You know something that always gets on my nerves? When I’m hanging out with a guy, having fun, getting along, spending time together, and having good conversation–only to find out later, from someone else, that he has a girlfriend.
I hate when this happens, and for a wide variety of reasons. First, it’s extremely shady. I mean, what is he doing? Trying to keep his options open? Scoping out the greener pastures? But even more important than the shadiness factor is that it dishonors the respective girlfriend. Even if I was an ignorant accomplice, I feel like an accomplice nonetheless. Though I couldn’t have known any better, I feel as though I have somehow dishonored her by having an inappropriate interaction with her boyfriend. And I’m not even talking about flirting that’s over the top–behavior that is even remotely flirtatious, like extended eye contact or giggling at his jokes–if I give a guy the smallest degree of attention, only to find out that he has a girlfriend, I end up feeling like a total floozy.
But it got me to thinking–when exactly is flirting, or even a certain degree of intimacy with a guy friend, inappropriate? Obviously it is wrong to flirt with a guy who has a girlfriend, but in reality, most guys will end up with girlfriends or even wives, so are we dishonoring those future women with our behavior?
Granted, flirting and intimacy are positive things in the right context–if you are interested in a guy, flirting can be a healthy way to let the guy know you’re interested, as long as it’s not taken too far. What’s more, it is important for two people who are interested in one another to spend time in conversation, conversation about things that matter and are close to their hearts. Such a degree of initimacy is certainly appropriate. And in this way, flirting and intimacy aren’t evils in and of themselves.
Yet I wonder if our guidelines for flirting should be similar to those guidelines for sexual purity. In addition to other reasons, we should abstain from having sex with someone we are not married to because that person may very well marry someone else. We therefore have no business engaging in such intimacy with another person’s spouse. But can the same be said of flirting? Should we be just as cautious about our behavior in this area, given that we could be flirting with someone else’s furture boyfriend or husband?
In all honesty, I think that is extreme, but it is a perspective that should at least give us pause, or keep our motives in check. No matter who we interact with, whether we are interested in dating them or not, we should first and foremost think of them as our brothers in Christ, and treat them accordingly. But in addition to that, we should treat every guy, whether we’re dating him or not, according to the reality that he may very well marry someone else, and we need to be able to honor that future relationship, whenever it may come. This does not mean that flirting should never ever happen, or that you shouldn’t get to know the guy you’re interested in, but simply be intentional about honoring his future marriage. As long as you are glorifying God and putting your guy friend’s best interest first, then flirting is certainly permissible, if not beneficial.