One thing about the Bible, it makes sinners of us all. Remember, the text says even “having lust in your heart” makes you a sinner. If you read the Bible literally, the next step would be to pluck out your eye. Thankfully, we know that no one lives up to the law’s demands, that we all fall way, way short. That’s why forgiveness and grace are at the heart of the Gospel.
If “sparks” are beginning to fly, I assume this means flirting has begun. Some people are naturally flirtatious, some are obnoxious flirts and some flirt with intent.
Regardless, if the behaviour continues, any friend worth his or her salt would explain the facts: we are on a trip our spouses encouraged us to take, you are married, this person does not know you or your intentions, things can get carried away and there will be consequences.
I am a big believer in reality-based pastoral care. And I carry out my friendships in the same fashion. If I see something unfolding in front of me, I will share, from my experience, the events that are bound to happen next. I will lay out the sequence, explain the likely results and ask whether the person at the centre of these events is aware how this will end.
I remind myself that I don’t really know if what I’m seeing are “sparks” or if I’m projecting this from some past experience of my own. All of us have our own lenses and our own baggage. Often what we see has more to do with us than with others.
So remaining calm and adding at the end of my intervention “Of course, I could be totally off base here” takes a lot of the sting out of my observations. In the end, what I owe my friend is honest feedback on red flags, communicated boldly and with love and humility.
I admit my imagination is fuelled by my irritation. I was looking forward to going to that salsa club to put into practice the dance steps I learned in a sweaty high school gym. I was happily contemplating my friend’s admiration for my skill. But her attention was otherwise engaged.
What exactly happened on that dance floor? She was the belle of the ball, Cuban-style, and I spent a lot of time absorbed in my Cuba libre. She did dance a lot with one man. But was this truly the start of something big (and awkward!) or the kind of meaningless flirtation that happens on tropical nights?
It is now the morning after. I am due to meet my pal for our day trip to the other side of the island. We’ll have lots of time to gab and relive last night. Rather than charge right in with baseless allegations, I will plant conversational seeds and listen.
“You seemed to have such a good time last night. I envy your poise with new people” seems a good place to start. If that doesn’t provoke frankly reassuring discussion, I will try something clearer: “You seemed really attracted to that chap yesterday. Is there anything we need to talk about?”
If my friend says no, then I have to be satisfied with that. I can ensure the agenda is packed with activities that preclude another visit to the salsa club. Perhaps a little more parasailing and a little less alcohol. There is a limit to how much supervision any friendship tolerates, however. If she is determined to have a fling, then I may have to accept this is beyond my control.
I have made it clear by my own lifestyle over the course of our friendship that I believe in marital fidelity. If events reveal my friend holds different standards, then it is our relationship that needs scrutinizing.
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