Since speaking at Biola University on Harry and Sally are Wrong (you can watch it here) I’ve been flooded with emails and questions. Students and faculty writing about the buzz, “Everyone is talking about what you said.”

As one student wrote, “A lot of my peers are wondering how honest opposite genders can be without hurting someone/regretting it.”

I watched Biola’s “The Circle”, a giggly spoof on The View, chat about the subject. One female quipped, “I’m for cross- sex friendships, as long as it gets me a husband.”

Any truth in that jest?

You better believe it.

Most of us cannot even reach the on-off switch that makes cross- sex friendships possible. We see a man or woman and only see eye-candy or spouse-candy. Most of us don’t want to work that hard to see a male or female as more than dating material.

But some do.

A few questions from my inbox:

I think one of my biggest fears in opening up to guys is that I am afraid they will like me if they get to know me. Any tips on how to be yourself and not come off as flirty?

How do I work on being more open with guys without sending off the ‘I want to marry you’ vibe?

How do you move a cross- sex friendship into something more?  

To answer these questions we have to clear the floor.

Two Kingdoms

The kingdom of darkness teaches us to treat cross-sex friendship as a stepping stone for our ultimate gains.

The kingdom of light teaches us to treat each member of the opposite sex as a chance to learn more of what God is like.

Say you’re a guy who is friends with a girl. But, you know in your heart that eventually you want her to be your girlfriend. This isn’t pure friendship. It’s friendship with plans for romance. And that plan will color everything you do.   Nothing wrong here, but don’t dupe yourself to thinking you “get” cross- sex friendship.

Cross-sex friendship means you know how to be close with the opposite sex without expecting romance.  Friendships bank on that expectation.

How many opposite sex friendships do you have? One? then you probably don’t get it, not yet.

Why? because when you court a woman or a man for romance you can’t help but only show your best side. It’s like courting votes in an election. You are too afraid you’ll lose them to be honest about your controversial views, struggles and pettiness, pet-peeves and insecurities.

Some of us know we cannot let our guard down until we’re sure our dating partner is “secured” (read married). And this is another problem best addressed another time.

If you have two or three opposite sex friends then there’s more hope.

Stringing “Friends” Along

Now before you start congratulating yourself, hang on.

Many of us will hold some “friends” in the wings in case our current romantic interest doesn’t take us to marriage: men or women-in-waiting.  These are not cross- sex friendships, these are spare parts in our tool box. We string these poor souls along because we don’t want to face a romantically dim future.

If you’re keeping men or women close for a rainy day, then you don’t get cross- sex friendship.  Friends don’t use friends to fulfill their romantic plans, they befriend someone to know and love and encourage them to find their own romantic plans. And then they go to their wedding and toast and dance to celebrate.

Do you recall a moment when a guy or girl was being all friendly toward you and then found out you were dating seomeone else and then… lost interest? That guy or girl wasn’t “into” you for friendship. They were ‘into’ you for something else.

We don’t want to treat each other like this. We can do better than the cross sex friendships in My Best Friend’s Wedding and Harry and Sally.

Leaving the Sex Market

To get out of the sex/romance market and move into the meaningful relationship zone we need major changes.

First, women need to assert themselves in pursuing men as friends.  This is vulnerable and difficult because in the Darwinian culture an assertive female easily gets put down as too bossy or too “strong.”  Women who assert will find their value (in the world’s system) drops because “no one” wants to marry a  nag or a b*&#%!. Right? But, we know Jesus had no problem with strong assertive women, even the one who massaged his feet (John 11:1-2).

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Second, men need to express more vulnerability with female friends. This is difficult  because the Darwinian culture expects a man to stay on his white steed, preferring he fall off than climb off because he feels weak.  Men who express their weakness know their value (in the world’s system) drops because “no one wants a wussy man.” But the ultimate Man of all men expressed his weakness, on the cross, to his friends, even to his female friends (John 11:32-35).

By the way, this works for finding a superb spouse, too.

We can live a reality where we are brothers and sisters to each other, proving survival-of-the-fittest values are dead in the water. But it takes assertive women and vulnerable men to make it happen.

Reading and watching people who are trying to change the world’s system will help you. Try Brene Brown to get started:

Want to talk about more about what separates romantic and sexual attraction from friendship?  Join @dalefincher and me (@jonalynfincher) tomorrow (Thursday, November 1st) from 7:30-8:30pm PST for a tweet-up (a twitter conversation). Search and use #soulchat to find us and join the conversation.