We're Just Not That Into Him
You're dating who?
I've said it—and thought it much more. It's been said to me and thought about me. After all, living among a group of primarily 20-something, evangelical women, we all have our opinions about each other's relationships.
With genuine motivations, these opinions lead to beneficial discussions, clarity over troubled relationships, and insight into loving better the men we date. But sometimes motivations aren't so pure, and our own opinions come out disguised as guidance and direction. You're dating who?
Recently, my husband told me about a mutual friend of ours who had another dating relationship end. His girlfriend's friends convinced her to break it off. While these women may have known something I didn't, I know that many of us judge the men our friends date hastily. Maybe he's not the kind of guy we pictured her with. Maybe he's not the kind of guy we'd choose for ourselves to date. Whatever the reason, I've unnecessarily spoken up against a friend's boyfriend before, and I've seen it happen countless times.
In Emma, Jane Austen's meddling heroine believes her friend, Harriet, makes a grave mistake by enjoying the courtship of a poor farmer and convinces her friend to look elsewhere. Emma shows how we have the ability to sway our friend's opinions, and we are often tempted to use it. Even when, like Emma, we are wrong.
Especially in a church setting, we see speaking into our friends' lives as a way of "iron sharpening iron" (Prov. 27:17). As Christians living within community, we recognize the need to keep our community healthy. We want to use our influence to help our friends make wise decisions concerning their relationships. We know that with dating comes the future hope of marriage and the weighty consideration of entering a lifelong, covenantal relationship with another person. We want our brothers and sisters to find the right people, especially when the divorce rates are high, even among Christians.
However, in our haste to protect our friends, we may speak out of personal preference, offer up an opinion for the sake of having an opinion, rather than actually sharing necessary counsel. Christians can hide behind a guise of protecting our friends even when our motivations for persuasion aren't always so just. The advice we give—or choose not to give—should be consciously motivated by a principle that looks for the good of both in a relationship. (In other words, that boyfriend you're harping on is a person, too.)
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