Attraction Vs. Action

One of the constant conversations on this blog is the idea of attraction.  I’ve written a ton about it and even have whole posts about it.

Today I want to sort of clarify a few thoughts about attraction.  Many of these I’ve said before but I thought it might be good to put a few main thoughts into one post.

First off it is important to understand that the feeling of attraction is never, for any person, a choice.  It is not an in the moment conscious decision.  From day one, none of us, or at least no one that I know, has ever said, “I’m going to feel attraction for this person and not this person.”

This is true for every person.  This is even true, if I may be so bold, for people who would be attracted to the same sex – once or always.  Attraction is a gut level feeling.  I see someone or meet someone and I’m attracted, or I’m not.

Let me say again, the feeling of attraction is not a choice.

However, what we do with that attraction is a choice.  This is also true for every single person.

Attraction of course awakens desire to do something about said attraction.  But the truth is that I don’t have to, often should not, and frankly sometimes am commanded not to act on that attraction.

Here’s an obvious example.  Let’s say that I’m married.  I feel attracted to someone who I’m not married to.  I’ve made a vow not to act on that attraction.  I’m commanded in the scriptures not to act on it.

Here are a couple of other examples.  Let’s say that I’ve made vow to celibacy.  I meet someone and I’m attracted.  My desire says that I want to act.  But because of the vow that I’m committed to honoring I should not act on that.  Just because someone is called to celibacy does not mean they never feel attraction or never have the desire to act on that.

Or let’s say that I’m attracted to someone that I know is not a believer and/or is bad for me and my walk with the Lord.  I’m for sure attracted, but I don’t have to act on it.

This leads to a second point about attraction:  There are many things that influence the feeling of attraction.  Some of these things we can actually work on and might impact over the long run who we are attracted to.

Things like past sexual events in my life, what I believe about myself and God, looking at porn or reading “romance” novels, how I’m feeling that day, or even how much I’ve had to drink can influence my attraction to someone.

I can also feed or not feed attraction.  If I am attracted to someone that I know I need to not pursue, then I can either feed that or not.  If I start to respond to it, or put myself in the position where the attraction will grow, then I’m setting myself up.  This leads to the classic, “I know it’s not right, but I can’t help what I feel so I’m going to act on it at least a little” scenario.

Instead, I can admit that I’m attracted, but recognize that I shouldn’t pursue it and avoid situations that will further that attraction and increase the pressure to act on that feeling.  You may not be able to help what you feel, but you can for sure help what you do with it.  Again, attraction and acting on attraction are two completely different things.

The inverse here is also true of attraction.  Some people get frustrated because not enough people find them attractive.  We need to recognize that we can work on being more attractive.  We can learn what is and isn’t attractive. We shouldn’t have in our mind that we have to “perfect” to be attractive but that’s not a reason to not attempt to be attractive to the people that we want to pursue or be pursued by as the case may be.  I’m not talking about being “fake” here, but you aren’t going to pursue someone that you aren’t attracted to, so you can’t expect that from someone else.

Finally we have to think about how we handle ourselves when we feel attraction to a qualified person.  Do we start to try too hard, cling too much, become needy, desperate or controlling.  Or maybe the opposite.  Do we run, avoid it because we don’t know what to do with it.

Here’s what we can’t do.  We can’t pretend that attraction doesn’t matter.  That is living in the pretend world.  It absolutely matters.  Attraction is from God.  Now it’s all jacked up thanks to sin, no doubt.  But that’s true of everything.

There’s a lot of freedom here.  If we can understand that attraction is not a choice but that action is, we can work on both.  If we equate the two, then we will constantly be in trouble both in how we view ourselves and others.  I need to run both attraction and acting on it (or not acting) through the lens of my walk with Jesus.

Don’t Be A Singlist

I knew it would happen.  In an era of hash tags and isms it was only a matter of time before our growing unmarried population found a way to play the same card.

It’s finally here single folks.  You’re very own ism.  Singlism.  This is the new word for the way that singles are discriminated against in our society.  I guess the people doing it will be called Singlist?  Man the church for sure is #singlist.  No doubt about that.

Bella DePaulo is a single lady in her sixties and a harvard trained social scientist has “coined” the term.  (Man I wish I had gotten to it first).  She defines it as “the stereotyping, stigmatizing and discrimination of people who are not married”.

Oh but it gets better.  Married people of course have “marital privilege — the unearned advantages that benefit those who are married”

DePaulo actually points out many things that we’ve talked about here.  Married people make more money than single people.  Not only that, but due to tax laws, family leave acts, along with other systemic Singlism issues in the corporate world such as insurance rates and even travel packages, singles end up paying more for things.  All of that is true.

Man, I was a victim for so long, and I didn’t even realize it.

If DePaulo thinks singles in the secular world have it tough, she should try the Church. In the Church it’s hard to get a job as a pastor if you are single.  Often singles are not offered positions of leadership even in non-paid positions.  And they have to endure marriage sermons, conferences and a barrage of bad Christian romance novels. #suffering #singlechristianproblems.

Now I want to be clear, if I were running things I’d change a lot of this.  Obviously I have constantly advocated here many times that the Church needs to change how it deals with singles.  But that starts not with creating a new victim group but instead actually dealing with whole body of Christ including all forms of singleness and marriage.

What I have never advocated and do not advocate is turning singles into a special group in and of themselves.  There are a number of reasons for this.

The first is that as I’ve pointed out many times, singleness is a terrible term.  We have to get that there are many different groups and each has their own standing and context in the Church.  There are the widowed, the divorced, those called to marriage who aren’t and then those who are celibate for life either because of gifting, choice, or the sin of man. These are absolutely not the same.

Second, to me the idea of singlism implies that it works the same as say racism or sexism etc.  The problem with this is that for most of us, being single is sort of our choice.  Our race or sex is not (at least from a biblical perspective – I can’t believe I have to type that).

Now I know that right now some of you are saying, “but I’m not single by choice”.  Ok, I hear you.  Let me make a couple points about that.

For starters saying that there is singlism when a significant amount of people are simply single because they lack the ability/desire to make a lifetime commitment to a person is ridiculous.  Every single person who is sleeping with or living with someone does not count as living the single Christian life.  In no way are they a victim of the people with marital privilege.  GIve me a break.

Secondly, most people could get married to someone if they wanted.  Not all.  But most.  I was single until I was nearly 41.  But there were people I could have married.  But many things kept that from happening.  Some of those things were my own fault.  Some were issues that I needed to deal with but again, I had to choose to deal with them.  Sometimes I chose the wrong person to date.  Sometimes someone didn’t choose me.  But I had choice many different times.

That is not to say that everyone who is unmarried had that choice.  Obviously a widow didn’t choose to have their spouse die.  Divorce can be a choice, and most often is, but if the person divorces you, that might not be your choice.  But again those are different contexts from not being married yet. So I guess in that sense you could be a victim.

Finally, most single people are working at or at least hoping for a time when they are not single.  Do the same people who are single now want to give up this supposed marital privilege when they get married?

Frankly the only people who can claim singlism are the people who are gifted, called or forced into celibacy.  So perhaps we should call it celibacism.  That’s not quite a catchy though.

I acknowledge that we have a problem with how we deal with singles.  We really should change many of our laws because honestly, we should want to treat people fairly regardless of marital status.  This should be especially true in the Church where the Church family should trump the nuclear one.  But playing the victim and equating singleness to race is for sure not the way to go about it.  Instead we need to actually deal with what marriage is and help people walk in each of the contexts of singleness.  Our problem is more in how we view the whole thing.

What’s crazy is there is still time for the Church to lead here.  Now that would be a movement worth getting behind. #Crazy #Leadership #Biblical

Attraction Is Not A Choice

In Christianity we are pretty good about telling people how to work in a relationship and marriage.  This is a great thing.  We know how to help you when you are married or considering it.  Now that doesn’t guarantee success, but at least we know what to tell you once you are there.

But we are terrible about helping you get from single to dating.  We say that we want everyone to be married, but we don’t help anyone figure out how to get there.

Here’s the truth, you could learn more about attraction from one online seminar by a secular dating “expert” than you could from 20 years of attending church, reading Christian authors and being in small group. Worse, half of what you would learn in those 20 years would be ineffective.  I know, because I lived it.

The first thing we have to understand is this:  Attraction is not a choice.

I can see the red flags rising.  But it’s true and we know it.  What I mean is that initially you don’t choose to be attracted.  You either are or you aren’t.  As David DeAngelo (secular guy – look out!) writes, “A woman doesn’t start talking to a man and say to herself, ‘wow, this guy seems very smart and funny. . . just the type of guy that I’ve been looking for. . . I think I’ll feel attracted to him.”

Attraction is much more basic than that.  It kind of just happens.  Now a couple of caveats just to calm everyone down.  No you will not always be attracted your spouse – I get it. We’ve heard you, ultra wise Christian married person.  And that is really, really important. Marriage is about love and commitment.  However getting a date in the first place is about attraction.

I’m not even talking about being perfectly attracted or attractive.  That’s not realistic.  What I’m saying is that when you meet or approach someone, initial attraction is key and one of the problems a lot of us singles have (especially men) is that we don’t understand attraction, or why we are, or are not, attractive.

Now, all sorts of things can affect attraction – on both ends.  In other words things in my life can make me more or less attractive, and can affect how attracted I am to certain people. But we have to begin to understand this and work on being attractive and attracted in the right way.  Attraction is not a choice – but what we do with it, how we handle it, amplify it, or crush it is.  But we can’t do any of that if we refuse to deal with the reality that it matters – immensely.

This is where we have to toss aside our excuses, hiding places, and “help me sleep at night theology”.  What do I mean?  Things like:

“I just want someone to like me for me.”  To some degree this is actually true.  What we really mean is, “I want someone who I’m attracted to who will like me for me.”  So we have to watch the double standard.  Also we have to be careful not to use this as an excuse to not become a better person.  The best me is yet to come.  Thank goodness.

“If God wants it to happen it will.”  This just drives me crazy – and I used to say it.  It sounds holy.  But the problem is that we don’t do it for any other area of life.  “If God wants me to lose 10 pounds then I will.”  Yeah, no need to work out or change your diet.  Yikes. At the very least spin this into fearlessness instead of laziness.  Go ask out everybody. Why not?  God won’t let you end up with the wrong person right?.  Go in full confidence.

“I have this friend who wasn’t attracted at all to her spouse but she eventually became attracted and they now have a great marriage, 100 children who are all missionaries etc.”. Two thoughts.  First was she really not attracted or was other stuff in the way?  I once dated a girl who was always talking about this other guy she was not “romantically” attracted to.  Then she married him instead of me.  Secondly, this sort of thing can happen.  And my Missouri Tigers can win a football conference title.  It’s happened before, as recently as 1969.

The truth is, we are afraid we aren’t attractive or that we can’t attract the right person.  But that’s a lie.  That’s not from God.  However, we have to engage this to fight through the lie. What is attractive?  What about me is attractive?  How do I lead with that and lean on that? How do I create attraction?  How do I handle myself when I’m extremely attracted?  How do I build on initial attraction?

Lots more to talk about here and we will.

How do you view attraction?  Your attractiveness?  Your ability to create it?

Are You Addicted To The Search?

In my early 30’s I had kind of a “come to Jesus” time when it comes to dating and the search for a spouse.  I had done pretty much everything wrong up until that point and worse, I had not really dealt with a lot of my own insecurities, sin, and woundedness. But thankfully the Lord (directly and through others in my life) met me in that and I was able to work through a lot of stuff.

That led me to actually be able to succeed. Here’s what I realized right away.  As a friend of mine said, “When you’re a guy in his 30s who has himself figured out – it’s a buyers market.”  What he meant was there are a lot of available women looking for that.

Now to be clear, I was kind of relearning how to date but even then I began to realize he was right.  And once I figured it out it was even a little overwhelming.  I went on a lot of dates which taught me an important thing that I talked about last week.  There is always someone else. Always.

Now it is important for us to know that but it can also lead to other traps.  I floated on the edge of some of these but I’ve seen some of my friends and other guys really fall into them.

We live in a consumer culture.  We want exactly what meets our needs and we are always looking for the next thing that will do that.  This is bad for the spouse search.  It can lead to us bailing every time that someone doesn’t meet our needs.  When we see imperfections in the person we can think there is someone better.  Why commit if there could be someone better?  This is a huge contributor to divorce.  If I’m married and it isn’t going well, that must mean that I didn’t marry the right ONE and there must be someone else.

After all there will always be someone else.  Always.

It doesn’t matter how hot someone is, there will be someone hotter. There will also be someone smarter, more fun, more adventurous, funnier, more understanding of my flaws, etc.  Always.  Even if you are married there will be other people you are attracted to.  That isn’t going to stop.

To be honest, at some level it’s always fun to meet a new person.  I mean there is this new hope that they could be the one you’ve dreamed of – who is “perfect” for you.  Some can even become basically obsessed with dating.

Online dating is a great way to see this.  There is always another profile (usually far away geographically – I swear it’s a conspiracy by the online dating sites to keep you there).  I mean you could stay online and meet people for the next ten years. If you are always dating and it never goes anywhere, I’m going to go out on a limb here and say that might be partly you. Ha.

It’s easy to become addicted to the search.  Some of us have been searching for a long time. Its what we know. We’ve also been told by our married friends, cocky single friends, and even the Church that we should never settle.  While that’s true on some level it can be a standard that practically guarantees singleness.  We get so comfortable looking for the ONE that we become completely uncomfortable being with even the right one.  It makes it hard to commit if there could be someone better.

We need to understand that marriage is a choice and a covenant.  It is a decision to love another person the rest of their life regardless of what happens.  It means being all in.

We need to change the question.  We need to stop looking for the perfect person and start looking for the right person.  Now the right person may feel perfect and probably should a lot of the time, but no one will feel that way all of the time and if we expect that, then we will never actually commit to anyone.

We need to know that there can always be someone else.  It gives us the freedom to pursue without fear.  But at the same time it doesn’t mean that we have to always pursue the next person.

So where are you at with all of this?  Are you addicted to the search?  Are you looking for the perfect one or the right one?