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YOUNG PEOPLE ASK: Friendship or Romance?—What Signals Am I Sending?


Navigating the dynamics of friendship and potential romance, especially with someone of the opposite sex, can be a complex challenge for young people. It is crucial to understand and discern the nature of these relationships from a biblical and ethical standpoint.

Biblical Perspectives on Friendship and Romance

Understanding the Nature of Friendship

In biblical terms, friendship is a sacred bond, exemplified in Proverbs 18:24, "A man of many companions may come to ruin, but there is a friend who sticks closer than a brother." This scripture emphasizes the depth and commitment true friendship entails, transcending mere acquaintanceship or casual interaction.

Distinguishing Friendship from Romance

Romance, while not directly defined in the Bible, can be inferred through the depiction of relationships like that of Isaac and Rebekah (Genesis 24). The distinction lies in the emotional and, eventually, covenantal commitments that go beyond platonic friendship.

The Problem of Mixed Signals

Innocent Intentions, Misinterpreted Actions

Often, what is intended as friendly attention can be misconstrued as romantic interest. This misunderstanding arises from actions that, though innocent in intent, align with behaviors typically associated with romantic pursuits.

Scriptural Caution

The Apostle Paul, in his epistles, encourages believers to act with clear intentions. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, he instructs to treat younger men as brothers and younger women as sisters, with all purity. This guidance underscores the importance of maintaining clear boundaries in relationships.

Identifying and Managing Mixed Signals

Over-Attention and Its Consequences

Consistently singling out one person for special attention, as Sierra points out, can inadvertently ignite romantic expectations. This is especially true if the frequency and depth of communication go beyond normal friendship boundaries.

Responsiveness and Misinterpretation

Richard’s experience illustrates how even passive responsiveness to communication can lead to misunderstandings, reinforcing the need for clarity and honesty in interactions.

The Dangers of Flirting

Tamara’s observation highlights the harm in flirting. Flirting, even if done in jest, can lead to confusion and emotional hurt, as it often sends mixed signals about one's intentions.

The Impact of Mixed Signals

Emotional Harm

Proverbs 13:12 speaks to the pain of unfulfilled hopes, which can be a direct consequence of sending mixed romantic signals. This can lead to emotional turmoil and heartache for the other person.

Reputation and Character

Philippians 2:4 urges Christians to consider others' interests. Sending mixed signals can reflect poorly on one's character, painting a picture of selfishness or thoughtlessness.

Guiding Principles for Interactions

Biblical Conduct in Relationships

1 Timothy 5:1-2's principle of treating others with all chasteness is a foundational guideline for interactions between young men and women. This approach fosters respect and clear boundaries.

The Wisdom in Communication

Proverbs 10:19 warns about the pitfalls of excessive words. This wisdom extends to modern communication methods like texting, suggesting prudence in both the content and frequency of messages.

Purity in Affection

James 3:17 speaks of wisdom being pure. This principle should guide physical expressions of affection, ensuring they are appropriate and do not send mixed signals.

Practical Tips for Navigating Friendships

Heeding Others' Perceptions

Paying attention to how others perceive your interactions can offer valuable insights into whether your actions may be misinterpreted.

Consistency in Friendship

Treating all friends with equal regard and avoiding favoritism helps maintain clear boundaries and prevent misunderstandings.

Prudence in Communication

Being mindful of how, when, and what you communicate is essential. As Alyssa notes, the timing and content of texts can significantly influence how your actions are interpreted.


Navigating the complexities of friendships and potential romantic interests requires a balance of self-awareness, biblical wisdom, and ethical conduct. By understanding the nature of these relationships, being mindful of the signals one sends, and adhering to scriptural principles, young people can foster healthy, meaningful relationships that honor God and respect others.

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