Opposite Sex Friendships

This is a topic I’ve wished other people could talk about and guide me in, but I really never see much about it anywhere, so I suppose I’ll offer up my opinions on what I DO know to be true in regards to male and female friendships (in this case, I’m referring to both members of the relationship being heterosexual).

When the concept of a male and female friendship is brought up, I either receive responses of ‘that’s not at all possible’ or ‘that’s completely fine, what’s the big deal,’ essentially. Usually these responses correlate with different generations, logically enough. What I do know, however, is that these kinds of relationships are very prevalent among my generation today, and thus, we need to ponder and grapple with how Christians specifically need to approach this societal trend.

I believe Christian men and women can be friends with one another, as long as they approach the friendship with a shrewd mindset.

This opinion was spurred by my incredible father, who talked to me about being shrewd in dress as a woman. The reasoning for being shrewd in dress for a Christian woman is not because men cannot control themselves or women are at fault for what they wear, but because of the knowledge that sin and evil are active in others, and depending on what social situation you are getting yourself into, the goal is to act as conscientiously as possible to decrease the room for evil. Need I remind you, the enemy in cases of wrongdoing is not a person, but sin and the way Satan slithers around in these situations.

So similarly, we need to be shrewd in our friendships among heterosexual Christian men and women (or friendships among the gender you are attracted to).

Before I explain my view further, I’m going to tell you my story with this topic.

For the longest time as a child, I had a male best friend, Nathan, from about 5 years old until I was 10, and then we still remained close friends until I was about 13. We had tons of fun being active and creative, playing anything from imaginary games to video games. But as we got older, we drifted apart, mostly because we gravitated towards more friends our age (he was three years younger), but also I think because Nathan hit adolescence and maybe started feeling differently about being such close friends with a girl.

At that point after Nathan drifted away, I had a couple guy acquaintances through band in middle and high school, but for the most part I didn’t have any guy friends. I kind of felt like I couldn’t have any, or that they had to be friends who would develop into something more, as many people still believe today. Perhaps that’s how it should be at that age, as people are changing a ton hormonally and maturity-wise, and can be a bit unpredictable or fickle in regards to feelings. But I think there’s possibility for friendship for sure once both parties have fully matured. But shrewdness then comes into play.

Nowadays I have many guy friends. I just hung out with one at the library yesterday, I played cribbage with one today, and there are a couple others I talk to almost every day. Keep in mind, I do think the way to approach these friendships varies depending on whether the friend is or is not dating someone and your own romantic status.

Sometimes it can be better to hang out as a group with others, sometimes people can be perfectly fine one-on-one, and frankly, I think it all depends on comfortability, relationship statuses, and most importantly, the potential for lust and other applicable sins to creep into the friendship.

As a Christian, here are some truths to gauge how you must approach your opposite-sex friendships. Sometimes I have felt unsure how to approach some of them, as you likely have, so here is what we DO know:

  • As Matthew 10:16 says, we are to be as “shrewd as serpents.”
  • Lust is a prevalent struggle in our sexualized society and many people struggle with it.
  • Lust can take many different forms, not just purely sexual desires. Matthew 5:28: “But I tell you that if you look at another woman and want her, you are already unfaithful in your thoughts.” As someone who has often struggled with this sin, sometimes it can present itself as thinking too much about someone, having false hope where there should be none, twisting their words to create meaning where there shouldn’t be, and other things that have escaped my mind currently. While some of these things are indeed more applicable to when one or both parties are unavailable to date, the main truth here is that Satan is always active and trying to bring you and your loved ones down. Don’t underestimate the number of ways sin can manifest itself.
  • Your friend is a brother or sister in Christ.
  • Your friend should be treated with love and respect.
  • Any romantic partners in relation to the friendship should be treated with love and respect.
  • Mark 12:31: “The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater as these.”

There have been a couple of times I’ve struggled with liking guy friends who are off limits, in which case I’ve had to wrestle through and change the relationship accordingly. Sometimes that means ending the friendship sadly, sometimes that means making boundaries, sometimes that means only communicating in groups, these things all depend on the individual and what needs to happen to decrease sin.

When you are not struggling with attraction to the friend, though, it’s good to still keep sin in mind and be aware that you never know what sins others are struggling with, especially something like lust that someone is clearly not going to talk to the other about.

In either case, be shrewd with your opposite gender or gender of attraction friendships. Constantly think of how to serve and love your friends. Eradicate room for sin in one another’s lives as much as possible, regardless of whether you know their struggles or not. Act in whatever way will best honor your friends as members of Christ’s body. Make love and respect the main priority in your friendship, and by extension, Jesus. Interact with your friends how you would want to be interacted with, whether single or dating.

Enjoy the beneficial and different perspectives these friends can have, celebrate the beautiful people and company you have with others, but also strive to create a godly community that fights sin and spurs one another closer to the Lord. That’s my two cents on male and female friendships.

Please, please, please feel free to add your thoughts! I’d love to hear them. And let me know if anyone else has addressed this; I’d love to read more!

~Annah

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Body Image and Lies that Crippled me for Years

Two years ago, I would have never imagined writing this blog. But after writing a rough draft of my novel, where I placed some of my biggest insecurities on display through my protagonist, Ryden, I feel confident that it’s time for me to be vulnerable about my insecurities. So hello internet, this is the most vulnerable thing I have ever done. But I truly believe people need to hear this to feel less alone.

There are so many times I have felt utterly trapped in my skin and have desperately wished my body could be anything but what it is. To just write this makes me cry, because it’s so sadly true. But my tears I have right now also fall, because that is such an ugly, twisted lie that millions of people believe when they look in the mirror daily. I think about all of the young women in elementary, middle, or high school who look in the mirror and abhor what they see. The petite young women in high school, like I used to be, who look at themselves and think something needs to change because they are “not enough.” You are enough and you are perfect just as you are, and I wish I could’ve told my younger self that.

I have told myself so many lies based on my body, including:

  • My skin is ugly
  • My nose is too big
  • I’m not tall enough
  • I’m too skinny
  • I don’t weigh enough
  • I don’t have enough curves
  • My body is not deserving of love

And perhaps the worst lie I realized two years ago that I’ve told myself for years subconsciously:

  • You will not be loved because you don’t have boobs

These are my lies I’ve lived with since adolescence, and I cannot say I simply got rid of the lies because that would be a lie too, but I’ve realized how essential my unique body is and that I need to stand up for the other women who look like me, because they are likely silenced by their lies right now. It’s so scary and yet so liberating to be sharing this with you right now.

This might sound corny, but if you could please participate, I want you to do this with me. Find a piece of paper and write down all of the insecurities you’ve had over the years about what you look like. I will write mine down.

Have your list? Good.

Now I want you to rip it up and throw it away.

The physical act of throwing it away is so impactful. You are free. You are not those things you wrote down. You are worthy of love despite all of your imperfections and those insecurities don’t define you. Not anymore.

Every single thing you wrote down is a LIE and that is the TRUTH.

For years, I let my insecurities silence me. For years, I let myself feel isolated and alone in these insecurities. For years, these insecurities won and sometimes these lies try to creep back into my system. Sometimes they float around in my system for a little while. But they never stay, because I know I’m my own worst enemy. I know I pick up on little things no one else does about myself, things that don’t even matter. I believe I was given this body for a reason. I believe there is something out there that wants me to feel inadequate and insecure.

I know I’m just like every other human on this planet because I have doubts about my body.

Our bodies are unique, and because of that, there are numerous insecurities we have about ourselves that we feel alone in. But the truth is we are not alone. Maybe someone doesn’t understand what it’s like to be petite like I do, but they know what it’s like to look in the mirror and disapprove of what they see. To look in the mirror and doubt that anyone could ever accept what’s there besides your family. These are lies that the devil of my belief system (or whatever the equivalent is for you) will take and run with, to convince you that you are not deserving of love, whether romantic, familial, friend-wise or spiritual.

It’s hard. I know it’s hard to love what you see. But whether you can see it for yourself or not, know that you are perfect just as you are. You are enough just as you are. You don’t need to change for anything or anyone. You don’t need certain clothes or shoes or makeup or a hairstyle to be seen as lovable.

This is your one body. Love it as much as you humanly can… which means sometimes you won’t love it. So when the doubts start creeping in, step away from the mirror, walk outside, and look at the beauty in the people around you. They possess the same beauty that you do. You know how you pick your friends up when they talk themselves down? You deserve that kind of self-talk, too.

Your body is perfect, so get used to that beautiful truth. Even when you don’t feel like it is.

~Annah

Grade 15

A heavy workload. Aching eyes that cried too many times to count. Tough, beneficial conversations. Deep loss. Deep grief. Some 3 AM nights. Other 11 PM nights. Big career conundrums and frustrations. Little blips of clarity concerning one’s true passions. The realization of one’s youth. The realization of one’s maturity. Old friends. New friends. Internships. Housing crises. A lot of sass. The assurance of things hoped for. My very first novel draft. Large steps of independence and individuality. A fearful introvert becoming fearless in times of uncertainty. Constant pushes outside of cozy comfort zones. A broadening of my awareness for diverse opinions and lifestyles. An ear for the minority races and sexualities. An ear for the broken and confused. An ear whilst everyone else has lost theirs. Flinging into spring. Lots and lots of hopeful yellows that echo truth into my weary soul. Heavy weariness with a belly laugh of a silver lining. Crying girls in bedrooms. Crying boys in bedrooms. Smiles in between tears. Romance and the tenderness of feelings, so breakable indeed. People from the bad parts of town are people too. More attention to the minorities and outcasts. Protests for change. Sorrow that things will never be the same. Spontaneous outings for yummy treats. Professional resilience. Unapologetic appreciation for whoever puts a smile on my face. An introvert yelling friends’ names across rooms. Remembrance of commonalities. The necessity of music with its soothing narratives of pain and joy. Bittersweet, this life we have crafted for ourselves. Oh wait… It is not for yourself. Moldy hearts, forever being tilled. 💛

Junior year: defined as “how to power through anything and everything, one breath at a time.”

~Annah

Aaron Burr & The World’s “Villains”

Yesterday I saw Hamilton in Chicago and after a year and a half, it surpassed any kind of expectations I had. It really did blow me away. And it made me cry 3 times… but that’s no surprise, considering I teared up after the first song had finished.

Finally getting to see the musical live confirmed that my favorite character is definitely Aaron Burr, which might sound odd considering he’s the “villain.” Basically, the reason has everything to do with Lin Manuel-Miranda’s writing (as does the reasoning behind all of my emotions while watching the show).

Manuel-Miranda wrote Burr dynamically and I really appreciate his decision to make Burr the narrator of the entire show. You cannot completely hate Burr and I think especially in today’s finger-pointing society, that’s really refreshing.

Burr’s main songs are “Wait for It,” “Dear Theodosia,” “The Room Where it Happens,” and “The World was Wide Enough.” While it’s no secret that I love Leslie Odom Jr., the original actor that played him, Burr’s songs are some of my favorites from the entire musical. “Dear Theodosia” and “The World was Wide Enough” especially. I love that in both songs you see Burr’s story compared and contrasted to Hamilton’s, and how they really do have a lot of similarities. One decision changed everything, making Burr the villain, but that’s just it–it was one decision.

The truth is, Burr is just like anyone else. He loves his daughter and values being a father, he gets jealous when it seems jobs he thought he deserved are ripped out from his grasp, and he has regrets.

Right before he shoots Hamilton, Manuel-Miranda wrote, “I had only one thought before the slaughter | This man will not make an orphan of my daughter.”

Moments like that are why I believe that Hamilton is ironically less about politics and history, than it is about the human experience. Because the truth is we try so hard to label people evil or good when human beings are much too complex for that. Believe it or not, we all have the same capability for evil as a serial killer or terrorist, as the people we abhor most, as the people we subconsciously treat as less than human. We don’t want to think about how classifying them as our own race affects us… it shows that we’re all alike, even the ones committing horrific acts. But I truly believe that “bad” people have just as much ability to do good as I do, because I know I have the ability to be just as bad as them.

Manuel-Miranda has crafted humanity in an authentic way. We are all good and bad. Every villain can be a hero and every hero can be a villain.

“Now I’m the villain in your history

I was too young and blind to see…

I should’ve known

I should’ve known

The world was wide enough for both Hamilton and me.”

-Aaron Burr

 

~Annah

An Unspoken “Inferior” Population

Let’s imagine you’re in a coffee shop and you’re looking for music recommendations.

Amiable chatter surrounds you, the cappuccino is hot in your palms, you want some random sampling. To your left, a man in his thirties is seated at a table, intently typing away at something important on his laptop. To your right, a couple of high school girls sit on stools, animatedly talking about something.

Who do you turn to for recommendations?

I have a hunch. You picked the man. (Unless, perhaps, you’re a teenage girl yourself.)

Upon first glance, nothing seems to be an issue. But if you start thinking more intently, I would imagine your choice correlated with a few prejudices and judgments. Start thinking more, and be honest.

Why didn’t you pick the teenage girls?

Maybe your age is closer to that of the man’s. Maybe you figured the man would know more music. Maybe you figured you’d be able to strike up a more meaningful conversation concerning music tastes with the man. Regardless, there’s one large assumption in place–that for whatever reason, the teenage girls’ opinions aren’t as legitimate or serious.

And this is not just the case with music! We feel this way about all topics, in regards to teenage girls, whether entertainment, political, or social topics.

I think there’s a problem with that. If we push aside their opinions or are quick to label their opinions inferior, we are damaging not only their self-worth, but their sense of worth in the future. Our future women.

Why can’t they have a legitimate say? Why does everything avidly enjoyed by teenage girls have to be looked down upon by the older population? What’s wrong with enjoying something that teenage girls like? There’s often this idea that people who enjoy musicians or books or movies that teenage girls like need to feel a sense of shame or embarrassment. Their interests are inferioryou state, implicitly.

Now, I understand labeling opinions invalid if teenage girls try to provide thoughts on topics they are not familiar with, as with any human. But rarely, if ever, is that the case. Teenage girls are passionate, and passionate about topics they are well-acquainted with. Therefore, there is no reason to consider their opinions invalid.

If we are going to continue promoting to young girls that they are capable of anything, we should treat their opinions with the genuine respect and acknowledgement that they deserve, same as anyone else. Otherwise, we inflate their sense of insecurity and hypocrisy rears its ugly head.

“Who’s to say that young girls who like pop music – short for popular, right? – have worse musical taste than a 30-year-old hipster guy? That’s not up to you to say. Music is something that’s always changing. There’s no goal posts. Young girls like the Beatles. You gonna tell me they’re not serious? How can you say young girls don’t get it? They’re our future. Our future doctors, lawyers, mothers, presidents, they kind of keep the world going. Teenage-girl fans – they don’t lie. If they like you, they’re there. They don’t act ‘too cool.’ They like you, and they tell you. Which is sick.” -Harry Styles

~Annah

 

Our Grieving World

Some days are sadder than others when you’ve lost someone. Perhaps it’s because I’m older or perhaps it’s because his passing was seemingly undeserved, but Luke’s death has stuck with me, not to mention his family and closest friends, so closely these past few months. It’s confusing trying to figure out how to process our losses, isn’t it?

Sometimes you’re sad, sometimes you’re mad, sometimes you’re resigned to the fact, sometimes it’s very unsettling. Recently I’ve just been deeply disappointed I didn’t get to know Luke more. In all honesty, part of me feels really guilty for this sadness and disappointment, because I didn’t know him as well as so many others did. If I’m upset, I stop and grieve, because those that knew him far more than I must be indescribably upset. On the other hand I can’t help but wonder if this disappointment is flowing out of selfishness. Is this hurt justified or not?

But to those that knew Luke, if you’re anything like me, the main reason his passing is upsetting is likely because he truly was a joyful, loving soul. One could only imagine if he had been given a longer life the even larger impact he could’ve had on others. But then I think about how much joy and life was packed into those 17 years, and the tremendous story his life spoke into those around him in such a short amount of time. It’s incredibly inspiring. Who wouldn’t wish to know someone like that?

Sometimes I can’t help but thank the God I believe in that Luke was able to bless everyone for a whole 17 years. His parents and brothers witnessed a giggling, courageous, witty, faithful soul for 17 years. What a blessing. And the God I believe in said I’m going to take all you have, Luke—17 years—and I’m going to use you for something great. People are going to flock to you and cry over you because of your steadfast faithfulness. You’re going to teach your loved ones how to be strong in the face of adversity.

So that’s some more of my processing and a small snippet of the feelings amongst Luke’s loved ones over these past couple months. I take what I’m feeling and I take the unimaginable pain of his family and friends, and multiply it until it’s unbearable.

Why?

Because countless people worldwide are experiencing a similar pain, and sometimes I think it’s easy to be desensitized to the effects. Whether loved ones lost to cancer or loved ones lost to terrorism, it hurts; oh it hurts to consider our grieving world. Perhaps now more than ever we grieve we are sorrowful and we need a rock to lean into. We are broken and struggling to hold on. We yearn for love and laughter because we are sodamaged by brokenness.

This is our chance to let others know we are here and we understand their pain. We have all experienced pain in a multitude of capacities, and yet, we’re too often self-consumed with our own lives to stop and ask others how they’re doing. Every time we undergo pain and brokenness, we are allowed the opportunity to open our arms to others in similar situations and help them through their own. Not because we have all the answers and can eradicate the pain… but because we are made for community and it makes life a lot more bearable when you can confide in others.

~Annah

The Problem of Christian Isolationism

It’s no secret that attending a Christian college means residing in a Christian bubble—it’s hardly reflective of real life, with little to no belief disagreement or push-back. We are blessed to have people challenging us intellectually, and occasionally religiously, but far too often I witness Christians isolating themselves. This is only a small portion of Christians that I engage with at one school; it happens everywhere at every stage of life.

Too many Christians nowadays only cling to explicit Christian ideas, texts, and entertainment. Frankly, I believe this is unwise and a very limiting way to live life.

I grew up in a Christian home and have officially dedicated my life to Christ for about six years now. Even at a young age, I’ve subconsciously thought about explicit Christian entertainment and how Christians should interact with their world. I always thought Christian radio was the corniest thing and wanted no part of it when other people would play it in the car. My family avoided watching movies like “The Passion of Christ” and I avidly read Harry Potter (currently re-reading for the 1000th time), starting from about age five, when people would look at my petite body next to the 500-page books and think I was the next Einstein.

Admittedly, having just finished an 11-page paper for my rhetoric class about why I believe Harry Potter has numerous Christian themes in the eighth movie alone, this topic of Christian isolationism has been on my mind a lot lately. Also, please understand this is NOT me telling anyone their methods of living are inferior or superior. There is nothing wrong with explicit Christian texts, movies, and music.

This past summer was the first time in my life I picked up a “Christian” book and read it. Since then I have read a couple and had no serious problems with them. I think some Christian books can be good and Scripture-breathed. The couple I have read (Mere Christianity, Jesus > Religion, and Uninvited) were much better than I thought they would be. However, they’re still not my first reading choice like I know they are for boatloads of other people—it’s perfectly fine to enjoy them—but it’s also important to remember that if you’re reading them thinking it’ll be a replacement for the Bible, that’s a red flag.

It’s fine to enjoy a good Christian book, but if that’s 99% of the books you read, I think there’s a problem with that. If Christian radio is your jam, sing along all you want, but if you never interact with any music outside of that, I think there’s a problem with that. If you truly believe anything that’s not explicitly Christian is sinful or satanic or any other negative denotation, I really have a problem with that.

Why do I think this is such a big deal?

Because I believe in a God who works through everything. I believe in a God who can use anything to portray his values, including tainted humans like you and I or tainted things like Harry Potter and punk music, if that’s your opinion. I believe God made everyone in his image, even those that haven’t accepted him, so small traces of his character can be found even in the most far-reaching aspects of life.

The coolest thing to me is when I read a book about another belief system or go to a concert where people smell like weed and beer, and soak in the words that are on the page or screamed from the stage, because I usually hear a small sliver of truth. Even if it’s the smallest sliver it gives me so much joy and hope, reminding me that even those people have the capability of carrying out God’s light if they wanted to.

Christians, I challenge you to read or listen to something you don’t like and see if you can find something decent in it. I think you’d be pleasantly surprised. Otherwise you avoid texts and entertainment for surface-level reasons and miss the bits you actually would like. For example, if you put down a Harry Potter book at page two for having witchcraft, you’ll completely miss out on the sacrifice, love, and friendship themes that remain prevalent in the overarching storyline.

I don’t believe I’m being “worldly” if I enjoy fantasy books or listen to pop music. I believe I’m engaging with God’s world—a world that extends beyond Bob Goff and Hillsong.

~Annah