One of the things that people would sometimes “challenge” me in as I entered my mid thirties as an unmarried person was the idea of commitment. In other words they would say things like, “Do you think you are afraid of commitment?” or “Marriage is about commitment, you know?”, or, “our friend Justin has some commitment issues when it comes to women”. Ah the C word.
Now I get it and it’s probably fair to ask this question if you don’t know me. But I always had a problem with it because in general it didn’t wash with me. First off, I’m a pretty committed person in general. I’ve always been committed to my work, friends, projects, the game I’m playing that day. No one would look at my life and say, “Justin usually bails on stuff.”
It seems to get tossed out a lot in our culture (both secular and Christian) that men in general are fearful of or unable to commit to women and marriage. I kind of disagree, in general.
There a lot of factors at play here, so let’s take a look.
First of all, I would agree that we live in a world in which people are often less “committed” to things. This is mainly because we have more choice than ever before. Most people don’t stay with the same company they started out with. We have more freedom to move and travel. We have a zillion channels and now the internet. Heck, people change churches and friend groups at least every four or five years. So yeah, people are less committed in general.
We also have more choices in dating. As my father once said, “Back 100 years ago when a pretty girl came to town, you married that girl, because she might be the only one you ever met.” In other words there wasn’t the comparison game that we all play now. There weren’t pictures of models everywhere. There weren’t thousands of romance novels and Lifetime specials. Women had even less options. You can feel that this is good or bad, but it is for sure true.
The second factor is that we have separated sex from marriage. So if you don’t need commitment in order to have your sexual desire met, then why have commitment. When you start separating sex (let alone living together, child rearing, etc) from the context of marriage, then you automatically take away from marriage – both for the single and the married (more on this soon).
Neither of those factors have to do with fear of commitment. They have to do with the choice to not be committed.
Now fear of marriage and divorce are real factors that create fear of commitment. That’s no doubt a big factor.
But to be honest, I think the whole fear of commitment thing is a bit overblown and frankly it gets used against single men way to often. I don’t believe that men are any more or less likely to be committed than women. A lot of this comes from the false notion that women are morally superior to men which is a whole other conversation.
But let’s back this whole thing up one more step.
First you have to actually have someone available that you want to commit to. For much of my single years I didn’t have that. As I’ve admitted several different times here, much of that was my fault. I went a long time not working on becoming the man I needed to be in this area. I had no idea about how female attraction worked. I did a lot wrong. No doubt. But along with that, when you are a Christian trying to follow Jesus you are working with a small target – that is women you are attracted to that also want to follow Jesus.
This is a gigantic factor. It’s a bigger factor in singleness than fear of commitment. Finding someone to be committed to can be a big problem. Knowing how to go get that person is also a problem. We should spend more time here and less time beating people over the head with commitment.
Which brings me to the final couple of points I want to make about commitment.
Assuming that I am committed to Jesus, and I’m not called to celibacy, I need to be committed to the idea, and pursuit of marriage. That does NOT mean marry anyone. It doesn’t even mean that you have to know if you can marry someone before you ask them out. But it means having the end in mind. It means not dating the person that I know I won’t marry just because it’s comfortable or easy, not doing things that will hurt your marriage opportunities, and learning how to interact well with the opposite sex so you have a chance if you do meet someone you might want to marry.
It also means that I need to move away from looking for someone that meets all my needs, start looking for someone that I am willing to be committed to and who I believe would be committed to me. More on that soon.
Are you a committed person? Are you stuck in consumer dating? What are you committed to when it comes to dating and marriage?