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Beyond What Feels Good, Back
to What Is Good
It was finally here—Anna's wedding day, the day she had dreamed about and planned for months. The small, picturesque church was crowded with friends and family. Sunlight poured through the stained-glass windows, and the gentle music of a stringed quartet filled the air. Anna walked down the aisle toward David. Joy surged within her. This was the moment for which she had waited so long. He gently took her hand, and they turned toward the altar.
But as the minister began to lead Anna and David through their vows, the unthinkable happened. A girl stood up in the middle of the congregation, walked quietly to the altar, and took David's other hand. Another girl approached and stood next to the first, followed by another. Soon, a chain of six girls stood by him as he repeated his vows to Anna.
Anna felt her lip beginning to quiver as tears welled up in her eyes. "Is this some kind of joke?" she whispered to David.
"I'm ... I'm sorry, Anna," he said, staring at the floor.
"Who are these girls, David? What is going on?" she gasped.
"They're girls from my past," he answered sadly "Anna, they don't mean anything to me now ... but I've given part of my heart to each of them."
"I thought your heart was mine," she said.
"It is, it is," he pleaded. "Everything that's left is yours."
A tear rolled down Anna's cheek.Then she woke up.
Anna told me about her dream in a letter. "When I awoke I felt so betrayed," she wrote. "But then I was struck with this sickening thought: How many men could line up next to me on my wedding day? How many times have I given my heart away in short-term relationships? Will I have anything left to give my husband?"
I often think of Anna's dream. The jarring image haunts me. There are girls from my past, too. What if they showed up on my wedding day? What could they say in the receiving line?
"Hello, Joshua. Those were some pretty lofty promises you made at the altar today. I hope you're better at keeping promises now than you were when I knew you."
"My, don't you look nice in that tuxedo. And what a beautiful bride. Does she know about me? Have you told her all the sweet things you used to whisper in my ear?"
There are relationships that I can only look back on with regret. I do my best to forget. I laugh them off as part of the game of love that everyone plays. I know God has forgiven me because I've asked Him to. I know the various girls have forgiven me because I've asked them to.
But I still feel the ache of having given away my heart to too many girls in my past.
That's Just the Way It Is
Growing up, I considered dating an essential part of the complete teenage experience. If I wasn't dating a girl, I had a crush on one.
This started in junior high when my peers and I treated dating as a game, a chance to play at love and experiment with relationships. Having a girlfriend meant little more than saying you were "going out." No big deal. My friends and I would go out with girls and break up with them at a frightening pace. The only worry was being dumped—you never wanted to get dumped, you wanted to do the dumping. One girl I knew had the fastest breakup routine ever: When she was ready to end a relationship, she'd say, "Skippy-bop, you just got dropped."
But soon, just saying you were going out with someone wasn't enough. Instead, we began experimenting with the physical side of relationships. Going out with someone came to mean you made out with that person, too. I remember standing by as a girl I liked called her boyfriend and broke up with him over the phone. As soon as she hung up, she kissed me. That meant we were an "official couple." Looking back, I can only shake my head at how immature we were. The physical intimacy of those junior high relationships had nothing to do with love or real affection. We just mimicked what we saw older kids do and what we watched in the movies. It seemed grown up, but in reality it was lust.
I'm thankful that junior high didn't last forever. In high school, I got serious about my walk with God and became actively involved in the church youth group. I put an I'm Worth Waiting For" sticker on my NIV Student Bible and promised to stay a virgin until I got married. Unfortunately, youth group did little to improve my immature notions about relationships. Even in church we played the dating game with passion—more passion, I regret to say, than we gave to worshiping or listening to sermons. During Sunday morning services we passed notes about who liked whom, who was going out with whom, and who had broken up with whom. Wednesday night youth group meetings served as our own opportunities to play "Love Connection," a game that resulted in broken hearts littering the foyer.
In my sophomore year, my involvement in the dating game took a more serious turn. That summer, I met Kelly. She was beautiful, blonde, and two inches taller than I. I didn't mind. Kelly was popular, and all the guys liked her. Since I was the only one in the youth group who had the nerve to talk to her, she wound up liking me. I asked her to be my girlfriend on the youth group's water ski retreat.
Kelly was my first serious girlfriend. Everyone in our youth group recognized us as a couple. We celebrated our "anniversary" every month. And Kelly knew me better than anyone else. After my folks were asleep, Kelly and I would spend hours on the phone, often late into the night, talking about everything and nothing in particular. We thought God had made us for each other. We talked about getting married someday. I promised her that I would love her forever.
But, like many high school relationships, our romance was premature—too much, too soon. We began to struggle with the physical side of our relationship. We knew we couldn't be as close physically as we were emotionally. As a result, we experienced ongoing tension, and it wore on us. Eventually, things turned sour.
"We have to break up," I said to her one night after a movie. We both knew this was coming.
"Is there any chance we can have something in the future?" she asked.
"No," I said, trying to add resolve to my voice. "No, it's over."
We broke up two years after we'd met. Not quite "forever," as I had promised.
I was seventeen years old when my relationship with Kelly ended. My dreams of romance had ended in compromise, bitterness, and regret. I walked away asking, "Is this how it has to be?" I felt discouraged, confused, and desperate for an alternative to the cycle of short-term relationships in which I found myself. "God," I cried, "I want your best for my life! Give me something better than this!"
God answered that plea, but not in the way I had expected. I thought He'd bring me the ideal girlfriend or totally remove my desire for romance. Instead, He revealed through His Word what it meant to submit my love life to His Will—something I'd never truly done. I wanted God's best but hadn't been willing to play by His rules.
Over the past four years, I've come to understand that God's lordship doesn't merely tinker with my approach to romance—it completely transforms it. God not only wants me to act differently, He wants me to think differently—to view love, purity, and singleness from His perspective, to have a new lifestyle and attitude.
The basis of this new attitude is what I call "smart love." Paul describes this kind of love in Philippians 1:9-10:
And this is my prayer: that your love may abound more and more in knowledge and depth of insight, so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ.
Smart love constantly grows and deepens in its practical knowledge and insight; it opens our eyes to see God's best for our lives, enabling us to be pure and blameless in His sight.
The Message paraphrases Philippians 1:9-10 this way: "Learn to love appropriately. You need to use your head and test your feelings so that your love is sincere and intelligent, not sentimental gush."
Have you ever been guilty of "sentimental gush," allowing your emotions to dictate the course of a dating relationship? Many people do this. Instead of acting on what they know is right, couples let their feelings carry them away.
I've engaged in my share of sentimental gush. While dating, I made many decisions based on superficiality and ignorance. I could so easily say "I love you" to a girl, feigning selfless devotion, but in truth, selfishness and insincerity motivated me. I was primarily interested in what I could get, such as the popularity a girlfriend could give me or the comfort and pleasure I could gain physically or emotionally from a relationship. I didn't practice smart love. I lived "dumb love"—choosing what felt good for me instead of what was good for others and what pleased God.
To truly love someone with smart love, we need to use our heads as well as our hearts. As Paul describes it, love abounds in knowledge and insight. To "know" something is to understand or grasp it clearly and with certainty. "Insight" is an instance of understanding the true nature of something, the ability to see the motivation behind thoughts and actions.
With this definition in mind, let me ask you a few questions. Does love motivate the guy who sleeps with his girlfriend when it will scar her emotionally and damage her relationship with God? Does sincerity motivate the girl who leads a guy along then breaks up with him when she finds someone better? No! Both people exemplify selfish motivation. They need to "get smart" and realize how their actions affect others.
In recent years, I've tried to let sincere and intelligent love guide me, and as I've done this, I've come to some pretty intense conclusions for my life. I've come to realize that I have no business asking for a girl's heart and affections if I'm not ready to back up my request with a lifelong commitment. Until I can do that, I'd only be using that woman to meet my short-term needs, not seeking to bless her for the long term. Would I enjoy having a girlfriend right now? You bet! But with what I've learned as I've sought God's will for my life, I know that a relationship right now wouldn't be best for me or for the one I'd date. Instead, by avoiding romance before God tells me I'm ready for it, I can better serve girls as a friend, and I can remain free to keep my focus on the Lord.
Knowing What Is Best
Waiting until I'm ready for commitment before pursuing romance is just one example of smart love in action. When our love grows in knowledge we can more readily "discern what is best" for our lives. Don't we all desperately need that discernment?
After all, when we engage in guy-girl relationships, we face some pretty hazy issues. Don't get me wrong—I believe in absolutes. But in dating, we don't only have to make wise choices between absolute wrong and absolute right. We also have to evaluate all parts of our dating relationships to make sure we don't go too far, allowing ourselves to get pulled into something we should avoid.
Here's an example. Let's say that someone at school asks you out. How do you seek guidance about what kind of person you can go out with? Try looking up "dating" in your Bible's concordance. You won't get far. Or maybe you've gone out on a few dates with someone, and you just kissed for the first time. It was exciting. You feel as if you're in love. But is it right?
How do we find answers to these questions? This is where "smart love" comes in. God wants us to seek guidance from scriptural truth, not feeling. Smart love looks beyond personal desires and the gratification of the moment. It looks at the big picture: serving others and glorifying God.
"What about me?" you might be asking. "What about my needs?" This is the awesome part: When we make God's glory and other people's needs our priority, we position ourselves to receive God's best in our lives as well. Let me explain.
In the past I made the starting point of my relationships what I wanted instead of what God wanted. I looked out for my needs and fit others into my agenda. Did I find fulfillment? No, I only found compromise and heartache. I not only hurt others, I hurt myself, and, most seriously, I sinned against God.
But when I reversed my attitude and made my main priority in relationships pleasing God and blessing others, I found true peace and joy. Smart love unlocks God's best for our lives. When I stopped viewing girls as potential girlfriends and started treating them as sisters in Christ, I discovered the richness of true friendship. When I stopped worrying about who I was going to marry and began to trust God's timing, I uncovered the incredible potential of serving God as a single. And when I stopped flirting with temptation in one-on-one dating relationships and started pursuing righteousness, I uncovered the peace and power that come from purity. I kissed dating goodbye because I found out that God has something better in store!
Pure and Blameless
The final benefit of seeking smart love is purity and blamelessness before God. This purity goes beyond sexual purity. While physical purity is very important, God also wants us to pursue purity and blamelessness in our motives, our minds, and our emotions.
Does this mean we'll never mess up? Of course not! We can only stand before God because of His grace and the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus. And yet this grace doesn't give us license to be lax in our pursuit of righteousness. Instead, it should urge us to desire purity and blamelessness even more.
Ben started dating Alyssa during his senior year in college. For quite some time, he had planned to marry the summer after he graduated. Since he and Alyssa were both deeply attracted to each other, he thought she was "the one."
In a letter, Ben told me how he had grown up with very high standards in his dating relationships. Alyssa was another story. While Ben had never so much as kissed a girl, kissing was practically a sport for her. Unfortunately, Alyssa's values won out. "When she looked at me with those big brown eyes like I was depriving her of something, I caved in," Ben wrote. Their relationship soon became almost entirely physical. They maintained their virginity but only in the technical sense of the word.
A few months later, Alyssa began to be tutored in chemistry by another Christian guy whom Ben had never met. "That was a mistake," Ben wrote angrily. "They were studying chemistry all right—body chemistry!" Alyssa broke up with Ben and the next day was hanging on the arm of her new boyfriend.
"I was crushed," Ben told me. "I had violated my own standards, and more important, God's standards, and it turned out that this wasn't the woman I was to marry." For several months Ben wrestled with guilt but finally laid it at the foot of the cross and moved on, determined not to make the same mistake twice. But what about Alyssa? Yes, God can forgive her, too. But I wonder if she ever realized she needs that forgiveness. When she passes Ben in the hall at school or sees him in the cafeteria, what goes through her mind? Does she realize she played a part in tearing down his purity? Does she feel pangs of guilt for breaking his heart? Does she even care?
I've shared with you how God has changed my perspective on dating. I've described how I've chosen to live my life and to interact with women until God shows me I'm ready for marriage. But why write a book about this perspective? What would make me think that anyone would want to hear what I have to say? Because I think God would like to challenge you, too.
I believe the time has come for Christians, male and female, to own up to the mess we've left behind in our selfish pursuit of short-term romance. Dating may seem an innocent game, but as I see it, we are sinning against each other. What excuse will we have when God asks us to account for our actions and attitudes in relationships? If God sees a sparrow fall (Matthew 10:29), do you think He could possibly overlook the broken hearts and scarred emotions we cause in relationships based on selfishness?
Everyone around us may be playing the dating game. But at the end of our lives, we won't answer to everyone. We'll answer to God. No one in my youth group knew how I compromised in my relationships. I was a leader and considered a good kid. But Christ says, "There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known" (Luke 12:2).
Our actions in relationships haven't escaped God's notice. But here's the good news: The God who sees all our sin is also ready to forgive all our sins if we repent and turn from them. He calls us to a new way of life. I know God has forgiven me for the sins I've committed against him and against the girlfriends I've had. I also know He wants me to spend the rest of my life living a lifestyle of smart love. The grace he has shown motivates me to make purity and blamelessness my passion.
I'm committed to practicing smart love, and I invite you along. Let's make purity and blamelessness our priority before our all-seeing, all-knowing God.
|Foreword by Rebecca St. James||9|
|Part One: I Kissed Dating Goodbye|
|1. Smart Love||17|
|Beyond What Feels Good, Back to What Is Good|
|2. The Seven Habits of Highly Defective Dating||29|
|Recognizing Dating's Negative Tendencies|
|3. A New Attitude||45|
|Five Attitude Changes to Help You Avoid Defective Dating|
|Part Two: The Heart of the Matter|
|4. Looking Up "Love" in God's Dictionary||55|
|Learning the True Definition of Love|
|5. The Right Thing at the Wrong Time Is the Wrong Thing||73|
|How to Keep Impatience from Robbing You of|
|the Gift of Singleness|
|6. The Direction of Purity||87|
|How to Get on the Road to Righteousness|
|7. A Cleansed Past: The Room||103|
|How Jesus Can Redeem Your Past|
|Part Three: Building A New Lifestyle|
|8. Starting with a Clean Slate||111|
|Four Important Steps for Getting on Track with God'sPlan|
|9. Just Friends in a Just-Do-It World||121|
|Keys for Keeping Your Relationships with the|
|Opposite Sex out of the "Romantic Zone"|
|10. Guard Your Heart||133|
|How to Fight the Pollutants of Lust,|
|Infatuation, and Self-Pity|
|11. "You Don't Date? What Are You,Nuts?"||149|
|What to Do When People Ask Why You|
|Don't Play the Dating Game|
|Part Four: Now What?|
|12. Redeeming the Time||163|
|Making the Most of Your Singleness|
|13. Ready for the Sack but Not for the Sacrifice||177|
|How to Have a Biblical and Realistic Vision of Marriage|
|14. What Matters at Fifty?||189|
|Character Qualities and Attitudes that|
|Matter Most in a Life Partner|
|15. Principled Romance||203|
|Principles that Can Guide You from Friendship to Matrimony|
|16. Someday I'll Have a Story to Tell||223|
|Writing a Love Story You'll Feel Proud to Tell|
|About the Author||235|
Posted February 6, 2012
First of all, Joshua Harris never says "you should not date" he says that the issue with the current system of dating is the heart of the matter.
Your example comparing "no one should date because some people date recklessly" to"no one should drive because some people drive recklessly" just doesn't apply. Those two statements are completely different because driving is a good and useful skill and Joshua Harris's book talks about the problem with dating. The current system of dating IS BAD.
You are obviously misreading Harris's message.
5 out of 6 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 31, 2012
Posted March 3, 2014
Posted December 28, 2012
Geared toward young adults Joshua Harris' words can resonate with singles of any age. It's not about truly turning off to dating but changing your mindset toward God. Great read!
1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 22, 2012
Posted December 26, 2013
I read just the sample just to see what the book was about cause my sister said it was a good book and ive decied to buy this book.-Thanks Joshua Harris cant wait to read the rest :)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 10, 2013
Posted January 11, 2013
Posted August 23, 2012
I love this book. I didnt read it on my nook so i wouldnt be able to say how well it worked on here but it is an awesome book!!! It gives a great mature alternative to dating. I highly reccomend this book. Joshua harris doesnt try to convert u into courting he just gives u the info, some hard times,the romance,the discipline, etc that comes with courtship. :-)Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 6, 2012
Posted July 11, 2004
I know from reading this book myself that the author is a Christian. But the thing is I'm a atheist. Although I do agree with alot of the things that author mentioned in this book. But sometime the fact that the author would use the term non-Chrisitan makes me angry. What does this 'non-Chrisitan' suppose to mean? I mean even in the book the author mentioned the kids in his youth group was doing the 'wrong things'. And the author make it sounded like that ONLY Christian with God's help can or able to achieve this kind of goal and the way of dating. And to the rest of us who are not Christian won't be able to do it. I would like to say the reason i agreed with most of the things that the author mentioned in the book is because i know them already. I know the fact that friendship makes a better relationship and also sometime the wrong kind of relationship will only suck your time and money dry. These are not such a hard fact that understand isn't it?? just observe the people around you and see. I would just like to say for this book. The author's idea is totally correct but these kind of messages should be given to all people not just CHRISTIANS.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted June 15, 2003
it could be just me but i am still really confused about this subject since i read this book. the book did not make much since to me in areas such as the difference between friends and boyfriends/ girlfriends. it all just sounds the same to me! i read this book in hopes of finding answers, but all i really got was a migraine. i suggest reading books that put a Christian view into dating.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 18, 2003
I loved this book. Josh Harris is an excelent writer, and he adds humor to his writings. Even though I don't date after reading his book, he doesn't just come out and say "dating's wrong!" He simply tells why he chose not to date, and why he doesn't think it's the wisest thing to do.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted January 13, 2003
I must say, I really did not care about God's take on dating. However, this book really made me rethink my view. The many secrets for success revealed in this book have kept me from seemingly right choices and encouraged me to raise my standarts. I am thankful for the happiness this insight has brought me and hope many of you will also embrace this book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted December 3, 2002
Growing up in a Christian school and having parents who didn't mind if I dated, I was exposed to both worlds quite often. I dated for a few years until I became interested in my pastor's son who could only court. Talk about annoying! How can you get to know someone when you are forever under the watchful eye of their parents? My dad is a deacon and I am a princess in front of him, but have my wild side too! I think it is deceiving to only know their "parent side." (No one can tell me they are the same in front of their parents as they are the rest of the world--we ALL know better). Anyway, I grew up and went to University and LOVE dating. I would never go back to courting anyone. I read this book (which was a gift from my pastor's wife after I broke up with her son due to her and her husband's strict rules) and am disappointed. The author wrote a rosey-colored view of courting. Dating, for me, is SO much more liberating and fun! Try both for yourself before you buy into his philosophy. And if you have never heard of courting, research it highly before diving into it. It isn't the miracle worker portrayed in the book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted July 22, 2002
After many emotion-destroying relationships, and watching many of my friends suffer tremendous heartbreak I decided to 'swear off all men'. Instead, a girl told me about this book. I read it and realized that, as a whole, there's nothing wrong with dating, but there IS something wrong with the way the world dates. As christians we are to conduct ourselves, in relationships, in such a way that others see us differently. Men treating the ladies as 'sisters with absolute purity' and women treating the men as brothers in Christ. Sadly, there is little to no difference between the world and christians in terms of dating. Joshua Harris talks about his experiences in dating, what he learned, and what he thinks you can apply to your life to help you not go through trivial relationships and experience horrific heartbreak. I would extremely recommend this book to anyone who is tired of 'conventional' dating and pointless emotional stress and pressure that comes with worldly dating. I've recommended this book to many of my friends and each one has made the committment to date according to the principles and strategies that are outlined in this book. This book has changed my viewpoint on all dating relationships.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted May 24, 2002
I read this book a few years ago when a guy I met said it 'changed his life'. So I took his advice and read it. I found it to be a good idea for a person who is not ready to court anyone. However, I think it's a little ridiculus to say that you're truly going to get to know a person inside and out without dating them. I know if I would have married the first person I thought god had sent to me, I would be in trouble. But I dated him for a while and found out he wasn't the one. That is why I believe it is necessary to date. Yes, it is wrong to have physical relationships with several people, yes you shouldn't just flit around from one person to another breaking hearts, but dating wisely is a wonderful thing to do. When I first read this book, I was going to follow it. But I found that it's nice to go enjoy a meal with a guy every now and then and try to get to know them. Now I am 'courting' someone special after going on a few dates to get to know him. I know that some will disagree with me, and that's fine, but please don't condemn any of us who choose to take the dating route. Also feel free to e-mail me if you want to talk about it!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted April 24, 2002
Great book with wonderful old-fashioned sensible ideas!! If more young kids thought this way, there'd be less divorce, pregnancies, suicides, etc. I will buy a copy of this when my daughter is old enough to read it and need it! I highly recommend this book!Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 4, 2002
The reason I picked up this book is the title. Many other books tend to give advice on how to make a dating or relationship work, but this one is going totally the opposite direction 'Kiss dating goodbye.' I am a Christian adult and currently thinking seriously about relationship. I am looking for a guidance that will lead me to a fulfilling relationship. I am glad I found Josh's book. Everything he wrote reflected most of issues I encountered in relationship, and even challenged my deepest perception about dating. To my surprise, many of my dating concepts were wrong. Josh writing really struck me; it made me think twice about everything. His perspective and faith in God are invaluable source of encouragement for all of us. Thanks to Joshua for sharing his perspective in this wonderfully written book.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.
Posted February 5, 2002
I just read the chapter displayed on the site. I realized that Joshua Harris and I have the same views on dating. Why waste your time and the time of others if you don't plan to make the commitment. Trust me,I have experienced the pain of being a victim and the guilt of being the one who dishes out the 'fake' love. Be wise have your focus on God the supplier of all your needs. Trust me I have been boyfriendless for a while now .Yes it's hard But I know God will reward me and give me the 'holy' man of my dreams.Was this review helpful? Yes NoThank you for your feedback. Report this reviewThank you, this review has been flagged.