Am I a prude?
The problem is that everyone seems to think it’s weird, and I also wonder if I’m pushing potential marriage material away because they assume I don’t like them. (Or would the marriageable dudes respect my choice and be attracted to a challenge?)
Should I be looking for ways to “get over it and just chill” or stick to my guns? If I must get over it, how on earth am I to do that without falling for every dude that wants a hug? If I stick with it, will no one want to pursue me because I’m a prude/look uninterested?
It sounds as if you’re being brutally honest about your temptation to lust, spurred on by a sensitive conscience. Your honesty and strong conscience are good things. In our culture of hyper-sexuality, they are blessings and necessary for chastity. But how you communicate that sensitivity to men matters. What you say can have the effect of increasing their respect for you, or of pushing them away.
A few clarifying questions are in order: Are we talking high fives, fist bumps and handshakes? Or maybe a pat on the back or arm or a side hug? Or is it much more? When in your friendship are you saying, “Don’t do that!” And how are you saying it? How you would answer these questions matters and will determine if godly men consider you rude and unapproachable, or if they consider you respectable and a good candidate for girlfriend/wife.
If you are reticent and greet friends and new Christian acquaintances the way you would a professional colleague, or even better, your brother, that’s respectable. But if you confront a man before he’s even tried to so much as shake your hand, following “Hi, my name is …” with “and I don’t want you to touch me,” he will likely, understandably, find you odd and possibly offensive. What you don’t want to do is make the men in your life feel the way Homeland Security agents make you feel when you walk through the airport security line: like you’re guilty until proven innocent. Not every guy who goes for a hug is innocent, but that’s no reason to label all men cads or worse.
In Scripture, there is a range of physical expression appropriate in Christian fellowship — a holy kiss (Romans 16:6), the right hand of fellowship (Galatians 2:9), washing one another’s feet, (John 13:14 and 1 Timothy 5:10) — but this is a limited list. It’s limited in its length of options, but also in its scope. These gestures are not intended to arouse one another to sensuality or sexual fantasy. How do we know? Because of all the other passages of Scripture that provide the context. Scripture is clear that the sexually immoral will not inherit the kingdom (1 Corinthians 6:9), that we are not to be given to sensuality (Romans 13:13), that only husband and wife have rightful access to one another’s bodies (1 Corinthians 6:15-17, 1 Corinthians 7:4), and that to even think of a woman lustfully is, in regards to sin, to have already committed adultery (Matthew 5:28). These are lofty standards because as children of the living God, we serve the Holy One who is high and lifted up (Isaiah 57:15). As His adopted sons and daughters, we are to strive to bear the family image (Romans 8:15, 23).
I’ve said all this to say if physical touch arouses you sexually, you are wise to avoid it and even to ask your male friends not to engage in it. It is good and right to listen to your conscience. But also, to consider the influences that help to form and inform it. Where do you get the most information about how men and women should relate? If it’s from pop culture, that may explain why you believe every touch is electric with sexual energy. That’s the view of so much of the culture we occupy. Scripture provides a needed corrective. First Timothy 5:1-2 says, “Do not rebuke an older man but encourage him as you would a father, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, younger women as sisters, in all purity.”
Christian men are your brothers in Christ. That’s why Kevin DeYoung, in his book The Hole in Our Holiness, advises this standard of purity for single believers in a dating context: “Unmarried Christians, the general rule is this: don’t do with another guy or girl what you wouldn’t do with your brother or sister.” Thinking of men as brothers can be a great help in defusing situations that currently make you stumble.
My own conviction is that you shouldn’t do before marriage what you wouldn’t do with someone other than your spouse after marriage.
I pray the Lord will strengthen your resolve, even as He forms your conscience, for His glory.
Copyright 2012 Candice Watters. All rights reserved.
About the Author
Candice Watters is a wife, mom, and Bible teacher. She is the author of Get Married: What Women Can Do to Help it Happen, co-founder with her husband, Steve, of Boundless.org and co-author of Start Your Family: Inspiration for Having Babies. They have four children and blog at FamilyMaking.com.