Where are all the brave men? I will not go on a rant—and I firmly believe women can be just as brave—but I do notice a lot of Christian men who are afraid to pass the friend threshold. This is why so many women date non-Christians; because Christian guys rarely can just keep it casual and go on a date, give it a chance. What are your thoughts on this?
Daaaaaaaaaaaaaaaang! Erica bringin’ the wisdom with a punch-in-the-face question as sentence #1, a sly wink to societal norms in sentence #2, and a scathing (and true) assessment in sentence #3. Well done, and great question!
However, the answer you’re seeking isn’t really for you, it’s for him. Because I think you know the answer, don’t you? I know you do, because you alluded to it when you wrote, “Christian guys rarely can just keep it casual and go on a date, give it a chance.” That’s the symptom of a much larger problem—a problem that, unfortunately, will not be helped by me talking to a lady. So with that, I’m going to sign off and actually speak to the folks who can do something about this.
Dear every kind-hearted, well-meaning, a little bit quiet but not around your bros, comfortable in groups but not one-on-one, single and secretly dreaming of dating (and marriage and kids), kind, helpless, you thought you’d be in a relationship by now but what the heck is going on, I kissed dating goodbye but forgot about procreation and God’s design for relationships, awesome, good men,
We have a problem. And that problem’s name is Erica.
Sweet Erica is sitting next to you in church. She is brilliant, wise, articulate and principled. And you know you’ve noticed her because you notice every brilliant, wise, etc., woman in your circle. They think you don’t notice, but we know better, don’t we?
You noticed the moment she started her internship at your workplace that she was just wonderful, nice to chat with, attractive, marriage material, the bearer of your progeny, and definitely the one God has sent from on high to satisfy your deepest longing and …
STOP! For the love of Joshua Harris, just please stop.
We have some serious issues to work out, namely, the lack of courage displayed by really good men who are hiding their heads in the sand, even as their heart longs to connect. But why?
We’ve got yet another Christian culture problem. Somewhere in the formative and oh-so-tacky ’80s and ’90s, a message spread through Christian bookstores (R.I.P.), pulpits, youth groups, and all the nooks and crannies of God-fearing culture. This message was that casual dating is not good, women’s hearts must be guarded by men, and all romantic relationships better have marriage in mind—or the people in them are just using each other.
Yet while all these concepts have elements of wisdom embedded in them, they’ve been distorted just like so many good ideas before them (i.e. keeping the Sabbath). The truth is, we’re a people who, when left unchecked, go into Pharisee mode like it’s our job. And we’ve done this with Christian dating. Let’s walk through the three messages:
Message: Casual dating is not good.
Reality: Casual dating to get to know someone is good—and necessary—if you’re ever going to, you know, move past your mom. The fear is that casual dating means casual sex, casual deep intimacy or casual love—which are all by nature not casual. But if we assume that a good man and a good woman understand those boundaries, why would getting coffee and learning more about the other person not be healthy, enjoyable and within any reasonable scope of OK?
Message: Women’s hearts must be guarded.
Reality: Women can guard their own hearts, make their own decisions, and suffer the highs and lows of emotional intimacy just like the rest of us (if not better than the rest of us). The truth is, being a guardian of a heart is God’s job. Your job is to honor God, be respectful to her, and be brutally honest about when your feelings are casual and when they’re not.
And, let’s just be really honest, the reason “guarding her heart” became a thing is because men before you lied and we wanted a better term for lying. How about we just drop that and form a new message: Pursue God and quit lying to women to fulfill your desires for emotional and physical intimacy. Catchy!
Message: Romantic relationships should be walking toward marriage.
Reality: OK, maybe it’s a good idea to have a distant goal in mind that possibly, in the future, you could marry a person. And I intentionally said “a person,” not “this person” who you’re sitting across a table from, because knowing that you are moderately amenable to walking down that road means you’re probably in a good spot to date casually, honestly and respectfully.
But seriously, the amount of pressure that sizing up a newbie for marriage puts on a casual coffee date, not to mention the fact that you KNOW NOTHING ABOUT THE PERSON (sorry, I’m worked up and yelling) does two things: 1. It paralyzes an organic and healthy period of “getting to know someone” and 2. It forces a depth of commitment that is best reserved for months and years later. In short, it puts the cart before the horse.
Gents, in closing, here’s what I’m asking you to do: Please, please, please take a look within yourself and determine if any of these messages have become part of your DNA. And if they are, take from them what’s true, and discard that which has been distorted by a decade or more of emasculating dating advice.
The pressure’s off, guys. Women, or at least Erica, don’t seem to be asking you to be perfect or fully realized in your husbandness. They just want you to be present and slightly brave. Maybe women should ask men out? Maybe we’re a mentorless/fatherless generation who has lost a bit of backbone because we haven’t been taught to properly handle failure? Maybe—probably.
But those are other conversations for another day. Today’s conversation is about sweet Erica, and the Ericas that are sitting right next to you. They’re not looking for a husband right this second, and they’re sure as heck not looking for a savior. They’re looking for a kind conversation, a respectful follow-up, and a nice cup of ethically sourced, fair-trade coffee.
Take just one step. I assure you, Erica and others will start walking with you as soon as you do.
You’re a grown man,
Have a question? Good! Send an email to [email protected]. All identifying information will be kept anonymous.
Eddie Kaufholz is a writer, speaker and podcaster and serves as a director of church mobilization for International Justice Mission. He also hosts and produces "The New Activist" podcast. You can find on Twitter @EdwardorEddie.