(From a Man Who Has Been There)
This article originally appeared here in 2014. It is even more true today.
This is an open letter to young men out there. All types of young men: my twenty-one-year-old son, young men in my church, and more particularly—young men who would like to date my daughters.
With one daughter having graduated from college and another in college, I have observed your dateless world. With a cultural war on manhood, you have lost markers that give you confidence. Allow a former young man to give you some guidance.
You are growing up in a less formal world. But you are not the better for it. And you take this informality into your relationship with the opposite sex. You “hang out” together.
Indeed, informality can be a benefit to seeing each other as friends. But in a world of “friends” there is not a distance that can foster a romantic relationship. Relationships are blurry. We “like” things on Facebook and “friend” people we met just once.
All of this vague social contact can lead to too much information. It can also lead to confusing and blurry relationships.
So here is my unsolicited advice to single young men from a former young man.
Let’s start with your heart motivation. Since I am assuming that you are a follower of Jesus Christ, then like all things, you are to do this to bring glory of God. And to do that you should start with the right motivation. Specifically, you should: “Treat younger women as sisters with absolute purity.” (1Timothy 5:2).
First, treat my daughter as you would treat your sister—with absolute purity. David Powlison observes: “All women except one—your wife—are in the category of mother, grandmother, sister, daughter. Your girlfriend or fiancee is a ‘sister’ first of all and should be treated as such.”
Until you are married, she is my daughter and your sister. I have promised the Lord to present her pure to a young man on her wedding day (2 Corinthians 11:2). That might be you. Who knows?
Second, treat my daughter as you would treat your sister—with selfless love. You can walk into this dating labyrinth with a serving heart or a self-seeking heart. Are you coming to serve or be served? You know which comes from Christ.
But how does this play out in specific actions?
1. Spend some time in groups with guys and girls. Deliberately seek to socialize together or (radical thought!) serve together in groups. Your generation has nailed the socialize part. Maybe you could work on the serve part?
2. Have some modesty toward her. Keep your mouth shut. If you have feelings of affection or attraction, don’t reveal them. Have some self-control and modesty. Do not tell her you “like” her and put the ball in her court. See #3 to #5. Take some responsibility.
2a. Have some boundaries toward her. Do not text her like you text her buddies. Keep a little distance. Let the relationship grow in person.
3. Date with Jesus, not Cupid in mind. Ask a young lady out for coffee to get to know her, but also do this with other young ladies. And do this with some that seem less attractive to you. (Update – I have received some pushback that this makes you seem like you are playing the field. If so, then don’t do it.) Do this to serve them, not to lead them on. Do this with another guy friend to take the pressure off.
Your reputation will soar when word gets out that you and your friend care to treat younger women as sisters, made in the image of God, and valuable to Him. You are going out to serve, not to hunt.
4. Make a formal, in-person invitation. Since this is a “date,” ask the girl to go out with you. Call her if you have to, but take the highest form of communication. Don’t be a coward and text it. Don’t post it on Facebook. Ask cheerfully. Ask privately. Ask clearly.
And by the way, don’t just ask her to “hang out.” What’s that?
5. Be ready for rejection. You are a man. Grow up. It’s OK if you get, “No, thanks. I have to wash my hair that night.” You won’t die. It will put hair on your chest. Since you are doing this as a ministry and not because you have the two of you married in your mind, you can handle rejection. Believe me, it won’t be the first time you are rejected in your life.
6. Go somewhere. Do something. Just the two or the four of you. Take the initiative. Don’t ask, “What do you want to do?” Even if she doesn’t love what you decide to do, she will love the fact that you showed manful initiative and planning.
And you should pay. Even if she has more money. Even if she insists. It doesn’t have to be expensive. Part of your calling as a man is to provide. Provide what you have, not what you don’t have.
7. Minister to her by asking her questions about herself. Don’t talk about yourself. Go out with a prepared list of questions. Make her feel special by getting to know her. What made her the person she is now? Where does she hope to be in a few years?
How many times have my daughters come home and related that their date talked about himself the whole night?
8. Thank her for her time. Since your goal for the date was to serve, at the end thank her for spending time with you. Even if you do not choose to see her again, you have ministered to her. You want her to feel like she matters to Christ. You are expressing grace to her.
(And ladies, you need to control your emotions. Guys are often afraid of leading you on. You can and should guard your heart. One date does not a husband make!)
9. Keep your mouth shut around others. Don’t go back and give the play-by-play to your friends. Have some self-control. This isn’t junior high school, is it? Have some modesty.
10. If you want to pursue things further, then repeat 3-9 in person. Do it to express Christian love. Ask. Be ready for rejection. Do something. Thank her for the evening. Keep your mouth shut. Have self-control with your texting.
11. Move it along appropriately – neither too slowly nor too quickly. This is a dance. But don’t believe the popular media lie that it so difficult. If you are caring for her as a sister, you are on the right track.
12. Repeat 3-9, until she tells you to call her father. Or if she doesn’t, then take the initiative to call me anyway. That would be me. This is a good sign. That means this is getting serious. I want to talk to you. I was a young man once. I am looking forward to talking with you.
Men, you can do this! You can show manful care. Bring glory to Christ by being countercultural in your dateless, sex-saturated generation where men have the backbone of a jellyfish.