- Tuesday, December 21, 2004
What are the purposes of dating? The reason many singles have failed in the dating game is that they have never clearly understood their objectives.
If you ask a group of singles, "Why are you dating?" the answers would range from "to have a good time" to "to find a mate." In some general sense we know that the end of all this may lead us to marriage, but we are not clear as to other specific objectives. Let me list a few and suggest that you add to the list as you give thought to your own personal objectives.
Developing Wholesome Interactions with the Opposite Sex
One of the purposes of dating is to get to know those of the opposite sex and to learn to relate to them as persons. Half of the world is made up of individuals of the opposite sex. If I fail to learn the art of building wholesome relationships with "the other half," immediately I have limited my horizons considerably. God made us male and female, and it is His desire that we relate to each other as fellow creatures who share His image. Our differences are numerous, but our basic needs are the same. If we are to serve people, which is life's highest calling, then we must know them – male and female. Relationships cannot be built without some kind of social interaction. In Western culture, dating provides the setting for such interaction.1
One of the problems is that we have been trained to view each other as sex objects rather than as persons. Almost fifty years ago psychologist Erich Fromm wrote, "What most people in our culture mean by being lovable is essentially a mixture between being popular and having sex appeal."2 With a proliferation of cable TV, movies, and now the Internet, this perception of others as sex objects has become deeply ingrained in our thinking.
For some single women their unspoken lifestyle objective is to "turn the heads" of the men they encounter. And many single men are happy to turn their heads. Those who proceed further and give their attention to the production or purchase of skin magazines often find themselves addicted to this impersonal, disconnected perception of members of the opposite sex. When this becomes a fixed perception, then one ceases in the truest sense to be human. He or she becomes like an animal playing with his toys or allowing one's self to be a toy with which another animal plays.
Learning about the Person, Personality, and Philosophy
Dating provides an opportunity to break down this perception and to help one learn to see others as persons rather than objects. It is in dating that one discovers names, personalities and philosophies. These are the qualities of personhood. The name identifies us as a unique person. The personality reveals the nature of our uniqueness, and the philosophy reveals the values by which we live our lives. All of these are discovered, not as we stand back and view each other as objects, but as we come close and begin to interact with each other.
It is in dating that we discover that every woman has a mother and a father, and so does every man. Known or unknown, living or dead, our parents have influenced us and thus profoundly affected who we are. The popularity of Alex Haley's book "Roots" and the television series based on it give evidence that we are all connected with our past. In the dating relationship we have the potential for excavating these roots. Every person has a personal history that has also greatly influenced him or her. In the context of dating, these histories are shared.
Why is dating important? Because it gives us a means of connecting with others as persons. Our society increasingly pushes us to live in cocoons, but our isolation has brought us to growing levels of loneliness, emptiness, and sometimes desperation. However, this isolation need not be a permanent prison. Dating is an acceptable way of breaking out of isolation and connecting with others.
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