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The 10 Commandment of Dating
By Ben Young Samuel Adams
Thomas NelsonCopyright © 2007 Ben Young
All right reserved.
Chapter OneCommandment 1
Thou Shalt Get a Life
It's 4:00 on a Friday afternoon, and you've got the whole weekend ahead of you. You grab something to eat and plop down in front of your computer to check your e-mail. As you scroll through the junk mail and the billionth ad for a GAP clearance sale, your cell phone suddenly rings-it's your boyfriend of two months. Anticipating plans for a fun night out, you eagerly answer in your sweetest voice, "Hello?"
"Um, hey." He doesn't sound nearly as excited to be talking to you.
You exchange small talk about the day, and then he proceeds to tell you that he's going out with some of his guy friends tonight and that he'll try to remember to call you tomorrow.
"What do you mean 'you'll try'?" you fire back. "Anyway, I thought we had plans for tonight!"
"Listen, I'm pretty busy these days, and ... well, I just don't know if I have time for a girlfriend. Maybe we should think about just being friends."
"Whatever ... I'm busy too. Have a nice time with your friends." You hang up on him, hoping you left him thinking that you couldn't care less what he does with his life or who he spends it with. But inside, your heart sinks into your stomach as you realize that this person, in whom you've invested so much time, energy, and emotion, has just put an end to something you hoped would last forever-well, at least longer than two months. You sit there, staring at your phone, thinking, He's gonna call back any second and want to talk it out, or maybe tell me he was just plain wrong. You keep staring at it as seconds tick by. Nothing. You feel hurt, rejected, mad, and all alone.
You spend most of the weekend on the couch, watching reruns of That '70s Show on TV. By Sunday night, for some strange reason, you don't feel any better. In fact, you are still stuck in the same emotional ditch you fell into Friday afternoon when you got the call. You replay the conversation over and over in your head and ask yourself, "What went wrong? Why did something that seemed so good not work out?"
Finally, a startling truth begins to emerge. You had told him you have a busy life too, but suddenly you realize that just isn't true. The truth is, you don't have a life. This person was your life. Your entire self-worth was wrapped up in someone else. You now see how you had put your life on hold-your school, family, interests, friends, and even your relationship with God. And now that it's over, you have nothing to sustain you-no one to call, nothing to do. Without your sweetheart, you have no life.
Okay, so maybe this illustration is a bit depressing, but believe us, we have witnessed far too many scenarios just like it. Thousands of people make bad relationship choices and end up with a lot of unnecessary pain because they ignore this first and foundational relationship commandment: Thou Shalt Get a Life!
Years ago the girl of my (Ben's) dreams dumped me twice within a six-week period. Although it felt like she had torn my heart right out of my rib cage, it turned out to be one of the most valuable experiences of my dating life. It was through that double-dumping that I learned that I needed a life. A real life! When you invest all your energy and self-esteem in getting a date or having a serious relationship, you have nothing else to give.
People with lives are not sitting around waiting to be swept off their feet. People with lives do not make "getting a boyfriend or girlfriend" their ultimate goal. People with lives do not have to be dating someone to feel good about themselves. People with lives are not always on the prowl, going places and hanging out with certain people just so they can meet a cute guy or a hot girl. Relationships with the opposite sex are important (why else would you be reading this book?), but they must be kept in perspective. When relationships with the opposite sex become too serious or become an obsession, you've got a problem.
Here's a reality check: if you don't have a life of your own (or get one real soon), you won't be happy, and you certainly won't be someone people will want to spend time with. Why? Because you will have no sense of self-worth, and you will end up sucking the life out of your friends. Inevitably, you will put extraordinary expectations on people to fulfill you, complete you, entertain you, and soothe you. No created thing-certainly no human-can perform up to those outlandish expectations. Only the Creator who made you can do that, and He made you to ... get a life!
Before you ever even look at the opposite sex again, please follow this first and greatest commandment to get a life. If you are wondering what a real life looks like or how to get one, read on. But first, let's see what can happen when someone decides to rebel and break this first law of relationships. We call it the un-life.
People who are living the un-life have one thing in common: they have put their lives on hold. They have become so consumed with finding someone to meet their needs and give them a sense of significance that real living has taken a backseat. Some unlifers just withdraw completely and give up. They have convinced themselves that life isn't worth pursuing with any sort of passion if they don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend. Whether they are obsessed with finding The One or are completely jaded to the thought because their hearts have been broken, these are the ones who have contracted the fatal disease of the un-life. Here are the most common symptoms of the un-life, known as the four Deadly Ds.
A desperate person has a sense of urgency about finding someone to go out with. He is starving for someone to fill the emotional hole in his soul. These desperate people go to places, including youth group functions, only to check out the girls or become friends with so-and-so because her brother is good-looking. Unfortunately their urge-to-merge strategy inevitably hits a dead end: they end up using people, having a miserable time, developing a bad reputation, and scaring off the person they hoped to attract in the first place. Take it from Confucius, the philosopher: "Desperation produces perspiration, and perspiration stinks on anybody."
A dependent person gains a sense of significance and security through others. She must be attached to someone in order to feel good about herself. We've seen countless people hang on to sick relationships, even emotionally and physically abusive relationships, for this reason.
Ashley, an all-star soccer player, was assertive and unstoppable on the field, but when it came to guys she was as limp as a wet noodle. Her boyfriend had broken up with her, and she seemed unable to make decisions for herself without him. To top it off, she confessed that he was a jerk toward her friends and often was controlling and critical toward her. Now he had changed his mind and wanted to woo her back with all sorts of promises about treating her better. Unbelievable as it may sound, Ashley was thinking about taking him back, and probably would have, had her parents and friends not cautioned her otherwise. We have tremendous compassion for people like Ashley, and we hold out much hope for them to avoid abusive relationships.
Dependent people have difficulty making decisions and taking responsibility for their own lives. When a dependent person enters a relationship, he usually sucks the lifeblood out of the other person like a tick on a dog. Of course, as humans we all depend on others to some degree for certain needs. This is normal and healthy. But a person infected with the un-life will be excessively dependent on the other person to meet most of his or her needs and provide a sense of identity.
3. Depression and Loneliness
Feelings of depression and loneliness are the number one complaint of people who buy into the notion that someone else can make them happy. This can take many forms, but generally it is a condition that affects the whole person: physically, emotionally, and spiritually. Most people living the un-life will experience such conditions as unhappiness, gloom, lack of energy, and withdrawal from others. It is also not uncommon to experience a significant drop in self-esteem.
Because Chad had failed two classes, his GPA dropped too low for him to play varsity basketball or go out for the swim team. His parents were on his case, his teachers had given up on him, and his friends ... well, they were all busy playing sports. He sought comfort in the arms of his cheerleader girlfriend, Christi, but she soon broke up with him because it was just too depressing to be around him. Needless to say, Chad was seriously bummed. With nothing else to do but study or hang out online, he chose the latter. Immersing himself more and more in the Internet, Chad cut himself off from normal conversation and turned his room into a cave. Rage and distorted views of reality ensued, so that when Chad made an occasional step back into the real world, he was a social black hole. Few people wanted to be around him. This only made him feel worse, and soon his life consisted mostly of surfing the Net, visiting chat rooms, and watching TV. He was caught in a vicious cycle: the more time he spent alone, the less he felt like being with people, and the more his grades suffered.
The danger in depression and loneliness is that it may begin a downward spiral. In other words, the more depressed you feel, the more likely you are to withdraw and exacerbate the situation. Eventually, this can lead to an even worse condition-clinical depression, which can involve symptoms such as loss of appetite and sleep, difficulty with concentration, problems with normal functioning, and feelings of hopelessness. This more severe form of depression calls for professional intervention such as counseling or therapy, and possibly medication.
The good news is that even in the downward spiral a person can be treated and begin a reverse spiral back to having a life. Thanks to his attentive parents who intervened, Chad went to a counselor and got some help. Eventually, he restored his grades and, more important, his relationships with friends and family. Having discarded the un-life, Chad now experiences the joy of living a life that brings happiness to those around him.
Descriptions like "isolated," "withdrawn," "lonely," and "plays X Box 24/7" describe someone who has disengaged himself from life. The desire to spend time with friends, get involved at school, or serve in the youth group and form other vital social relationships has vanished.
Britney was one of the most outgoing, popular people you could ever meet. However, after her parents' divorce and a rejection letter from the college she wanted, she began to withdraw, feeling like no one understood what she was going through ... except her boyfriend, Billy. It seemed to her that everything in her life was unstable, except for their relationship. In an effort to avoid another disappointment, she gave up on college altogether and poured her life into Billy. She believed that he was the only good thing in her life, so when he dumped her for her best friend, she was absolutely devastated. Her efforts to escape the pain in her life had totally backfired, and she felt completely hopeless. She began ignoring her friends and distancing herself from family members. In short, she completely isolated herself from everyone to avoid further rejection. I'm sure Britney did not deliberately set out to withdraw so completely, yet it can be easy for anyone to do once they start down this path.
Coping with the Un-Life: Media-Bation
In our high-tech society, one of the biggest dangers for un-lifers is the tendency to use certain forms of media to cope with the isolation. This is what we call media-bation. People who look to the media as their primary (or only) source for meeting emotional and relational needs definitely need to get a life. They rely upon the television, radio, video, or the Internet for fulfillment. Media-bators spend all their time in front of a screen, at Blockbuster, in a chat room, or at the local CD exchange. A vast subculture has arisen in which these folks can hide out. Recently, we were in a computer store purchasing software and were absolutely blown away by both the quantity and the variety of software and hardware gadgets, games, and joysticks-all the tools used by media-bators to escape life into the un-life of perpetual cyberdistraction.
Most of us have descended into the un-life at one time or another. The good news is that you don't need to call a doctor or go to a miracle crusade to be healed from the un-life. If the four Ds describe you, then the way to a passionate, fulfilling life is through the antidote of the four Gs: You must become grounded, grouped, giving, and growing.
How to Get a Life
1. Get Grounded
Getting grounded is the foundation for getting a life. It is all about having a solid identity and sense of self. This includes everything from recognizing one's worth and value to feeling confident and secure. Individuals with a solid identity can't be shaken or devastated just because they don't have a boyfriend or girlfriend. They know who they are and don't need another human to make them feel complete.
The dominant view in our society is that human worth, value, and happiness are obtained through tangible achievement and performance. In other words, if you have money, popularity, prestige, good looks, and intelligence, then you have worth. The message is, "The more you have, the greater your self-esteem." This formula can literally ruin your life.
Judging by this arbitrary standard, entertainment figures, such as Michael Jackson, should be the most centered, self-confident, grounded people on this planet. Michael has talent, money, power, and millions of fans who love and worship him. What a tragedy it has been to watch this "man-child" change his nose, lips, hair, and skin through the years-not to mention the dangerous allegations against him-in an attempt to feel better about himself. In one sense, he has it all, but on the other hand, the King of Pop has nothing. He doesn't know who he is. He is not grounded.
Most of us are not like Michael Jackson. However, we are guilty of going overboard on the externals-our hair, face, body, clothes, possessions, and image-to give us a sense of self-worth. It's like putting a small Band-Aid over a huge wound.
I (Sam) counseled a young lady recently who seemed to have it all: great looks, stylish clothes, tons of friends, and a brand-new car for her eighteenth birthday. Yet she was miserable and lonely. Why? She had focused on the externals to try to fix the internals. There is nothing wrong with working out, dressing well, and having people like you, but if you look only to those things to give you a sense of self-worth, you'll always be searching.
Self-worth is not something you go out and get. Self-worth is not something you buy, achieve, or obtain. It's something you already have. Getting grounded means embracing the fact that you are created in the image of God and have worth and value simply because you were born. This value is unchanging and complete. It's not something you can get more or less of depending on your achievements. Worth, based on being in the image of God, does not fluctuate; it does not change regardless of your personality, performance, or possessions because it's based on the immutable character of God.
Think of it this way: God Himself made you, and He made you in His image. That is to say, we are stamped with His image. We speak of money as coming in different denominations such as a dime, a quarter, a five-dollar bill, or a one-hundred-dollar bill. Each coin or bill has two things: an imprint of an image (like George Washington or Abraham Lincoln) and a specified value. For example, a quarter is stamped with the image of George Washington and is worth twenty-five cents. Much in the same way, you are denominated by God's name, you are stamped with His image, and thus your "coin" is of priceless value. Can you put a price on the value of God Almighty? No way, and since you are stamped with the image of the Priceless One, you also are priceless. That is self-worth. Accepting this is the key to being grounded.
Excerpted from The 10 Commandment of Dating by Ben Young Samuel Adams Copyright © 2007 by Ben Young. Excerpted by permission.
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