Friday, June 29, 2012

Debunking the Relationship Myths

And the grand finale for the relationship series . . . now that I've hopefully made you aware of some of the biggest myths about relationships, and why they're harmful, what are some practical things we can do to start debunking the myths and giving people a more realistic view of dating, relationships, and marriage? Here are some ideas I have:
  • Support people of all relationship statuses--single, married, dating, divorced, widowed, etc.--within the church environment. Sadly, sometimes older single people become a sort of "orphan generation" in our churches, having few options to be a part of a group within the church that meets the unique needs they face on their spiritual journey. We should support programs and groups which respond to the needs of everyone in our churches, even those adults who don't fit into the traditional category of "married with families."
  • Respect and value people for the talents and qualities they bring to the table on their own, not just in a current or potential relationship. Respect them for what they can offer through their careers, their unique skills, their spiritual gifts, their personality traits, and their goals. Refuse to send the message that someone must be in a relationship before their full potential can be realized. This is especially important for women--in a culture where women are not yet treated as equals with men in every arena, it is very important that we not subconsciously send the message to young women that their real value comes only through who they can be in a relationship with a guy (I strongly support equal rights, opportunities, and respect for women--if that makes me a feminist, so be it.)
  • Believe that all people--you included--have tremendous worth in Jesus Christ whether you are single, married, dating, engaged, divorced, widowed, etc.
  • Model Christlikeness, compassion, and love in any relationships you have.
  • Encourage teaching and writing--both in the church and beyond--not just on issues that are unique to married couples, but those that are unique to singles as well. Also, when it comes to books and devotionals written for singles, I think we need to encourage more people who actually are single to speak up about these topics--whether through writing actual books, blogging, or otherwise. Have you ever noticed that about 9 times out of 10, any Christian book on how to navigate and enjoy life as a single person is written by one or both members of a couple? Of course married people can still have good insights to share with single people (after all, we're assuming they were single at one time!), but far too often, their writings take on the tone of, "If you would just do X, then God would bless you and you would be able to get married (like I did)." I'm afraid this approach doesn't make a lot of sense to single people. They need people who are actually in the same boat to speak about what the experience is really like for the many who are still waiting for a spouse, even when they're doing all the right things.
  • Encourage young people to pursue some of their own goals--travel, advanced study, mission work, etc.--before jumping into a relationship if they haven't really considered some of the freedom and flexibility thay may have to give up to do so.
  • Respect the fact that not everyone has the same goals when it comes to relationships, and that can be ok. Not everyone wants to get married in their twenties. Not everyone wants to get married at all. Not everyone wants to have children. But many of these people who are in "nontraditional" situations live lives of tremendous service to the kingdom of God. In short, let's not pressure people to adopt relationship-oriented goals that they may not have. We're not all cut from the same cloth, and that's ok.
  • Recognize that marriage is beautiful and a gift of God, but that singleness can be the same.
  • Believe that God can redeem broken relationships.

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