The Friend Zone

The friend zone. Every dude’s worst nightmare.

The phenomenon of the friend zone is an interesting one. The secular world often attributes it to a guy, who tries really hard to show a chick he likes how awesome he is — so that she will want to date him. BUT, she prefers him to be her friend.

Basically, the friend zone works on the idea that a dude is entitled to a relationship and/or sex by being nice to a chick; and then doesn’t get what he’s entitled to.

Let’s clear some things up …

No one is entitled to a romantic relationship just because they are a great friend or nice. Why? Because being a great friend doesn’t mean you’d make a great significant other nor that the person sees you as someone they would like romantically.

Before you think, oh poor me, remember there are people that you also wouldn’t see as romantic potentials; even if they are nice.

Does the friend zone exist in Christian circles?

I’d say that it does and it doesn’t. Most solid Christian men and women understand that being kind, compassionate and loving to their Christian sisters/brothers doesn’t entitle them to a date. They know that they are called to clothe themselves in the fruits of the Spirit and emulate them.

But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.- Galatians 5: 22-24

Yet, Christian young men/women, often bemoan that there aren’t any chicks/dudes interested in their godly selves, despite how hard they try.

Now you might be a nice guy and a great friend who’s single, or a nice chick and a great friend who’s single but there’s a problem with using the friend zone as an excuse for that. Being friend zoned works on ego and pride. It presumes that by being a great friend and then not being taken up by the person as a significant other, means that they’ve failed to see how great you are or treat you how you think you deserve to be. Believing you deserve something means that you believe you have met the criteria for being given the right to it.

When we’re told to put on the fruits of the Spirit, we are to also crucify the flesh. We are commanded to keep in step with the Spirit and not to become conceited.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. Let us not become conceited,provoking and envying each other. – Galatians 5:25-26

Do you deserve to be dated just because you’re someone’s good friend?

The clear answer to this is no. Christians are never promised that they will be given a boyfriend or girlfriend by being nice. It’s not wrong to desire to get married, however, it is wrong to treat it as an entitlement and whinge when you don’t get it.

Sometimes being content in singleness is hard, particularly when the world is giving you a mythical out when you’re unsatisfied with it.

You should want to be in the friend zone.

Now the friend zone isn’t a thing. If you want someone who sees you as a friend to consider you as a romantic prospect, ask them on a date. However, the principle that landed you in this mythical friend zone is also a great one to apply to any relationship.

Be a good friend before being a significant other. You’ll have a more solid foundation of who the person you’re dating is, rather than building that whilst trying to figure out all the other fun dynamics of a relationship.

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Break-Ups and Friends

There’s an inevitable awkwardness when two friends break-up, depending on the type of relationship you had with each person before they were together. Sometimes you only know someone because they were “so and so’s boyfriend/girlfriend,” so you simply revert back to the friendship you had before they were “so and so’s boyfriend/girlfriend.” Yet, it becomes a harder battleground when both of them, on their own, were solid friends with you before they started dating. So what do you do when the relationship goes south?

1. Awkwardness Exists

The Mutual Friend: You will feel the awkwardness of a change. Don’t expect not to. Your friends’ relationship was something that was a part of your understanding of them both, and now it’s not. You’re also acutely aware that both have mixed feelings about the whole thing, and there isn’t too much you can do about it.

The Ex-Couple: Acknowledge that it’s strange and speak about what’s helpful for your friends with your friends. If you don’t want them asking you about your ex, then don’t ask your friend about your ex. However, also acknowledge that they have a friendship with your ex, and don’t become bitter towards them for that.

In speaking about your relationship and ex aim to do so with compassion and graciousness. It’ll make your friends feel less consumed by concern about treading on your toes in an already awkward situation.

As a prisoner for the Lord, then, I urge you to live a life worthy of the calling you have received. Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. – Ephesians 4:1-3

2. Set Realistic Time-Frames and/or Boundaries

The Mutual Friend: When friends breakup they’ll likely need some time away from each other’s company so that they can deal with what they’re feeling as well as readjusting to being single.

The Ex-Couple: Set a realistic time-frame for your friends, whether you share it with them or not, for when you’ll rejoin social gatherings that your ex has been invited to. If you’re only keen to come to large gatherings, tell your friend that. If you need extra moral support for social gatherings, and will struggle to enjoy the time if there isn’t more than one person you know, tell your friend that.

However, also remember that friends have feelings as well. Don’t use your bitterness towards your ex as an excuse to avoid maintaining the relationships with your mutual friends.

See to it that no one falls short of the grace of God and that no bitter root grows up to cause trouble and defile many. – Hebrews 12:15

3. Do Not Expect or Encourage Friends to Choose Sides

The Mutual Friend: Do not pick a side just because it’s easier to know what ground to tread. You’ll likely find yourself validating thoughts and feelings that you shouldn’t. Aim to avoid any conversation on “why” so that you aren’t tempted to build your own opinions on someone else’s relationship.

The Ex-Couple: When people are hurt at the ending of a relationship, there’s the urge to encourage mutual friends to “pick” someone. Irrespective of if you tell the friend why you broke up, don’t expect them to ditch the ex as their friend regardless of who you feel is at fault.

If you are legitimately concerned about their behaviour take it up with someone in leadership.

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everyone. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my dear friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,”says the Lord. – Romans 12:17-19

4. Act like a follower of Christ

Mutual Friends and Ex-Couples: Your ex and your Christian friends are all a part of the body of Christ. They’re also brothers and sisters too. All are called to imitate Christ in how they act and speak. Although in the messiness of breakups, people are often subject to their sin, we should aim to encourage one another in thought, action and speech as ones who have been saved by Christ.

Do not imitate what is evil but what is good. Anyone who does what is good is from God. Anyone who does what is evil has not seen God. – 3 John 11

For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him.Therefore encourage one another and build each other up… – 1 Thessalonians 5: 9-11

 

Plates vs. Dates

Once upon a time I went to lunch every fortnight with a Christian boy.. on our own.. together. Sounds really romantic right? Except, it wasn’t a date and we never thought it was.

My friend and I became friends just after he became a Christian. We lived on college so we hung out together on a regular basis. When I moved away from college, I was working three jobs and studying full-time. I missed the regularity of hanging out with my friend, when we weren’t in a crowd of other friends and knowing where we were at in life.

So we set up a fortnightly catch-up. But then a weird thing happened. As soon as I told other Christians, who didn’t know me or my friend that well, that I had gone to lunch with my male friend, they’d ask if we were dating. When I told them we weren’t, they questioned my/his motives and left me feeling bewildered about hanging out with my friend.

Just because something looks similar to another thing, doesn’t mean that it’s the same. Contrary to what these people assumed, Christian males and females, can have platonic relationships that aren’t novel. That is, it isn’t special or unique. It isn’t unrequited love blossoming. It is a friendship.

However, much like dating, being platonic friends should be intentional. The year we started going on plates (platonic lunch dates), kicked off with my friend speaking to me about a conversation he’d had with someone who was pastoring him. He was challenged to make sure he wasn’t leading his female friends on. So, he took the advice to heart, and made it clear that when we hung out together, particularly on our own, that I was his sister in Christ and his friend. Nothing more.

When your opposite sex friends are honest with you, be honest with them and yourself.

If I had a crush on my male friend, and believed that our time together was a conduit for anything more; I would have told him then and there. If intentions are being set, then set them clearly.

Here lies a danger. When we’re being told that our desire isn’t another’s, we don’t want to say anything.. just in case.

The quality of our friendship and his honesty, meant that it was safe for me to be honest. And, if you’re comfortable in a friendship, it should be safe too. As Christians, we know that no one is devoid of worldly desires. We all struggle with different things and we shouldn’t pretend that we don’t. Therefore, it should be safe to share how you feel with someone who is your friend; particularly if they are a Christian.

Therefore, as God’s chosen people, holy and dearly loved, clothe yourselves with compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness and patience. Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you. And over all these virtues put on love, which binds them all together in perfect unity. – Colossians 3: 12-14

If you’re being told that someone doesn’t share the same intentions as you, don’t respond unkindly. Your friend shouldn’t be worried about losing their friendship with you because of two different desires. However, do think of a clear way forward that protects their heart.

I never fell in love with my friend, anymore than him being my friend and brother. But I was never fearful of losing his friendship either.

But think of the children! 

As Christians we also need to be aware about causing other people to stumble. We do this by being wise in the areas that they struggle with. Whenever I talked about spending time with my male friend, I referred to our time where we went to lunch as a plate. People would ask what the heck that was, and I’d explain it. I made our intentions clear, so that others weren’t mislead by what we were doing. If they questioned my friend’s motives, I told them to go ask him.

Be careful, however, that the exercise of your rights does not become a stumbling block to the weak. For if someone with a weak conscience sees you, with all your knowledge, eating in an idol’s temple, won’t that person be emboldened to eat what is sacrificed to idols? – 1 Corinthians 8:9-10

But what if this intention changes?

Our plates continued well into the years that lead after. I honestly believe that if you’re really friends with someone, to the point you enjoy spending time together, then you should speak up when your intentions change.

The key difference to a plate and a date are your intentions. 

You wouldn’t like a covert date where the other person thought it was, and you didn’t. So, if you want your plates to be dates, you need to tell the other person. If they don’t want plates to be dates, then you should reconsider what your plates look like.

Christian girls can be just friends with boys. Christian boys can be just friends with girls. However, be clear and honest about what your time together is because a plate does not equal a date.

 

A Christian & A Trans* Friend

It’s great that you can still be friends with them.

Maybe you should be taking a boy with you.

Isn’t that weird?

Just under five years ago, I became friends with a chick at college who is now a dude I’m still friends with. Bryson and I bonded over his posters of Obama and Matchbox Twenty hanging in his college room during the first week that we moved in. We remained firm friends who went to the movies, ate chocolate, studied and enjoyed each other’s company.

However, towards the middle of second semester, Bryson disappeared from college. No one knew where he was, and I was worried. I called everyday with no answer. Until, at a fateful 2am, Bryson appeared online and replied to my message. Bryson told me that he was struggling with his gender identity and that at least some part of him wanted to be a guy. He felt confused and just didn’t know what to do. He apologised profusely for telling me.

How did I respond?

I didn’t run around and quote the Bible. I didn’t tell Bryson that he was going to hell. I didn’t line up my pitchfork.

Why…? Christians are called to love others in the midst of their pain and suffering. What my friend needed was someone to listen. I had spent three months worried about him, and he had being going through tough stuff alone.

What he needed was a friend. A friend who didn’t dismiss the significance of his suffering because it wasn’t something the Christian community sees as God’s plan.

A friend loves at all times, and a brother is born for a time of adversity. ~ Proverbs 17:17

But you did tell him he’s a big trans* sinner, right?

Not that day, nor the days that followed after.

Christians need to be aware that being transgender and transitioning is a highly emotionally driven decision. Unhelpfully, I had people telling me it was great that I could still be friends with him. As if someone being trans* is a reason to stop being friends.

If Christians were to stop talking to anyone we thought were sinners, we’d talk to no-one… including ourselves.

As it is written: “There is no one righteous, not even one; there is no one who understands; there is no one who seeks God…” – Romans 3: 10-11

I still remember having a rather sad friend who was sitting on my floor [slightly intoxicated] telling me how much he hated himself. To tell Bryson that his choice is wrong, when my faith is not his own, would be for me to tell him I’d prefer the alternative path he was heading down before transitioning.

I prefer an alive Bryson to a dead friend. An all too real alternative that Christians should not forget.

A few years later we talked about identity and how my identity was in Christ; not the way others perceived me. This didn’t lead from a conversation where I presumed that Bryson had made a decision to transition into a dude, because he simply wanted others to see him that way – but one  about what made us, “us,” and where we believed our identity came from.

Christians also need to realise that the decisions that we would make are different to that a non-Christian makes. We believe in living lives for God, and should not begrudge and belittle non-Christians for not doing the same. Bryson knows the Gospel and has his own views on life.

Since, then, you have been raised with Christ, set your hearts on things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things above, not on earthly things. For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. – Colossians 3:1-3

As Christians, we are called to be witnesses of Christ and to show his love.

If you actually want someone to believe that God is loving whilst being friends with someone who is trans*, then the best way to do that is to actually be a friend.

Save any recommendations for when they bring it up or decide to be a Christian. People who are trans* deserve to have such a large decision dealt with appropriately, rather than someone steamrolling them with advice that is not appropriate for where they’re at. Gender dysphoria is a legitimate psychological issue which is handled differently by each person much like the depression and anxiety that manifests alongside it. Words carry weight, and need to be spoken thoughtfully.

Let’s be clear. I love my friend regardless of the pronouns he uses, the clothes he wears and the legal documents he changed. And you should love him too.

What if I come across someone who’s trans*?

  1. Don’t run away, dodge them or ignore them. Say hi.
  2. Get to know them.
  3. Be aware that those who are trans* may have been burnt by other Christians.
  4. When they are comfortable, ask questions to understand not to argue.
  5. Use the pronouns they identify by. This is something loving to do. Much like not calling your friends names that they don’t like. Apologise for when you forget.
  6. Don’t just view them as someone to convert.

Today, Bryson has changed a lot from the chick I met in my first year. He has a new name, his ID card now matches his face, and he’s had a chest reconstruction. He’s much happier and we still go to the movies, eat chocolate and enjoy each other’s company. We talk about Christianity, we talk about transgender identity and we understand that we are two different people who still like Obama and Matchbox Twenty.

I would encourage you to listen, learn and love. Speak graciously and wisely. Pray honestly. And don’t disregard the trans* community, their feelings, their struggles and their choices, because loving them first is the most loving thing to do.

Dealing with Supervising Teachers

Another long post…

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Throughout our placement courses, we are often reminded of how important it is to get along with our cooperating teachers (teacher supervisors/mentors) during placement. This is because they are the ones solely responsible for writing our placement reports. They decide whether we’ve met each standard, put in a decent effort or deserve to pass. Alongside this, however and whatever is written in that report is seen by the Department of Education during the recruitment interviews. CTs ultimately hold our teaching fate in their hands for three, four or even ten weeks; so an unhappy CT does not make for a happy placement life.

Now, most people assume that if a teacher has signed up to be a supervisor they should be understanding and keen to help out the new pre-service teacher. More often than not, this is true. My third year prac was amazing because my CT and all of the secondary staffroom endeavoured to make it that way. They let me be a creeper observing their classes, talked to me about why they chose to do a lesson a certain way, and were generally friendly. However, my first year placement was a little worse for wear.  The supervisor sat down with me at the end of observation week to “help” develop goals for my placement; in actuality the result was less than helpful. I was yelled at, belittled and left with next to no confidence in my ability to teach over the next three weeks.

What I experienced was not an isolated incident for a teaching degree. For the university staff overseeing teaching students, it would have been a red flag. Questionably, I chose not to contact the university about the situation. This was partially due to an unwillingness to “snitch” and mostly to gain experience with colleagues who didn’t ‘float my boat.’

So what did I learn from dealing with my CT?

1. Give the benefit of the doubt

Even though I felt disregarded at times, I learnt to give my CT the benefit of the doubt in most situations. They have rubbish days and hectic lives too. It is better to believe that your CT actually cares about your success as a teacher rather than wanting you to fail, otherwise you simply start to begrudge everything that peeves you. Like poor days in the classroom, next period and tomorrow is a fresh start with students, it’s the same with your CT.

2. Listen well

During placement, I find that my emotions are heightened with words, inflections and gestures becoming a touchy battlefield for constructive conversation. In the haze of tiredness, difficult classes and planning it can be hard to actually listen to what someone is trying to tell you. Focus on what feedback is being given and how it applies to your teaching. Don’t be afraid to clarify points, even if you feel the feedback has highly critical undertones. Look for practical applications and remember that some suggestions will not suit your beliefs about education or teaching style. You will need to make a decision to ride that feedback wave, or to stick it out (especially if your CT brings the same point up again).

3. Patience

I learnt to extend the same patience that I gave the year seven boys to my CT (that was appropriate for our professional relationship, so no “you’re not talking while I’m talking” and waiting till she settled down). It took three weeks (out of four) for me to finally feel my CT respected me as an individual who listened to what I said. We built mutuality and reciprocity, without pushing each other under the bus.

4. Fake it until you make it

Placement is tough and so are difficult relationships. As teachers, we perform a highly organised routine with the classroom as our stage, everyday! We know how to look like we are calm, when we really just want to tear out our hair. My CT just reminded me, that alongside an amazing learning experience, the performance sometimes needs to leave the classroom and flash mob the staffroom.

One final point… if you are constantly left feeling terrible about yourself due to a CT’s remarks, contact the appropriate person immediately. Once criticism turns nasty and personal, it is not alright to remain in that placement for an extended period of time.

Remember, CTs are people with different personalities, lifestyles and tastes; but they are people none-the-less.