Now THAT’s a Good Question!

“Is it okay for me to travel alone with a coworker of the opposite sex who isn’t my spouse?”

This very serious question was asked of me recently by someone needing wisdom. This imagesperson didn’t mean ‘stay in the same hotel room’ or anything like that. They meant smaller, more ‘subtle’ things like – ride in the same car – just them; or share a meal out – just them; or have a meeting alone – just the two of them. In other words, they meant “is it okay that I do this . . . my job just kind of expects me to?”

I am so glad the question was asked. It is such a good and important question that demands serious thinking and biblical wisdom for a safe answer.

Maybe you too have wondered if it’s okay.

Maybe you are ‘required’ to travel alone for your job – drive, fly, eat, etc.

Maybe you work in an office with just you and another member of the opposite sex who isn’t your spouse.

Maybe you often have appointments scheduled where you are expected to meet alone, behind closed doors, with a member of the opposite sex who isn’t your spouse.

What do you do? Is it okay? If nothing ‘happens’ or if there’s ‘nothing there’ for the other person, isn’t it just fine?

NO.

NEVER.

NO. NO. NO. NO. NO.

NOOOOOOOOOOOO.

In case you still no comprende, let me say it in Spanish: “NO.”

I do not believe it is EVER wise to be all alone with someone of the opposite sex who is not your spouse.

Why? Let me give you 5 reasons:

1. Guard your heart. 

Proverbs 4:23 says to guard your heart – ABOVE ALL ELSE! 90% of extra-marital affairs happen – guess where/when? In the context of work. Why is that? Read what Matt Carter says in The Real Win:

It’s because a man and a woman are laboring together toward a common cause. See, when this happens, a man and a woman are simulating a relationship that God designed for a husband and a wife to share together. Now, to be clear, it’s not wrong for women and men to work together. It’s unavoidable, and when it’s done well, it’s a beautiful picture of the body of Christ working together. But make no mistake; when a woman and a man are working together for a common cause, it produces connectedness and even a sense of intimacy. God designed it to. That’s why work-related relationships are prone to spiral into emotional of physical affairs. If you’re working with a a woman who’s not your wife, the real win comes when you set strong and clear boundaries on your relationship together.”

2. Your spouse’s trust/respect/love.

How would you feel if your spouse spent a whole bunch of alone time with a member of the opposite sex? Would it make you fell all warm and fuzzy inside to know he/she were riding in a car for hours together? Eating a meal together? Meeting together for coffee where no one knew who they were?

Do unto your spouse as you would have them do unto you.

3. Avoid ALL appearances of evil.

Being alone with a member of the opposite sex simply doesn’t look good. It leaves the door wide open for anyone to interpret/guess what might be happening ‘when no one is watching.’ Sure, it is none of their business. But your reputation is at stake.

Ephesians 5:3. Read it. Do it. It’s for our GOOD.

4. PROTECTION.

Read this, this, and this from the book of Proverbs.

The goal of not being ‘alone’ with another is to protect you from doing what you don’t want to do. Being alone with a member of the opposite sex isn’t – in and of itself – a bad or sinful thing. Setting up the boundary, however, protects you from going there.

5. “Nothing will happen” are famous last words. 

Matt Carter: “. . . we need to to get extreme in this area. Think of how many amazing men and women of God have derailed their lives and ministries by not setting boundaries. If you think it could never happen to you, be forewarned. Plenty of godly people thought the same thing. . . right before falling into big-time sin.

Don’t just SAY it will never happen to you. Set up boundaries to ENSURE it never does.

[Want some practical wisdom as to HOW to set up boundaries in your life/marriage to guard against this? I HIGHLY & STRONGLY recommend Andy Stanley’s recent series called “Guardrails.” Click here for a GREAT website with tons of resources. Click here for the “Guardrails” series. Click here to listen and/or subscribe to the podcast. Click here to watch a message where this particular issue is addressed (part 4 of ‘Guardrails’ entitled “Me and the Mrs.”).]

What do you think? Too extreme? Too ‘old fashioned’?

What are some suggestions you have to help those who are wrestling with this? What are some things they can do to avoid their employer’s expectation of them ‘being alone’ with a member of the opposite sex?

Advertisements

9 thoughts on “Now THAT’s a Good Question!

  1. Connie says:

    This very subject was discussed in our class last week where we are digging into the book “Sacred Marriage” by Gary Thomas. I know it is often very difficult in various workplace settings to accomplish this goal, but it is so very important. I agree with you 100%.

  2. timdbott says:

    LOL. This advice is utterly unrealistic for business – unless you are a woman working with a sexual predator; in which case, you need to change jobs.

    If you are a man and think all your female coworkers want to ‘jump you’ the minute you close the door then – get over yourself, they just want to work same as you.

    • Tim,
      I appreciate your response and do acknowledge that in ‘the business world’ this may seem unrealistic. But I don’t believe it is impossible. I don’t believe it is easy, but I do believe it is wise. Do a lot of guys need to ‘get over themselves’ and quit thinking that all our female coworkers want to ‘jump’ them? Sure. But that is not the point I am making here. The point is to be totally, over-the-top realistic BEFORE you mess up your marriage (or your life, or your job). I cannot tell you how many times couples have come to me for marriage counseling because they ‘messed up’. Most of it starts when they begin doing work alone. Not to meet alone so they could hopefully get ‘jumped.’ Nope. It almost NEVER starts that way. It is always a very, very slow (and usually unintentional progression). I would argue that not only should you change jobs if you are working with a sexual predator (very good advice) – but I would suggest changing jobs if it is totally impossible or completely unrealistic for you to set boundaries with a member of the opposite sex. Usually there ARE ways to set them. You have to look for them, be creative, seek wisdom, and probably be a bit ‘over the top’ in the eyes of many.

  3. JB says:

    “Guard your heart” and “Avoid all appearances of evil” are so overused and misused, I don’t think people even understand what they mean anymore. They are verses, but it would be good to understand them fully within the context of the chapter, book and Bible, rather than cherry picking them as support for whatever argument needs a proof text.

    To compare me spending a lot of time with other guys to my husband going on business trips with women is a faulty comparison. It just doesn’t work. And, I couldn’t care less what people think if they see my husband riding in the same car as a co-worker or getting breakfast at a coffee shop while out of town on business. Our marriage is in no danger if people think they are married. It has no affect whatsoever on my trust/respect/love. Chances are very high that they are talking about their kids and spouses anyway. And frankly, in this day and age, who says 2 guys or 2 girls seen together aren’t a couple?

    Most people working in the corporate world have no desire to ruin their lives for a fling. They are capable of exhibiting self control. Not everybody is a Don Draper. If someone is having an affair with a co-worker, there’s a lot more going on than simply not setting up good boundaries.

    As someone who went to school for counseling, I hope that you have your counseling license if you’re doing marriage counseling, or any counseling for that matter. Pastors who have no education in counseling or therapy often do more harm than good. And frankly, if these are the recommendations you give to people who come to you for counseling, there’s a lot you’re missing. Avoiding being with someone from the opposite sex is only going to change that particular behavior, not the root of the problem.

    • JB – Thank you for your response and for reading this post. I appreciate your feedback. Though we may disagree here – pretty obvious – I do think you hit my point precisely when you say, “Most people working in the corporate world have no desire to ruin their lives for a fling.” YES! I agree. This is exactly why I suggest boundaries. No one desires it to ruin their lives for a fling. No one stands at the altar and says ‘I do’ who hopes it all ends in immoral affairs a few years later. I totally agree. Thus, in my opinion, the need for boundaries. In addition, I also agree that setting boundaries does not necessarily deal with the root of the problem. Amen. We all have issues that are at the heart of why we do what we do. I get that. These boundaries however, in my opinion, help us guard against doing dumb things because our hearts are so often messed up.

      • JB says:

        As Tim said, this is unrealistic for business. I’m not saying that boundaries are bad, but you’re arguing for boundaries in the context of business trips. According to you riding in the same car, or having a meal together, or have a meeting together; while on a business trip should not happen and therefore the business trip shouldn’t happen. My husband takes at least 1 business trip per year. He doesn’t have a choice. He can say no to dinner alone with his co-worker, but not no to the trip. His situation is the norm, not the exception.

  4. Becky says:

    WOW! This is very interesting, Pastor Matt! You have given us so many good points to consider, but the people who find themselves in the business where travel is necessary may have to accept the travel part, but there are other options to consider when on a business trip. 1. Plan a nice evening out–away from the children before leaving on a long trip. Recharge your commitment to your loved one! 2. Use caution in accepting invitations to have a one on one meal with business companions. Perhaps include a couple of other people at the table.
    3. Avoid business “party” rooms, especially where alcohol will be flowing! Instead, excuse yourself and get plenty of rest for the business meetings the next day! Take a good book along to relax you (your Bible maybe)!
    4. Especially be careful of finding yourself “stuck in a corner” with a single or divorced person!
    5. Give your loved ones a “good night” call!
    I am impressed that one of the suggestions was that other people may assume stuff that isn’t true!

    The wife of one true blue “traveler” of 56 years and counting!
    Becky

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: