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Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Being of opposite genders.......

often proves to be a barrier between people who would otherwise make good friends. There's an overemphasis on the possibility of "romance" between male and female which serves to crush the natural flow of friendship between one human being and another. The fear and nervous energy built up around an epic "encounter" makes some people behave like zombies, or like actors on a stage, or like cads and slinks pursuing one another in animalistic fashion.

     As a girl, I find it somewhat challenging to make and maintain friendships with males (save a handful of special exceptions), mostly because of the way they react to me as a female. They either put on some kind of show, or go silent, or give a synthetic sort of attention that makes one feel used. I think one of the main problems is that the boys tend to view the girls more as "females" than as human beings who are seeking sincere relationships and to be treated with kindness and respect. We don't want to be patronized. We don't want to be treated like fluffy little pets to be patted on the head and dismissed with a kick. There is such a thing as social graces and polite conversation without phoniness.

     I have no doubt that males have a different role to play in the world than females, but we are both equals. It may be their job to be the strong, protective types, and ours to be the tender, nurturing types (and I have no problem with that!), but both of us are called by God to be loving to everyone, no matter what their color, creed, or gender. We're not supposed to use each other, either in a physical or in an emotional way. Certainly, no form of human love is perfect, but we are supposed to try to grow in love through Our Lord Jesus Christ. That is our call as Catholics, as Christians, and as human beings. As Pope Francis recently stated (causing a rather bizarre flare of overreaction), all human beings were redeemed by Christ on the Cross, and we are all called "to do good."

    Of course, the different meanings of the word "love" are bound to get easilly entangled and hopelessly confused over the course of our lives. What we mean when we say we "love" someone is sometimes hard to define all at once. Sometimes we just enjoy their company and like being with them. We share our hearts, bear one another's burdens, and enter into one of the greatest gifts God has given to man: true friendship. This type of love should never underrated as "below" romantic love. On the contrary, friendship should come before any type of romance can even get off the ground. But obviously not all friendships between men and women end in vowing to hitch up "till death do us part." It doesn't mean that anything is wrong with the friendship; it just means that romance hasn't grown out of it.

    However, male/female friendship often becomes increasingly strained when romance is found elsewhere. For example, if a young man and a young woman are friends, but then one of them or both of them get "steady" significant others, can they still remain friends with each other without ruining their newfound romances? I believe so. Sadly, too often those who get "steadies" will feel pressured to abandon all forms of friendship with those of the opposite gender for fear that it should be taken as a romance, or that they will "lead on" the other party. But I think most of this beating around the bush/friend-dumping causes more pain than simply making it clear that no romance exists between you and the friend. If that friend can abide by the arrangement, then treat them as you always have, as a person of worth who you are glad to have as at least a small part of your life. You may both go off marry other people and still remain friends with each other, even introducing each other to your respective fiances/spouses!
     Now, clearly the movements of the heart are hard to put into a box. It's only natural that romantic relationships that have the potential of turning into marital relationships should take precedence over friendship relationships, and much less time will be put towards the former than previously. Furthermore, the Eternal Triangle cannot always be avoided, and sometimes friendships that had hints of romance in them can become dangerous in some delicate circumstances and must be broken off. But I'd say it's only fair to give the friend the benefit of being the bigger man/woman and to"descend to be only a friend", as opposed to leaving him/her flat with no explanation and making him/her feel like a plague victim! Besides, some friends never even have any romantic thoughts towards you in the first place, the ditching them because of gender is really just being petty. 

    Naturally, friendship problems don't just occur in male/female dynamics. Friends of the same gender can be randomly hot-and-cold for unexplained reasons, proving themselves to be not very good friends at all. They need prayers, because they need to grow in spiritual maturity in order to learn how to become a true friend. Friends will always offend each other sometimes, and I have no doubt I have done so repeatedly in the past. In fact, if any friends who feel I have offended them are reading this, I wish to ask their forgiveness for my failings now. Equally so, I forgive them for any ways they may have hurt me, and pray that our friendship may remain true-hearted. It is a rare and priceless thing. The Holy Bible sums it up thus in the Book of Sirach 6:5–17:

"A kind mouth multiplies friends,
and gracious lips prompt friendly greetings.

Let your acquaintances be many,
but one in a thousand your confidant.

When you gain a friend, first test him,
and be not too ready to trust him

For one sort of friend is a friend when it suits him,
but he will not be with you in time of distress.

Another is a friend who becomes an enemy,
and tells of the quarrel to your shame.

Another is a friend, a boon companion,
who will not be with you when sorrow comes.

When things go well, he is your other self,
and lords it over your servants;

But if you are brought low,
he turns against you and avoids meeting you.

Keep away from your enemies;
be on your guard with your friends.

A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter;
he who finds one finds a treasure.

A faithful friend is beyond price,
no sum can balance his worth.

A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy,
such as he who fears God finds;

For he who fears God behaves accordingly,
and his friend will be like himself."

"A Faithful Friend"


  1. Pearl,

    What a thoughtful essay!

    Friends, certainly, are one of God's blessings, for what would Keats have been without Brown and Fanny, Jack Lewis without Warnie, or Pope Benedict without Georg?

    Don't be too harsh on us men, though; we're often clumsy and oafish, but we mean well.

    You have sent me to look up something Lewis said about meeting new people, in this instance during war, and in my youth I found it so:

    There were nasty people in the army; but memory fills those months with pleasant, transitory contacts. Every few days one seemed to meet a scholar, an original, a poet, a cheery buffoon, a raconteur, or at the least a man of good will.

    - C. S. Lewis, Surprised by Joy

  2. Hey, Mack,

    Thanks for reading my rant! Please don't any of this personally simply because you are among the male ranks. You are among the better type :-) I just sometimes need to vent a little about mankind and get it over with, or else risk losing my mental stability! ****

    Indeed, I do believe that a lot of men/boys are well-meaning, but some are just too consumed with themselves to think about other people, and do tend to treat girls dispicably! Forgive me.....I'm recovering from a prom dance.....and some....ehem......;-)

    Great friendship quote from C.S. Lewis. Will need learn from his cheery attitude, take a deep breath, and take another stab at putting on a friendly grin to face the world.....after I get over this cold I caught from the prom! >;-(

    Many Blessings,

  3. Hi Pearl!

    I enjoyed reading your essay- and appreciate the good advice. It will be good to keep your thoughts in mind when I move on to college;-)

    By the way, I'm sorry to hear that the dance didn't go so well- especially as I encouraged you to go and see what it was like in the first place! I can only hope that you recover from your cold quickly!

    Your friend,

  4. Sorry to hear about your cold...and your unpleasant experiences with boys/men/males in general. Do I need to go yell at them for you? ;)

  5. Hey, Meredith and Emerald!

    I'm doing a little better now, although I'm pretty much worn out from blowing my nose and coughing. The first day of the "disease" was horrific.....nauseous, cramping, razor-blades in the anything's tolerable after that! Thanks for asking after me :-)

    Meredith, please don't feel bad about encouraging me to check out the dance! In the end, I'm glad I did it, since I did get to "pretty myself up" and eat some nice food. But the boys were just pure and simple cads! Hanging around with one of my girlfriends was pretty much my only consolation the morass of self-consumed menfolk!

    Emerald, your offer to go yell at them! Thanks a million ;-)

    Just to let you all know, I really am trying to be more understanding towards YAM's, and trying to appreciate there various circumstances and behavioral deficiences.....but it's SO HARD!!!! Just containing myself in their presense takes a huge lump of self-control. But once I get away from them.....I've just gotta vent to get it off my chest!!! Please...pray for my patience....;-)


  6. Pearl - Far from being a 'rant', as you describe your post in answer to an earlier comment, I would call it a very thoughtful piece of writing and one with which I find myself in full agreement.

    It is a sad fact of our present age that, if people are seen to be friends, then the common assumption is that the friendship must be romantic &/or sexual. This doesn't just apply to friendships between members of the opposite sex, it also applies to friendships between people of the same sex. If two guys are seen to be good friends with each other, very soon will come the suggestion of a 'gay relationship' when in reality, they just enjoy each others company & share similar cultural or sporting interests.

    I concur entirely with your statement that we 'are called by God to be loving to everyone, no matter what there color, creed, or gender', other than pointing out that it should be 'their' & not 'there' :-). And as you rightly highlight, part of the problem is what is meant by the word 'love'.

    Normally English has a vast vocabulary which helps in differentiating as to what is meant. But 'love' in English, can mean many things. In this respect, Greek is so much better. There is Phileo, the love of a mutual friendship - 'I just love being in his/her company'. There is Eros - sexual love. And there is agape, unconditional love - the love God had for us in sending his Son into the world in the person of Jesus. It's not that love & romance/sex don't go together, but there are plenty of occasions when mutual love and friendship can be expressed, without there needing to be any suggestion that romance is also involved.

  7. Hi,!

    Thanks for reading and commenting. I'm glad you found this piece to be "a thoughtful piece of writing" as opposed to a rant! ;-)

    It really is a pity that our world is so romance/sex driven to the point of wrecking friendships because of unfounded rumors and public pressures. I'm just hoping I will able to avoid that type of drivel as much as possible in my life. I want to love and be loved as a friend first, before anything else can come from it, and even if nothing else comes from it!

    I'll fix "there" straight-away ;-)

    Yes, it's rather unfortunate that "love" has so many meanings in English, whereas we really should have totally different words to describe the different things! How does Welsh handle the different "loves"? What about Czech?


  8. My favorite friendship Scripture passage!!! So beautiful - thanks for posting!
    Sorry to hear about your frustrations with men, Pearl! (In fairness to them, there are enough of us girls out there who are just as bad. I suppose. I just haven't met many of them...) Anyway, is right - even plain, ordinary friendships have been screwed up by our culture's obsessions. If you read older works, people used to be allowed to be real friends with each other. Guys suffer from it more than girls. They're supposed to somehow be leaders without ever being allowed to show emotion like girls can.(But "men don't cry" is another rant for another time.:)
    Nowadays, everyone has a million "facebook friends," but - as my pastor pointed out in his homily a few weeks ago when this passage happened to be the first reading at daily Mass - hardly any real friends - faithful friends who fear God and behave accordingly. Ones who will be there for you when you need them and travel with you in the direction of God.
    - Katherine

  9. I'm sorry you've had such frustrating experiences with boys, but I think you were able to channel them into a "thoughtful piece of writing," as said, not a rant. I haven't had much exposure to males, but the points you've addressed here will be handy to keep in mind if I ever do meet some. I hope to get married someday, but first I just want to be good friends with a man. For someone as shy and awkward as myself, that's going to be hard enough as it is, so the last thing I need is pressure to dive into a romantic relationship prematurely! Friendship should come first and be left alone - if romance does naturally grow out of it, that's fine, but if it doesn't, that should be fine, too.

    I have to echo Katherine's excitement over the Sirach passage! We both love it (and have quoted it in many birthday cards over the years) so I was thrilled that you posted it! Everyone needs to read and appreciate those words - it's sad that our culture can no longer grasp the meaning of true friendship. One of the "older works" Katherine was referring too is obviously LOTR, which has a whole cast of male characters who clearly understand what it means to be FRIENDS. Selfless friends like the Fellowship, who are willing to sacrifice their lives for each other, are sorely missed these days.

    - Ellen