Shared with permission:
A few months ago, an alumnus called me seeking advice about a potential romantic relationship. You see, there was a boy that she liked, but she was convinced that she had ruined the potential relationship. She felt enormously guilty for being “too forward” and afraid that she was not letting him lead.
Her crime? She smiled at him.
Yes, I’m being totally serious. She smiled at him from across the room and afterwards, she was convinced that she had broken a cardinal rule of opposite sex relationships.
What kind of effed up teachings produce this level of ridiculous fear? This total inability to engage the opposite sex in a normal, friendly manner?
For once, I knew I couldn’t blame this on Christianity at large, because she was not raised a Christian. The Honor Academy was her only exposure to Christianity and these problems and mindsets did not exist before she went there.
Now, this may be an extreme example (or maybe not?) but I’ve heard from dozens of alumni – especially women – that after the Honor Academy, they feel incredibly uneasy around the opposite sex. Why is that? I’m going to give a few potential reasons, but I hope you’ll chime in as well.
1) Strict gender roles: Each gender has their assigned duties and no deviation is acceptable. Men lead. Women follow. Men initiate. Women respond.
First off, there are many places in Scripture where Godly women pursued romantic relationships, did not submit to their husbands and held leadership roles over men.
– Ruth proposed marriage to Boaz (Gasp!)
– Abigail did not submit to her husband’s leadership and took matters into her own hands, which eventually led to her marrying King David. (I Sam 25)
– Esther entered the King’s court uninvited – which had the potential to be an offense punishable by death.
This is just a short list. If you research the topic further, you will find many more encouraging examples.
From what I’ve seen, this teaching leads women to feel that they cannot even show interest in a guy (so how is he supposed to know that you like him?). It leads them to being passive and unable to seize opportunities. They are waiting for a guy to do everything in the relationship, and that is just not normal or healthy.
2) Friendship with the opposite sex is actively discouraged.
Many unsuspecting interns have been confronted for “curbside chatting” during their first week of the internship. “Curbside chatting” is exactly what it sounds like – standing on the curb outside the dorms, innocently chatting with a member of the opposite sex. Although this is clearly in public, in full view of all the dorms, its still considered dangerous behavior and will get you promptly confronted by your leadership and/or peers.
I’ve heard alumni say that they were afraid to even be seen walking on a sidewalk in the same direction as a member of the opposite sex, for fear that they would be confronted.
Its not uncommon for core advisors to ban their core from talking to members of the opposite sex for a period of time (days or weeks) as a “fast.”
For these, and probably many other reasons, real friendship between the sexes is rare at the Honor Academy. If you spend a year (or more) afraid to talk to members of the opposite sex, that mindset doesn’t just disappear when you go back home.
Notice the bottom line for all these behaviors? FEAR. Is that what the Christian life is supposed to be based on?
3) Fear of “Failure”
At the Honor Academy, any romantic relationship that doesn’t work out is considered a failure. In Honor Academy logic, if you break up with someone it obviously wasn’t God’s will, so you should have never dated them in the first place. This brings such an intense pressure that interns begin to feel that they cannot even start a relationship with someone until they are fairly certain that they will marry that person. A little backwards, don’t you think?
Since they can’t actually engage in a relationship with a person in order to see if its a match, they turn to prayer, fasting and their own mystical experiences with God to see who they should marry. While all of those things are important, they are NOT A SUBSTITUTE for real life experience.
You know the most common way that God tells you who to marry? It comes through spending time with the person who will become your spouse.
When a former intern actually does enter a relationship, the stakes are high. If it doesn’t work out and they have to break up, that carries a huge stigma. Even worse, what if you kissed the person? You’ve now “cheated on your future spouse.” You are now damaged goods, you are impure.
Its no wonder that interns struggle in this area. This is WAY too much pressure to put on a budding relationship!
It is not a sin to date someone, realize over time that it is not a good match and then break up. Its called normal development.
Why do you think former interns struggle with having normal, healthy opposite sex friendships and relationships?