“There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.” Galatians 3:28, ESV

Guy-girl friendships. This topic is a bit of a doozy for me as well. Let me give you a brief overview of my history here.

I think it was mostly ok until a guy I dated didn’t like me having guy friends, especially this one dude. He asked me to stop hanging around him, which I did. In college, I realized that a simple invitation to grab coffee was a mine field, God forbid anything like dinner or studying together. Evangelicals seem to be very paranoid about girls and guys being friends.

Don’t get me wrong. It can be a mine field. There is a whole spectrum of thought on this subject, from, “What’s a casual kiss among friends,” to the Mean Girls approach, “If you touch a boy you will get chlamydia and you will die.”

I feel like there has to be a way to split the difference, right? On the one hand, you have a total flippancy to the potential hurts and miscommunications of male-female interactions. On the other, a complete hyper-sexualization of even a friendly hello that leaves both parties confused and unable to talk to each other.

So here I am, trying to find a middle ground, and possibly whiffing it. You could chalk it up to lack of practice–my undergrad was majority female and I might have had one or two guy friends I would have qualified as “close.” You could chalk it up to paranoia–that I’m so obsessive about getting things right that I end up not doing anything or just devolving into a neurotic mess.

Either way, it’s not great.

To top it all off, a lack of meaningful male friendships has only cemented unhealthy views of men I got from the not so great ones I’ve been around. If I’m not talking to guys simply to getting to know said guy and build a friendship, then the stakes seem too high.

I have talked to many women for whom one good conversation can be tantamount to a marriage proposal.

This is not healthy.

Now that I live in New York, I actually have several guy friends. It hasn’t made me an expert, in fact, sometimes I feel like I do nothing but screw up. I’m either totally aloof or too mushy. I will say, though, that simply hanging out with more dudes, guys who are goofy and smart and cool, to be less squirrely and paranoid. I mean, being in therapy is also helpful. OK, it’s mainly therapy.

I’m at a loss to tell these great humans how much I appreciate them, to be honest. There are a few verses that talk about oneness, affection, brotherly love, and such, and they are a bit baffling. Especially if you take a look at Philippians 1:7-8, where Paul writes, “It is right for me to feel this way about you all, because I hold you in my heart, for you are all partakers with me of grace, both in my imprisonment and in the defense and confirmation of the gospel. For God is my witness, how I yearn for you all with the affection of Christ Jesus.”

I’m not great at talking about my feelings or expressing platonic affection. These dudes are my family, my partners in the gospel, my brothers, and I want to tell them I think they’re swell. I want to encourage them and take a personal interest in them as individuals. Is there a way to say “I think you’re swell, but I don’t want to have your babies”?

Maybe for me it starts with giving up my neurotic perfectionism, because OH MY GOSH MAREBS, CALM DOWN. Or, as my BFF Sage just said to me, “Be calm and be cool, my little anxious brained friend.” Seriously, y’all, Jesus needs to take this wheel.

Can we all just collectively agree to take the pressure off of each other and ourselves? Yes, we need wisdom. I’m not going to invite a dude friend solo over to my studio apartment for chocolate covered strawberries or whatever. For a whole book filled with wisdom on this very subject, check out Why Can’t We Be Friends by Aimee Boyd. But fear is not our friend here, y’all.

I’ll end with this thought. I’m an introvert, so one-on-one is my bread and butter. Groups are exhausting, and they make it difficult for me to feel like I know people, or I’m known. I have gotten to know some great guys in a mutually platonic way simply by walking the same direction, or grabbing coffee, or having a one-on-one conversation while in a group setting.

I have also engaged in these types of conversations and been totally wrong, having to backpedal or have the awkward “I’m not feeling it” conversation. Not the fun kind of awkward, mind you, the kind where you feel like you might actually die from discomfort.

And I’m still alive, so that’s something. I know more now than I did when I was just burying my head in the sand. I’ve gotten some bumps and bruises (OK, OK more like dislocated shoulders and fractured femurs), but it’s been cool to experience the growth and grace that comes from giving up the slightest bit of my control, and actually be open to other humans.