Young People Ask . . .
How Can I Avoid the Hurt of Flirting?
“WHAT are you? Are you made of stone?” Hurt and confused, Michelle demands to know how Eduard could have led her on the way he did. After having lavished romantic attention on her, how could he now say he doesn’t want to get serious with her? Eduard claims that he didn’t really mean to hurt her, but Michelle won’t excuse him. To her, Eduard is nothing more than a cruel flirt.
To flirt means to behave amorously without serious intent. Doing so is potentially damaging, even when engaged in by school-age youths who simply want to attract attention to themselves or inflate their egos. And when young adults of marriageable age trifle with the feelings of others, excruciating pain and heartache may result.
Some flirts break hearts deliberately, even maliciously, resulting in emotional turmoil for one innocent victim after another. Interestingly, though, many offenders act more out of a lack of experience than out of malice. Oftentimes young men and women simply do not understand how their actions affect the feelings of others. Or they may be led astray by their ‘treacherous hearts’ and rationalize flirtatious behavior.—Jeremiah 17:9.
Consider the case of Eduard and Michelle. Early in their relationship, Eduard carefully explained to Michelle that while he liked her as a friend, he did not intend to get serious. Still, he would go places and do things with her, talk with her on the telephone, exchange gifts. He even held her hand. Eduard reasoned, though, that as long as he did not commit himself, he was free of any responsibility. He was thus at a loss for words when Michelle revealed the depth of her feelings for him.
Nevertheless, it is clear that Eduard allowed his heart to mislead him. How can you avoid making the same mistake yourself? And is there any way to avoid being hurt by a flirt?
Flirting Also Hurts the Flirt
First, you must realize that treating someone as if you are interested in marriage when you really are not is lying, plain and simple. A flirt lives by a cruel double standard. He expects others to be sincere about their intentions toward him, but he plays by different rules. He is like the merchant in Bible times who would have “two sorts of weights” for his balance scales—one honest, the other designed to shortchange his customers. Such double-dealing was and is “detestable” to Jehovah. (Proverbs 12:22; 20:23) It may also destroy your reputation with others.
Author Kathy McCoy further warns in an article in Seventeen magazine that flirting can “take a toll on your ability to share, and can quite effectively block intimacy. After a time, flirting without emotional connection can become a numbing experience.”
How to Avoid Being a Flirt
You must therefore examine your motives when you are tempted to show interest in someone of the opposite sex. Are you really interested in marriage? If not, what would be the point of being overly attentive to that person? And if marriage is on your mind, you still need to discipline yourself to be fair, truthful, and forthright in your dealings. The Bible describes the healthy relationship between a shepherd boy and a young maiden. There was no ambiguity or violation of trust there; they were honest and open about their feelings toward each other.—Song of Solomon 2:16.
Living by such principles bears good fruit today as well. Juan and Anaeli have been married now for over two years. Says Juan: “One thing more than anything else has helped us to be genuinely happy. In a word, HONESTY.” Mutual honesty helped them to lay a solid foundation on which genuine love could grow. Says Leo Buscaglia in his book Loving Each Other—The Challenge of Human Relationships: “We cannot risk having a relationship built upon lies, even benevolent ones. . . . Only truth can bring us the necessary trust needed for long-lasting relationships.” The Bible long ago linked honesty to love by saying: “Speaking the truth, let us by love grow up in all things.”—Ephesians 4:15; compare Proverbs 3:3.
Of course, even one who tries to be honest and thoughtful may get involved in a relationship that is not working out. The honest thing to do is to talk matters out and, if necessary, end the relationship.a Erik, though, courted Ingrid for over a year before he came to realize that they should not get married. Rather than face his feelings head on, he tried to cool off their relationship gradually. When the truth finally came out, Ingrid lamented: “All this time I’ve been waiting for him to make up his mind, and then he hits me with this!” It is mistaken kindness to drag out a hopeless romance. And you can get branded a flirt in the process.
Often, though, romantic false starts and misunderstandings can be prevented in the first place by applying the Bible’s counsel: “Let each one keep seeking, not his own advantage, but that of the other person.” (1 Corinthians 10:24) As writer Kathy McCoy puts it: “Be aware of and take some responsibility for the responses you evoke in others.” Yes, apply the Golden Rule in your relationships and “always treat others as you would like them to treat you.” (Matthew 7:12, The New English Bible) Remind yourself that other people have feelings too. Avoid giving wrong impressions instead of blaming others for misunderstanding you.
Don’t Be Hurt by a Flirt!
How, though, can you avoid being victimized? First, avoid overreacting to attention from the opposite sex. Do not conclude that every warm smile implies a romantic interest.
Some young adults also make the mistake of getting too emotionally involved too soon. Jonathan got interested in Deborah even though she had a reputation for flirting. Soon they were engaged. Then, abruptly and without explanation, Deborah terminated their relationship. In a display of bravado, Jonathan tried to conceal his hurt, saying: “I don’t care about her. I intend to keep right on having fun just as before!” But then he put his head into his hands and burst into tears. Deborah? She went on to get engaged two more times, each time breaking it off in the same manner.
While Deborah obviously was more culpable, Jonathan was not entirely without blame. For one thing, Jonathan was a well-known flirt himself. He thus ran head-on into the principle: ‘You reap what you sow.’ (Galatians 6:7) Don’t make the same mistake. Since flirts tend to attract flirts, you are much more likely to avoid being victimized if you always treat the opposite sex with respect.
Jonathan had also failed to show wisdom and good judgment. Proverbs 14:15 notes that “the shrewd one considers his steps.” In other words, look before you leap. Before getting emotionally involved with someone, find out from mature, responsible adults whether that person is well reported on or not. (Compare Acts 16:2.) Had Jonathan done that, he might have learned that Deborah was known for being very self-centered in her dealings with friends.
Finally, know the difference between love and infatuation. Deborah was the fickle sort, easily distracted by other young men. This should have alerted Jonathan to the fact that her interest in him was only temporary. True love is not fickle.—Compare Song of Solomon 8:6.
Healing the Pain
It may be that a few bruises and scratches on the way to true love are almost inevitable. But if you find yourself burned by a flirt, do not give up on life. Michelle (mentioned at the beginning) refused to become bitter or selfishly vindictive. Instead of carrying a torch for Eduard, she went on with her life and has since enjoyed a number of privileges in Christian service. Recently she became engaged to a fine young man.
Until you marry, maintain your self-respect. You need not flirt or court a flirt to learn about the opposite sex or to find real love. Steer clear of members of the opposite sex who are shallow or who are interested only in building their own egos. Be fair, honest, and unselfish in your speech and actions. Doing so, you can avoid the hurt of flirting.
a See the article “Should We Break Up?” appearing in the July 22, 1988, issue of Awake!
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Flirting may lead to misunderstanding and heartache