The Bible’s Viewpoint
What Is Wrong With Flirting?
“Why do we think of flirting as manipulative or deceitful or bad? It’s not! It’s a game! And it’s a win-win game because you’re making the other person feel good.”—Susan Rabin, director of the School of Flirting, New York City.
MANY people view flirting as normal, innocent, and even necessary in forming and maintaining human relationships. In Western countries, there is a recent proliferation of books, magazine articles, and special courses that teach the gestures, postures, glances, and stares that are integral to the “art of flirting.”
What is flirtation? There are various definitions and interpretations. One dictionary defines it as “frivolously amorous or sexually enticing” behavior. Another dictionary defines flirting as behaving “amorously without serious intent.” Thus, it seems to be a generally accepted notion that a flirt is one who signals romantic interest with no intention of marriage. Should flirting be viewed as harmless? What is the Bible’s viewpoint of flirting?a
Although flirting is not specifically mentioned in the Scriptures, we can determine God’s view. How? By examining Bible principles that bear on the matter. We thus develop our ‘perceptive powers so as to distinguish right from wrong.’ (Hebrews 5:14) First, let us consider whether flirting is appropriate behavior for people who are married.
If One Is Married
It is quite natural for married couples to behave amorously with each other in private. (Compare Genesis 26:8.) But directing such attentions to individuals outside the marriage goes contrary to God’s principles. Jehovah purposed that married couples enjoy a close and trusting relationship. (Genesis 2:24; Ephesians 5:21-33) He views marriage as a sacred, permanent union. Malachi 2:16 says of God: “He has hated a divorcing.”b
Is flirting by a married person compatible with God’s view of marriage? At the very least, the married flirt shows disrespect for the sacredness of God’s marital arrangement. Then, too, Ephesians 5:33 commands the Christian husband to “love his wife as he does himself” and the wife to “have deep respect for her husband.” Does flirting, which arouses jealousy, show love or respect for one’s mate?
Even more sobering is the fact that flirting can lead to adultery, a sin that Jehovah roundly condemns and describes as treacherous. (Exodus 20:14; Leviticus 20:10; Malachi 2:14, 15; Mark 10:17-19) Indeed, Jehovah considers adultery to be so serious that he permits victims of marital infidelity to divorce. (Matthew 5:32) Can we imagine, then, that Jehovah would approve of so dangerous a pastime as flirting? God would not approve of it any more than a loving parent would approve of his small child playing with a sharp kitchen knife.
Concerning adultery the Bible warns: “Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned? Or can a man walk upon the coals and his feet themselves not be scorched? Likewise with anyone having relations with the wife of his fellowman, no one touching her will remain unpunishable.” (Proverbs 6:27-29) However, even if adultery is never committed, a married person who flirts invites a further danger—becoming involved in what has been termed “an emotional affair.”
Some people have cultivated relationships outside their marriage in which romantic feelings develop, although there is no sexual contact. However, Jesus warned: “Everyone that keeps on looking at a woman so as to have a passion for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:28) Why did Jesus object to passion that goes no further than the heart?
One factor is that “out of the heart come . . . adulteries.” (Matthew 15:19) However, such a relationship is harmful even if it has not progressed to the point where adultery is imminent. How so? One book on this subject explains: “Any activity or relationship that drains too much time and energy from life with your partner is a form of unfaithfulness.” Yes, an emotional affair robs one’s mate of time, attention, and affection. In view of Jesus’ command that we treat others as we wish to be treated, the married flirt does well to ask himself, ‘How would I feel if my mate behaved this way with another?’—Proverbs 5:15-23; Matthew 7:12.
If a person has formed an inappropriate emotional bond like this, what should he do? A married person with an improper emotional attachment is like a driver falling asleep at the wheel. He needs to wake up to his situation and take immediate, decisive action before his marriage and his relationship with God are wrecked. Jesus illustrated the need for drastic action when he said that even something as precious as an eye should be torn away or a hand cut off if it would destroy one’s good standing with God.—Matthew 5:29, 30.
It would thus be wise to limit where and how often you see the other person. Certainly, avoid being isolated with the individual, and if in a work environment, limit the nature of conversation. It may even be necessary to terminate all contact with the person. Thereafter, strict self-control must be applied regarding one’s eyes, thoughts, feelings, and behavior. (Genesis 39:7-12; Psalm 19:14; Proverbs 4:23; 1 Thessalonians 4:4-6) Job, a married man, set an excellent example when he said: “A covenant I have concluded with my eyes. So how could I show myself attentive to a virgin?”—Job 31:1.
Clearly, it is hazardous and unscriptural for a married person to engage in flirting. However, what is the Bible’s view of flirting between people who are single? Is it to be considered normal, innocent, or necessary to establish relationships with the opposite sex? Could any real harm result from it?
What About the Unmarried?
There is nothing wrong with two single people showing romantic interest in each other, provided that they are contemplating marriage and that they avoid unclean conduct. (Galatians 5:19-21) Such interest may take place during the early stages of courtship when marriage may still be only a remote possibility. This is not necessarily inappropriate when the intentions are good. Such behavior is not really flirtatious.
What, though, if single people send romantic signals to each other just for amusement? It may seem harmless, since they are unmarried. However, consider the potential for emotional injury. If the flirt’s manner is taken more seriously than intended, it can result in excruciating pain and heartache. How true are the words of Proverbs 13:12: “Expectation postponed is making the heart sick, but the thing desired is a tree of life when it does come”! Even if two people claim to have an understanding that neither one has serious interest in the other—can either of them be certain of what the other is really thinking or feeling? The Bible answers: “The heart is more treacherous than anything else and is desperate. Who can know it?”—Jeremiah 17:9; compare Philippians 2:4.
Consider, too, the danger of fornication, with its possible consequences of disease or illegitimate pregnancy. Fornication is forbidden in the Scriptures, and those who willfully practice it lose God’s favor. The apostle Paul wisely cautioned Christians that to resist temptation, they should “deaden” their “body members . . . as respects fornication” and avoid “covetous sexual appetite,” which leads to fornication. (Colossians 3:5; 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5) At Ephesians 5:3, he advises us that fornication “not even be mentioned,” that is, in such a way as to arouse wrong desire. Flirting does not harmonize with this counsel. God even forbids unwholesome conversation about sex.
Bible principles reveal that flirting can be cruel to fellow humans and disrespectful to Jehovah, the Originator of marriage. The Bible’s view of improper flirting is certainly loving and reasonable, as it protects people from injury. Lovers of God will therefore refrain from inappropriate flirting and treat the opposite sex with chasteness and respect.—1 Timothy 2:9, 10; 5:1, 2.
a Flirting should not be confused with being friendly or gregarious, without any amorous motive.
b See the article “What Kind of Divorcing Does God Hate?” in the February 8, 1994, issue of Awake!
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