What About Dating?
Helpful facts that young people want to know
EVERY normal person wants to get real enjoyment out of life. The Bible shows that this is proper, listing joy as one of the “fruits” of God’s spirit.—Gal. 5:22.
Many young people, especially in Western lands, look to dating as a prime means of finding enjoyment. They often arrange to spend time, unchaperoned, with someone of the opposite sex. Should you?
Some persons feel that anything that brings pleasure is worth while. But is that true? All of us have learned that pleasure now can bring pain later—as when a person eats too much candy and gets sick afterward.
If you believe in reasoning things out, you will want to consider not just the short-range effects of dating but also the longer-range results. True, youth is the “springtime” of life. But what about the other “seasons” ahead? Do they matter to you?
Have you ever read these words addressed to the “young man” at Ecclesiastes 11:9, 10? “Rejoice, young man, in your youth, and let your heart do you good in the days of your young manhood, and walk in the ways of your heart and in the things seen by your eyes. But know that on account of all these the true God will bring you into judgment. So remove vexation from your heart, and ward off calamity from your flesh; for youth and the prime of life are vanity.” What does this mean?
Here the Bible is saying that young persons (and in Bible times a man was considered “young” even at thirty or more years of age) are not directly held back by God from doing according to their choice. But it also shows that God nevertheless holds young persons responsible for what they do. Their youth will not excuse them from facing the consequences of the course they choose.
But what does this have to do with dating? Well, ask yourself, “Why do I want to date? What am I looking for that I could not enjoy, for example, as part of a group? Why do I want to pair off with one person, someone of the opposite sex?”
Is it because you are interested in marrying the other person?* Most young persons who date would not say that they are seriously thinking of marriage at present or that they necessarily would like the person they date for a marriage partner. In most places where dating is considered to be customary, it is viewed merely as a form of recreation, a way to spend an evening or a weekend. But is that all there is to it?
THE EFFECTS OF PHYSICAL CONTACT
Some young persons, not wanting to be viewed as “different,” date because others their own age do. But the basic reason why young persons date is because of the growing attraction they feel toward those of the opposite sex. This can be seen from the fact that physical attractiveness usually has a lot to do with one’s being desirable as a “date.” Also, more often than not, dating involves some physical contact—holding hands, kissing, or something beyond that.
Because of this, the matter is one for serious thought, at least if one wants to avoid the “vexation,” or even “calamity,” the Bible warns about. At first, just touching the other person’s hand may be very pleasurable, causing one to feel a warm glow. But after a while it may lose its thrill and may not have the same effect. Something more, such as kissing, may appeal. But then that too may become ordinary, even a little stale. Why is this?
Because it is all part of a chain of events designed to lead to a specific outcome. The first link is the first touch. The last link is sexual relations, which God’s Word shows is reserved for marriage mates. Everything in between is just leading up to that last link of the chain. No matter how much you may try to convince yourself that this is not the case, you cannot change the facts of life. This is the way humans are made.
So, then, if you are not married or even engaged to be married, is it wise to start with that first link, or any of the others? To do so is only going to bring “vexation.” Why? Because your body is going to get itself ready for something it should not receive, that last link. Stimulating the desire for sexual relations but not fulfilling this desire leads to irritation and frustration, nervous tension. It becomes a choice between vexation and fornication.
But not even fornication will end the vexation. And it leads to “calamity.” How?
Besides keeping you from having a clean conscience toward God, it can result in venereal disease. There has been a fantastic rise in such disease among young people. This can deprive a young woman of the ability to bear children, and in either sex it can lead to ruin of the nervous system. Is that what you want?
Fornication can also result in an unwanted pregnancy. This could pressure a couple into a marriage they really are not prepared for. How would that affect their likelihood of future happiness? The facts are not encouraging. In the United States, for example, more than half of all teenage marriages end in divorce. Many of these marriages were entered into because of pregnancy. Doubtless so many of these marriages failed because neither person in the marriage had much reason for feeling real respect or admiration for the other. Their marriage only brought them vexation—and ended in calamity.
On the other hand, the young man may refuse to marry the young woman he has made pregnant. She is then obliged to bring up the child herself with no husband. Or she may be tempted to undergo an abortion, which the Bible shows to be a form of murder. Is this not calamity?
You may be determined that dating will not have these consequences for you. But many of those who wound up facing these troubles were just as determined.
YOUR PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT
And even when dating does not lead directly to “calamity,” it has other disadvantages. One is that it narrows your interest down to just one person—at a time when, for the development of your own emotional maturity, you can benefit most from association with a wide variety of persons. If you are in your young manhood, why not first concentrate on becoming a real man by having your main friendships with other men who demonstrate love for what is right, learning manly abilities and ways from them? If you are in your young womanhood, why not interest yourself first in developing into a true woman, benefiting from association with those who are and who can help you to develop fine womanly abilities and ways? Dating really interrupts and slows down such development.
So are you helping yourself or hurting yourself if you date? The evidence is that you are hurting yourself. You are opening yourself up to vexation and calamity.
As the book The Family in Social Context shows, “Dating as we know it probably emerged after World War I.” People before World War I, young people included, found plenty of things to bring them enjoyment—probably more so than the present generation. You can too. You can find real enjoyment in conversing, learning, developing skills, working on projects, playing games, going places and seeing things. And you can find great pleasure in doing these things with someone of your own sex or with a group. You will often find that the wider the range of persons in the group—some your age, some older, some younger—the more enjoyment you will have.
Why not spend the ‘prime of your life’ in a way that will really bring you good and will strengthen your heart for gaining a life of enduring happiness? This is undoubtedly what your parents want for you. And you know from his Word that this is what your Creator wants for you. Accept their help.
Serious courtship prior to marriage will be given consideration in a future article in this series.