Harry and Sally: The Age-Old Question

Sue Edwards's picture

Through our years of talking with women about ministry, we have observed a frustration from some—working with men who don’t understand or value them.  Consider with us the question, “Can men and women really be friends,” and if so, “What would that relationship look like?”


Billy Crystal and Meg Ryan immortalized the popular (mis)understanding of male-female relationships in the hit movie When Harry Met Sally. When Harry makes a pass at Sally, his fellow coed, she turns him down with the familiar words, “No, Harry . . . we are just going to be friends, OK?” Harry responds: “Friends? You realize, of course, that we could never be friends.” The rest of the conversation proceeds like this:

 Sally: Why not?

Harry: What I’m saying—and this is not a come-on in any way, shape, or form—is that men and women can’t be friends because the s*x part always gets in the way.

Sally: That’s not true. I have a number of men friends and there is no s*x involved.

Harry: No, you don’t.

Sally: Yes, I do.

Harry: No, you don’t.

Sally: Yes, I do.

Harry: You only think you do.

Sally: Are you saying that I’m having s*x with these men without my knowledge?

Harry: No, I’m saying they all want to have s*x with you.

Sally: No, they don’t.

Harry: Yes, they do . . .

Sally: How do you know?

Harry: Because no man can be friends with a woman he finds attractive. He always wants to have s*x with her.Their argument continues, with Harry maintaining that all male-female relationships are doomed because “the s*x thing” is “already out there.” Sally remains dubious but concludes regretfully, “That’s too bad because you are the only person I know in New York.” Poor Sally! What a choice when it comes to men—romance or nothing. Why not “just” friends? Is a pure, nonromantic relationship really impossible between a man and a woman, or is Harry wrong? More specifically, how does Harry’s theory relate to men and women who follow Christ? We believe that Christians, indwelt by the Spirit, will prove Harry to be wrong. Men and women really can be friends. In Christ, they can be more than friends—they can be sacred siblings, and the implications for ministry are enormous!In our recent publication Mixed Ministry, Working Together as Brothers and Sisters in an Oversexed Society, you can find more on this topic. In the year ahead, we will discuss this topic further, hoping you will wrestle with us to bring clarity to an important issue in ministry today. We believe men and women can be friends but admit it’s a complex topic. What do you think?

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