A couple drinking coffee

On not hurting anyone while dating

I used to try my hardest not to hurt anyone in dating. I’d be very careful not to be too friendly to guys I wasn’t interested in. I’d be wary of being too friendly to guys I was interested in, because what if I got to know them better and then found out I didn’t actually like them that much? Wasn’t that leading them on? Needless to say, this is not a productive dating strategy. But more than that, it’s probably not meant to be how we’re supposed to relate to other human beings at all.

Eventually, I came up against this reality-that in romantic relationships, you are choosing one person out of all others that exist on the planet. You are being exclusive, and rejecting others is an inescapable part of the process. When I tried to gently let down a guy, I knew all too well the searing disappointment he could be feeling. When I had a crush on one guy I felt bad about my struggle to give another guy a chance. I was frustrated at my inability to navigate relationships without wounding other people. I felt like I was not living up to the ideals I believed in.

Well, doesn’t this make the whole idea of getting together seem wrong? Shouldn’t we treat everyone equally, and love everyone equally? Love, supposedly the pinnacle of humanity’s ability to feel as selflessly as God feels, seems inescapably tied to causing others pain. Pursuing love seemed to mean favouring one person over another.

Well, God does tell us to love everyone. But there is room for close relationships inside of our willingness to love everyone-we only need to point to Jesus’ close relationship to John, or how David was ‘a man after God’s own heart.’ Perhaps loving everyone is not meant to mean loving each person with the same intensity. To pull back from love is, in fact, the exact opposite of what we do know about love-that we are commanded to have more of it, not less.

In addition, our relationships are not meant to be ruled by fear. We are not meant to approach every person we meet in fear of hurting them in some way, because the result of that all too often ends up in doing nothing for them. Sure, the guy you introduce yourself to after the church service may interpret your friendliness as interest, but is it truly better if no one greets him at all?

Yet the fact relationships involve so much hurt still bothers me. And what causes me more agony at times in relationships is not that I myself might get hurt by others. This is miserable, but it doesn’t worry me the most. It’s the pain I inflict on others, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Unintentionally may, in fact, be worse, because I cannot foresee it in time to prevent it ever happening. It gets in the way of me improving myself. It prevents me from getting ‘better.’

And, fundamentally, it interferes with my own opinion of myself. Because in my head, I am a nice person. I don’t make others’ lives miserable. I do good to all. I never insult, minimize, or bruise other people. Except, when faced with reality, I can’t deny the fact that I do. I do all these things.

But on the other hand, accepting that I am capable of heinous actions-that I can be a wrecking ball careening through the lives of those around me – is absolutely necessary. It impresses on me how lost I am without God’s hand reaching out to me in my depths. Without this clear vision of myself as I actually am, I might be tempted to think I can do things on my own. I can be good enough, and save myself.

So I accept what I am capable of. And it does not crush me with guilt. Rather, I have the freedom to act.

I want to have certainty, and too often I only want to act if I know it will be a perfect action. I want a guarantee that things will work out, and this points to a deep-seated need for control. But in life, you have to take that next step. It’s fine to turn back because of a certainty that things won’t work, but fear of possibilities on its own is not enough of a reason not to try.

And so I try to be more open and friendly to all. I try not to worry too much about being misinterpreted. And I fail-I fail all the time. I let my worry of what might happen get in the way of allowing God to work through me. I cling to control. But I hope I’m learning.

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