John Paul II Proves Men and Women Can Be Friends


It is no secret that I am such a fan-girl of Pope Saint John Paul II.  I've loved him as a saint, his writing sends chills down my spine, and he is the greatest contributor to my favorite subject - Theology of the Body.  He's the patron saint of my relationship, my best friend to talk to in the car, and my constant companion as I embark on my writing journey.  You really can't go wrong.  He hiked mountains, traveled the world, canonized so many of my heavenly friends and showed me that it is possible for guys and girls to be friends. John Paul II had deep friendships with the women in his life and he left us a trail to follow in order to learn how to love {read:agape} others so well.  On an insanely exciting level, new letters have just been released documenting John Paul II's friendship with a woman named Anna-Teresa Tymieniecka.

They wrote philosophy together, hiked mountains with youth groups, enjoyed the outdoors, meaningful conversation and genuine friendship.

But then, in 1975, Anna-Teresa wrote that she loved then-Cardinal Karol.  His reaction was not the typical, worldly response.  He could have easily given into the temptation, but instead he sent her a scapular as a reminder of the purpose of their friendship: Heaven.  To push each other to be the best-versions-of-themselves and value the roles of their respective vocations.

Granted, that is the best case scenario response.  The typical JPII response, which of course is completely counter cultural and non-typical for the society we live in today and the cycle of use that has existed since Adam and Eve disobeyed God.

Gosh darn it Adam and Eve - that's the most heart wrenching after-affect of original sin.  The beauty of the complete appreciation of other human beings for who they are and not what they can give was destroyed when sin entered the world.  Human beings had to put clothes on and become conscious of the concupiscence that now became a factor in their life.  But more importantly, the tendency to use others - especially those of the opposite sex - started tearing apart at the human foundation of interaction and virtuous friendship got a heck of a lot harder with the introduction of the supposed friend zone.

The dreaded 'friend zone. - when one of the people in the friendship starts developing feelings at an unmatched or unrequited level.  I'm not a fan of the friend zone.  This dislike doesn't arise from the fact that I've spent time in that zone, or banished others to there.  Here's the thing.  If the only reason that you are entering into a friendship is so that there is potential for being more-than-friends later on, than you've already started spiraling into a cycle of use.  You're not appreciating the image of God within the other person, but instead are reducing them down to what they can give you.  Whether that is emotions or security or're using them.  The relationship is what you can get, and not what you can give.  Is their friendship not good enough unless it blossoms into something? Or is their friendship a good in and of itself?

Call me crazy, but I truly believe men and women can be friends.  Look at all of the saintly friendships as examples.  Men and women who have strived after God's heart and sainthood and they did it along side the opposite gender.  Saint Francis and Saint Claire.  Saint Pope John Paul II and {soon-to-be} Saint Mother Teresa.  St. Teresa of Avila and  Don Francisco de Salcedo.  St. Ignatius and Dona Isabel Roser.  St. Boniface and Abbess Eangyth.  The list goes on and on - because it is possible.  The world taints and skews and rips apart what friendship has the potential for...but at it's core, a virtuous friendship is possible.

However, the culture today results in a very perilous predicament.  The hyper-sexualization of society in general results in the blatant acceptance of use.  It is an everyday occurrence to abuse the femininity and masculinity of others in order to advance one's own standing in life.  In the ideal world, these friendships would come naturally and not stir up the wrong type of love.  Philial friendship does not have to lead into Eros love...but we tend to push it that way.  Additionally, even if a man and a woman maintain a solid virtuous friendship, the world constantly asks why they aren't a couple - it's the assumed next step.

Fact: Masculinity and femininity compliment each other beautifully.  Why? Because it's ingrained into how God made the two sexes.  Men think differently than women, and vice versa.  In a multitude of scenarios, the solution begs for both vantage points.  But that won't occur if we are perpetually declaring that men and women simply cannot channel their emotions and appreciate the other as a child of God.

So if there is a constant struggle within your relationships to maintain a healthy friendship, then perhaps the friendship that truly needs rehabilitation is the ultimate friendship: Christ and yourself.  Because from that foundation, everything is built upon, and without it, nothing makes sense.