Impossible Friendships

December 14, 2006

No one in their right mind will deny that Tolkien was a master storyteller.  Not only is his epic tale The Lord of the Rings one of the most incredible and powerful works of all time, but his children’s story The Hobbit is also very popular.  Clearly, Tolkien knew what it takes to be a successful writer of fantasy.  There is a side of Tolkien, however, that has often been neglected — his role as a father and Christian man.  I admit that I myself do not know that much about this side of Tolkien; perhaps sitting down with a copy of his published letters or reading Humphrey Carpenter’s extensive biography on the man would enlighten me more to his human side.  At present, though, the only thing I have to vouch for Tolkien’s wisdom as a father is a letter published at Albert Mohler’s blog.  I find this letter replete with wisdom that an older Tolkien was handing down to his son on the issues of sex and male/female relationships. 

In this letter, Tolkien not only warns his son about the dangers of the modern world’s view on sexuality, but (as I will focus on in this post) also warns his son that pure friendships are not possible between young men and women.  Mohler put it this way:

Taking the point further, Tolkien warned his son that “friendship” between a young man and a young woman, supposedly free from sexual desire, would not remain untroubled by sexual attraction for long. At least one of the partners is almost certain to be inflamed with sexual passion, Tolkien advised. This is especially true among the young, for Tolkien believed that such friendships might be possible later in life, “when sex cools down.”

Tolkien’s wisdom on this point is priceless.  How many times have we heard the assurance from questioned individuals that a relationship is only innocent friendship?  “We’re just friends, and nothing more,” we like to say.  Yet, if Tolkien is correct, this can never truly be the case between a young man and a young woman.  The trouble is the very nature of friendship.

Friends are people who share common interests and enjoy each others’ company; people who trust each other and are united in a fight for a common goal.  Yet, even more, friends are people who share their hearts with each other — a true friend is a person to whom you can run when you have a problem, knowing that they will support you and help you through that trial.  You can tell a good friend nearly anything and he will be happy to listen and offer you advice.  This is true friendship.

The trouble with boy/girl “friendships” is that it naturally involves a similar sharing of the hearts and affections.  This presents no difficulty for the average same-sex friendship, for friends can share their hearts deeply with each other and want nothing more.  (There are a few queer exceptions to this general rule, but they are not the norm.)  A man and a woman, however, were made for more.  They were not only made to share their hearts as much (and even more) than friends do, but they were designed to share everything with each other.  Thus, when the sharing inherent to friendship occurs, it is almost certain that more sharing will be desired by one of the “friends.”  This is, after all, a natural desire.

Someday, a person will find the spouse with whom they will become best of friends — better friends than they could ever be with a person of their own sex.  The trouble is, it’s very easy to slide into premature friendships with members of the opposite sex before that chosen time.  I’m in no way advocating a total separation of the sexes and no friendship at all between them.  I’m just pointing out the danger of such friendships.  Light, casual friendships are very possible and beneficial between the sexes, but if that friendship ever progresses to something more serious, beware.  Until you have certainly found the person who you will one day marry, keep close friendships only with those of your own sex.  Anything else will only result in desires and expectations that are, most likely, false and misleading, and believe me, you want to avoid such misconceptions at all costs.  So, girls, realize that you can never be “best friends” with a guy and nothing more — it just doesn’t work that way.  And, guys, beware of the temptation to call close girl friends “just friends,” as this friendship it will inevitably lead to something quite different in the end.


One comment

  1. This is a good point, though difficult for me to swallow because so many of my close friendships have been with girls. One problem I’ve sensed is a feeling of ambiguity in these friendships, almost an undefined relationship. Personally, I wouldn’t say the physical temptation has been so significant, but at the very least, there have been confused emotions. I’ll be thinking about this over the week. Thanks for your insight.

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