When “Staying You” Is A Bad Idea

When I was about 27 or so I had been dating a woman for a several months when she decided that I wasn’t for her and that someone else was.  It was a hard thing for me to take for a couple of reasons.  I had waited what felt like a long time already to get married and I really, really thought she could be “the one“.

As I was processing through the “breakup” I was fortunate to have some good friends and mentors who really came along side me.  But one of the weirdest conversations I had was with a woman maybe 20 years older than me said something like, “Wow it’s hard.  All these years you’ve been single.  How do you keep from blaming yourself?  How do you keep from thinking you’re the problem?”

I gave some sort of answer to that.  I don’t really remember what, but I’m sure it was good. But here’s what is interesting.  In many ways I’d like to have that conversation back.

While I think that this woman was honestly just trying to be encouraging and telling me that, “Hey, don’t worry – it’s not you” maybe what I needed to hear was, “So what part of this is you?”

The reality was in that particular case, it really wasn’t me.  But the fact that I made it to 41 and single – a lot of that was indeed me.

Do you remember when you were in school and you would get the school yearbook? There’d be a few pages or an insert or some other place where you would get notes from classmates. Have you ever read back over those?  It’s mostly generic stuff like, “Hey bro – great time rockin’ with you in English this year,” or “J Man – thanks for keeping me sane in Chemistry.”  But often we gave each other the worst advice of all – “Stay you.”  “Don’t ever change.”  Umm yeah – don’t grow or develop – good idea.

If I look back on mine, I could sum up the what every girl I was attracted to wrote – “J – you’re such a good friend.  Couldn’t have made it without you.  Don’t ever change.”  I’ll come back to this in a post soon – but that right there sums up far more guys’ lives than would want to admit it.

But for today, what I want to focus on is this idea that we don’t need to change who we are, what we do, how we act, think, or live.  I’m not saying people who espouse it don’t mean well, they typically do.  But when it comes to most things in life, and for sure dating and marriage – it’s just simply terrible advice.

In Christianese terms it usually means that God “has someone else for you” or if you stay true to yourself, then for sure God will bring someone at the right time. It could also be that every person you’ve ever been interested in had it wrong.  But the bottom line is, there is someone out there for you.  And you need to just stay strong and be “who you are” and then the “right person” will love you for “who you are”.

It all sounds nice, but I’m not sure how helpful it really is.

Without even getting into the dating/single/marriage stuff, we are not called to be who we are currently.  One could make a case that we are called to become who we are created to be.  But that is different.  Who I am right now is a flawed, broken by sin (my own and others’) individual.  I’m in Jesus and He is changing me over time to become who He meant for me to be.  But until I’m there – I should be changing, aka growing.

We all have stuff that we need to grow in and change.  Now to be clear, I’m not saying that you have to first get all your stuff together before you get married.  That’s part of the reason we have the problems we do, this false idea that i have to be “ready” to get married.

When it comes to dating, if the same stuff keeps happening over and over again, we need to look inward and ask what part of that is us.  What can we do different?  I think when it comes to dating, especially as a Christian guy, this seems to get skipped over.

Stuck in the friend zone over and over again?  That could be you.  In a new relationship every six months?  Maybe you.  Can’t seem to ever talk to or approach someone you are really attracted to?  Might be worth thinking about.

Look at this way.  In other practical areas of your life you grow.  When you were a kid, you got better at sports or math, or a band instrument.  You didn’t stay the same.  When you get a job – hopefully over time you get better at it.  Are your current friendships the same type as you had in high school? (If so, that might be a problem as well).

Relating to the opposite sex is no different.  If you’re stuck, maybe it’s time to change.  Maybe that means getting help -be it friends, counseling, books – you name it.

Most of the time in life, we know when change is necessary. We just don’t like it.  It’s easier to say, “it’s not me” than to say, “Maybe it is me”.

Final thought and clarification.  Am I saying be fake?  No.  Am I saying go out and misrepresent yourself? No – that’s called lying.  What I’m saying is it’s ok to grow in how you relate to the opposite sex.  In fact, I would suggest that if you are over 26 and single, it might be necessary.  It was for me.

 

Quit Beating Yourself Up

I don’t get mad super easily.  It’s a gift from my family, as my parents are the same way.  I can get pretty fired up and intense (those who know me are laughing) but in my heart it takes a lot to make me actually mad at another person – with the exception of the guy who cut me off in traffic, but that’s a whole other problem – Ha.

But when it comes to myself, it takes very, very little for me to get mad.  I wrote a couple of weeks ago about the fact that we are mad at God.  This is true for basically everyone but as singles it is very easy for us to become bitter towards God because He hasn’t “delivered” a spouse.  But the second person who I’m most mad at, if I’m honest, is me.

Now I’ve spent a lot of time on this blog challenging us to look at our crap and deal with our sin.  I’ve said we spend too much time over spiritualizing singleness, marriage and dating and it keeps us from dealing with reality and our shortcomings.  I’ve said a lot of the reason that we are single is us.  I absolutely, 100% stand by all of that.  But today I want to flip the script a little.

There’s so many directions I could take this but let’s start with a couple of key points.  First off it’s important to realize that we are not the only actor on the stage.  In our current Christian Culture we often act like the whole thing is about us and God and that only the two of us are in the story.  This is so bad on so many levels theologically, philosophically, and practically.  But it is also bad in our context of singleness.  It assumes that either I or God is to blame for everything that goes into me being single.

This can lead to a inaccurate view of the truth.  There are other players in the game.  For example, when you ask someone out, you have no idea what is going on in her world. Maybe her saying no has nothing to do with you.  The other person is on the stage.  I mean there’s been times when I think I’ve missed on someone I should have pursued – someone could make a mistake with you.

Even when it comes to dealing with our own brokenness we need to be careful.  Let’s say I struggle with passivity towards women.  Well being mad at myself for being passive isn’t going to help.  I need to dive into where that comes and while that will include my own sin, most of the time it will also include healing from wounds inflicted by . . . you guessed it. . . other people.

All of this doesn’t even take into account the fact that we have an enemy.

Usually what I do is first I get mad at God, then realize how stupid that kind of is, and start being mad at myself.  It’s very easy to just start pummeling myself – usually pouring salt into the wounds I’ve faced.  “I’m just not good enough” “Why did I say that to her – I’m so stupid.” “If I had my stuff more together” “I’m pathetic (worthless, ugly, a screwup, etc.)”. By the way this all get’s turned up a notch if I think there is only THE ONE and I’m scared of blowing it.

Making matters worse is that often the Church accidentally pours it on.  In attempt to remind us that we don’t earn salvation we often seem to define ourselves as just sinners.  I get the point but man we have to be careful.  All bad stuff comes from sin, but not everything that happens comes from my sin.  It’s not all my fault but I’m a part of the problem.

Worst of all what we usually do is get it backwards.  We view how we got wounded as somehow our fault and then we excuse our sinful reactions to it.  Holy smokes that’s bad.  We HAVE to reverse that.

Dealing with our sin, wounds, and shortcomings is critical.  But beating the crap out of ourselves adds to that.  That is not from God.  It is not humility.  In addition when it comes to dating it will never, never be attractive.  Never, not even a little.

When I’m mad at myself, I need to stop and ask what is going on underneath.  (For me personally it’s a huge check engine light – time to get under the hood).  I need to stop and get an accurate view of what is going on (community is key here), and then if it is something that has to do with me, I need to take that to Jesus and go about figuring out how to change it.

Where in the context of Singleness do you beat yourself up?  Do you only see you and God on the stage?

Sibling Interaction

I find myself in all sorts of amazing random places.  About 10 years ago I was having a lunch meeting with a guy who I’ll just call an Old Testament Scholar, although that doesn’t even begin to describe the intensity and knowledge of this guy.  I was with him for about two hours and we had maybe 6 different very intense conversations.  I want to share just one.

We were in the car driving to lunch and talking about dating etc.  He asked me about my family and what siblings I had etc.  I told him I had two married parents and a younger sister and brother.  He said, “So you know that you are supposed to learn how to interact with the opposite sex in your family right?” Silence. He went on, “That’s where you first learn how to treat girls by how you see it in your family.  So how did that work in your family?”

Boom!  I was kind of in shock and we weren’t even to lunch yet.  But you know what, he was exactly right.  One of the reason’s many of us are single is that we don’t learn how to properly engage and interact with the opposite sex.  We need to think about this.

Now let me say that I came from a great family over all.  But this area was shaky.  I was the oldest and my sister was two years younger than me.  Now in many ways I was a pretty good brother, but when it came to honoring her as a girl, well, not so good.  I think this really started when we were little and we would play.  I of course always wanted something with competition (and since I was the oldest I set the rules ha). What would happen over and over was she would want to stop playing.  She just wanted to do something different.  But I would be mad – I would say she was quitting etc.  Here’s where the femininity thing came in.  My parents would always say she was younger, or tired, or something like that.  There was never really a sense of, “Hey she is a girl and girls might do something different.”  Not only that but most of the things that were applauded were guy centric stuff.  This put a lot of pressure on my sister and meant that I didn’t really learn to interact on her level.

This played out all sorts of ways later.  One big example I can think of is that for many years she had a horse.  She loved that horse.  She rode competitively and even had some events.  But, I never one time in all those years went with my sister to where her horse was kept, let alone went riding with her.  I had about zero investment in anything that my sister cared about.  In high school I distanced myself from her and certainly didn’t honor her.  I was not a good big brother, and it wasn’t expected.  I’m telling you that not learning how to interact well with her affected not being able to interact well with women.  And remember, I had a intact, solidly moral family.

How you interacted in your family as a kid affects how you interact with people now.  This includes your comfort level with the opposite sex.  It includes how you treat and understand the opposite sex.  It affects everything actually.

So how did your family interact?  How was femininity (and for that matter masculinity) treated in your household?  What was honored?