Essentials and Potentials

When you reach the age that your parents have decided you can date or be courted, it is time to determine exactly what you are looking for in a mate.  Knowing the necessary qualities, as well as the variable ones, will help you when you must decide whether to enter a relationship with someone or not. 

I have divided these qualities into “Essentials” and “Potentials”.  Essentials are those character traits that a man must have in order to enter into any kind of committed relationship.  These are not give-or-take virtues — these must be part of who he is.  The Potentials are those traits that are altered by the man’s personality and your own — those things that are subjective, like a similar taste in music, dress, hobbies or sports.  These things are important as well, but they differ with each couple.  The Essentials are universal, while the Potentials are individual.

So what are some of the Essential qualities a man must have?  They are rather self-explanatory, so I won’t expound on them much.  First and foremost is spiritual maturity.  Just saying he is a Christian does not qualify him to be considered for a lifelong commitment, or even a temporary one.  Does he walk the walk, or just talk the talk?  Carefully evaluate his spiritual life, since this is what will determine who he is down the road. 

There are several other qualities this man must possess.  He must be honest to both you and your family, especially your father.  He must be kind, faithful, considerate and affectionate (to a point).  He must be ambitious and prudent with money, as well as tithing faithfully to his church or a Bible based ministry.  He must also be gentle and tender, willing to listen and willing to learn.  He must, perhaps second only to being spiritually mature, also be a leader at heart.  He cannot be a follower.  And lastly, you must respect him, and he must love you. 

What about Potential characteristics?  Well, with each girl and guy these will differ, and some will even change.  Perhaps you love to hike.  Most likely, your mate will like outdoors activities as well because you have a connection there — it is something you both enjoy.  For instance, I like to horseback ride.  Maybe my boyfriend someday would like to do that too.  Perhaps he will be willing to learn.  But maybe he had a bad experience as a child and is terrified of horses.  Do I disqualify him because he won’t ride a horse?  No.  This ‘quality’ is not essential, it is just something that would be nice if it was possible.

It is easy to get caught up on potential qualities once you have accepted the good character aspect.  “Yeah, I want my man to have all these great virtues — but he HAS to be 6’2″ and have brown hair and green eyes! I can’t marry anything else!”  Potential characteristics shouldn’t be put on a pedestal above the Essentials, because the latter is what lasts.

Lastly, this little bit of information is just to remind you girls to keep your standards high, but just as you have a high standard for a future mate, have a high standard for yourself.  Many women and men have a laundry list of things their mate must do to ‘earn’ them, when really, they aren’t even worthy to be ‘earned’!  Focus on developing your own character in Christ.  The day will come, the Prince will ride in — but don’t focus on it.  Let’s get to work.  There’s character to be built!

Got a Boyfriend Yet?

Every Christmas one side of my family used to gather together in the town hall of the little village where my grandma lives.  There was usually a huge turn out — up to 100 family members total.  And every Christmas, while I piled my foam plate with mashed potatoes and baked beans and my cousin’s squeaky violin was tweeting out “Silent Night” from the corner, my Aunt Charlotte would come out of nowhere and ask the question she had asked every Christmas since I was eleven:

“Got a boyfriend yet, Phleesha?”

While other people may not grab your elbow and ask it in the same nasal tone, you have probably already fielded this question plenty of times.  And you will continue to answer it for years to come, until you’re married, and society becomes bored with your faithfulness to monogamy. 

As one guy friend of mine said, “It seems to me people are so bored with their own romantic lives that they have to go meddling around in everyone else’s.”  It seems that that is the case.  Now, some of these are well-meaning relatives that just want to see their little babies grow up and move on and be happy — but often even they can’t understand why a girl would consciously choose not to spend her high school years dating.  “Hey, it’s fun! I did it, and I turned out okay, right?”

Maybe in the 50’s, when there was a current of morality still running through the culture, dating could be viewed with a little less caution.  Back then television had just appeared on the scene, and music wasn’t constantly blaring with sexual innuendos and overtones.  Children grew up innocent, girls learned to be homemakers, and boys learned to be men.  But even in that time, dating opened up room for temptation and consequently, failure.  With the invention of the car, young people could ‘take off’ anywhere they wanted to.  No one was watching. 

And no one was watching while the dating scene became more and more centered around physical interaction.  No one was watching when children — fourteen and fifteen years old — were committing adultery without even knowing what the word meant.  Namely, parents weren’t watching. Or perhaps they watched, with hands thrown in the air, and ‘let kids be kids’, rather than training them to be the adults they should be.  The current of morality became nothing but a trickle through the 60’s and 70’s, and in our present day, we are lucky to see but a drop of it on the wasteland that once was our country’s moral standard.

Choosing not to date in high school should not be done out of fear, which is what many people would like to say is our motivation.  The decision to wait is a decision not to avoid, but to attain. Our motive should not so much be to make known what we are against as to proclaim what we are for.  While a discussion of the problems with dating is necessary to understand why we need an alternative, focusing only on the negative turns off the world faster than anything.  What solution do you have?  Why should you wait instead of date?  What are the benefits?  What can you attain by waiting to be marriageable age before entering a relationship?

So we tell them.

“You can attain freedom to have friends, and to be one.  You can attain character as you wait, free of distraction.  You can attain a greater understanding of family and marriage.  You can attain appreciation for the sanctity of the marriage relationship.  You can attain inner peace knowing God will bring the right one, rather than grasping for him or her.  You can attain, and maintain, purity of body — out of the way of temptation.  And you can attain a purity of heart, unbroken, untarnished, and precious in the sight of God.”

What can a temporary relationship offer that outweighs those benefits?  The teen years should not be wasted with broken hearts and unkept promises.  They should be a time to grow, and enjoy life with friends without the unknowns and pressures of a ‘special’ relationship.  Am I saying that after high school dating is also unadvisable?  No.  I will be addressing that in later posts.  But high school is a time where a relationship has a 98% chance of ending.  Is that worth the time, energy, emotion and temptation?

I don’t think many people realize the implications of the teen dating scene.  Unsupervised interaction between girls and boys in this over-sexualized culture will inevitably lead to the problems we see all around us today.  Parents bewail the state of our generation, wondering what to do, and what went wrong.  We know what went wrong — and now we can offer an alternative; a way to do things right.  Many people won’t want to receive it because it seems too ‘extreme’.  Let me ask you:  in view of the consequences of unsupervised dating relationships, is there any alternative that wouldn’t be ‘extreme’? 

Waiting instead of dating in high school is a commitment.  Like I said before, it isn’t always easy or fun.  But your Lord knows that you are doing it to honor Him and your future mate, and He will bless your decision.  Saving your heart and body will be a decision you will never regret.  Make your high school years the best they can be.  Have good guy and girl friends, have fun, and enjoy life.  A temporary relationship is not necessary to fulfill that goal.  I can testify to that!  I am now out of high school, and no, I don’t have a boyfriend yet.

So one more Christmas for Aunt Charlotte to go unanswered.  But that’s alright by me.