Dating is complicated. But does it really have to be?
- If you could use one word to describe dating in today’s culture, what would it be?
- If you’re hoping to be in a relationship one day, what steps could you take to prepare for it?
- Which of the rules below is most challenging to live out in your dating life? Explain.
- Guys: Ask girls on dates. Ask someone to do something specific on a specific day at a specific time.
- Ladies: Agree to dates. Don’t agree to just “hang out.” If he asks you to “hang out,” ask if he has a specific plan in mind.
- Don’t ever mistreat anyone, even if they don’t seem to mind being mistreated.
- Don’t allow yourself to be mistreated. If you saw a friend being treated the way you are being treated, would you be upset?
- Don’t do anything that makes you a liar for life. You are writing your story. Write one you aren’t afraid to be asked about.
NOTE: The following content is a raw transcript and has not been edited for grammar, punctuation, or word usage.
Today, we are actually in part four of the series that we’ve been in for the past three weeks and this is part four of “Love, Dates, and Heartbreaks.” And if you haven’t been with us or if this is the first time to tune in, this is a series for students who are dating, college students who are dating, graduate students, singles who are dating. If you are out of a marriage and you find yourself in this world where you’re dating again and trying to figure it out, it’s for you. If you’re in a committed relationship or you’re married, this is a series for you because we’ve discovered all kinds of cool things about how to make relationships, existing relationships, better.
And as I’ve said throughout the series, it’s an opportunity for me to talk about something that breaks my heart because very few things break my heart like watching people make relationship decisions that undermine their relationships, that undermine their current relationships or perhaps undermine a future relationship they don’t even talk about. So it’s, “Love, Dates, and Heartbreaks.” We’ve talked so far about love, we talked about Jesus’ brand new brand of love. Not the, “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you,” or, “loving unto others as you would have the others love unto you.” A brand new kind of love where Jesus said, “I want the love that you display and that you dispense on others to reflect the kind of love I have had for you.” And when he said this, it didn’t make a lot of sense to his first century followers, but after the crucifixion, it made all the sense in the world. Because He laid down His life for them, and He said, “Now, when you think about loving other people, I want you to take your cue not from other people, I want you to take your cue from me.” It’s an as I have done unto you, you are to do unto others kind of love.
So we’ve talked about love… We’ve talked about love and today we’re gonna talk about dates. And I wanna go ahead and give you the bottom line today of today’s message upfront, in case you lose interest or leave or your power goes out at home. And the bottom line is simply this: If you don’t want a relationship… If you don’t want a relationship like the majority of relationships, don’t date like the majority of daters.
If you don’t want a relationship like the majority of relationships, if you don’t want a marriage… If you don’t want a marriage in the future like the majority of marriages you’ve seen… In fact, one of the reasons perhaps you’re putting off marriage is you’ve just never seen a good one. You’ve never seen the one you wanted to be in because they all look like you would be stuck in them and you don’t want to be stuck. Well, if you don’t want a marriage like the majority of marriages, then don’t date like the majority of daters. Now, the Apostle Paul, who we left off with last time, set us up for today’s discussion, because at the end of that extraordinary chapter, 1 Corinthians, Chapter 13, the Love Chapter, at the very end he said something very personal. He said, “When I was a little boy… When I was a little boy, when I was a child, I talked like a child. And I thought like a child. And when I was a child, I actually reasoned like a child.”
“But then I grew up. And when I grew up, I did what grown-ups are supposed to do. When I grew up, when I became an adult, I put behind me, or I put away the ways of childhood, I put the ways of childhood behind me.” Now, all of us understand this in terms of there are things you just don’t do the way you used to do them because you grew up and you naturally put the ways of childhood behind you. You’re not childish any more. But for some reason that I can’t explain, maybe somebody smarter than me can, for some reason in our culture when it comes to dating, it’s like we have all reverted back to childhood. And the whole culture of dating has become so childish. But that’s not the term we use. In fact, all of the blogs and the rants and the articles about dating nobody talks about childish behavior. The word that our culture has chosen to describe dating in the 21st century is this word, the word complicated. They say, “Dating is complicated. Dating is just so complicated.”
Here’s a few quotes to kinda set our direction for today. Benjamin says this, “Online dating is THE WORST. Each time I asked friends—ranging from early twenties to their forties—how the temperature in the dating pool is, I’m met with borderline hostility. For all”, he continues, “For all the talk of ease that a dating app allows for a potential date, the impression I’m left with is everyone is swimming in a pool they all took a dump in.” [LAUGHTER] He’s not done. [LAUGHTER] “Instead of shocking the water and getting out, everyone decided they needed to keep swimming in the sewage—perhaps even adding to it—because that pool is where people swim.” In other words, “What option do we have?” It’s a mess, it’s horrible, but hey, if you’re gonna date these are your only options. This is your only approach. Shauney says this… She said, “I saw a meme once that read: ‘It used to be how long do we date before we have sex, now it’s how long do we have sex before we date, before this is actually a relationship?”
Aiden writes this, “We don’t communicate our feelings to one another but instead play this guessing game with no intention of being with that person because it means you care and you’re weak because… Because whoever cares the least wins, right?
One more. Rebecca writes this. She says, I am definitely as much to blame as any of my… As any of the men I meet—I’m often unwilling to make space in my life a relationship needs in order to thrive. Maybe this will all change when I meet the right man, the right person.” Now, today I’m gonna lean a little hard. Because, as I said up front, this is the issue that breaks my heart. And here’s the challenge from my perspective. When you take something that’s designed for an adult, when you take anything that’s designed for a grown-up and you hand it to a child, it appears to that child to be complicated.
And as long as you and as long as we and as long as culture approaches romance and sexual attraction and relationships like a child, it will be complicated. But it’s not actually complicated because children are naturally… What are children naturally? We were all one. We’ve raised them. Children are naturally impatient, self-seeking, self-centered, selfish easily angered, easily distracted, ill-mannered, rude. They want to be held until they don’t.
I wanna get down now and go over there and do that. They pout in order to get their way. So here’s my advice. We just need to grow up and quit acting like children in our dating culture. And it’s easy for me to say because I’m married but I look at what happens in our culture, what’s happening in our culture and we hear the aftermath and we hear the stories, I just wanna say, I just wanna grab the culture by the shoulders and say, “Hey, you know how to do this, just grow up.” Let’s put the ways like we’ve already done in so many areas of our life, let’s put the ways of childhood behind us. Because if you don’t, it makes one of the most fascinating, powerful, extraordinary things in the world too complicated. It makes it all unnecessarily complicated. And I would say to people in our culture and it makes you as an individual unnecessarily susceptible, susceptible to the Right Person Myth, the version of the Right Person Myth that says, “It doesn’t matter how I treat the wrong persons because when I meet the right person, I will become a better person.
You won’t. It doesn’t work that way. And you will have missed the season of your life that you have to prepare for that day. And if you miss it, you miss it and it’s gone. You’ll just be on better behavior for a while. And this whole thing leaves you again. It just leaves you unprepared. It leaves you unprepared because you will not have taken the opportunity to exercise your relationship muscles. You have to exercise them.
here’s the thing. Dating, dating, actual dating is exercise. Dating is a preparation. Actual dating actually requires something of us. Dating is risky. Dating the right way is healthy because it is preparation. Dating, come on let’s face it, it surfaces our greatest fears. Sometimes it certainly surfaces our greatest insecurities and some of our greatest anxieties. So it’s no wonder that people want to avoid actual dating and look for a substitute or a work around, a substitute or a work around that won’t force you to exercise your relationship muscles, your courage muscle, your self-control muscle.
Do you know where you learn self-control? You learn self-control when you have to use self-control. When you don’t have to have self-control anymore, you don’t exercise your self-control muscle. Now is the time that you exercise your self-control muscle for the future. Did you know that? You exercise your courage muscle, your self-control muscle, your honor muscle, you gotta use that thing right? And you plan and prepare. All of these are necessary for an actual relationship. Now, as we’ve seen so far in our time together when it comes to relationships, the New Testament is extraordinarily helpful. It’s immensely helpful. When it comes to relationships, the New Testament is great because in the New Testament we find this overarching command that Jesus gives us. In the New Testament, we find all these applications of Jesus overarching love as I’ve loved you command. But when it comes to dating, not so much, okay. There is no dating advice in the New Testament or the Old Testament because back then married people were committed to each other, were promised to each other by their parents. So there was no dating culture. There was no adolescent culture. There was no singles culture.
So, from this point on in the message, this is not “Thus sayeth the Lord.” It’s just thus sayeth me. Okay? [LAUGHTER] So these are my opinions. These are my insights. But they’re not insights from a vacuum. They’re insights from years and years and years of talking to people who’ve done it right, done it wrong. Who’ve navigated it successfully, 31 years of marriage, and 31 years of talking to people who’ve been married, and done it the right way and the wrong way.
So I believe what I’m about to tell you is extremely, extremely important but I just want you to know, no scientific research has been done. This is pretty much my opinion. You got that?
So I don’t expect anyone to take any notes. Now, I gotta lay the groundwork and again, I said I was gonna push a little bit, so I’m gonna start with this. It’s to set the stage for these five rules for dating. I need to say something to the ladies. Ladies, it is an embarrassing fact about men and I’ll just own this. It is an embarrassing fact about men and male nature that if we… That relationally speaking, if we don’t have to, relationally speaking, not at work, not on the softball field, not on the basketball court but relationally speaking, if we don’t have to, we won’t. [laughter] If we don’t have to ask you out, we won’t. It’s just too scary. Okay?
Ladies, if you step in, most of us will step back. It’s embarrassing, it’s not an excuse, there’s never an excuse for bad behavior, ever. But this is just a terrible fact of male human nature, for most males. And I’ll tell you a secret about us, ladies and you may not believe this, we know this about ourselves, even though perhaps the men in your life have not put words around it, we know this about ourselves, and we don’t like it about ourselves. And we fight it and we cover it with all kind of weird words in ego and macho and strange things.
Your husband’s 40 years old, he still on a softball team, you’re trying to figure this out. So, guys, let me just say this, if I’m not talking about you, if you’re like, “Man, Andy you’re a… Maybe you, but not me.” Good, I’m so proud of you, if you are winning over this thing, and you… Congratulations. If you’re a dad, you have to win in this area because you’ve got to model this for your little girls and you gotta model this for your little boys, right? And that means you have to step up and make decisions and not step away when somebody steps in and not just forego that whole engaging relationally.
So with that as the ground, is sort of laying the groundwork, here are five rules for dating. Ready?
Number one, Guys: Ask girls on dates.
The guys are like, [LAUGHTER] “Why are they clapping?” [LAUGHTER] Use the word date. “I would like to take you on a date to… ” no more. “Hey, you wanna hang out? [LAUGHTER] Hey, you wanna do something sometime?” [LAUGHTER] Ladies, aren’t you sick of that? It’s like, Yes, make a decision. Come on, because men, again, and you don’t think we don’t do this on purpose. Here’s the thing: Clarity is honoring. Clarity shows respect. Ask a girl, ask a woman to do something specific, on a specific day at a specific time. To which when I hear that, if I’m sitting where you are, and I hear that, here’s what I think as a guy. “But that means like I have to plan.”
Exactly. You need to exercise your planning muscle, it’s a muscle and you’re gonna need it, right? So guys ask girls on dates. So I’m gonna give you an example and ladies, if you’re thinking, really you have to give an example? Yes, because we’re just… [laughter] We’re not that good at it. [laughter] And guys, I’m gonna give you an example that doesn’t even use the word date, but you should not be afraid of the word date. It’s a good word. So, here’s what it looks like. I have tickets planned to the Atlanta United match, something I’m interested in, next Wednesday, specific, if you’re available, ’cause I’m gonna give you an out, I would enjoy taking you. How is that?
Let me go over it again. [APPLAUSE] I thought ahead… Okay, now, guys let me tell you why this is a big deal, because it has taken you weeks, maybe months to get up enough courage to ask. Your landing, your glide pattern is long and slow. You’ve taken all this time you got your friends praying you know and everybody. You’re ready and then you make… And now she has… How much time have you given her? Zero time. So when you are prepared and you are specific it honors her by giving her an option to decide, so be clear work that courage muscle work that clarity muscle honor her with options, that way she can stall she can check her calendar, she has now the space and time that you’ve already had. This is how you honor a woman by asking her to do something specific. It’s a big deal. You’ve had time to think and worry. Now she has time to think and worry and call her friends and they’re all gonna pray right? Got it, that’s rule number one.
These are deep. I am gonna go slow, ready rule number two, Ladies: Agree to dates. [laughter] Don’t agree to hang out sometime, don’t agree to, yeah… Agree to dates. Here’s the why because the bar is set on the first encounter. The bar is set on the first encounter, okay, and you’re worth it. You’re worth it. In other words, if you don’t… If the bar isn’t set high, it’s just, it’s not gonna get any higher. If he asked you to hang out, if he just had you wanna hang out some… You ask this question, you say, “Well, do you have something specific in mind? He won’t. [LAUGHTER] And if you say yes, he never will. It’s just the way… Where most of us, many of us are wired. Okay, so, okay. And guys, if a woman pushes back and ask for a specific listen guys, come on, she’s not being a… Okay. [laughter] Look up here, she’s complementing you she’s saying, “You know what? I think you have the capacity to date, I think you have the capacity to plan. I think you have the capacity to show honor.” So ladies. Rule number two, don’t bend and blend and pretend, because you’ll lose yourself in the end, and you may miss him.
But Kelsea was right. You’ll miss you more. So, be who you are and allow us and give us the opportunity to rise to the occasion. We have the capacity, we’re just not accustomed to being expected to rise to the occasion and rise to our ultimate capacity. Ladies, here’s the thing, and I don’t wanna push too far on this because again… But this is so important to me, I just want you to respect yourself and to never, ever, ever get accustomed to someone disrespecting you. [APPLAUSE] We’ve all seen where that goes. We’ve all seen where that goes, we all see where that leads and I just don’t want you to do that. And at the very outset of a relationship you have some influence as to how high the bar is set in terms of where this relationship is going. And guys, I’m just challenging you to say no and it’s in me too, to say no to your childish ways and to grow up.
Rule, number three. I shouldn’t even have to put this up here. Don’t ever mistreat anyone, even if they don’t seem to mind being mistreated because you’re not taking your cue from them or their previous girlfriend, or their previous boyfriend, or their previous relationship. If you’re… Listen, if you’re a Jesus follower, I shouldn’t even have to tell you this because if you’re a Jesus follower, you are taking your cue from how God through Christ has treated you and he does not mistreat you, and so you have no right and you have no flexibility. There’s no margin to ever mistreat anyone.
And to be specific, as we think about the dating culture and what happens in the dating culture and 21st century here’s the thing, don’t lie. Don’t lie. This is one of the basics, okay, Thou shalt not lie. This is, isn’t rocket science? Don’t lie unless, you’re a liar, then you can’t help it, but are you a liar? You’re not a liar, are you? No, you’re not a liar, so don’t lie. And don’t mislead, don’t mislead. You know, who misleads cowards mislead, and you’re not a coward so don’t lie and don’t mislead.
The truth is this, that truth, and this is hard for us, okay, because it’s so uncomfortable but I’m telling you, the uncomfortability of this dynamic you are exercising a relationship muscle that’s what makes it uncomfortable. When you wear out a muscle, it’s uncomfortable, you’re gonna wear out the truth muscle, you’re gonna wear out the transparency muscle, you’re gonna wear out the courage muscle it’s all preparation. It is okay, the truth hurts, I should say. Truth hurts less than betrayal. Hurtful truth, telling somebody the truth, it’s actually honoring. Trying to save someone’s feelings is actually demeaning because it says to them, I don’t think you can handle the truth. I don’t think you can handle someone being honest with you. Hey, that’s none of your business.
You honor them by telling them the truth, it communicates that I believe you can actually handle this, right. It’s okay this is tricky, I wanna be clear. It is okay to hurt someone’s feelings, it is not okay, again, this is under the canopy of don’t mistreat anybody. It is not okay to avoid hurting someone’s feelings to protect yourself from the discomfort of telling someone the truth. It’s uncomfortable, that’s a muscle. That’s exercise. That is preparation for a long-term relationship where you have to have difficult conversations, but you stay in the relationship. You have difficult conversations, but you’ve grown up enough and you’ve matured enough to be able to handle it coming your way and go in the other way as well, because uncomfortable conversations require courage so be courageous. So don’t ever mistreat anyone, even if they don’t seem to mind being mistreated.
Number four. And don’t allow yourself to be mistreated. You are too good for that. Oh, so I guess you’re too good for that. I am too good for that. Yes. That’s not arrogance. That is agreeing with what your heavenly father says, about you, and He knows. He says, “You’re fine because your mine” And don’t allow anyone to treat you less than fine because you belong to the creator of the universe. Yes, you are too good for that. Don’t allow yourself to be mistreated.
And how do you know if it’s mistreatment? It’s very simple. If you saw someone treat your daughter or your son, if you saw someone treat your younger brother or your younger sister, if you saw someone treat your niece or your nephew or your single mom, the way that that person is treating you, and it would upset you if somebody treated those people that you love the way this person is treating you, then you should be upset if somebody treats you that way. It’s not different, it feels different, it looks different you think look… But it’s the same. You know what this looks like. So please whatever side of the relationship, just don’t allow yourself to be consistently mistreated, that will become your new normal and it’s not normal. And your Heavenly Father and the people who know you and love you don’t want that to become normal for you.
And then number five, last one, we talked about this the first week. Don’t do anything that makes you a liar for life. See, here’s the thing, every relationship you’re in, every date you go on, every romantic encounter you’re a part of all of those events become part of your story. Every single one of those events becomes a permanent part of the story of your life. And we don’t think in terms of writing a story we just think in terms of on Friday and the next month and then last summer, we think in terms of events. But every single event, every encounter every decision, every relationship becomes a permanent part of the story of your life. And I want you to write a story that you’re proud to tell. I want you, when you think back on the current relationship or a previous relationship or a future relationship, when it’s in the rearview mirror when it’s a permanent part of your story, don’t you wanna write a story that you’re proud to tell? And here’s the thing, you will be asked. You will be asked.
And if you’re not careful, you will become a liar for life, because there will be seasons and chapters in relationships that you don’t want anyone to know about and that you kinda skim over and it’s really nobody else’s business, but you carry it with you as a permanent part of your story, and there’s nothing you can do about your past, but from this moment on, and from this moment forward, you have an opportunity to write a different dating script. A different moral script a different relationship script. You’re writing the story of your life. You have an opportunity from this moment forward to write a really good one.
Now if everything I’ve said so far seems like okay Andy the rumors are true. You live in a closet, [laughter] they bring you out on Sunday, and wind you up and you.
And then the battery runs out and they put you back in the closet ’cause you have no earthly idea what’s going on in culture. Here’s my suggestion, this afternoon when you go home or tonight when you go home, or whenever you get home, I want you to get an empty cardboard box. Now, if you don’t have one. Just wait a couple of days [laughter] because the box is gonna show up out on your front porch or in your garage, you don’t know what it’ll be, ’cause you can’t remember what you order but anyway, after you get it all out. You’ll have an empty cardboard box. And I’m serious about this. And I want you to find some time when you can be alone, and I want you to stare at the empty box, and I want you to do a little mental exercise. I want you to take all the good things. I want you to take all the good things that you’ve accumulated mentally from binge dating, hook-ups, lying your way in, lying your way out, pregnancy tests. Can’t remember exactly…, guilt, shame, heartbreak embarrassment and stories you hope no one ever finds out about. I want you to take all the good things that have come from this, and I want you to put them in that box.
And what do you have? You don’t have anything, right? You add it all up and the sum total of all of that is, in some cases, just a past that you’re gonna lie about. A past… And we’re gonna talk about this next week, don’t miss next week. A past that you’re gonna be tempted, and this breaks my heart that you’re gonna be tempted to smuggle into your future. But it’s not gonna stay hidden forever because those kinds of things never do. And when you look at all the stuff in that box, would you want that for the people that you love? And if not, grow up. Let’s grow up. And would you be willing to put your childish, selfish, shortsighted ways behind you?
My advice is that you just don’t put anything else in that box. And you get a new box. And you start over. And here’s what you’ll discover. That following Jesus in the realm of romance and following Jesus in the arena of personal relationships that following Jesus in that area will almost instantaneously make your life better and make you better at life, because following Jesus in this area of your life will prepare you and protect you. It will prepare you because He loves you and it will protect you because He loves you. So, if you don’t want a relationship like the majority of relationships don’t date like the majority of daters. In fact, you may need to take a break from the entire scene and we will pick the discussion up right there next time in Part Five of Love, Dates, and Heartbreaks.