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Why Cross-Gender Counseling Among Singles Is Wrong, Part 2 (Answers to Objections)

In my previous post, I made the claim that cross-gender counseling is always wrong among young singles. (It is usually wrong among all other age-groups as well, but there are some exceptions, as will be discussed in a future post). As I said, I have been there. When people began confronting me, I had a lot of reasons why 1) What I was doing was legitimate, and 2) legitimate or not, I was “committed,” and couldn’t just “stop.”

Here is a conversation between the old and the new me, on this important topic.

1) “…but nobody else is helping her! If I leave her, she will just fall away into ____!!”

Listen very carefully: “You….are….not….GOD.” Did you catch that? “You are not God!” God is the one who sees everybody, and takes responsibility for them. Pray to God to send someone to her! And, if there is a way to do so, orchestrate a meeting between her and someone of the same gender, who can help her.

Also, consider that just because you notice someone hurting, that doesn’t automatically mean that you are the one to help. Most of the time, God just wants us to pray for people that He lays on our hearts.

Does she need help? Yes. Are you the one to help her? I think I have made it clear that you will only make things worse if you get too involved.

2) …but she doesn’t seem to “click” with other girls…

In our teens, friends of the opposite gender are sometimes easier. But they rarely make us grow. For example, a man can “confess” his sexual temptations to a girl, and (if she is not completely grossed out) she may be able to comfort/mother him. This may feel good to both parties, and they may think they are making great progress in “counseling” one another. However, nothing will change. On the other hand, if a young-man “man’s up” and seeks out an older, mature man who has actually made real progress in this area, that man will know exactly what he is going through, why it is sin, and how to rebuke/correct/train and mentor him towards righteousness.

It won’t be as fun (which means it won’t feel like it “fits” as well), but it will “work” a whole lot more. Remember – most of the things which are good for us don’t feel the best at first.

A person whose friends are mostly of the opposite gender is likely hiding from something. They would do well to bite the bullet and start working on the more difficult, and more productive friendships with the same gender.

3) …but I tried taking her to youth group and even tried setting her up with the female youth-pastor, but she still just wants to talk to me! What do I do?

Everyone is lazy: we take the path of least resistance. It is obviously easier to talk to you than it is to talk to someone of the same gender, who can actually help. Consider removing yourself from the equation, so that others can step in and actually do some good here.

Also, as hard as this is, we need to remember that some people just don’t want to change. For others, now is not the time. As the old joke goes: “How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light-bulb?” “Only one – but the light-bulb has to want to change.” If you spend your whole ministry/life chasing after people who are not receptive to real change, you will have no time or energy for people who are really wanting to change.

4) …but I am already involved with her. What do I do now? I can’t just drop her, can I?

You need to start treating her as a “sister, in all purity.” (1 tim. 5:2). If you are in a relationship like i have been describing, I would guess that you are going places in each other’s hearts, and feeling things for each other which you would never find appropriate with your sister.

As hard as it may be, you need to adjust your relationship – immediately – to the level of a sister, in all purity. Stop making her problems your problems. Stop singling her out for one-on-one time, and stop looking deeply into her eyes/soul and asking “but how are you really doing?” And you need to find ways to respectfully and graciously turn her away from her when she attempts to do the same to you.

You can guage the situation yourself: perhaps it would be helpful to sit down together (one last time!) and say that you were mistaken, that you were trying to help her without realizing that helping in this way would become inappropriate, and that it is time to back off. Perhaps talking it out would help – I don’t know. I think it will hurt, and it will be messy any way that you do it. And this is only an indication of how deeply you have become involved in something far, far beyond friendship with her.

The bottom line is that if you are caressing a woman’s heart (and allowing her to stroke yours), when you have no romantic intentions, you are living a lie. Whenever that lie becomes exposed, it will be painful for both of you. It will be sort of like breaking up because….well…you have been sort of like dating in a way, haven’t you?

5) How do I know where the boundary is? Do you just want me to avoid women like the plague?

Well, that’s what I did for years. I don’t really have any regrets. My policy is “when confused, be over-cautious.” It has worked for me.

But here’s a more workeable tool: for someone who is married, there is a very clear and defined boundary of “appropriate” and “unappropriate” behaviour towards the opposite sex. For example, it’s absolutely, 100% “inappropriate” for a married man to take another woman aside, look deeply into her eyes and say, “I noticed you have been down lately. Tell me, what is really going on in your life?” As I said above, “Making a woman’s problems your problems is a romantic advance.” In marriage, this line becomes crystal clear.

What I don’t think many people realize is that this line exists for singles. No, you can’t do/say/pray/think/feel just anything just because you are single. Are you interested in a girl? Well, asking her deep questions about her heart is probably a very excellent way to initiate a relationship. Are you not interested in a relationship? Then do not cross that line. Across that line is her heart, and on the door of her heart is a sign, hand-written by God Himself saying: “Romance welcome. Boys need not apply. SERIOUS APPLICANTS ONLY.”

You sin against her, your future spouse, and yourself when you cross that line for any reason – including “ministry” – other than for romance.

To state it another way, just think of being married to a legitimately jealous spouse. At what point would your spouse say, “What are you doing? Why are you saying/doing that? What are your intentions? Are you pursuing her, or me? What are you doing?!” If an action or conversation would make a future spouse jealous, it is probably across that invisible line. As I said above, and again and again – if you are serious about romance, and you feel that God is giving you a green light, then by all means cross that line with boldness.

But if you are not serious about romance – if you are just trying to be “Mr. Fixit with a Bible,” or “the holy handyman of the heart,” or “youth-pastor of the year,” then can I give you some advice?



  1. This is so good!!!

    Im considering showing this my friend who has taken on this role in my life many a times over the years. Since reading your previous post i have given it to God and pray we dont get this way again and i dont reveal my heart to another man before marriage. This is a gud way to look at from a womans perspective too… For those women out there who lack spiritual n emotional even physical boundaries in male friendships in the church. imagine what your future husband would feel like if u revealed your deep thoughts n feelings to another man? Your husband wud say, ‘hey! Your heart is mine. Why r u speaking to such n such about these things?’ Generally he would think the other man has intentions to make romantic advancements. He would feel threatened, any man with a healthy amount of jealousy n territorial instinct in his marriage.

    I think my friend would benefit from these posts but ill leave it for now cause he hasnt tried to pry nor hav i been DMing him since i read the first post on here. Jus need to keep guard up if/when he calls to not reveal too much. I dun wanna cut him out rudely but if i keep convos shallow i think he will get the hint!

  2. I’d like to say thank you for this and the previous post. I have a friend who is currently in a serious relationship with agirl whom he “mentored”, I did try to wean him awa. However, I wasn’t strong and did not have the reasons to some of the questions he posed which have been answered here. The exact meaning of the questions.

    I knew why we should not have cross – gender mentorship. I did tell him but my fault I wans’t firm.

    I will be sharing both the posts. However, I have a intuition that he’d bring out that it is only experience and no biblical reference per se.

    • Well, I think you can see that the references come first, and the personal experience is just at the end. There is no chapter and verse that says we aught not do this. But neither is there a verse that says we should! In these cases, we look to Biblical principles, and to the wisdom of those who have gone before, and have more experience.
      Tell him not to take my word on it! Ask a few of your pastors/deacons/elders. Most people recognize that this sort of thing is dangerous. At the VERY least, they will recommend that if one counsels across the genders, that it is in a situation where there are more than one person present, or (at a bare minimum!) the two are at least meeting in a public space.
      If they are now in a relationship, that is not necessarily a problem: if they’re both single, there’s worse ways to enter into a relationship than dating your therapist. But they may have issues to work out in the transition from “giver-receiver” to “equal in the Lord.”
      A transition, but again, not insurmountable. I pray God will lead your friend into all the peace, joy and fulfillment God has prepared for him!

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