[Guest post by Hudson Byblow]
Recently, a female friend shared with me about her relationship with her friend who is of the same sex. Her words struck me to the core, especially in this over-isolated and over-sexualized culture. Here is what she said:
“I’ve been thinking a lot about my relationship with [name]. I care about her so much; we talk almost every day, we have a lot in common, and we genuinely care about each other. When I first met her, she was so beautiful and so cool that it really caught me off guard. I found myself really drawn to her and I really want to be her friend — strictly her friend — and at first, that scared me. I had to remind myself that it is okay to want to be around someone of the same sex, to be close to someone of the same sex, to be intimate friends with someone of the same sex. And that intimacy does not require sexual/romantic interaction (in thought or action). It just seems as though society has forgotten this.”
Again, her words echoed in my heart. Friendship. What does that even look like anymore?
Reflecting on her words, I began to wonder: How often do people mistake sexual/romantic desires with the mere desire to be close to someone? Have people forgotten that not all attractions are sexual/romantic in nature? Have people forgotten that authentic friendships can still exist, without there being the question of whether or not someone might be gay? I wonder if being drawn to someone will ever again be considered outside of the lens of feeling like we ought to question our sexual identity?
I wonder how much all of this has to do with our expectations and how they have been formed by our culture. A particular narrative seems to be getting pushed, which implies, “If you like someone, then sexual/romantic exploration is a reasonable next step.” I wonder if those who push that narrative are fully aware that sexual/romantic exploration is probably going to feel good and thus will likely influence how a person comes to see themselves – especially if they end up exploring with someone of the same sex. Again, think of how it feels good to be held, to be cared for, and to be chosen.
Those are all powerful influences – especially to those who have ever felt rejected and or even neglected. But what child has not experienced these to some degree? What will be the effect on them if their expectations are fashioned (more like engineered) to include the idea that they ought to pursue sexual/romantic pursuits? They will be more likely to pursue them and may come to subconsciously perceive them as a desirable alternative to suffering the pains that might be on their heart.
Lived the Cycle
I understand this first-hand. And though not everyone has my story, I know many who do. The allure of such pursuits was powerful, even though I knew that there would be a new low after each successive high. Nearly every “relationship” I was in was merely a means to suppress the pain, pursue my passions, and get through the moment in one piece. I ran towards sexual/romantic exploration because it numbed the pain of feeling unchosen and feeling like I was not good enough. But after the sexual/romantic exploration began, it was inevitable that the other person would move on. Alas, I needed to find another person to replace the pain-numbing experience that I had just lost. As this cycle continued, the darkness of using people over and over again in this way overcame me more and more.
What broke that cycle for me many years later, was the development of true friendship – holy friendship that was locked on the pursuit of chastity, with others who were striving for the same. These people didn’t use me or exploit me in my weaknesses. They didn’t convince me that we could use each other and justify it because we were two consenting adults. These people held me to a higher standard. They lifted me up and showed me that I am good enough, because I am a beloved [adopted] son of the Father. They helped me come to know that I am (and always was) chosen – namely, by Jesus Christ.
That was a life-changer.
What About Friendships?
These days, however, I wonder if true, authentic, platonic friendships in our society are even possible anymore. I mean, it is to the point where our society is imposing the questions of sexual identity onto nearly every person – not just children but also fictional characters, like Ernie and Bert. I wonder, is there anything that isn’t sexualized anymore? Have we forgotten what friendship looks like? Have we become so entrenched in the sexually-focused mindset that the first assumption is that there is a sexual/romantic motive behind everything? Or that there SHOULD be? It seems that that is the case.
In fact, a friend recently posted on my wall:
“One of my [female] clients looked and sounded exactly like my youngest sister – same interests, same style, etc. I thought they could be BFFs! I told my client about my sister and my client felt the need to let me know she had a boyfriend. I was so shocked.”
Indeed, this is the world we live in.
Hope Can Still Abound!
Since people’s expectations of themselves are limited to what they know, we do not have to feel like all is lost. We just have to strive to expose people to the love of Jesus Christ. If we can strive to uphold holy, chaste, and authentic friendship in a beautiful and joyful way, such that people can once again come to see that there is such a thing as intimacy without it being romanticized or sexualized, then we all can contribute to that exposure. As a hopeful after-effect, we will experience (and reveal to others) a greater happiness, joy, and love – to the point where our hearts will overflow enough to make people want to taste it for themselves.
That’s how I am here today. And there are others out there waiting for to have that love revealed to them as well. Let us not shy away from this opportunity to restore holy friendship. It seems that right now, our world needs it more than ever, and perhaps we were created here and now, for times like these.
[This commentary originally appeared on HudsonByblow.com and is reprinted with the author’s permission.]
Hudson Byblow is a Catholic speaker, author, and consultant who lives in the Midwest where he has a career in education. He has presented at National and International conferences in the United States and Canada and also presents to clergy, schools and parishes. Additionally, Hudson serves as a consultant to various Catholic agencies, speakers and educators. His website is www.hudsonbyblow.com and he can be booked by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.