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The Difference Between “Friendly” and “Flirtatious”

The hair flip, the side glance, the wink…we know what they can do. Perhaps we’ve used them a time or two. They are the fundamental tools of flirtation. They’re used in the movies and on TV, usually in that cute scene where the couple meets for the first time. They’re just for fun, completely harmless—right?

There are many ideals we accept without truly thinking them through. As a building block of modern dating, flirtation is one of these cultural norms. But as Christian women, we have to go deeper. We need to look at flirtation in light of God’s Word and see if it lines up with the kind of woman God intended us to be.

To “flirt” literally means to “behave as though attracted to or trying to attract someone, but for amusement rather than with serious intentions” (Dictionary.com). In other words, flirtation is attention without intention. It’s part of a dating game where actions aren’t always as genuine as they appear. It seems so harmless, but in reality, it can be quite deceitful.

But the problem we encounter as Christians is how to walk this line between “friendly” and “flirtatious.” It’s one thing to intentionally lead a guy to believe you’re into him, but what if you’re naturally an extrovert? Bubbly girls are sometimes labeled flirtatious for simply being outgoing. They question how to be true to their personalities while being authentic in their behavior. The key to striking this balance is living a life characterized by love.

In 1 Corinthians 13, the Apostle Paul defines love in a series of actions: Love is patient, kind, not envious, not rude and so on. Love is not just an emotion, but a choice of the will. When we love someone, we are choosing to look out for that person’s best interests. This attitude is the foundation of good manners, courtesy and overall friendliness. The Golden Rule—“Do to others as you would have them to do to you” (Luke 6:31)—is an example of this selfless love. God commands us to love genuinely because God Himself is the very definition of love (1 John 4:8).

When asked to identify which commands God considers most important, Jesus named two: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Matthew 26:37-39) As women who love God, we are called to love our neighbors—including the guys we meet—with the same selfless love Jesus gives to us. True love is not manipulative, but genuine.

This truth should alter how we communicate with the opposite sex. It requires us to be in tune with our actions, choosing to be honest about our feelings even when it would feel good to flirt. But it also means we have the privilege of being the very best version of ourselves, whether that person is outgoing or quiet, a joker or a listener, the life of the party or a wallflower. It means we take a genuine interest in each person we meet because they are individuals created by God—not people to use for our own self-interest and self-esteem.

The beauty of living authentically is that healthy relationships are built on truth. Being the most genuine version of yourself opens doors for the right guy to see the real you. That’s what lasting relationships are built on.

Flirtation, at its core, is manipulative. It is neither genuine nor authentic, and as such cannot be the foundation of a positive relationship. But this doesn’t mean you can’t be friendly, fun or engaging! Be the you that God designed, and treat others with the respect they deserve—and the love God has shown you. In choosing authenticity over attention, you might make some sacrifices, but they are the kind God honors.



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  1. GodGirl889752

    Posted by GodGirl889752 on February 29, 2016 at 13:24

    I really liked this post. I have never really had many “guy friends” until middle school. My best guy friend (I think) talks to me all the time and is really friendly to me. I think he’s SUPER cute but i just want to be friends. Every time we’re together i find myself accidentally being flirtatious which makes for some embarrassment later so thank you so much for the post. 🙂

  2. Marcy

    Posted by Marcy on February 25, 2016 at 12:19

    Thank you for posting this. I know the line between flirting and friendliness is something I have spent a lot of time thinking about in my life.
    I’m wondering, what do you think of flirting when you are interested in the guy in that way? How does that fit in? Do you consider that a third category, in addition to flirting and being friendly?
    Also, just out of curiosity, what do you think of flirting where the intentions are clear and both parties know it’s just for fun and there’s nothing more to it? How would that fit in, since you’re not being dishonest if you both know?

    • phyliciadelta

      Posted by phyliciadelta on March 2, 2016 at 11:34

      Great questions, Marcy! Flirtation, by the definition in the article, is disingenuous. So if you are genuinely interested in a guy, just be yourself, be kind, be interested in him – flirtation isn’t necessary! Taking an interest in someone implements common courtesy, kindness, and a willingness to engage in his life.

      Flirtation is never “just for fun” because it always involves emotion. No matter what both parties say, we can’t know the true motives of the heart. With that being the case we should always choose love – choosing the best for that person – above recreational behavior. So while flirtation might seem “harmless” and by mutual agreement, it is wiser to simply be genuine in all conversations.

  3. Project Inspired

    Posted by Soccerfan99 on February 25, 2016 at 11:18

    This is rough especially for me since flirting is like a second nature.

  4. Project Inspired

    Posted by faithful_soul on February 25, 2016 at 07:31

    Thank you so much. I definitely needed this reminder…for me it’s often hard to just jump in and talk to guys so I tend to flirt my way into a conversation. Problem is, this has serous consequences and that friend I may have just made will probably leave when they find I’m not actually into them like that. Another thing in this article that really helped was how we should treat everyone with genuine interest, respect, and kindness. It’s so easy just to glance over people or never really pursue a real and true friendship. We all tend to just look for certain people to befriend and miss potential friendships with everyone else around.
    Thanks for reminder to be genuine and in that, love! ♥