Remember the epidemic that swept across the nation years ago, calling men and women of all ages to ask themselves, “What Would Jesus Do?” While I’m all for becoming more like Jesus, I think this phrase can cause some serious damage when applied to the world of dating.
As you may have noticed, I wrote two articles that made their way around the web with a combined total of near 50K shares. The articles were basically a “do not date” list of the types of qualities to avoid when looking for someone to date.
I received a an overwhelming amount of amazing feedback from these articles, but I also received a bit of passionate backlash. I heard from some people who commented that they dated and married these kinds of people, and that I was wrong for making such a list. Others told me that I was excluding every single person by making them “undateable”, since we all have some form of negative traits. Still others wrote me to tell me that I’m encouraging “selfishness and sinfulness”, because I am not making room for “God’s grace” and instead pointing out people’s flaws.
My response to all this? Simply put: Dating is not the time nor the place to be a “missionary”. You have every other relationship in life to do that (Tweet it!).
Dating is a time for spiritual, emotional, and mental reciprocity between two people who might choose to spend the rest of their lives together. It’s significant. And it’s a time that’s meant to be invested well.
I’m actually extremely bothered and concerned by the comments to “have more grace” because since when are wisdom and grace mutually exclusive? Grace calls us to show the love of Jesus to those who might not otherwise know it…but I can’t say I recall anything in there about dating them. I believe I set the bar pretty low by calling women to date a guy who is actually into them, and men to date a woman who is more of an encourager than a criticizer. Is that too much to ask?
And if so, where do you draw the line? What about addictions and abusive relationships? What about continuous patterns of dishonesty and deceit? When does this false definition of “grace” slowly make way for the justification of a toxic relationship?
I met a young man who was trying to apply this standard of “grace” to his dating relationship. He was a solid, committed Christian who had recently entered a relationship with a 5 foot 4 bombshell young woman- the problem is that this particular bomb was on the brink of exploding. She was a sweet girl who was close to perfect on the outside…but on the inside, her life was in disarray. The problems of her past were overwhelming her, slowly trickling into her present, and she was haunted by extreme emotional ups and downs, low self-esteem, anger and even addictions. She was feeling empty, hoping for someone to fill her up.
In walks her prince charming. There was an instant attraction between them, and his heart went out to her and the struggles she was going through. He saw so much potential in her, if she only knew how much Jesus loved her. They started dating and soon began their emotional roller-coaster. He, trying to rescue her from her pain. She, constantly hurting him as a result of her pain.
When I met him, he had reached the end of his rope. After two years of dating he felt so emotionally connected to this young woman and to her pain…but her pain, habits, and hang-ups were slowly starting to destroy even him.When I questioned him as to why he was continuing on in this toxic relationship, he looked at me sincerely and asked, “Isn’t that what Jesus would do?”
I get asked that question so many times by well meaning Christians who are in a dating relationship with someone who doesn’t have the same commitment to Jesus or someone who displays some pretty serious character flaws. If they would only give their significant other a glimpse of what love looked like…wouldn’t that make it all worth it? Isn’t that what Jesus would do?
My answer to this question is always YES. Absolutely! That is exactly what Jesus would do. He would come in and bring hope, and healing, and unconditional love to even the darkest of places and the deepest of wounds, that is exactly what He would do and it is exactly what He does….but guess what: you are not Jesus.
The problem with trying to apply the W.W.J.D. mentality to relationships is that rather than introduce people to Jesus, we can actually begin taking the place of Jesus in their lives. Rather than point them to him, we can become the “stand-in” Jesus and find that our significant other begins to depend on us in a way that is unhealthy and unsafe. We were never meant to take the place of Jesus in the life of our significant other because we are a lousy replacement for Almighty God. We can never offer what He can, because only a relationship with Jesus can bring life, and healing, and wholeness.
“Missionary dating” in any and every form, is risky because at the end of the day, relationships are made to be a two-way street. You give as much as you take. W.W.J.D. doesn’t work in dating because it causes one-sided relationships, where one person is constantly on the giving end, while the other is on the receiving end. It pushes you into the realm of codependent relationships that are based out of need, rather than interdependent relationships that are based purely out of love.
You can’t take the place of Jesus in the life of a potential significant other, but you can do them the favor of using your friendship as an avenue to point them in the direction of healing, love, and grace. Introduce them to someone of the same sex that will guide them, mentor them, and counsel them. Give them the chance to become healed and whole and allow God to begin working in their lives through their singleness- while standing alone. There is a time for relationship– but there is also a time for restoration and repair. The latter must always come first for a healthy dating relationship to form.
So do yourself a favor and stay away from the W.W.J.D. mentality when it comes to your dating relationships. Step aside, and let Jesus do his thing. From what I know of Him, he always gets the job done- and he does it really, really well.
*Note: I approach the above topics with a different perspective when they’re based in the context of a marriage relationship (that’s a topic for another day), because marriage and dating are two totally different things.*
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DEBRA FILETA is a Licensed Professional Counselor, national speaker, relationship expert, and author of Choosing Marriage and True Love Dates. She’s also the host of the hotline style Love + Relationships Podcast. Her popular relationship advice blog, TrueLoveDates.com, reaches millions of people with the message of healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook, Instagram, or Twi