Sunday, July 2, 2017

The Importance of Fostering Relationships with the Opposite Sex

Some of the most valuable relationships I’ve had during college are with members of the opposite sex. In high school, I didn’t have as many of these types of friendships, but as I’ve grown I’ve found it easier to relate to women. In fact, I sometimes feel as if I relate better to girls than I do guys.

I’m not sure exactly why this is, though I have my theories. It doesn’t really matter. But these relationships have taught me that it is valuable to foster relationships with those of the opposite sex. There are things that female friends offer that male friends don’t, and vice versa. Deny it if you will, but men and women aren’t the same. Our minds are wired differently. These aren’t major differences, but they are important. Women offer men a different perspective. Girls are generally more emotional, more excitable, more empathetic, more nurturing, and more caring. They also offer different experiences.
Nate, Jacob, and I went to West Virginia to watch Kelly and Sami play in
NKU's first NCAA tournament game.

When I am about to make a dumb decision, it has usually been a female friend that has spoken up and encouraged me not to take that action. Recently, on a camping trip, a male friend had the brilliant idea to walk across a hot coal of our fire. It was a couple female friends that pleaded with him to not do it. He did, and he understood why they told him not to.

In college, men are usually transitioning away from home and to a more independent life. Their mothers are still there, usually, but college men don’t see them every day, especially those who leave home for college. I have a working theory that men subconsciously use female friends to fill the roles their mother once primarily filled. I have had female friends that have been nurturing, that have called out bad decisions, have offered advice, and so on. These are things that male friends could not provide or would have a different perspective about, and that’s perfectly okay. But that’s why it’s important to have friends of the opposite sex.

These women also model what a biblical woman acts like and behaves like. Sure, it is possible that a man could enter into a romantic relationship with one of them, but for most or all of them it is a platonic love. A deep love, but nothing more. These women serve as the model for a woman with whom a man would begin a romantic relationship. Women are also wonderful counselors on relationship issues, as they bring the perspective of a woman.

I’m very grateful to the girls that have been close friends over the years, especially lately, and these ladies serve as great examples to drive home this message. Brooke, Sara, Monica, Kate, Natalie, Seanna, and Megan I have great trust in, and they’ve been there for me. Brooke, Sara, Monica, Kate, and Natalie I’ve turned to for advice on a number of things.

This was a dance party 2 1/2 years ago. Brooke is behind me in green.
I remember when Brooke initially came to the BCM, and how quickly she has grown. I have long trusted her with anything, and I can’t count the number of times I’ve went to her for advice. I can think of at least three other guys that can say the same, so she’s a textbook example of a girl whose friendship has meant the world to guys around her. I’m not sure I know of a better listener, and someone who has probably heard some pretty stupid things but always responds with grace. I also respect that during most of her time at NKU she has had a serious boyfriend, but never let that stop her from being close friends with other guys, which unfortunately is not the case in all relationships. Seeing her always brightens my day.

Sara, Monica, and I at the 2017 March for Life
I often group together Sara and Monica because, well, they’re often grouped together. But together or separate, I have as deep a level of trust in them as anyone, female or male. I have spent such a great deal of time with them that I’ve formed a deep bond. I first met them at an orientation when I was working a table for the BCM, never knowing that this would be us almost three years later. I still have a note Sara dropped in my car when she saw me parked by the Rec Center. Sara and Monica have been the most interested in pro-life ministry, in part due to Sara’s remarkable testimony. I’ve had the privilege of training them, serving alongside them in a few outreaches, and attending the March for Life twice with them. It was at the last March for Life that I fully realized (1) what a blessing they are and (2) how much I would miss not spending as much time with them. We spent hours at a time with each other, including a heart-to-heart conversation in our hotel where we explained how much we meant to each other. And they do mean a lot to me.

Initially, Kate was shy, and she didn’t like me. Both of us have changed over the years, and we grew closer. I really don’t know when that shift happened; all I know is that we’ve been good friends for a while now. She’s one of the few people that matches my level of physical affection, and it’s always nice to have that kind of person in your life. Kate’s maturity and no-nonsense advice has been a help to me over the past year or two. One time I asked her if my attitude on something was shallow. “Yes,” she replied. She has the uncanny ability to be very sweet and very blunt at the same time. I think Kate’s caring and nurturing abilities make her an ideal model of a Christian woman.
Natalie and I at IHOP late one night after an adventure

I’ve known Natalie the least amount of time out of these five, but she was quickly able to earn my trust. She is one of the most caring people I know, always perceptive to the feelings of others. When we’re out on adventures (late-night hikes of some sort), she recognizes when someone is uncomfortable and works to help them, even offering to stay back with them so they both don’t have to go and aren’t alone. I know I can trust her to be understanding. It was cool to have a friend that had just graduated, one that I could talk to about my soon-to-come graduation. It was equally cool to have someone that, after we stayed up until three a.m., could put extra espresso in my coffee in the morning before work or class. I am typically not easily excited, but I’ve learned to show it a little more from being around her. I’ve been with her when she hears an incredible story about how God has worked, and her reactions show her joy. When she shares stories of her own, her animation is telling. She really has a love for Christ and His church. I’ve watched her mentorship of younger students and how much they admire her. Their admiration is earned.

Seanna (closer) and Megan are in the back.
Megan I feel is similar to me in a number of ways. We have similar backgrounds, similar upbringings, similar experiences in public schools. We’ve faced and face similar problems. I wanted to support her through these problems, but it is often she who has supported me. I still remember exactly when we first “met”, during my freshman year when I went to a bonfire at her house. Her sister was actually the one in college, and she pointed out Megan laying in a hammock in the front yard. It was not until this year that she came to NKU and I got to know her. I’m thankful for the experiences that we’ve had on adventures and playing soccer together, where as the goalkeeper I got to order her around on defense.

MisterWives recently released a new album, which includes the song “My Brother”. When I heard it, I thought of all these girls that have been there for me through hard times. Written from the perspective of a female to her male friend, Seanna called it “the perfect nonromantic love song.”

“…Oh, my brother, it pains me to see you here again. And oh, my brother, I’ll take this road with you until the end. And I’ll never leave you, I’ll never leave you, I’ll never leave you…”

Then there is the benefit that I hope I have in girls’ lives. I like to call them “my girls” due to my use of “girl” as an endearing term. These are girls that are younger than me that are like younger sisters; I protect them and try to mentor them. Mentorship, like friendship, is something that shouldn’t be limited to the same sex, though it may take different forms. Sara, Monica, Seanna, Lexi, Char, and Rachel are very special to me and have had a unique impact on my life.

Sara (right) and I (in the tie) after speaking at a Planned Parenthood protest
On that March for Life trip, a friend of mine thought Sara, Monica, and I were siblings. (I don’t know if I look Hispanic or they look Caucasian.) Until I was back around my sister this summer, I didn’t realize how much truth there was to that. They ask me a lot of questions, including advice and clarification on difficult matters. I’ve been able to help Monica with some of her law school preparations. When they toured Washington, D.C., I was at a conference. I felt a little lost without them around, and regretted I was not there to protect them (I gave them my pepper spray). When I got back to my room at NKU, they sent me a text that read, “Thanks for being our big brother,” to which I replied, “Forever and always.” They are the only people that made me cry when I said goodbye before I graduated. When someone asked me the one person I would miss the most from the BCM, after some thought, I said one of them (I won't say which; they're both close). Seeing these two grow, and knowing that I had some part in it, was one of the most rewarding parts of my college experience.

Seanna and I at a Passion concert; I'm
wearing her artwork
I’m not really sure why Seanna and I have gotten along so well. I wasn’t sure at first what to make of her quirks, but I’ve grown to like them. We think our relationship started to take a turn when we went to Dairy Queen after a worship service, and she was the only one in my car. (In fact, she’s probably ridden in my car more than anyone else.) Our conversations we were able to have probably set us on the path to a closer friendship. This grew exponentially at Beach Reach, where on the first night we were on a street team together. I was able to clearly see that there was a deep spiritual side to her as well. I’ve also found her to be very emotionally perceptive. As I sat by her during the last service down in Panama City, she noticed that I began to cry (I promise it doesn't happen that often) during the worship set and put her arm around me; this later turned into an embrace as the last song finished. She is also very physically affectionate. Seanna has a beautiful way of phrasing her words when she’s serious. I’ve come to love her artwork, particularly one series entitled “A Way Out”, where she creates symbols of the struggles her friends have and includes a keyhole on each of them, one that can only be unlocked by Jesus. The one of herself involves a testimony similar to mine, so much so that I bought a tank with the art on it to spark conversation. There have been a couple times when she has actually corrected me when I have been wrong. I will also forever be the first person to take Seanna to Red Lobster, where I changed her life as much as she’s changed mine.

I first met Lexi at the Converge Conference, our BCM fall retreat this past year. I’m pretty good at perceiving who I will get along with, and she seemed like an immediate candidate to become one of my girls. I drove her back to her dorm afterwards, and I knew I had a new friend. I was soon after impressed by her speaking skills at the freshman takeover Engage worship service. I still don’t think she understands why I call myself old, but after a few more years of college, she will. When I spoke about abortion at Engage, I ran into her in the Student Union the next day and we had lunch together. She had more questions, and I was impressed by both her interest and attentiveness as she took notes on what I said. I’ve grown fond enough of her that I risked (and did) incur the wrath of a professor because I talked to Lexi a few extra minutes and was late to a class. I was walking across campus one day and ran into Lexi. After talking to her a few minutes, she randomly gave me a tight hug and said, “You’re amazing. You’re like a big brother; I’ve never had one of those before.” Honestly, I’m not sure what prompted it, and I don’t mention it to talk myself up. This is what can be a reality with relationships with people of the opposite sex. There is such value in the way in which they touch our lives.
Char and I during our Created Equal internship

“Char” is actually “Charity”. I’m the only one that calls her Char (“chair”). I interned with her at Created Equal the summer after my sophomore year. I had the tendency to shorten names as a sign of endearment, so I began to call her Char. I felt a special responsibility for her; she was the youngest member of our team, the only one still in high school at the time. I already knew by this point that, for whatever reason, I get along well with girls that are a few years younger than me. Char was the person who solidified this. I wanted to protect her and mentor her, so I intentionally did so. We grew closer over the summer, and it was sad to separate from her at the end. At that time, she didn’t have any technology access. No social media, no phone, no email. So I began to correspond with her the only way I could: hand-written letters. Our relationship can be summed up by the time when I explained to her that she was one of my girls:

Char: I know. I miss you so much. And now I am actually an adult so you can call me kid but it won’t be true 😂😂

Me: There's an official name now. You're one of my girls. Female friends that are younger than me that I get along with well and protect/mentor them like an older brother. There are only six of you right now, so it's pretty exclusive.

Char: Ah 😂😂 That actually makes me feel really special. Yea you've always felt like that to me. And I’ve always felt like I can tell you anything and I'll never be judged. Just given honest and caring advice. That means a lot.

I took this picture of Rachel during a mission trip in Cleveland.
Rachel and I hit it off immediately when we met each other. I’m not even sure on how many mission trips I’ve served with her; I think it’s four or five. What I do know is that we grew close quickly—even for mission trips that already bring people together—until she became one of my best friends at Created Equal. The last Justice Ride I was on, which was last summer, I was coming straight from Cedarville University after taking the LSAT. The Justice Ride had already started, and Rachel was texting me the whole way up there, wondering when I was going to arrive. When I got there, she was the first person to greet me, running towards me and giving me a big hug. Some of my favorite moments with her were when we worked together during anti-abortion public outreaches. We seemed to flawlessly play off each other’s arguments as we spoke to pro-choice individuals. I remember one time in Washington, D.C., I was talking to a man who eventually said that he believed I was wrong as a man to tell women they shouldn’t abort their child. This is a really flawed argument, and Rachel jumped on the opportunity to explain that she is a woman and believes exactly as I do. As she made her points, I stood in admiration of the teamwork that was possible through our friendship. Her willingness to stand for innocent human beings in spite of opposition long ago won her my respect.

These represent who are currently my closest female friends, but they aren’t all. Sarah, Mackenzie, Kelsey, Bethany, Lisa, Turner, Kelly, Sami, Elle, Kelsey, Megan, Alisha, Sarah, Jordan, Macy, Haley, Molly, Stephanie, Joy; the list could go on. I’m not quite sure where I’d be without these women in my life. They have helped my growth as much as the men around me have, and they’ve done it in ways that men could not have. My experience has taught me that it’s vital to foster relationships with people of the opposite sex. This should be done naturally; there are people that we are naturally drawn toward and with whom we will get along. If you get along well with someone of the opposite sex, just let the friendship happen; don't fear the idea of being close to them. There are tremendous benefits to these relationships, as is evidenced in my life with the girls I know. I want to express my thanks to them, and my desire is to see these types of relationships help each other blossom into all God has intended us to be.

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