In today’s world, dating truly is a lost art. Real dating has largely been replaced by “hanging out,” doing various mindless or even destructive activities.
Look at the dating scene in this world, and you will see a tremendous amount of confusion. Just what is dating? What is it supposed to achieve? What do you do? Most young people don’t really know. What’s the point of dating?
Let’s be honest: For far too many singles in the world, the point of dating is simply to have sex.
Their focus is entirely selfish. Their motives are self-centered. They don’t care about the other person beyond what that person will do for them.
The ironic thing is, many—perhaps most—of the people who engage in this type of “dating” still hope that somehow, at some point, they will “click” with one of the people they are hooking up with and end up settling into a wonderful, meaningful, long-term relationship.
They need to get real!
You can’t build a healthy relationship on that kind of self-oriented foundation any more than you can grow a healthy plant in a tub of poison.
A relationship between two people who care only about what the other person can do for them is a ship with two captains and no rudder, heading into a storm and destined to fail. Unless and until their focus changes.
It is infinitely better—far likelier to lead to lasting success—to build a relationship from the start on a foundation of unselfishness.
Isn’t that what you would like to do? Then it has to start right now—in the way that you date!
That’s right: If you want to build an enduring, fulfilling relationship, you need to start right now by dating in a way that is entirely different from the selfish approach unwittingly followed by the great majority of singles!
When I say that dating is a lost art today, essentially I’m talking about the fact that unselfish dating is rarely practiced.
The singles in God’s Church are not dating to have casual sex. However, the attitudes and practices of singles in the world can still rub off on us more than we may realize.
Sadly, many singles in God’s Church have a fundamentally selfish approach to dating.
For example, some singles simply don’t date because, basically, they don’t feel like it. Their only concern is whether it’s convenient for themselves, or what they get out of it. They may convince themselves of excuses—I don’t have time; I can’t afford it; there’s no one to date—all things that can be overcome. They may deem someone as “not marriageable” and thus have no interest in dating them. (Obviously there are legitimate reasons where it would not be appropriate to date someone.) All these hindrances typically boil down to one thing: They are thinking too selfishly to want to extend themselves.
Other people date, but do so with selfish motives. Some singles believe the sole purpose of dating is to find a mate. This is a selfish approach. It leads to many problems. Anyone who is on a date primarily to assess someone’s ability to fulfill duties as a husband or wife is going to behave awkwardly and inappropriately.
If you have a selfish approach to a date, the person you are with will know it. A date should never feel like a job interview!
In congregations where there are many dating opportunities, some singles go through the motions of “dating widely”—a man invites a woman to sit with him at services or accompany him to a social function, for example—but fail to demonstrate any real interest in the other person. This selfish approach can make that person end up feeling like little more than an ornament.
Dating—like everything else we do as we learn and practice God’s way of life—should be an act of give. Your mind should be on serving the other person, trying to give him or her a positive, even spiritually and mentally uplifting, experience.
When a man and woman both have that focus, they will have a wonderful date! I know this, because I’ve experienced it many times! Before I married I went on countless dates with dozens of different women. Most of them were simple and mainly consisted of one-on-one conversation, perhaps on a walk or over a meal. They were all enjoyable, and in many cases—even the majority—I came to appreciate the person more than I expected to.
To this day, I take the same approach in my dates with my wife, and we have wonderful times together. I even go on occasional individual dates with each of my three children (two daughters, ages 11 and 9, and one son, age 5). I don’t go on these dates for what I can get from them. I just want to give them a positive experience—to enjoy some conversation, to focus my attention on them and show them that they’re important to me, to get to know them better, and to build our family friendship.
For singles, that is essentially what your focus should be in your dating.
There are many wonderful reasons why dating is not just fun, but also important. It is a great way to build friendships with a wide variety of people. Dating many different people—not just those you may happen to consider “marriageable”—offers a unique education in a lot of ways, and can expose you to a variety of interests, experiences, talents and personalities, making you a more interesting and informed person. It gives you experience in breaking out of your comfort zone, relating well to others and becoming “all things to all men” (1 Corinthians 9:22). It helps you learn how to understand the opposite sex, and to better appreciate the God-given differences between the sexes. It increases your confidence in dealing with others. It helps you grow in outgoing concern for people of all types. It gives you practice at listening actively and communicating effectively and tactfully.
These qualities can really only be developed through experience, and dating provides that experience.
What’s the point of dating? Above all, it’s an important way to practice God’s way of give! If that is your focus, you will be thoughtful and considerate, trying to create a relaxed and enjoyable occasion for the other person. You will be sincere and open in expressing yourself to your date, and take a genuine interest in them. And you’ll create a bond of friendship that will encourage and strengthen both of you within God’s Family.
This is what dating in God’s Church is meant to accomplish. And when dating is done the right way—unselfishly—it does something else, something wonderful. Among the friendships that are built, sometimes it becomes apparent that there is a right foundation for a God-blessed marriage.
So rediscover and practice this lost art! Pray for God’s guidance to do it His way. Extend yourself, and build friendships within God’s Church on a foundation of unselfishness. Get out there and date!