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. I
t 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"|