guy. The bottom line, however, is that to remain a platonic relationship, one must abide by certain boundaries--I don't believe that one can have a close, devoted platonic relationship without one party eventually desiring more.

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  5. Yes! The Bible does talk about emotional purity—it actually addresses every single problem I have ever faced in my life. Besides the verses I used in my post, we also see in Matthew 5:28 that even lusting after someone without acting on that lust is adultery. I Thessalonians 4:3-8 has a lot to say about the subject: “For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you should abstain from sexual immorality; that each of you should know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, not in passion of lust, like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one should take advantage of and defraud his brother in this matter, because the Lord is the avenger of all such, as we also forewarned you and testified. For God did not call us to uncleanness, but in holiness. Therefore he who rejects this does not reject man, but God, who has also given[a] us His Holy Spirit.” Phew! I know that’s a long passage, but stick with me, and let’s break it down. First, we see that holiness, purity, and self-control are essential to keep ourselves from sexual immorality. Apart from that, though, God tells Christians not to take advantage of or defraud one’s brother. To “defraud” is “to defeat or frustrate wrongfully.” Thus flirting with someone or developing an emotionally intimate relationship with someone (which almost always starts out as “platonic”) is defrauding, because one or both of you will develop desires, expectations, hopes, and dreams for the relationship that cannot be fulfilled righteously at that time—you are wrongfully frustrating each other. Of course, this is assuming that you have no intention of marrying the other person at that time. Naturally, it is an impossible task to keep oneself holy, pure, and self-controlled every moment, but this is what our just and holy God requires. Only with Jesus in my life am I given the freedom of a relationship with God because I am covered by the blood of Christ. Emotional purity is impossible without Christ, but all things are possible with Him.

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  6. I just wanted to thank you so much for posting this.
    I gave my heart to the Lord and desired to keep my heart for one man, but some where along the way, I have left some of the principals and guide lines neccesary for a pure heart. It was so good to be reminded of them and I do hope I can submit my heart to the Lord and His perfect plan!!

    Thanks again and many blessings,
    Frannie

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  7. In our disheartening culture of fleshly flirting, I am grateful to know other girls seeking "an honest heart"! Thanks for the encouragement. I love Heather Paulsen's book, too--good recommendation. I also wanted to bring up I Timothy 5:2, where Paul instructs Timothy to treat the younger women "as sisters, in all purity." I agree with you that we shouldn't treat young men with as much famililarity or closeness as we would our siblings, but I think the brotherly/sisterly concept is helpful because it brings a genuine concern and even protectiveness for the other person's welfare, just as I am genuinely concerned for my siblings. When I think of young men as "brothers" in Christ, I am more motivated to sincerely desire and work to protect their purity, God-centeredness, and their future marriages. We are all one body, one covenant family adopted by our Father God, and this perspective advances purity and true love. Anyway, just a caution to not totally throw away that concept! Thanks for the thought-provoking post.

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  8. Lindsay--what precious gifts of encouragement you have given me! Thank you so much; I am excited that we can provoke one another to Godliness even across the internet.
    Katie--This is a good point to bring up. I truly believe that one of the best ways I can encourage, edify, and build up a young man is by conducting myself in a frank, modest, ladylike manner at all times. I know that the men who have been honest, gentlemanly, and somewhat reserved with me have convicted and inspired me much more than a man who tries to engage me in an hour-long discussion of theology. Thanks for the thought-provoking comment!
    Frannie--I am humbled indeed by your soft heart. Praise Him that you are ready to get back into the battle for purity! It's sometimes a daily struggle for me, but it has gotten easier over the years.

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  9. Jenny--so good to hear from you! Thank you for pointing out the verse in 1 Timothy. You said, "I think the brotherly/sisterly concept is helpful because it brings a genuine concern and even protectiveness for the other person's welfare, just as I am genuinely concerned for my siblings" and that is a wonderful application to bring out. We still must not treat the opposite sex with the familiarity that we would treat our siblings, but we can treat them with the sacrificial, unconditional love that we are to exhibit to everyone.
    Love and hugs to you!

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  10. I know this post was a long time ago, but it is so nice to hear that someone else thinks that email, chatting, and texts with some one of the opposite gender are off limits! I have never heard any of my friends say that! Its something I have always believed - and I am not the only one!!

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  11. Elizabeth--how sad that your friends either do not have this conviction or do not share it. Hopefully you can be the firebrand in their life that incites them to greater purity! ;-) Certainly these things are not "wrong" in and of themselves, but they just provide too much opportunity for illicit relationships without accountability. My motto is, "why tempt yourself?" It's so much easier to just not put yourself in that position of a private relationship/conversation.

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