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Here is an email I received from a reader with some questions.  Let’s have a discussion about this topic!  

I came upon your blog as I was having devotional time last week and I have really enjoyed reading all your advice! I am a single Christian girl and I am really shy around people I don’t know.

I have started coming out of my shell the last few years but still have problems talking to guys because I don’t want them (or the nosey old ladies at church) to get the wrong idea (I have been humiliated on more than one occasion). I decided I couldn’t care what people think and I just want to be friendly to everyone regardless of what other people will assume. But I have had a few situations where guys have thought I was flirting when I was just being friendly. It has kind of backfired and I have gotten attention when I only wanted to be friends. Its not like I batt my eyelids or anything, lol…

So I am not sure what I am doing wrong. How are you supposed to get to know people without giving the wrong idea? I want to meet people but its hard when I am self conscious of everything I do!
I would love to hear your perspective on this…

MY RESPONSE
It is wonderful to meet you!!!!

This is an awesome question!

This topic is not addressed very specifically in scripture.  There are definitely admonishments in Timothy to treat our brothers/sisters of the opposite sex with absolute purity.  There are admonishments to flee sexual immorality.  But the exact details about how we interact with each other in the Body of Christ as men and women – can get kind of gray.

I believe we are to love our brothers in Christ and honor them.  I believe we are to do our best not to put any stumbling block in front of them that might draw them into sin on our account (that is why dressing modestly and behaving modestly is very important – but also that is why it would not be appropriate to play with a guy’s emotions or string him along on purpose).

It can get difficult when we relate to our brothers.  We want to love them with the love of Christ.  But we could also pose temptation to them, they could pose temptation to us.  So we do have to keep them at arm’s length to some degree.

We certainly don’t want to cause senseless heartbreak or crush their souls.  We want to edify them, affirm them, lift them up, encourage them and pray for them.

But on to your specific questions…
Here is my perspective, for whatever that is worth!  Keep in mind, most of this is just my opinion.  That means – it is not scripture. These are not rules from God.  This is not the gospel.  It is not Holy Spirit inspired.  These are my opinions and observations.  This topic is open to discussion.  I am not an expert, nor am I the Holy Spirit.  This is just a place to begin a discussion about a sticky issue – and my prayer is that we might be able to understand our brothers better and treat them with honor, dignity, respect, love, grace and mercy.  I pray that we as Christian women might be a blessing to our brothers in Christ.

I am REALLY proud of you for coming out of your shell – I know that can be extremely daunting at first. Sometimes new people are intimidating and a bit scary. I can totally relate to the ladies at church issue. They tend to ask THE MOST EMBARRASSING questions and put pressure on people that makes an already tense situation infinitely worse.

THE QUESTIONS AND PRESSURE OF PEOPLE FROM CHURCH/FAMILY
– “Oh, are you two dating?”
– “You make a lovely couple. What are you waiting for? You should get married right away!”
– “You two would have the most beautiful children together!”

YIKES!

It doesn’t stop once you are married. Then it is (these are all things people have said to me when my husband and I were first married and went to the church where my father-in-law was the pastor):

– “Are you pregnant? You look pregnant, when are you due?”  (I heard some variation of that almost every Sunday for the first 7 years of our marriage.  It got REALLY, REALLY old!)
– “You aren’t sitting as close together as normal. Are you having a fight?”
– “When are you going to have a baby?”

– One older lady brought her new grandbaby over and held him right in Greg’s face, and said with the most hateful tone of voice, “THIS is what one looks like!  I expect you to have one of these soon!”

I used to get REALLY offended by such questions. Now I realize that the ladies really just loved me and wanted me to be happy and couldn’t wait to buy wedding gifts and baby shower gifts and dote on my beautiful children. But, it was really tough to appreciate that when the truth was that I was waiting for my husband to get a job with benefits so that I could go part time – and it took 7 years for that to happen.  I wanted children, but I knew I didn’t want to work full time once we had a baby.  Those comments would put me in tears many times.

BEING FRIENDLY

My personal philosophy is to smile at everyone, be friendly to everyone – men and women.
When I was younger, I would even hug everyone. But now that I understand men a bit more – I am thinking that may not have been the best idea!

I like your idea about not caring what other people think and just being friendly to everyone regardless of the assumptions and talk of other people.

Here is what helps me:

Jesus is my LORD. So, my job in life is to please and obey HIM. That’s it. He is my audience. He is the one I am aiming to please. His “well done, My good and faithful servant” is the only approval I need.

I don’t have a covenant with other people. I am responsible to love them and respect them out of my love and reverence for Christ. But I am not obligated to please them.  The older ladies’ opinions about who I date or marry or when I get pregnant – are just not that important. Jesus wants me to love them, but I don’t have to please them or obey them. They are not in authority over me.  I show them sincere respect, honor, love, gentleness, kindness and thoughtfulness – but I don’t have to take their every opinion to heart and obsess over it or be upset by it.

Once I get married, my husband is in authority over me. I seek to please him unless he asks me to sin or condone sin. But the opinions of other people – not super important. I can love them and be kind to them, serve them, care about them, honor them, be interested in them, be friends with them – but I don’t owe them obedience, and they don’t have authority to tell me what I must do with my life. Ideally, you might have a godly older woman as a mentor – her opinion would be helpful and important. If you have godly parents, their opinion would be helpful and important. But it’s ok to realize that family, friends and church members sometimes say very hurtful things unintentionally. They don’t realize how much their words hurt. They think they are showing love.

ABOUT BEING FRIENDLY VS. FLIRTING

Well, there is good news and bad news on this topic, my sweet sister!

GOOD NEWS – When you are friendly to everyone, lots of people will be your friend and many guys will talk with you. That does not happen if you are so shy that you don’t interact with anyone. Guys talking with you is GOOD.

BAD NEWS – When you are friendly with everyone, some guys will take it that you are romantically interested in them when you are not. That is still probably a better problem to have than no guys talking with you. But it can be very scary – and I know you don’t want to mislead anyone or hurt a guy’s feelings or devastate him.

I am not exactly sure what your body language is and what things you have been saying when guys misinterpret your friendliness for romantic attraction. So I am going to talk about some generalities. These are NOT RULES. This is just a list of my suggestions. Take them or leave them. This is not the gospel. Listen to the Holy Spirit a whole lot more than you listen to me!!!!!

Some things to possibly avoid:

– physical touch (this may vary a bit – it may be you just like to shake people’s hands or give a quick hug – that may be fine, but other guys may interpret that as a lot more interest than they usually receive from women. It depends on the guys.) For instance, touching a guy’s arm or leg or back or shoulder a lot when you are talking or big, full-body hugs – would probably be taken as flirting.
– playing with your hair a lot
– spending most of your time with one guy – that may send strong signals that you are interested in him if you seem to be oblivious to everyone else but him.
– using innuendoes about sexual/romantic relationship things
– wearing low cut tops, midriff baring tops, short skirts, super tight jeans/pants, sheer things
– going somewhere alone with a guy
– constant smiling with your eyes completely lit up (I’m not saying you shouldn’t be joyful – but joy and excitement and friendliness are very easily misinterpreted)
– lots of admiring, respectful comments directed towards the guy.
– talking about romantic relationships, dating, etc… could be an issue.
– if your face flushes red a lot or your look nervous or very interested in him – he may interpret that as romantic interest.

Some things that will hopefully only communicate friendliness:

– let people see that you are equally friendly with everyone of all ages, men and women.
– be genuinely interested in everyone.
– talk about neutral topics, or spiritual topics, but probably not anything remotely sexual or dating-related
– spend a fairly equal amount of time with everyone.
– if he talks about doing something together, suggest doing something in groups (that is probably a great idea whether you are interested in the guy initially or not.  Keep in mind that it is very possible for a guy to be attracted to you – and you to just think of him as a friend at first, but that you may grow to be attracted to him in time.)

This is a difficult subject for men and for women. Women don’t want to inadvertently lead guys on. They don’t want to hurt their brothers in Christ. Sometimes there isn’t a lot of difference between flirting and friendliness. The line can get pretty gray and blurry. This is a tough topic for the men, too. They don’t want to misread women. They don’t want to be unclear about if a girl is truly romantically interested or not. Sometimes the ladies can be very confusing to the guys.

This topic is definitely open for discussion. I pray God will give you wisdom!

Much love to you, my beautiful sister in Christ,

April

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