As a young woman, I transitioned from awkward and geeky to what some men considered attractive without noticing the transition myself. Ungrounded in my faith and uninstructed about my conduct, I naively pursued friendships with men without a second thought about whether those men could have had feelings for me. It took advice from a man to open my eyes to reality.
Fast-forward three decades later, and here I am a mother to grown sons. I have seen my sons, one of whom is now married and soon to be a father, toyed with and tossed about by young women whom I otherwise would consider to be virtuous and Christ-honoring. The problem seems to be in crossing the line between friendship and flirtation.
Before I had sons, I might have had a hard time understanding that young men truly do have feelings. In fact, they feel deeply. Like young women, they genuinely desire to find ideal mates who share their faith, their hearts and their goals. Like women, they daydream about their futures and even their weddings. But they navigate in muddied waters as young women float listlessly between apparent interest and disinterest.
It’s flattering to receive the attention of a young man. It’s especially flattering to receive the attention of an attractive young man. And it’s exceptionally flattering to receive the attention of an attractive, godly, worthwhile young man. Young women who lack self-esteem may unconsciously seek such attention but may pull away when they actually receive it, either out of no real interest in a relationship or of a sense of fear or unworthiness. I understand because I was that young woman. (My issues were fear and unworthiness. Big shock.)
So to young women, I have some advice I wish someone had shared with me from the word of God:
Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it. – Proverbs 4:23
That’s what God has to say to you. Here’s what I – as an older woman and mother of sons – have to say to you:
- As you guard your heart, be guarded in how you interact with men. You may see your texts and social media posts as friendly or funny; they may see them as encouragement. The same goes for face-to-face interaction. If you spend a lot of time talking to a guy at an event, he’s more than likely strutting home that night planning how he’ll ask you out. And one-on-one time with a guy is perceived as you-and-me time. Just saying.
- Consider dating as a precursor for marriage. If you’re a Christian, dating shouldn’t be about putting another notch in your belt romantically; it should be about finding the one God has chosen as your mate. If you can’t imagine yourself marrying someone, then avoid dating him and giving him false hope.
- If you even suspect you have given a guy false hopes, back off. Way off. If you’re a straight shooter like me, even consider dealing with the elephant in the room. You can do it in a friendly, funny way, like, “Hey, I just realized I’ve gotten so comfortable talking to you that I probably came off like some major flirt. My grandma would so totally flip out on me right now. Forgive me? Friends?”
- If guys – and I mean the good ones – are keeping their distance from you, it may be because you have a reputation as a tease. Guys who are worth having want girls who are worth having, and girls who are worth having don’t play games. They behave with integrity and consideration. But if you fall into this category, it’s not too late. You can prayerfully change your behavior. Consider enlisting the help of an accountability partner, someone who can be Paul to your Timothy. The guys will notice because, trust me, they’re watching you.
Next time: What purity is and why it’s important.