Can men and women simply be just friends?
Or rather, can men and women simply be just platonic friends, and remain chaste?
This is a fraught topic in many Christian circles, and more so within Catholic circles.
Some people would argue that there is no such thing as platonic friendship between members of the opposite that does not invoke scandal. Others argue that scandal is in the eye of the beholder and that is is possible for a man and woman to be just friends without lusting after each other
I recently wrote about the True Purpose of Chastity and how we as Catholics, regardless of our state in life, are called to chastity.
We must remember that the developing the virtue of chastity isn’t just limited to physical chastity, but to emotional chastity as well.
Let us see what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say on opposite sex friendships:
The virtue of chastity blossoms in friendship. It shows the disciple how to follow and imitate him who has chosen us as his friends, who has given himself totally to us and allows us to participate in his divine estate. Chastity is a promise of immortality. Chastity is expressed notably in friendship with one’s neighbour. Whether it develops between persons of the same or opposite sex, friendship represents a great good for all. It leads to spiritual communion. (CCC 2347)
So the CCC does not denounce opposite sex friendships. It actually says that friendship is a good thing. Friends can help to inspire us, challenge us and motivate us in our spiritual journey. After all, Jesus himself had friends of both sexes.
St Francis and St Clare also provide a great example of a chaste opposite sex friendship, which can lead to a mutual growth in faith and in holiness.
So far, it is okay to have opposite sex friendships as long as we are chaste, physical and emotionally, in word, thought and deed.
Developing opposite sex friendships can be done……up to a point. I think that once that friendship crosses into deep emotional intimacy, then there is a risk of the violation of emotional chastity, which can then lead to the violation of physical chastity.
For the sake of our current vocation, keeping chaste and avoiding scandal, our friendships with the opposite sex should have well defined boundaries and limits.
How about married folks? Are married people allowed to have opposite sex friendships?
What about people who are dating or courting……are they allowed to have opposite sex friendships?
Close opposite sex friendships in these cases are not advisable for the sake of chastity and out of respect to your spouse or boyfriend/girlfriend.
Courtship and marital love seeks an exclusivity that fundamentally offers security to each person. Opposite sex friendships that exclude the marital or dating partner threaten that security, peace, exclusivity and trust.
For married or courting folks, by all means have opposite sex friendships, but emotional intimacy and close friendships with members of the opposite sex is to be avoided.
Platonic affection can easily develop into love, which can easily develop into desire for sexual expression. It is better to avoid any intimate or unhealthy attachment to an opposite sex friend which might work against our vocation and spiritual growth.
Closeness should be reserved for your spouse, both exclusively and totally. Do not discuss with the opposite sex certain things that should only be discussed with your spouse.
As St John Paul II said:
“God has assigned as a duty to every man the dignity of every woman: and to every woman the dignity of every man. He assigned to every one—both to man and woman—their own dignity.”
Thus, let all our friendships with the opposite sex be marked with modesty, purity, chastity and dignity.
ad Jesum per Mariam