Is Flirting a Sin?


Is flirting a sin?

Dear Father,

Let’s say there’s a woman—happily and faithfully married—who’s at a time in her life when she feels she’s lost her “appeal.” She’s put on a few pounds, the grays are starting to come through, and she knows she doesn’t turn as many heads as she used to. Her friends invite her out for a “girls’ night”—some dinner, a few drinks, nothing crazy. She dresses up, puts on some makeup, and looks really good. She wishes that, just once that evening, a guy will do a few double takes, maybe show some interest. As the night goes on, a guy does approach her; they talk, they flirt a little—but that’s as far as it goes. Did anyone do anything sinful in this situation?

                                                                                                            –NOT ME, BY THE WAY

Great question—which I would divide into two.

First: Is there anything wrong with a woman wanting to feel and look beautiful?

In and of itself, of course not.

As a female friend recently reminded me, “Women are wired toward beauty in a way that men are not.” Indeed, the desire is God-given and wholesome. So, if a woman happens to look nice on a night out with the girls and someone approaches her, she certainly hasn’t done anything wrong by simply being attractive.

Deliberately intending to look “sexy” and attract sexual attention, however, is another matter.

It’s sad how our culture has utterly blurred the distinction between feminine beauty and feminine sexual attractiveness. The latter—contrary to popular opinion—is not a prerequisite for the former. Beauty is a transcendent quality of the person that shines particularly through the face and eyes. One of the points of modesty in female dress is precisely to direct the male’s eyes upward toward the locus of that beauty.

When a woman deliberately attempts to look sexually attractive to a man other than her husband, she makes her body an object, using it as a means toward an immoral end. Married husbands can be guilty of the same behavior, I might add, deliberately seeking to turn on the sex appeal for women other than their wives. Here, too, modesty in dress plays the further important role precisely of helping to avert even the unintended drawing of sexual attention from others.

As for the second question about flirting, it all depends on who is flirting with whom, in what context, and especially for what purpose. Wikipedia defines flirting as “a social and sometimes sexual activity involving 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.” Flirting is probably as old as our species—a natural first step toward a deeper relationship, normally toward the unique bonding we call marriage. But people flirt for other reasons, too, many of them problematic: some people flirt for kicks; some, to build up their self-esteem; some, to get a free drink at the bar. Of course, loads of people flirt hoping it will lead to sex—and nothing more. The right place and purpose for flirting is to be found in courtship and marriage where it constitutes a wonderful form of playfulness that reinforces and enhances marital friendship.

Drawing the two questions together, then, let’s be clear: It is never morally licit for a married man or woman to intend to illicit sexual attention from anyone other than their spouse by dressing provocatively and/or flirting. The deliberate eliciting of sexual attraction in others by married men or women can be sinful in different ways. It can be the cause (or “occasion”) of the sin of lust or covetousness. But on a deeper level, such behavior constitutes a sin against the marital bond. The marriage covenant brings into existence an exclusive “space” in which the unique friendship of spousal love with its intense emotional companionship and sexual self-giving can flourish—and which is, quite simply, off-limits to everyone else.

The kind of sexual pleasure that women in particular derive (in a way men do not) from sexual attention itself should also be located in that exclusive space, and it should be uniquely derived from their husband’s attention.

Here, I have doubtlessly just touched a nerve with hundreds of readers, and understandably so. The absence of this kind of spousal attention can set the stage for all kinds of problems and tensions in marriage. Perhaps this is what led the woman above to behave as she did. If that were the case, then a last word of advice to her would be to strive to address the root problem with her husband—if necessary, with the help of a priest or therapist. I know that is so much easier said than done, and that’s why we ask God to strengthen marital love throughout the world!


Fr. Thomas Berg’s “Ask Father” column was originally published in Catholic Digest. Republished with permission.  



  1. Benjamin-1200321 May 16, 2015 Reply

    Flirting is a sin, said my dad….
    But it’s 2015,,,, so I think it’s not a sin anymore…. 😀

  2. Tom-995241 December 9, 2014 Reply

    What is a sin? Look in the Baltimore Catechism.

  3. Traci-1152188 November 22, 2014 Reply

    Seriously lets not get off track with is it a sin…right or wrong? God wants us to focus on giving the correct person all the credit so they get there just recognition! Stay focused on what important ! ……..Really ! This is supposed to be supportive of do the right thing no Ata boys. Thank you good night

  4. Nicole-748380 July 2, 2014 Reply

    At work, sometimes people flirt with me ,and it is fun. But then if I know that they are in a relationship elsewhere, or there is really no chance for dating, it seems silly. This is simple flirting like saying hi and good morning pronouncedly or joking about being the best. Pretty simple things, but it can also go negative-like you never come by my desk to say hello. I do not always know how to answer because I do not want to encourage or be foolish. I do not think light flirting is a sin. It shows interest and sense of humor, but should stay in a certain realm like modesty in clothing.

  5. Bea-1048832 June 27, 2014 Reply

    Flirting is a sin. I think, this is a subject wich is clear enough to understand…
    There is in the Bible, as everything. The father was very patient, and kind with his answer. I think, if you would asked a saitn, example padre st. Pio about that…, than he would gave a strict, short answer about that…

  6. Lillian-1057474 June 25, 2014 Reply

    Maybe this is straying too far off the topic, but *for single people only*, how then do you signal your interest in another single person, if not by flirting? Especially, if the first thing you see about a person is their body and notice that they are attractive to you?

  7. Lisa-1099581 June 17, 2014 Reply

    I have a sense of humor that has often been misconstrued as flirting, I smile a lot too if someone is engaging me in conversation. The problem with flirting is it is someone else’s perception a lot of the time and often I’m just being nice and courteous.

  8. Gabriela-764636 November 7, 2013 Reply

    I also forgot to say that this would be a great topic for young adult church groups to speak about and converse in our communities!

    God Bless!!!

    • Dominic-981542 November 9, 2013 Reply

      All so single or married , it is the way we respond to our body . . You must be referring to females here , because i have a body too . . & know its weakness is from sin . . I also know not to trust my body & make excuse’s for it .
      Every thing i said is limited & Valid with truth . . There’s always more to be said.

      Yes it would be a good topic for adults , not sure if they will benefit by talking about it among them selves , in my experiences at that age they are full of opinions & know it all where there is no room to listen & learn . . . but that’s where life will step in & teach the hard way . . . sorry for thinking this way .
      God love you !

  9. Gabriela-764636 November 7, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Fr. Thomas for this topic. It broke the concept of “flirting” down very good for us, and I’m shore it helped clear up and sort out some thoughts.

    I witnessed a married friend approached while we were out and about, because she is a very attractive woman!

    “I think if a woman is attractive with out trying to be is the point being made here . then its not her fault .” but I do have to add that for example in this case it becomes a sin if the woman continues or responds in a flirting manner.
    Single or married, it is the way we respond with our body, voice, etc… that makes it or leads to other sinful actions.

    Thank you Fr. Thomas!!!

    • Dominic-981542 November 9, 2013 Reply

      Hi Gabriela-764636

      I’m not sure what your trying to tell me because you repeated every thing I was saying.

      Where you just agreeing with me or trying to share some think to what I commented on . . . If you scroll above you will see i made more reply’s to this topic through others , And there you will see your words are my words
      God Bless you.

    • Jerry-74383 November 22, 2013 Reply

      What do you mean by “out and about”? Shopping? Drinking in a bar?

  10. Dominic-981542 November 7, 2013 Reply

    I bet you . Joseph don’t really know Gods word either , but a victim to your own opinions.
    I’m treating you with the same respect you gave FR Thomas . . . . because I know your talking about the Bible which was never really meant for any one to study , nor can any one study Gods word & then know it .
    The Bible and man just don’t mix to good . . . Gods word together with his mind is beyond what any man can comprehend .
    Sure . . the basics are there for all of us . . But when will you know its time to listen to some one who understands more then you or just has some think to share for you . . . There’s knowledge which comes from studying , and there’s wisdom which is given by God .

  11. Joseph-240565 November 6, 2013 Reply

    Has anyone on this site ever REALLY studied God’s word ?

    How about you Padre Thomas ? … a bit too much Moral Theology and not enough alone time with our Father perhaps ? …

  12. Ann-69118 November 6, 2013 Reply

    I don’t think it’s a sin if done with light humor between single people. When taken too seriously or used as means to get someone jeoulous or just to use them for an ego boost then I would say yes in that way it would be sinful. I don’t think a married person should flirt with someone other than their spouse that’s treading into dangerous waters. Not all people can do it well either. I’m terrible at it and never quite learned the art so never even attempt it.

    • Dominic-981542 November 7, 2013 Reply

      Light humor doesn’t make some thing okay Ann , the idea of it just gives a man an excuse how to play his cards as a hunter that woman are so nave towards .
      Its not that its a sin , the word sin is often taken out of tex .
      There’s sin & there is the damage sin has done to us , flirting is just that weakness caused by what sin has done . . just like the problem of decaying & death are all the results of sin.

  13. Rizavilla-990068 November 6, 2013 Reply

    Flirting is really a sin,and a temptation that should be avoided and resist from the start. I’ve watched films that shows how relationships ends because of flirting…. Best way to flirt and to show your affection is to your wife/husband, not on your neighbor’s partner….

  14. Calista O. November 6, 2013 Reply

    Depends on the two partners. If they are husband and wife, there is noting wrong for them to flirt but if a single lady flirting with a married man it is a sin or a married man flirting with another woman that is not his wife it is also a sin because the thing that attracted both to flirt will one day lead them into sin. please if you are married make sure you flirt with your husbands or wives and not bringing the third person to your home. What am trying to say is this if you know what is attracting you to look another person instead of your husband or your wife try to make your wife or your husband to dress like that for you.

  15. Rhonda S. November 6, 2013 Reply

    Thank you Ronald. Very concise

  16. Carol-997909 November 6, 2013 Reply

    Ronald well said.

  17. Ronald-167122 November 6, 2013 Reply

    What is the reason for having to ask this question in the first place? To find out where the line is so one can venture as close as allowed without crossing? Perhaps the Holy Spirit is trying to tell us something!!!
    Would we flirt with Jesus or Mary? Do we dress how Jesus or Mary would dress in the context of our modern day society?

    Flirting is a gift from God only within the context of marriage, after the I dos. Perhaps someday!
    Until then, they are sister’s in Christ whose sanctity is to be guarded and encouraged.

    • Dominic-981542 November 6, 2013 Reply

      Flirting comes from our fleshly senses , never say some thing is a gift from God when he him self has never claim so.
      More so when its some think you love it to be does not mean its a gift.

    • Jerry-74383 November 22, 2013 Reply

      Excellent post, Ronald. Sin is something to avoid at all cost, not a line to toe as closely as possible.

      It might help to remember that sin is more than an arbitrary rule: it is a violation of the very nature of our being. A violation that not only offends God, but is responsible for a portion of the suffering Jesus endured during His Passion. When you love someone do you intentionally offend them? Or cause them physical pain? Or even take the risk of doing either? Then why do so to God, who is infinitely more deserving of our respect than any human?

  18. Dominic-981542 November 5, 2013 Reply

    Is flirting a Sin ? , yes it is . . Not just for married people but also for single . . First what is Sin ? . . there is sin then there is sin & there is sin & SIN . . the big misunderstanding of SIN & its EVIL is . . . A Female who is single also has a Father & maybe a Brother who loves them also . . so while its wrong for a married woman to be wanting attention of the opposite sex , it is also wrong for a single woman to . . . . Its not Rocket science . . . A male spouse should be loving his wife with the same source of love as her Father or Brother would , any thing else apart from this is the contamination of SIN. . . if this is to hard to bare . . Remember if she does not have a brother or Father , She does have one in Heaven who is against all forms of flirting with his daughter .

  19. Bernadette W. November 5, 2013 Reply

    A married woman shouldn’t be going out with the girls and seeking flirtation under any circumstances. Neither should a married man be out without his wife, flirting.
    I disagree that only women are “wired for beauty.” I find that men are more visual than women.
    Additionally, flirting when you are married is destructive to the integrity of the bond. It is “lying with the body.”

  20. Stephen-967868 November 5, 2013 Reply

    Flirting can be fun. But come on. If you’re married, you have no business doing it-unless its with your spouse. Flirting is often based, in part, on an underlying sexual attraction, the tension between the sexes, etc. Sometimes it even involves some playful taunting and teasing, in some subtle and not so subtle ways. Most people take flirting as a sign that there may be some interest in the other person. Is that really the type of message a married person should be throwing out there?

  21. John-905748 November 5, 2013 Reply

    I think that if a woman or man feels the need to “Get Dressed Up” and go out for a guys night or girls night out to see if they still have what it takes to attrac the attention of the opposite sex, then they should do it at home.

    Why would you get dressed up and decked out to go out with friends and strangers, but not for your spouse.

    I had a friend who complained her husband wasn’t atracted to her anymore. She stopped dressing up, wearing make-up and putting an effort into looking good for him. However, to go out with friends, she put an effort into looking good. I tried to explain to her that she needed to put the effort into her husband and what got his attention, even if it meant talking to him to find out what he’d like her to change or do to stimulate that attractiveness.

    Too many people are too worried about what people outside the marital home think instead of what their spouse thinks. Becoming comfortable with the one you are with (married to) is fine, but strive to impress them more than some yo-yo in a bar, at a concert or wherever, that you don’t even know

    A committment was made ot love this person, committments require work, so work to keep that passion and attractiveness alive at home.
    Just my thoughts,

  22. Theresa-994638 November 5, 2013 Reply

    If flirting is a sin… I am doomed! LOL. I say, BALANCE in all things!

  23. Paul-929810 November 5, 2013 Reply

    Well, I’ve been married and divorced and been in various ‘relationships’ with women (in other words having sex). As far as my marriage went, my wife was very beautiful and did not need to do anything to become attractive to me. She could have been digging in the garden or just come in from milking the cow and I would find her physically, emotionally and sexually attractive just as she was. In fact, by slapping on the mascara and lipstick she became less attractive to me. Woman who make themselves attractive, that is paint their faces with chemical colourants and ram dangley bits of metal through their ears and go drinking in bars are asking for just one thing. When I was drinking and looking for ‘a good time’ I would gravitate towards them. This delusion that women are hard wired by God to have to tart themselves up is simply satan whispering in their ears and it’s for one purpose and one purpose only – to pick up mate for sex – bottom line!

    It’s a much touted cliche that beauty is only skin deep, or that it’s in the eye of the beholder. In my book it’s always the internal beauty that’s so important and it can only be seen in the eyes of the beholden. If those eyes are hiding behind a mask of mascara and shadow – well there’s nothing internal to be seen, just froth and tat.

    If it looks like a duck…………….. likewise if it looks like a tart!

    But if you have to wear high heels and slap then I would suggest that there’s not only something wrong with you there’s also something very much wrong with the company that you keep and even with society in general. If Fatima really is true then we had all better watch out.

    Best wishes, Paul

  24. Bill-304473 November 5, 2013 Reply

    In the artical, by Fr. Berg, I agree with all he said. I do not agree with the paragraph of what a woman had written:

    As a female friend recently reminded me, “Women are wired toward beauty in a way that men are not.” Indeed, the desire is God-given and wholesome. So, if a woman happens to look nice on a night out with the girls and someone approaches her, she certainly hasn’t done anything wrong by simply being attractive.

    I do not believe what causes desire. Being a man, I cannot say what gives women the desire to be ‘attractive’ and ‘wholesome’. However, I do not see it as something God-given, only to women. I feel the desire is acquired in life. Some say women may be attractive witn men in mind; some say they dress to compete with other women. But at the root of both of these beliefs is the attractiveness to men. In other words, competing with other women is for the who will catch the eye of a man. Even desire said to be for self-esteem is dependent on men. The reason being attractive brings self-esteem is how pleasing she will look for a man.

    That’s what I believe.

    • Dominic-981542 November 5, 2013 Reply

      I think if a woman is attractive with out trying to be is the point being made here . then its not her fault .

      • Jerry-74383 November 22, 2013 Reply

        What do you mean by “without trying to be”? Are you referring to a woman who is naturally attractive who goes out without makeup, sexy clothing, etc? Or a woman primps without the explicit thought of sexually attracting a man?

  25. Doris-1005825 November 5, 2013 Reply

    Is it a sin to flirt or have sex with a man if you are a widow. please explain this matter.

    • Dominic-981542 November 5, 2013 Reply

      Yes Doris , its a sin to flirt with a man or have sex with him if your a Widow just as much as if your single & never married .
      Man Are sexual hunters & its they who are out there to be met while a man with virtue is not .

    • Lorraine C. December 24, 2013 Reply

      Where can you find single men with Virtue?

      • Loney-1265382 April 26, 2016 Reply

        Where can a senior man find a woman whose primary interest in a man is not how much money he has?
        It is shocking to know that is more important to most women than the man”s character or interests.

  26. Lawrence-689974 November 4, 2013 Reply

    Is it a sin to flirt with someone when you’re married to someone else?

    Wow really good question but I think this one is better:

    If you’re married to Ted and flirt a little bit with Chad (whom you don’t know, while you are out drinking and are dressed to kill), are you loving Ted in your actions with Chad?

  27. Chad-988613 November 4, 2013 Reply

    Thank you for the article Father Berg,

    What is modesty? Without looking for a dictionary definition or what the Church says do we know? More importantly do we practice it? When someone has to adjust their clothes (due to the tightness of clothes upon the body) in church each time they stand, sit, or kneel –modesty is clearly absent -(Proverbs 28:23). Can our relationships be rightly ordered without it? The answer is that without modesty relationships will not be rightly ordered. In fact without modesty we as individuals will not be rightly ordered. Without this most important Christian virtue, we only follow the dangerous path of our culture. This dangerous path of our culture says ‘if it feels good do it’. The evidence of this destructive mentality is everywhere. The anti-thesis to this madness is modesty. Modesty is such a beautiful virtue (Catechism 2521-2523). A virtue which ensures the interactions in our minds, hearts, and external actions with others -brings glory to God. Those of us who have “just a friend” of the opposite sex would do well to ask ourselves -is modesty present & guiding this relationship? Is this relationship helpful or harmful to my current or future spouse? How many single people faithfully attend mass, contribute to the betterment of society, and wonder why they cannot “find” the one God has for them. Countless people that have these or approximate sentiments would do well to “find” modesty first. Nothing is more attractive than holiness!

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