By Irven Himmel
During their teen years most boys and girls begin dating. A “date” is a social engagement between persons of the opposite sex. It is an association reflecting personal interest.
The age for one to begin dating depends on several variables. No doubt some youngsters have begun much too early, being totally unprepared to cope with certain problems and too immature to be aware of dangers. The maturity of the people involved must be taken into account. Parents need good judgment and common sense in evaluating a youngster’s readiness for dating. Some who are old enough to date may not be interested in getting acquainted with available dating partners.
Some parents prefer that a son or daughter “double” date until a greater degree of maturity is reached. This may offer advantages provided the other couple are the right kind of people. The wisdom and advice of parents can help a teenager to avoid pitfalls, especially in the early stages of dating.
Design, Direction and Dangers
Interest in dating denotes that boys and girls are growing up. Mental and social barriers begin to topple. Boys who have regarded girls as “yucky” suddenly find them interesting and attractive. Girls start doing things, some perhaps a bit silly, to catch the eye of the boy.
Dating can be a time of wholesome enjoyment. Even if the date is primarily for a school function, such as a program, a ball game, or a tournament, it can be a pleasant occasion. Dating enables friendships to be cultivated. Young people get to know each other. Insight is gained into temperaments and interests, values and outlooks. Dating is a means of social improvement.
Parents are wise to set a time when their son or daughter must be home. The curfew hour should be reasonable and adhered to unless there are extenuating circumstances. Parents have the right to expect their offspring to be at home at a certain hour. Young people have the right to expect parental guidance. If an emergency arises or there is an unexpected delay in getting home, a telephone call can put the minds of parents at ease. I recall an occasion when our older son was out one night, the curfew hour came, and he had not returned. An hour later his mother and I were becoming quite concerned. Always before he had called to explain if he might be running late. Eventually the phone rang and he explained that he was at the home of a girl whose father was a Baptist preacher, a lively religious discussion was going on, and he had not been able to break away to get to the phone. We felt that the circumstances merited leniency on our part, so he arrived home much, much later than the curfew hour. Mutual respect for and communication aid both parents and teenagers in setting and enforcing dating regulations.
Some kinds of dating definitely are dangerous. It is never smart to go out with someone who has a bad reputation. No matter how handsome the guy is, or how lovely the girl’s figure, dating someone with a bad reputation is an invitation to trouble. Blind dating is equally perilous. Agreeing to go out with someone about whom one knows nothing carries tremendous risk.
Too much dating too soon is not good. Some young people are so busy dating that they have no time to study, no real interest in their own families, and precious little concern about anything else. Youth must realize that a teenager’s life consisteth not in the abundance of the dates which one getteth!
Going steady is normal after a boy or girl have gotten serious about each other. It implies a degree of attachment that is more than casual. Dating turns into courtship when either the boy or girl focuses on attracting the attention of the other in a romantic manner. Consider the critical character of courtship: (1) The individual is personally responsible for conduct in situations beyond parental supervision. Not many generations ago courting nearly always was done when chaperons were present. The climate has changed. Courting couples are granted the liberty of privacy in today’s society. (2) Courtship calls for coping with strong emotions and drives with which one may have little or no experience in handling. (3) Courting brings one to the threshold of marriage – one of life’s most important relationships. Many marriages do not last because the courtship was far more emotional than rational, more physical than spiritual, more superficial than meaningful.
Dating and courting as the means of choosing one’s spouse is a social practice primarily of Western culture. Consequently, the topic of this article is not a Bible subject. Marriage is a Bible study. A study of preparation for marriage, along with the procedures and techniques that generally lead to marriage, deserves candid consideration in the light of Bible principles.
Principle of Purity
The conduct of a young person who is a Christian must be governed by basic Bible truths when dating. For example, the Bible says, “Keep thyself pure” (1 Tim. 5:22). Everyone, old and young alike, having the hope of living eternally with the Lord, must be pure (1 Jn. 3:3). Jesus said, “Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God” (Matt. 5:8). The heart and conduct must be pure when dating. Whatever pollutes the mind and corrupts the morals is wrong.
A courting couple naturally seeks to show affection one toward the other. This brings up the matter that has been identified by various names – sparking, spooning, petting, necking, etc. Physical displays of affections such as holding hands, caressing, kissing, hugging in close embrace, and stroking one another’s bodies do more than show affection; they excite and stimulate sexual feelings that can get out of control. Purity of heart gives way to sensuality. Sexual passion is one of the strongest desires. The next step is sexual gratification, and for people not married to each other that is fornication.
Pre-marital sex is common in today’s society in America. It is openly encouraged and endorsed by some as normal, natural, and psychologically beneficial. Birth control pills and devices are freely dispensed. Inhibitions are ridiculed as superstitious taboos belonging to the unenlightened past.
Young people who believe in God and respect his word cannot throw off self-restraint. Sexual relations are reserved for marriage in God’s plan. “Marriage is honorable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge” (Heb. 13:4). Fornication is “illicit sexual intercourse.” The dictionary defines it as “human sexual intercourse other than between a man and his wife.” Fornicators will not inherit the kingdom of God (1 Cor 6:9, 10). The Bible says, “Flee fornication” (1 Cor. 6:18).
Some young people take the attitude that “anything goes” on a date. Their main object is to “turn each other on.” Once turned on, the next step is to “go all the way.” They are totally lacking in self-discipline and in morality. There is absolutely no purity in this kind of relationship. To them dating is an occasion for lust, lewdness, lasciviousness, and fornication.
Choices to Consider
God-fearing young people must make some important choices in dating. (1) Be selective about the character of the person who might be dated, There should be appreciation of moral and spiritual values. Do not date someone that you know is going to pressure you to destroy your values. (2) Be careful about what is done while on a date. Plan places to go and things to do so that an enjoyable time can be had without an embarrassing or compromising situation. (3) Determine the boundaries for romantic involvement. Don’t get caught off guard. Stick by your standards. (4) Take plenty of time in deciding how you really feel about your companion. And don’t forget to pray for God’s help in choosing your mate for life.
The teen years can be happy, wonderful growing up years. Dating can and should be an exciting and pleasant part of preparing for later life. Keep a cool head. Treat your escort with utmost respect. Above all, do not let drives and emotions get out of control. A date could become an awful tragedy, a nightmare that will haunt the memory for the remainder of life.
Guardian of Truth XXXIII: 12, pp. 371-372
June 15, 1989