Isn’t it kind of nice to hold someone’s attention, to laugh a little at petty things, and make brief but suggestive eye contact that draws the other to you for a while? Yes, I mean to say, isn’t it nice to flirt a bit? Wait a minute, isn’t flirting harmful to you and the other person? Isn’t flirting wrong or misleading and selfish? Wait a minute, what’s so harmful about flirting? What could be wrong with just a little innocent fun? No one intends anything more than just a good time! Okay, now I’m confused (and I’m writing this!).
Is flirting wrong or not a big deal? Why do people flirt? Is there a point to it? Even the commonly used sources of quick information in our media today hold differing insights on this topic. Dictionary.com says flirting is “Wikipedia says that flirting involves “verbal or written communication as well as body language by one person to another, suggesting an interest in a deeper relationship with the other person.” In other words, our culture knows what flirting looks like, but like most people’s experience of it, we don’t know what it’s for or why it happens. Before we get into the nitty-gritty of flirting, check out this BuzzFeed video that shows some of the internal confusion that can come with flirting:
Often times Catholics are strong, rigid, and certain about what they profess. This is a trait that should never be disposed of because of the certain truths that our Church possesses. It can lead us, however, to believe that some things should never ever (ever!) be done when in fact they simply need to be ordered to their proper end. Flirting is one of these things. Flirting seems to be selfish and therefore it will impact other areas of our lives. In other words, if you let yourself be selfish in one area, you are sure to become selfish in other ways. For those of us familiar with human nature, we know this is certainly true. And selfishness is one of the more destructive and difficult vices to overcome when you let it root itself deeply in your life. So, for the hardliners out there, there’s a really good case for not flirting at all: flirting makes you become a more selfish person. And no one wants to be around a selfish person for years and years!
To me, however, this is probably a generalization that needs to be refined. Flirting is not okay if it’s purely for fun. I will stand with the hardliners on that. First, you’re making yourself a more selfish person, as mentioned above. When you become a selfish person, it’s generally not too noticeable to your acquaintances, but when people get close to a selfish person, the selfishness becomes a huge burden. Plus, flirting is a habit that is hard to break, even after you enter a relationship. In short, don’t flirt just for fun because it will become incredibly destructive to the deep relationships you desire to have in the future. Secondly, you’re probably leading someone or many people to believe that you are interested in them, even when you’re not. This is not okay. Who knows how many people’s hearts have been broken in silence thanks to “harmless flirting.” We’ll never know. But don’t be someone who does that to people! Being a good person means aligning your actions with reality. If you’re not interested in more than just being friends, don’t flirtatiously communicate to a person (verbally or non-verbally) just to get their attention for a while. If you don’t know what communicating like just friends looks likes, hang out with just your girlfriends or, if you’re a guy, just your bro’s for awhile and learn to have deep, self-giving friendships with people.
Okay, so now for the point of departure from the hardliners: Flirting is okay when it’s open to a deeper relationship with the other person (see the Wikipedia definition above). Go ahead and laugh at petty things, make somewhat extended eye contact, tell silly jokes (but only if you’re funny), poke fun at each other, say cute little compliments, and so on. Don’t make a habit of being selfish, but let yourself go a bit around someone you are potentially interested in. If more people did only this kind of flirting, think about the boost it would have on the dating scene. You could say, “Wow! It seems like so-and-so is interested in me!” or “Uh-oh! It seems like so-and-so is interested in me.” or “Yikes! So-and-so is not interested in me; I better back off.” and finally, “Yay! So-and-so is interested in me and it’s very mutual!” This would open the door to a Utopia of Dating of sorts. Unfortunately, in the current state of flirtation, things are not so easy to evaluate, and we will rarely be able to confidently say “I know that it’s mutual.”
But why not get there? I know that it would mean changing some of my habits. But I want to. I want to get there. I want my actions to align with reality. I want to be a good person, not someone who is selfish and misleading. So here is my challenge for all of us single people out there: flirt on purpose, not just for fun. Don’t confuse people that you’re not interested in, and make it clear to people that you are. One of the best pieces of advice I can give to a woman who is interested in having someone ask her out is to unleash all of signals. In other words, FLIRT and hold nothing back. Guys, if there’s a girl you’re interested in that is doing this, ask her out NOW! In the end, this is more than simply about being lovey dovey (though that’s really nice). This is about men and women entering their vocations and fulfilling God’s will for our lives. If we never flirt, we will probably miss someone that would have been a great spouse for us. If we always flirt, see above about selfishness and, worst of all, people that know us won’t be able to tell when we’re actually interested. If we flirt with purpose, we will be more open to moving into our vocation and therein God’s plan for our happiness, holiness and, most importantly, salvation.
So, let’s go! Let’s take back flirting and put it in its place!