The Dangers of Flirting
About the Guest
Today on the broadcast, Jerry Jenkins, author of the successful Left Behind series, as well as the book Hedges: Loving Your Marriage Enough to Protect It, warns couples about the danger of flirting.
Jerry Jenkins warns couples about the danger of flirting.
The Dangers of Flirting
Bob: There is a distinction between sinning and being tempted to sin, and understanding the difference can actually help you to live a more godly life. Here's Jerry Jenkins.
Jerry: Being raised in a conservative Bible church and that type of thing, you tend to blame yourself for anything like this – any temptation, any thought, and you go, "I'm just the rotten scoundrel," and you realize that's what the enemy wants you to think. You are under attack. And that's why I plant hedges, I mean, I don't trust myself.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Friday, January 28th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. We'll hear today what author Jerry Jenkins means when he talks about putting hedges around his marriage.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for joining us on the Friday edition.
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Now we’re going to talk today about the subject of protecting our marriages. It reminds me of a story that I’ve never forgotten. Mary Ann and I were traveling once, and we were in the Phoenix airport. This was years ago. In the middle of the airport in one of the terminals there are these escalators, long escalators that go from the upper level down to the baggage claim area. And in the olden days, you’re going down while others are coming up on the escalator next to you.
Bob: And as we were traveling down the escalator, Mary Ann and I, kind of at the same time, noticed a woman who was coming up the escalator, who was – she was not particularly modestly dressed, and I remember I noticed her, and then I kind of looked out of the corner of my eye to see if my wife had noticed her, and she had, and the reason I knew she had was because as soon as she noticed her …
Dennis: . . . she started watching you.
Bob: Mary Ann looked right up at me to see where my eyes were. I remember seeing out of the corner of my eye, and I said, "I'm not looking, I'm not looking," just reassuring her I'm bouncing my eyes away from where they shouldn't be.
Dennis: Well, you were planting some hedges around your marriage, and you were a smart man, Bob. I don't know if you'd read Jerry Jenkins’ book at that time, because you later interviewed him when you were down in San Antonio at KSLR.
Bob: Yeah, this was actually when the book first came out back in 1989 or 1990, and we did a phone interview. I remember in reading the book, there were some things I was doing that I hadn't formalized, either, but there were some other things in the book that I thought, "I hadn't really thought about that. I'm glad to have somebody who is a little farther down the path pointing these things out to me, so that I can benefit from that wisdom."
Jerry: I think one advantage I have on this topic, anyway – is that I'm not a professional. I'm not a counselor, I'm not trained, I'm not a theologian, not a scholar, I'm just a guy. I mean, I'm a writer but, you know, I'm like anybody else.
Dennis: Now, wait a second – 17 New York bestsellers, 155 books – I'm sorry, Jerry, I may be from Ozark, Missouri, but …
Bob: … you're not just like any other guy.
Jerry: Can't you help me with my humility? But in this area, I definitely am like anybody else, and I think people read, and they identify, and they say, "This is not somebody who sets himself up as an expert and is talking down to me." I mean, when I go out and speak on the subject, I'd love to say, "Yes, I'm visible because I'm associated with a fiction series that's popular," and all that type of thing, and people might see me as a Christian leader, and I'd love to say, "I'm above this." You know, "You really must get yourself under control and win over this."
The fact is, I'm a fellow struggler, and I need hedges, and I plant hedges, and those hedges show my weaknesses, and that's what I'm trying to get people to do.
Dennis: Well, and you helped Bob plant some hedges on an escalator, and I think that's a pretty cool place to grow hedges.
Jerry: The real question is when you're on that escalator alone, how fast are you looking away?
Bob: That's right.
Dennis: Yes, there you go. You don't know this, Jerry, but a number of years ago, in fact, I got my only spanking in eighth grade English, so even though I've written some books, my eighth grade English teacher has rolled over in her grave that my name would grace the cover of any book.
But I attended a conference where you spoke in Minneapolis I believe it was 1985, at the Billy Graham School of Writing for wannabe authors. I really think you were the featured speaker, and I think you gave me the most takeaway at that time as a speaker at that event. But I really do appreciate your writing. My kids have enjoyed the Left Behind series; Barbara and I have as well, and so have how many millions of Americans – how many millions of copies has that series now sold?
Jerry: It's in the 60 million range.
Dennis: Wow. Well, I hope Hedges goes as far, because we live in an age today where there needs to be a lot of hedges planted around marriages today.
Bob: Wasn't it at that conference in Minneapolis where you faced a temptation?
Dennis: Well, I've told the story so many times, Bob.
Bob: But it just fits here because you were talking to the guy who would later write the book Hedges.
Dennis: Yes, well, you don't know this, Jerry, but at the conference I was staying at the Holiday Inn, and it had the world's slowest elevator. I was on the third floor, pushed the button, I could hear it coming, and I, all of a sudden, remember the night before how slow it was. So I headed for the stairs.
As I stepped out in the stairwell, there was a – I don't know if it was Playboy, I didn't check the cover, but it was laid out, centerfold, pornography. I've said over the years, if there had been a bear trap opened with its jaws gaping at me, it wouldn't have been any less real. It's amazing how quickly my mind thought as I stepped over it and went on downstairs. I mean, I thought about no one will know. I can pick it up and put it in my briefcase. I can look at it later. God will know. I'll have to tell Barbara – all those thoughts in probably a second-and-a-half. You know how the human mind processes.
Well, I went to the school of writing where you were speaking and came back at the end of the day and, honestly, I had forgotten all about the magazine. Besides, it was 6:30, 7:00 at night, 12 hours later, all right? I pushed the button for the elevator; I could hear it coming. It's ridiculous how slow it is. It's coming from a third floor down to the first floor, and so I started dancing up the stairs. Guess what is still waiting at the top of those stairs? That magazine is still there.
Now, personally, I believe that was a real pivotal point in my life, my marriage, my family, and ultimately my ministry. I think it was a test. I wonder how many people face those tests and – well, God gave me the grace to step aside, and I did, but who knows what was hanging in the balance in those milliseconds as we face the issue? And that's really what you're challenging people to do.
Jerry: Really I am. It's always shocking to people to hear how common this is among men and among Christian men. I think about the world, you know, the secular world if they hear this, thinking how paranoid we are – "You're worried about a little magazine that everybody reads, and there's millions of subscribers."
They don't care what happens to marriages and to families and the chaos that results from adultery, which is the end result of all this. If you let yourself go and decide that pornography is okay, and so is anything that comes across the Internet, and so is any kind of interaction with somebody that's not related to you, a female, who knows where it's going to end, and we care.
Dennis: Is this book written to men?
Jerry: It really is. I don't pretend to be able to think for women, but I get a lot of letters from women who read the book.
Bob: We've talked already this week about one of the hedges that you've had in place in your own life – that you're not going to travel or dine with somebody of the opposite sex with whom you are not related. What are some of the others?
Jerry: One of the things I'm real careful about is flirting. Flirting is fun. Flirting can give you a sexual rush. I like to be funny, I like to engage in repartee, and the easiest form of humor is the double entendre. And yet I've learned, and I've seen it happen with couples – in fact, again, in my childhood church there were two couples that socialized all the time, and the husband of one of the couples and the wife of the other would banter that way in front of people, and everybody thought it was funny – "Why don't you dump this guy and run off with me?" And, you know, that type of thing.
And it's funny and it's innocuous, because it's in front of people. Well, at some point, something happened in one of those marriages, and those two got together; two marriages broken up, new one started, and that eventually dissolved as well.
My rule is: flirting is great, flirting is fun, I'll flirt with my wife, and you flirt with yours.
Dennis: How would you define flirting?
Jerry: Well, any kind of suggestive comment, and the type of thing I said, you know, "Run off with me," or "Wow, you look hot today," and "If only I was married to you," you know, things like that.
There are comments and flirtatious things that you do with your wife that are totally appropriate. You can play footsie with your wife under the table and tickle her and say things to her, and it leads to where it's supposed to lead to. But with somebody else, you're flirting, and you're doing, in essence, all this verbal foreplay, and you don't get to go anywhere past that – you better not.
But I always use the Golden Rule. I think, "Should I say to this woman anything that I would not want my wife to hear from another man or say to another man?" That will curb a lot of suggestive comment.
Dennis: I think the flirting occurs around the face. If you go and look in Proverbs, chapter 7, the way the harlot got the undiscerning youth as he was walking down the street, was there were a number of things she did. She brazenly offered him a delightful evening together.
The eyes are where the initial attraction go – for me, Jerry. I meet a lot of people, and you do, too. I just have to be careful. I've never forgotten what Tim Kimmel's wife, Darcy Kimmel, said on FamilyLife Today one time. She said, "There are men, when I meet them, who are green light men, in their eyes, they're on "Go." There are other men who are red light as in "Stop," and they don't want to go anywhere. And she said, "A woman can spot a man who is ‘Stop’ or ‘Go.’” And, for me, because of my desire to honor my wife Barbara and honor our covenant, I want to be the guy who says "Stop."
Bob: I've been with guys who will say, "Man, the other night I was in a deal innocently, and a woman comes up and starts flirting with me and starts propositioning me," and I'll have guys tell me this, and I'm thinking to myself, "I've been married 26 years – "that has never happened to me." And maybe it is that I'm not giving off the vibes, and maybe they are giving off some vibes that they need to pay attention to.
Jerry: A lot does happen in the eyes, and you make eye contact and smile, and guys can tell, too, if there's interest. And one great hedge I got from a mutual friend of ours who will remain unnamed, but he said he was on a plane one time, and an attractive woman sat next to him, and they started just chatting. He thought, "This could go anywhere." They're both traveling alone, and they're away from home, and they could go out for a drink or for a meal or who knows what. And he realized that she found him attractive, and he sure found her attractive.
He said the first thing he did, he just grabbed his wallet out of his pocket, and he said, "Let me show you what I'm about. This is my wife, these are my daughters," and he said he could just almost hear his daughters off that picture saying, "Thanks, Dad, for honoring our mom and honoring your marriage." And, of course, the woman was so impressed, "Oh, isn't it sweet that you love your family so much," and it changed the whole tenor of the conversation. That's a great hedge.
Dennis: It really is. In fact, because of airplane trips and some of the small commuter flights that we go on these days, I find myself seated next to women frequently. It really needs to be a part of your conversation, to talk about your wife, and just say, "You know, my wife and I are involved in building marriages and families." It's fun and it's interesting to see where the conversation goes from that point on.
Bob: Either that or put on your headphones and get out your Bible and just start doing Bible study there, and the conversation will go away.
Jerry: Yes, a great hedge is the Bible in the lap, that's true.
Dennis: No doubt about it. Jerry, you also have a hedge that you've built around something that our ministry here at FamilyLife is totally committed to, and that's the covenant. You believe in the marriage covenant and revisiting that covenant frequently is a strong, stout hedge.
Jerry: Yeah, one of my hedges is that I remind Diana often that I remember what I said January 23, 1971, and basically that just comes to repeating it. I might come in the house at the end of the workday, and we're embracing, and I just say, "I'm still keeping you only unto myself for as long as we both shall live." She doesn't demand that. She's not saying, "I didn't hear it for three days, so what's the deal?" But I think it's an important thing.
When we go to weddings, we hear people say this, and it's sort of stilted language, and it goes with all the flowers and the train and the candles and all that stuff, and it sort of gets folded in, and I think sometimes people forget what a sacred vow they're making. They're telling God, they're telling their spouse, "I'll keep you only unto myself," because that's the vow that eventually gets broken and ruins everything and creates all this chaos.
Bob: You've got a hedge in the area of touching. What are your guidelines there?
Jerry: That's another one where I take a lot of heat for that, and old friends will say, "I don't know whether I should touch you or not," you know, but …
Dennis: Are they saying you're a legalist?
Jerry: Oh, sure, yeah. I'm paranoid, and I'm an old conservative and all this stuff. Again, I'll trade that humiliation for my marriage. But I think we've actually come a healthy way from when I was a child. When I was a kid, you know, men shook hands, but you didn't touch women, and now I think there's a more healthy – you embrace people in public and that type of thing, but there's a fine line to draw there.
How long is the embrace? Where is the embrace? And you have to always keep in mind, too, what is in the mind of the other person? What if this is a person who is really shattered at home, hasn't been touched for six weeks? Now you're embracing them and instead of just greeting them and saying, "Hello," you embrace them a little too long, and they're, like, melting. You don't know that.
I suppose the only time that I make people feel awkward is when a stranger or somebody I really don't know that well, comes up with a big arms out, and I reach to shake hands. I mean, because they have to switch and go, you know. But it isn't appropriate to have a full-on embrace with somebody that you don't know them.
Dennis: Jerry, I want to ask you a pretty personal question at this point. You've written 155 books, 17 New York Times bestsellers, you've been on Larry King, been on TV, you've had to travel alone to some big cities, ever felt like there was a target on you?
Jerry: Oh, yes.
Dennis: Did you ever feel like somebody was coming after you?
Jerry: Yes, and the enemy is there. Of course, because of the way I was raised in a conservative Bible church and that type of thing – you tend to blame yourself for anything like this – any temptation, any thought, any impurity, you go, "I'm just the rotten scoundrel," and you realize that that's what the enemy wants you to think. You are under attack, and that's why I plant hedges, I mean, I don't trust myself. If Scripture says, "Flee," I'm not going to be the one who says, "Well, I'm one who is above it, and I can stand above it."
The first thing I do when I get to a hotel, before I even take my coat off, I block out the porn channels from TV. I mean, I'd love to say, "That stuff is disgusting, I would never want to look at that, it's horrible." I mean, I know it is, and it would make you feel regret, and you'd feel like you'd have to confess and the whole thing.
I'd rather just deal with it when I'm sane and not say, "Well, you're tired, you're away from home, what's a little of this, everybody watches it, millions of people watch this, and what is it but an image." There are all kinds of ways to rationalize it. But it's the little fox that will spoil the vine.
Dennis: As you were sharing that story, I thought about being in a hotel room in Kansas City a number of years ago, and I've shared this story before with our listeners. But the phone rang, and it was a woman on the phone, and she said, "Hi, what are you doing?" I said, "Well, I'm watching a movie." I was at the Kansas City conference; it was a Weekend to Remember. I was teaching married couples how to have strong, solid marriages, and it was back in the days when our ministry couldn't afford to send our wives with us. I mean we were getting by on a thimble and a shoe string, and Barbara wasn't with me, I was alone. She was back home with our six kids who were 12 and under at the time.
The woman kept on – she said, "Well, can I come up?" I said, "I don't think that would be a good idea," and she said, "Why?" I said, "Well, two reasons. Number one, I'm happily married. I've got a wonderful, beautiful wife back in Little Rock, Arkansas, with a great family and, number two, the movie that I'm watching is "The Ten Commandments."
Jerry: Not conducive.
Dennis: It's not conducive to stepping outside the hedges. And, you know, I thank God for a healthy fear of him.
Dennis: The proverb says, "The fear of the Lord turns one from evil," and I think today some fresh teaching around the fear of God may be needed to turn some men's hearts back to their wives and back to their families to protect them. Jerry, I just appreciate you and your ministry of writing. Keep it up, and I look forward to the next 155 books that you crank out.
Jerry: That was depressing, but thank you.
Bob: Personally, I'm glad that this one that you cranked out is back, because I know for a number of years you couldn't get it, and now it's back available, and I think it's a book that we need today. I think it's a book that we need to encourage men and women to read so that we build some boundaries and some safeguards around our relationship, because we're seeing too many husbands and wives who are getting sidetracked. I think your book is going to be some preventive medicine for some of those marriages and for couples who don't even stop and think right now, "Boy, we could be headed in the wrong direction."
We've copies of the book, Hedges, in our FamilyLife resource center. Included with the book there is a free DVD in the back, which is great for a men's group to watch or for a husband to view on his own. Again, you can request a copy of the book when you go online at FamilyLifeToday.com and that will take you to where you need to go to get a copy, again, of Jerry's book, Hedges.
While you’re on our website don’t forget: this is your last opportunity for us to remind you of the special offer for FamilyLife Today listeners to attend an upcoming FamilyLife Weekend to Remember marriage getaway and to do it at a special FamilyLife Today listener rate. When you sign up this weekend and you register at the regular rate, your spouse comes free. It’s a buy one, get one free offer, and to take advantage of it, you need to register before the weekend is over, and you need to let us know that you’re a FamilyLife Today listener.
You do that by typing in my name into the key code box on the online registration form at FamilyLifeToday.com, or by calling 1-800-FL-TODAY, register over the phone and just mention that you’re a FamilyLife Today listener. That’s really all you need to do. If you have any questions about the Weekend to Remember, it’s a great getaway weekend for couples, you can find out more about it online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or just call us with any questions you have at 1-800- “F” as in Family, “L” as in Life, and then the word “TODAY.”
We hope you have a great weekend. We hope you and your spouse are able to worship together this weekend, and I hope you can join us back on Monday when we are going to be joined by Reggie Joiner. We’re going to talk about parenting and why it takes more than a mom and a dad to raise kids.
Reggie: We’re an organization that helps churches and families reinvent how they raise the next generation in a lot of ways. We think it takes the influence of the parent and the influence of the church, and so we want to help churches and families rethink the way they partner.
Bob: We’ll see what he has to say about that. I hope you can tune in.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We will see you back on Monday for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
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