What's so wrong with texting someone who's just a friend?

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Scott Croft

What's so wrong with texting someone who's just a friend?

Dec 22, 2015 |Scott Croft
Question

Recently I got to know this girl in my church who is awesome, and I'm not sure if I like her in a romantic kind of way, but she has become quite a close friend. We texted each other quite a lot for about a week, and we could get along very well.

However, I recently noticed she became cold toward me, and she would reply with very short messages or text-killers. I knew something was wrong, so I asked her about it. She told me that she realized we texted a lot and that she had consulted her parents and other spiritual mentors regarding that issue, and they told her it was not right to text a guy so excessively.

I totally respect her mentors’ advice, and respect her decision to pull away from our friendship. In fact, I'm impressed by her spiritual maturity!

The problem starts here: We text each other much less nowadays, and I do respect her boundaries. However, the change is so sudden. I almost feel like I'm pretty much not talking to the same person anymore, and the friendship feels so fake.

I'm not mad at her leaders; I thought it was good advice. However, given the thought that I'm not even trying to woo her or pursue her (not sure if it's mutual), was it really necessary to cut back on the time we spend texting each other? Was it wrong for a guy and a girl to become good friends? I know for sure I was not chasing her even if I liked her because I don’t feel I am ready for marriage. What are your thoughts on this? I feel quite sad that our friendship has become stale, and it almost feels like we are strangers.

Answer

Thanks for writing.  Let me offer you some general principles and then home in on your specific question about texting.

First, let me touch on your question about whether it was “wrong” for the two of you to become such good friends.  If by “wrong” you mean “clear sin,” then my answer – theologically speaking – has to be no.  That said, such friendships entail many opportunities for sin, and are rarely if ever wise.  As I have written in several columns here on Boundless, I believe it is extremely difficult and rare — as a practical matter — to develop a close, intimate friendship with a single Christian of the opposite sex without eventual hurt or confusion on one or both sides, and without failing the standards for how we are to treat one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

First Thessalonians 4:1-8 admonishes us not to wrong or “defraud” our brother or sister by implying a marital level of commitment (through sexual involvement) when it does not exist. A broad (but sound) implication of this passage is that “defrauding” could also include inappropriate emotional — as well as physical — intimacy.

Close friendships between men and women almost always produce confusion and frustration for at least one of the parties involved. Close friendships by their very nature tend to involve significant time communicating extensively and deeply. They tend to involve a deep knowledge of the other person's hopes, desires and personality. They tend to involve the sharing of many aspects of each other's daily lives and routines. In other words, they tend to involve much of the type of intimacy and companionship involved in — and meant for — marriage.

This hurt and confusion tends to happen because at least one aspect of close male/female friendships inherently involves a mixed message. No matter how clearly one or both of you have defined what's happening as “just friends,” your actions are constantly saying, “I enjoy being with you and interacting with you in a way that suggests marriage (or at least romantic attraction).”  For a fuller treatment of this whole topic, you can read my article in the Biblical Dating series called “Just Friends.”

Keep in mind as well, that the confusion and hurt that so often results from such friendships often happens even where both the man and the woman have been very clear (at least with their words) that the relationship in question is just a friendship and nothing more.  At least based on what you wrote in your question, you are not even clear in your own mind as to what you might ultimately want from this woman, and you certainly have not been clear with her in your words.  Even more important, you wrote that you are not at all clear whether she wants to be romantically involved with you.  Bottom line, even if (for the moment, anyway) you are not trying to “woo or pursue” this woman, it would be unwise and, frankly, pretty careless with both your hearts to have an open-ended, close friendship.

As for texting specifically, it makes little or no difference that some significant portion of your close friendship was taking place by text.  What determines the intimacy and advisability of any particular communication between any man and woman is not the medium.  It’s the type, frequency, duration and content of the communication.  Depending on what is said and the frequency of communication, any medium can build and communicate intimacy – and therefore can communicate too much intimacy.  This is true of talking in person, by phone, in email, by text, and by any of the other written-word or photo-based media that are out there or are invented in the future.  In fact, texting, because it usually involves such casual language, and because it can be done so quickly and easily and nearly constantly over the course of the day, probably is a medium that is more prone in some ways to subtly building intimacy than a short, more formal phone call or email.

Like you, I think this girl’s mentors gave her good advice.  Where might you go from here?  Well, assuming you are of marriageable age (generally speaking, college age and above), I would encourage you to think about – and get counsel from older, wiser brothers in Christ about – why you are not ready for marriage.  It probably is more appropriate for you consider and pursue than you think.  Whatever your reasoning, if you are not ready to be married, then you are not ready to date and should respect this woman’s wishes not to engage in an unwise friendship.  On the other hand you might, on the basis of some self-examination, prayer and counsel of others, decide that you can or should pursue marriage.  If that happens, then an additional option would be to step up to the plate and initiate a more formal dating relationship with this “awesome” Christian woman.  Either way, for both your sakes, the “no man’s land” of a close friendship with no real intentions beyond that is not something I would encourage.

For his glory,
Scott Croft

Copyright Scott Croft 2015. All rights reserved.

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