Answered an email question this morning (sometimes a dangerous thing without sufficient coffee yet ingested!); but here are some random thoughts about “dating”

We live in a rather decadent and decaying culture in our country – too much evidence not to see this. One indicator that does slip by us too often however, is the whole youth “dating” thing.  I know, . . . I grew up with this too – but sadly I did not have a Christian environment that spoke winsomely about bigger ideas of goodness and truth. I was in one of those high quality public schools (northern Virginia claimed the best in the country after all!) that taught subjects well, but gave absolutely no guidance as to what it means to be a human being made in God’s image. Yes, the church and Young Life were speaking into my life, but the overwhelming cultural forces (then and today) too often drown out the truth.

Bottom line, as my own children have grown, I have sadly had to admit that at its best, “dating” is an innocent entrance into much bigger things that best wait until young people are not . . . well, young people! At worst, dating is just practice for divorce. Sorry, but there it is.

Here’s my concern: a Christian school environment tends to be a close and vibrant community. This is a blessing in so many ways. But when students begin to “date,” size becomes a challenge. The inevitable “break-up” results in awkwardness in classes and hallways where students have nowhere to “hide” from failed relationships like these. Students have enough challenges in their adolescent lives without the extra difficulties that accompany the “dating” culture.

I was so pleased that my daughter’s class at The Geneva School (2008) conscientiously remained a bunch of good friends throughout their Rhetoric years. Only one “couple” occurred in their senior year – and everybody was pretty disappointed frankly because then those two were completely distracted by each other and had no time for anyone else. Here is my  fear when students at a Christian school start to “date” – sometimes (and it has happened) – when it goes badly at some point (and it almost always does), students end up leaving to find another place to finish school away from the awkwardness of the failed relationship. That is the extreme of course, but it is a reality no one should have to face. Others have merely had to work through unnecessary relational damage and awkwardness.

So my recommendation: speak to your student about our culture’s relatively recent (and experimentally disastrous) practice of “dating.” Seek to inculcate the notion that friendships forged from mutual experiences with multiple people allow students to be themselves and enjoy their peers without the extra pressures (on multiple levels) that dating creates for younger students.

One more thought: I remember a few years back speaking with 7th graders about this. Some girls were distraught that I could not understand how important this was to them. I told them I remember the thrill in those years – yes indeed. But I also told them that from my looking back, I now consider the emotional investment a lost enterprise. Those emotions could have been so much more invested in things that last rather than in the fleeting and vain pursuit of a temporary relationship that would inevitably end badly. I know it’s difficult for students to see, but that is because our culture sings a compelling siren song – “Come, join us and end up on the rocks with emotional damage and broken young hearts.”  In retrospect, we all have to admit, the song sounded good, but was pretty shallow after all. Much better goal: guard your heart, guard your virtue, and enjoy the value of Christian friendship with classmates.  I have preached too long and will desist.  Bless you all!

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