He Said-She Said: Showing Interest without Causing Lust
- Thursday, January 15, 2009
EDITOR’S NOTE: Each He Said-She Said column features a question from a Crosswalk.com reader with responses from a male and female point of view. If you’ve got a question about anything related to singleness, please CLICK HERE to submit (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: I am a middle-aged woman and a strong follower of Christ. I have had sexual addiction problems and never had a “real” date—it had always been just straight to the bed. While I know that some of my flirtatious behavior at times is totally wrong, God give us the desire to be sexual and I believe being flirtatious is okay. How does a woman let a man know that she is interested in him and not cause lust?
HE SAID: By the manner in which you phrased your question, there appears to be a number of issues you are struggling with besides not knowing how to show a man you are interested in him. Lust, ungodly relationships, flirting and sexual temptations are common battles even for those who are strong followers of Christ. These can be many of our biggest obstacles to godliness.
Paul gives us the following counsel for our relationships:
It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control his own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the heathen, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong his brother or take advantage of him (1 Thess. 4:3-6a).
In regards to having had sexual addiction problems, nearly all addictions—including those of a sexual nature—necessitate the need for professionals to guide you through. Most recovery programs set up a “step” program to follow in order to gain control over the compulsion. Many addictions are never completely defeated, but rather carefully managed throughout a lifetime.
Likewise, in order to maintain a discipline of purity in our lives, we must set up our own personal step program which includes accountability, prayer, Scripture memorization, and barriers to temptations. Our lack of restraint will not only cause emotional and spiritual harm to ourselves, but also impact those we interact with.
According to Wikipedia.org:
- Flirting is a form of human interaction between two people, expressing a romantic and/or sexual interest.
- Sex addicts repeatedly and compulsively try to connect with others through highly impersonal intimate behaviors … empty affairs. …
Flirtatious behavior, as you mention in your question, can be used in a manner that is totally wrong. Flirtation, although flattering for some, can arouse certain behavior that is contrary to how God wants us to live our lives. You have experienced the results of how it can negatively contribute to those who may not have the same values, morals, and control that you desire.
Everything is permissible for me—but not everything is beneficial (1 Cor. 6:12).
“Harmless” flirtation may be permissible; however it is not beneficial to those who are susceptible to sexual temptation. We, as Christians, must know our own limitations and those of our brothers so we don’t cause either to fall into temptation.
I agree that God gave us the desire to be sexual. He created us as sexual beings for the purpose of glorifying Him and procreating within the borders and covenant of marriage. However we must only engage in sex within these boundaries.
Before letting a guy know you are interested in him, I would suggest you ask yourself a few questions to determine what are your reasons for wanting to do so.
- Why am I interested in him? Is it just something (a) physical or (b) because he is a godly man?
- What impression do I want to give to him? I am a (a) flirt or (b) a godly woman?
- What am I seeking from the relationship? A (a) one night stand or a (b) serious relationship?
If you answer "a" to any of these questions, it might be best not to let the guy know you have thoughts about him. However, if you can honestly answer "b," there are many ways in which to let a guy know you find him intriguing.
You can show interest in him by asking what his dreams are, what he likes to do, what the Lord is calling him to do, and how God has used him in the past. Showing interest in who he is can be more flattering than showing your willingness to have an impersonal intimate encounter with him.
Share who you are and why you are a strong follower of God. Let him know your dreams and desires the Lord has placed on your heart rather than sharing your intimate being. If he is truly a man after God’s own heart, he will respect you, find you more attractive and be after your heart more so than if he spent the night with you.
An unmarried woman (or man) or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit (1 Cor. 7:34).
SHE SAID: This is a great question. I’m glad you are taking responsibility for your actions and your role in not causing a man to lust.
Yes, God did create us to be sexual beings. But to act inappropriately on our desires is to act in opposition to God’s plan. To delight in one another and to become one (sexually, and I think emotionally, too) is purposed only for marriage (Genesis 2:24).
Outside of marriage, we must exhibit self-control when it comes to sex and our desires. We can admire one another and want to get to know someone better and show interest. But we must stop short of crossing over into or inciting lust (Matthew 5:27-30).
So, practically speaking, what does that look like?
We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up. For even Christ did not please himself but, as it is written: “The insults of those who insult you have fallen on me.” For everything that was written in the past was written to teach us, so that through endurance and the encouragement of the Scriptures we might have hope (Rom. 15.1-4).
Because you’ve acknowledged that you’ve struggled with sexual sin in the past, you can definitely understand (perhaps more than most) and can “bear” with what kind of struggle your brothers in Christ are going through in maintaining sexual purity. Also, regardless of where you are in your own recovery process, you are still susceptible to stumbling as well (so keep that in mind, no matter how “strong” you might feel).
You also indicate your understanding that a woman should not do anything that would cause a man to stumble. So, through your own missteps and subsequent spiritual growth, you, my friend, are light-years ahead of many of your peers in regards to your sensitivity toward this issue.
If you asked any number of men what causes them to lust, I’m sure you would get varied answers. But here are some examples to get you thinking:
- Clothing that is too low-cut or too tight. Are you unsure if how you present yourself is too tempting to a man? Ask your trusted friends (or perhaps a male family member, too) for some honest feedback. What may seem appropriate to you and just “very tailored” or “well fitting” could be too revealing and a stumbling block to another.
- Lengthy late-night conversations. Whether on the phone or in-person and in a secluded location, things said when it’s dark, past your bedtime and with no one else around can quickly lead to inappropriate thoughts or way-too-intimate words being spoken.
- Physical touch gone overboard. A backrub or a cuddling session can turn into something not so innocent very quickly. Especially if the two of you are alone and the moon is full and the hour is late. If this is a stumbling block (for you or your man), you might have to relegate your one-on-one time to public places only (there’s a Starbucks on every corner now with very comfortable sofas and armchairs!).
- Movies or television programs that are sensual or contain sexual content or nudity. Even emotional chick flicks or rom-coms might excite a man (and possibly you, too), and you might need to limit (or even cease) your consumption of this type of entertainment.
- Music with a slow groove or suggestive lyrics. Barry White or Luther Vandross anyone? I know you might be chuckling at that, but music can lower defenses and get people aroused or “in the mood,” so to speak. After all, they don’t call some tunes “baby-making music” for nothing.
It’s encouraging to know that you can plan ahead, pre-decide and avoid situations or choices that lead to temptation (for either yourself or a man of interest). Also, know that you are not alone. God is with both of you in the midst of this struggle:
No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (1 Cor. 10:13).
Also, as you show interest, keep these verses in mind:
Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing (1 Thess. 5:11).
And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds (Heb. 10:24).
In your interactions with a man of interest, are you first and foremost trying to “encourage”, “build up” and “spur on”? Here are some ideas that can foster that kind of focus:
- Have you inquired about your man of interest? Word travels fast (if you haven’t already figured that out yet). Asking a trusted, mutual friend about your interest can be an indirect way to show that you are interested. Also, this is a great opportunity to “build up” a man in public to someone else. Verbalize why you think he is great and how he has captured your attention in the first place! You are adding to this man’s reputation and acknowledging his good character in front of others.
- Are you friendly and do you engage in conversation? Sometimes a man is more scared of you than you are of him. Find areas of commonality or inquire about his career or hobbies and ask lots of questions. Men love sharing about what they enjoy and know something about. So get them talking, sit back and observe. In your feedback, encourage them in their endeavors and agree to pray with them about any obstacles or challenges they may share with you.
- Find a way to spend time together within a group setting. Perhaps you are part of the same small group Bible study. Or maybe you volunteer or work together. A group setting can help to buffer or slow down the sexual temptation process and allow you to grow the friendship first, before romantic feelings even enter the picture. Plus, you will be doing something productive and spurring one another on toward love and what is good—and won't be focused solely on each other.
Bottom line, as sisters in Christ to fellow brothers or as witnesses to nonbelievers, it is our responsibility to point others to Christ (Matthew 5:16). And we must also be open to the conviction of the Holy Spirit who will reveal what is really going on in our hearts and minds: Is my flirting really just manipulation? Am I leading on someone who I’m not really interested in? Am I just trying to get a man’s attention so that I will feel better about myself? Do I have this man’s best interests at heart? Am I hindering or helping him in maintaining purity?
By consistently staying in the Word, having a healthy prayer life and inviting accountability from trusted friends and family members, a woman’s heart will be softened and sensitive to God’s leading in any situation with a man of interest. And hopefully she will desire the very best for her brothers in Christ and—through her words, conduct and presentation—will want to encourage them on in their purity.
HE is … Cliff Young, a Crosswalk.com contributing writer and a veteran single of many decades. He has traveled the world in search of fresh experiences, serving opportunities, and the perfect woman (for him) and has found that his investments in God, career and youth ministry have paid off in priceless dividends.
SHE is … Laura MacCorkle, Crosswalk.com’s Senior Entertainment Editor. She loves God, her family and and her friends. Singleness has taught her patience, deepened her walk with the Lord and afforded her countless (who’s counting anyway?) opportunities to whip up an amazing three-course meal for one.
DISCLAIMER: We are not trained psychologists or licensed professionals. We’re just average folk who understand what it’s like to live the solo life in the 21st century. We believe that the Bible is our go-to guide for answers to all of life’s questions, and it’s where we’ll go for guidance when responding to your questions.
GOT A QUESTION? If you’ve got a question about anything related to living the single life, PLEASE SUBMIT HERE (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that He Said-She Said will be an encouragement to you.
**This column first published on January 15, 2009.
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