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?