A New Take on Emotional Purity

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life”

– Proverbs 4:23.

A close girlfriend and I were chatting a couple of weeks ago about Godly relationships, singleness, and Christian friendships. When we got to the topic of male-female friendships, she posed an interesting question to me:  “how would you rate your emotional purity in your relationships with male friends?” This was a concept about which I had never heard or thought. I inquired more from my friend, but she encouraged me to search the Word on my own, something for which I am so grateful.

Side-note: I think we need to do this more often with each other. It is so easy to just rely on each other for explanations of the Word, instead of finding the truth ourselves. In encouraging each other to independently meditate on the Word, we encourage growth in our brothers/sisters’ relationship with Christ. Now that is love.

Back on topic: So, in thinking about emotional purity and comparing it to physical purity, I garnered that the basic concept is not revealing too much of your emotional self or fostering too much emotional intimacy with male friends, so as not to raise one’s expectations (for singles) or the temptation (married) for a committed relationship. It seems especially important for women, since we are the more emotional sex. But I’m not going to get into emotional purity for married women in this post… I’m single, so I will mainly address the emotional purity of single ladies (“all my single ladies, now put your hands up!” – sorry. i couldn’t resist, haha).

Not Your Buddy

By chance, I found an article on Boundless.org, which describes the reasons for this purity:  Not Your Buddy. At first thought, this explanation of emotional purity made sense to me, especially given that I had begun harboring some similar concerns in my own life. It made sense to just avoid conjuring any emotions by keeping distance between yourself and guys and not revealing anything too personal to them. However, new clarity came through a discussion with my mom and challenged this notion.

When I described the above definition of emotional purity and how it may be wise to back away from friendships with males, she immediately looked dubious. “I don’t think I agree with that,” she said. “It seems to me like the problem is expectation.” She left it at that, giving me something more to think about on my own. After pondering it for a few minutes, I realized that I agreed with her more.

The real problem isn’t having relationships with guys or even opening up to them. I think guys can teach us women a lot and provide us with different ways of thinking and seeing our situations (and vice versa!). Yet, we say that we should limit our emotional selves regarding our friendships with men because we as sisters can start to expect more from our brothers… and by more, I mean a romantic, committed relationship. We start interpreting their communications as laced with romantic interest and start expecting that they should return our friendliness and interest with an advancement toward a relationship. I have personal experience of this. I know, I’ve done it too. But I would encourage you to consider what is going on in this case… to consider how we as ladies may be contributing to this potentially hurtful situations with our expectations.

It seems like we ladies are always one step ahead of ourselves. If we have something good, we wonder what the next step will be and try to put a rush order on getting there, rather than enjoying where we are and what we have now. And even as the Boundless article said:

“You never have to wonder if your brother is romantically interested in you”

… because, being a Godly man, if he’s interested in you, He would let you know. So what are we doing by feeding our expectations and getting frustrated when the guy in mind doesn’t fulfill them? If he hasn’t explicitly expressed his interest, then that means he’s not interested in that way. <– now, there may be aberrations to this if we consider the shy guys who are too afraid to be open and blunt with the girl they’re interested in, but that’s more than I care to get into right now.

To further this point about the danger of expectation, I would encourage you to think about our female-female relationships. Oftentimes, when we become close to another female, spend more one-on-one time with her, and reveal more about ourselves to her, what do we begin to develop? It’s the same deal here:  Expectations. Oftentimes, we ladies find ourselves hoping that she’ll call so we can chat or disappointed when she doesn’t pick up because we have something from our day that we’d like to share about. We expect her to make time for us when we need her, or hang out with us, and are a little disappointed when she can’t. Expectation also arises in the development of a close, female friendship, not just something that we must face in our friendships with men.

I guess I just can’t help but think that we are restricting ourselves from what could be a spiritually beneficial relationship just because the person we would share it with is of the opposite sex. Must the rules really be different just because he is male? I think it is better that we recognize our tendency to expect more than we have and challenge ourselves to grow emotionally and spiritually.

And if you find yourself developing expectations or confused by his behavior with you, then you should be mature about it and talk about it with him. If he’s a brother in the Lord, I would think that your feelings would be important to him and that he would be more than willing to curb his actions in a way that wouldn’t suggest that he wants more than a friendship. I know, I know. “Easier said than done.” Trust me, I realize that. But I just have a hard time accepting the easy way out of avoiding meaningful spiritual relationships with men altogether. I think we as Christians should strive to harness our own weaknesses and grow beyond our faults.

“Above all else, guard your heart, for it is a wellspring of life”

– Proverbs 4:23.

This verse is often quoted as a defense for the first definition of emotional purity that I shared at the beginning of this post. However, I think this verse can also be interpreted as a warning to guard our hearts from ourselves and our own actions. How are you contributing to your heart’s unhappiness and vulnerability? Why are we so quick to point the finger?

When I continued this talk with my mom, she said something to me that stuck out. I really want to adopt this type of living for myself:

“Don’t expect more. Only give more. If you give without expecting return, then your giving is great and you are never disappointed. Because the only person you can control is yourself.” ~ Mommy 🙂

There is joy in giving, and only disappointment and dissatisfaction in expecting. Only you have the power to control your mind, your will, your emotions, and your worldview. We must be constantly striving to place these things in the Lord. He is the only One from which we should expect anything because He is the only One who cannot disappoint us.

How are you seeing your situation? How are you approaching your male-female relationships? What changes can you make within yourself to improve them?

And yes, I realize this may sound idealistic to many. We are human and therefore fallible. But what are we doing when we use that as a crutch? When we focus too much on our flesh, we face the danger of using the fact that we are not perfect as an excuse for not trying to live up to a higher standard. In striving to be like Jesus, are we not aiming for perfection? This is the same thing. And like I wrote in another post, when you focus on the limiting factor, that’s the thing toward which you begin gravitate. So I will set my eyes on the Lord and focus my sights, and thus the direction and movement of my whole being, on His ideals and on becoming the person that He says I am in Him.

But by all means, I am not an expert on emotional purity. These are just thoughts of mine and I would love to hear your views as well! I’m always open to differing perspectives.

4/15 – Today, I found a blog post on Emotional Purity by a fellow wordpresser, Dan. I thought it was excellent! I totally agreed with his emphasis on having self-control. You might want to check it out:  Sparky Danny Man’s Take on Emotional Purity

    • virtueswoman
    • April 14th, 2009

    mmm, im thinking, doesn’t expectation come based on the nature of a relationship. I believe in guys and girls being friends but with clear boundaries. I dont think its practical to share intimate things with the opposite sex and not get attached (experience). Thats like saying, ‘you can watch pornography but remember, guard your heart, dont get addicted now!’ (Sorry, I know its a bit extreme but I couldnt think of anything else.) I think your heart can still get attached to an impure thing even if you dont want it to and even if it wasnt your intention.

    I get what you are saying about expectation because you could get attahced to a guy by entertaining thoughts like, ‘what did he mean when he said that? he touched my shoulder, what did that mean? does he like me?’ I totally agree with that. But shouldnt our caution be in both our meditation and our conduct? I really liked your article by the way…

  1. haha to the pornography analogy. lol. but no, i totally agree with you when you said to have clear boundaries. i think it is important for the relationship to be defined, which is why I said women should be mature in talking with their male friends about their actions towards them. i probably should have emphasized that more.

    yea, i think it is so dangerous to entertain those kind of thoughts. not only does it distract us from learning in Christ from each other as brother and sister, but it’s a sure indication that the relationship is not defined, which means that there is room for someone to become emotionally hurt.

    but when you say, “shouldn’t our caution be in both our meditation and our conduct,” can you explain more to me what you mean? i think i understand what you mean, but i do not want to make assumptions for your meaning.

      • virtueswoman
      • April 24th, 2009

      The last line was just a conclusion to what i was saying; we shouldnt entertain impure thoughts but we should also set the necessary boundaries… I like what you said though about defining your relationships. You are so right! If we did that, we would never go through as much drama as we do. (You are a woman of widom)

      There is a guy called Ed Young, He was saying about relationships that everyone had the potential to cheat and that the secret to staying faithful is in not even giving yourself the opportunity to cheat. He was talking about how there are some things that are intimate to us that shouldnt be shared with people other than our spouses. Dont you think that even for single people, there are some things that are necessary to safeguard in order to keep ourselves from unhealthy emotional attachments.

      I mean, suppose your expectation is pure and your relationship is defined, is it not possible to still form an unhealthy emotional attchment simply because maybe you spend way too much time together?

      • Oh my gosh, I love Ed Young! He is such a blessing. And yes, I certainly do agree with what you said – some things are intimate and should only be shared with our spouse. Yes, I agree with that. In writing this post, I didn’t mean to imply that we should allow ourselves to be open books to men or to anyone, really, women included. Rather, I just wanted to get us thinking about our own role in creating disappointments in our relationships. If we prevent ourselves from expecting too much, then we prevent disappointments from unfulfilled expectations. So both components are important. I just wanted to shine some light on the expectation component.

        But I completely agree that there are some things should be reserved for your just spouse to know. But I just wanted to post this mainly in response to people who take Proverbs 4:23 to the extreme by cutting off relationships with Christian guys. I think that we can learn a lot from our brothers and that, as long as a clear definition and understanding of the relationship is set, then such friendships should be allowed. It’s when that mutual understanding isn’t in place that people can start to develop expectations and, consequently, get hurt.

        And to answer your last question, I suppose there is that danger if the two people don’t reaffirm the definition of their relationship. From my experience, I think expectations start to arise when either party doesn’t communicate their perception of the relationship, when they’re afraid to revisit the definition of their relationship, or afraid to question the other’s intentions. I think that as long as both persons are willing to “take the temperature” of their relationship, then it can be maintained. But I know that’s easier said than done. It’s something I am currently struggling with, but I think it’s a good struggle because it’s an opportunity for maturity. I think it’s important that we learn how to communicate openly with others and become comfortable talking about the status and dynamics of our relationship with others and I see this as just another opportunity to do this.

  2. oh geez. you don’t realize how much this has helped me. thank you so much- i think i needed to read this entry.

  3. hey sunnie dear! i am so happy to hear that this blessed you, girl! ❤

    • alwayswaiting
    • April 15th, 2009

    I’m impressed by your mom’s tag. Give more! Awesome. =)

  4. Hi Alchemy,

    I just wanted to let you know that I posted a reply to your comment on my blog explaining more of my convictions regarding modesty of the heart. Thanks for taking the time to comment!

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