Hands Off: Keeping a Physical Distance
- Thursday, May 24, 2012
EDITOR'S NOTE: He Said-She Said is a biweekly advice column for singles featuring 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 or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously).
QUESTION: What is the best way to handle a Christian brother, one that you’re not in a serious dating relationship with, wanting to touch you, lay his head on your shoulder, and those uncomfortable things that you do not want to do, especially when he keeps telling you that he has self-control and makes light of this?
HE SAID: The key is to not “handle” him, but rather to RUN!
At times we may have a somewhat skewed interpretation of Scripture believing we must accept and condone improper behavior from a brother in the name of loving them.
The Bible tells us to “love one another” (John 13:34), but also to “conduct ourselves properly . . . not in sexual immorality and sensuality” (Romans 13:13) and to “confront him . . . if a believer does something wrong” (Matthew 18:15).
By excusing his behavior as controllable and making light of it, he knows what he is doing is improper and unacceptable. In the same way, if you allow him to carry on in this manner, without taking action, you are encouraging him to continue.
If you have no interest in dating this person, nor want him to invade your personal space, then you need to tell him bluntly and lovingly. Inform him you will not be spending any more time with him until he can show you some respect and control his neediness for affection and attention.
To further protect yourself, ensure you aren’t alone when he is in the vicinity by sharing this issue with a couple of close friends who will literally stand by you when he is near.
If he still won’t listen, tell the church (Matthew 18:17).
If he continues to try to touch and embrace you, take it up with a person in church leadership within the ministry you are both a part of. Ask them for help with the situation.
Within a dating, serious or even marriage relationship, you should never allow yourself to be persuaded, compelled or made to feel guilty in order to do uncomfortable things that you do not want to do.
Loving your brother doesn’t mean you have to put up with inappropriate conduct.
SHE SAID: Walk away. Or sit far, far away. That’s what I would do!
Has your request been made known? Yes. Is your Christian brother following the perimeters you have established for yourself and have communicated to him? No. So what does that tell you about this person?
If someone is not respecting your wishes when you have asked him to keep a distance and explained to him what makes you uncomfortable as it pertains to physical behavior, then why continue to put yourself in this situation? You are being disrespected.
“Loving your neighbor as yourself” (Mark 12:31) does not imply that you are to endure treatment from others that makes you feel uncomfortable or that crosses boundaries into that which is inappropriate. As believers, we are not commanded to be doormats. But we are commanded to love. And I believe you are showing love by speaking truth to this man and telling him what he is doing that is making you feel uncomfortable. You are also showing love (to yourself) by not putting yourself into a situation that is unhealthy (for either you or this Christian brother).
A similar situation happened to me years ago with a much older man. While his “boundary crossin’” with me was not physical, his verbal advances did indeed make me uncomfortable. And I told him so. “Please stop talking to me in this way, and then we can be friends. But if you will not do so, then we have no friendship.”
And you know what? That was all it took. He changed what he said to me and how he said it, and we were able to maintain a friendship!
Now I don’t know if there will be a similar outcome in your situation, but I do know that if this man had self-control then he would not touch you or invade your personal space in ways that are making you uncomfortable. And since he still is crossing the boundaries you have established, then clearly he does not have self-control . . . no matter what he says or makes light of (actions always speak louder than words). Which means you can only control yourself, so you must remove yourself from this situation until your friend can get help and resolve his issues.
Have you confided in anyone about this situation? Is this type of behavior happening in group settings where other brothers and sisters in Christ can observe it? Have you sought counsel from a pastor or another elder or spiritual mentor in your church? Someone who is in authority over you and this brother (if you are both in the same church or small group or Bible study) needs to know of the situation and help monitor it, so that you are not alone and have support (Galatians 6:2).
Furthermore, I would recommend not being anywhere alone with this person. Make sure you are always surrounded by witnesses. Find a buddy to stay beside you whenever you are around this brother. They say that there’s strength in numbers, and I believe that that is true. Perhaps by having someone else in your midst who is helping to act as a barrier between you and this brother, then he will start getting the message a little more clearly: his behavior toward you is unacceptable, is making you uncomfortable and it needs to stop.
May God help you to remain firm, yet loving, as you deal with your brother in Christ (Ephesians 4:25).
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, Senior Editor at Crosswalk.com. She loves God, her family 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 twenty-first 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. Also, it's important to note that we write our answers separately (we think they sound eerily similar sometimes, too!).
GOT A QUESTION? If you've got a question about anything related to singleness or living the single life, please submit it to He Said-She Said (selected questions will be posted anonymously). While we are unable to answer every inquiry, we do hope that this column will be an encouragement to you. Click here to visit the He Said-She Said archives.
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