Cultivating God-honoring Friendships with the Opposite Sex

David Mackey

What are your goals with the opposite sex? Think about it. Go back to the beginning when you first started wanting that girlfriend. What was your goal? Has it changed since those early years?

Over the years, a number of not so different goals have been presented to me as I have talked with various guys about that elusive girlfriend. In fact, I am quite aware that MY goals were most often like those ‘various guys.’ Most of those goals had an underlying theme ‘ ME.

Oh, let me clarify, these were NOT the goals presented to the girls’these were the true goals that come out of the heart’ often presented to my buddies but sometimes my secret. The goals were about ‘GETTING’- for ME, a girlfriend so that I might have some kind of status. Sometimes the goal was about ‘GETTING’- for ME, to a certain ‘base’. Still, other times, the goal was about ‘GETTING’- for ME, someone to stroke my ego.

Believe it or not, sometimes my goal seemed a little more proper or even spiritual. I was looking for the woman God had for me ‘ actually was ‘GETTING’- for ME.

Always it seems to come down to goals that are self or ME centered. The girls often were an object for my pleasure, or for my ego, or for my comfort through life.

The title of this article has a very different goal, GOD-HONORING FRIENDSHIPS. God-honoring friendships are probably much closer to what God wishes to see in our modern day relationships.

What would life be like if our goals were really about FRIENDSHIP and NOT ABOUT GETTING FOR ME? For many there would be seen an entirely new way of relating.

Friendships have different levels of intimacy then acquaintances. Within our friendships there might be a wide range of depths of intimacy. But, in friendships there seem to be some basic foundational elements.

In The Pursuit of Intimacy by Dr. David Ferguson and Dr. Chris Thurman some of the necessary ingredients found in intimate relationships are: AFFECTIONATE CAREGIVING, VULNERABLE COMMUNICATION, MUTUAL GIVING, and JOINT ACCOMPLISHMENT. In the book the writers are focused on building deeper intimacy in marriage. The ingredients however, are found also in friendships and they just might be helpful when incorporating them as some of the facets or goals in Cultivating God-honoring Friendships with the Opposite Sex.

Friendships often start in one of these areas. If you have ever worked at a summer camp, been on a missions trip, worked on a school or work project with others of either sex, you may recall that a levels of friendship often develops. This is because you are JOINTLY ACCOMPLISHING something together. This working on the same goal is a friendship builder. If the goal has spiritual elements to it, sometimes the friendships seem to be deeper.

Friendships sometimes start when one person is hurting and another comes alongside to give care and comfort. If this is from the opposite sex, this care by its very nature is affectionate, even if it does not involve touch. Ferguson and Thurman call this AFFECTIONATE CAREGIVING and it seems to forge and cultivate friendships.

Friendships sometimes develop when there is a pattern of MUTUAL GIVING. One person gives and the response is to give back. The giving can start as external such as material gifts, but in friendships it usually ends up more internal, as in giving of oneself in actions and deeds.

Friendships sometimes start and or deepen when we listen to a friend’s heart and give to a friend the story of our own heart. This might be called VULNERABLE COMMUNICATION. To share our hearts: our beliefs and values, our pains and fears, our wounds and scars, makes us quite vulnerable. When we share and someone listens and accepts us a deep friendship can be built. Likewise when we listen to someone else and accept them, they will be drawn to us as a friend.

Back to our goal. What if our goal was to actually cultivate friendships’ with both sexes. If some goals in our life were to care about others so that we give to them affectionately, friendships would be cultivated. If among our life goals was the goal to give to others, not just when they are in need but just to say I am thinking of you, or I care about you, friendships would be cultivated. If our life goals included communicating on the heart level with people in our lives, friendships would be cultivated. If we worked, served, accomplished side-by-side with others, friendships would be cultivated.

If we keep it about me and what I get, people will be pushed away and/or unhealthy relationships will likely be established. If we focus on others, building up others, encouraging others, serving others, seeking the hearts of others then God-honoring friendships will likely be cultivated with both sexes.

Elements of Building Strong Male Friendships

Kent Ernsting

What are some of the elements of building strong male friendships?

Authentic. Male friendships that go the distance are authentic. Be yourself and be real. Allow the real you to emerge. Take down masks that hide your true self from others. Strong friendships grow where the roots go deep, down to the depths of our heart. Don’t allow yourself to hide behind surface comments, such as answering the question ‘How are you doing?’ with the response ‘OK,’ ‘Good,’ or ‘Fine.’ A relationship that is real includes both your strengths and weaknesses. Be open, real, vulnerable, honest and sincere. Share your struggles with your friend. Risk exposing yourself as you really are. When we risk sharing our struggles with grace-giving others, we find that they accept us regardless of our faults, and we experience the joy of acceptance. ‘Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other.’ (James 5:16)

Friendships must be cultivated; they’re not automatic. I have lost touch with former friends by neglecting to stay in touch with them. Spending time together is required. Stay in touch with each other periodically. Make the phone call to initiate getting together with your friend. Friendships require commitment and devotion to one another.

Laugh and enjoy some fun activities with your friends. Do something different with your friend such a getting together at a park and taking a walk while you talk. Enjoy a game of golf or tennis together. Go camping together. Some of my most cherished memories of high fidelity moments with my friends have occurred when we take our annual backpacking trip. This has become a much-anticipated weekend with just the guys. We get away to a remote area, explore, challenge each other and ourselves and stretch beyond our normal comfort zone. We serve each other and tell stories. Around the campfire we talk honestly about our lives, our loves, our disappointments, our failures, our hopes and dreams. There is tremendous camaraderie that is built during such weekends. It is fun to read their annual Christmas letter in which they inevitably mention the ‘Scratch and Spit’ weekend as one of the highlights of the year. ‘[There is] a time to ‘laugh, a time to’dance.’ (Ecclesiastes 3:4)

Avoid isolation. It is our natural tendency to withdraw from others and it can often become unhealthy. Solitude is fine but isolation is deadly. Why do you think that ‘solitary confinement’ is one of the worst punishments devised by men?

Friends are essential; they’re not optional. There is no substitute for a friend. A friendship provides someone to care, listen, comfort, and even reprove. ‘As iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.’ (Proverbs 27:17) We are not self-sufficient.

Encourage one another. Many of us grew up in families where affirmation was withheld. All of us need encouragement in facing life’s demands, worries and defeats. Cheer one another on, lift their spirit by exhibiting a spirit of grace. Look them in the eye and tell them what you see when they have demonstrated a character quality which you admire. Commit to praying for them by name every day of the coming week. Put an arm around them and let them know that you believe in them.

Friendships impact our lives for good or ill; they’re not neutral. If you connect with good people you become a better person. ‘He who walks with the wise grows wise, but a companion of fools suffers harm.’ (Proverbs 13:20). If you connect with bad people, you become like them. ‘Bad company corrupts good character.’ (1 Corinthians 15:33). Choose your friends carefully, prayerfully and wisely.

Be confidential. Hold confidential information that is shared with you close to your heart. You will damage the friendship and possibly harm your friend if you share this information with others, even as a prayer concern. Trust is built on a foundation of confidence that what I share with you will stay with you.

Allow him to be himself, don’t try to change him. Give him the freedom to be himself without pressuring him to become someone else. Allow him to make mistakes, to be human, loyally maintaining the relationship regardless of his ups and downs. ‘Love is patient, love is kind’it keeps no record of wrongs.’ (1 Corinthians 13:4-5)

Protect him. Look out for things that may harm your friend, help to protect him from danger. Watch each other’s back.