undefined undefined undefined undefinedI am amused by how January suddenly makes it popular to think about improving your life or strengthening your character. This year, why not adopt a new resolution this year that could improve your dating life? Make character your primary focus when you choose whom to date. In other words, base your dating decisions on more than just a person’s looks or personality. Concentrate on discerning if that person offers integrity and sacrificial love, because someone who is unwilling to love you sacrificially is not worth considering romantically.
Sacrifice is the key element to building any intimate relationship, and a person’s character reveals his or her willingness to sacrifice. A person has character when he or she chooses to love you even if there is no immediate benefit. Unfortunately, people do not wear signs around their necks informing you that they possess honesty, loyalty, or compassion. Therefore, it is your job to determine the virtue of the person whom you date. You cannot assume or take someone else’s word on the matter. You must draw your own conclusions.
Yet, how do you examine someone’s character in a relationship? The secret lies in learning to watch how someone expresses integrity in various situations. For example, consider this list of 10 questions that can help you discern your date’s virtue:
- Does my date allow our relationship to progress naturally rather than rush it?
- Does my date dress in a manner that doesn’t tempt the opposite sex to lust?
- Does my date forgive people when they act rudely?
- Does my date make the effort to be on time?
- Does my date accept others rather than try to change people?
- Can my date say “no” to sex even if other people encourage the issue?
- Does my date exhibit generosity with their time and money to those in need?
- Does my date have same-sex friends and take time to be with them?
- Does my date attempt to keep close ties with their family members?
- Does my date follow a budget or is he or she wasteful with their money?
As you examine a person in light of these questions, don’t forget to ask yourself, “How do I act in these situations? Am I willing to love sacrificially?” Sometimes, that may include telling your date “no,” such as when you are tempted to go too far sexually, waste money, or spend all of your time together.
However, if we are honest with ourselves, we must confess that a problem exists when we try to love each other sacrificially — we cannot consistently do it. All of us possess some measure of loyalty, mercy, and self-control. Yet, as conflict, disappointment, and everyday life set in, our desire to care for another person tends to disappear. If we are called on to sacrifice, we usually expect something in return or wait until the sacrifice becomes convenient for us.
Sacrificial love, however, is not about convenience or getting something in return. God meant romantic relationships to represent how Christ gave Himself up for us (Ephesians 5:22?33). Yet, if people’s ability to sacrifice is limited, what hope do your relationships have for success?
Jesus Christ gives you hope by offering to live His sacrificial love through you (John 15:5; Galatians 2:20). He displayed the ultimate act of character by dying innocently upon a cross. Through His resurrection, Jesus can now live His integrity through you. By His power, you can extend sacrificial love to another person — even when you do not feel like it. You experience this ability when you surrender and yield your will to Him. No fancy prayers are necessary; simply invite Him by faith to live through you. By His grace, He will take over and impart His character through your life (Titus 2:11-12).
Too often, though, our human pride attempts to water down the definition of sacrifice to make it easier for us to attain. For instance, a man might define sacrificial love as paying big money to take his girlfriend to a sold-out concert. That’s a nice gesture, but Christ would define sacrifice as skipping the concert to let her talk out her frustrations after having a bad day at work. (It might also mean not turning on the TV while she is talking to him.) To a guy, those actions may sound unreasonable or impractical. When he yields to Christ, however, Jesus can give that man the desire to change his plans, sit patiently with his girlfriend, and listen to her problems — and not just to try and score some bonus points.
True love means laying down your wishes to profit another person. Your spiritual union with Christ makes that kind of behavior possible. You can try to love others in your own strength, but you will eventually burn out. Until you ask Jesus to live His sacrificial love through you, loving another person will always be a struggle. That’s why it’s important to learn to rely upon Christ to give you His character. Likewise, concentrate on discovering if the person you date depends upon Christ as his or her source of integrity.
As you discern someone’s character, take your time, and do not expect perfection. Everyone makes mistakes, slacks off, and acts selfishly on occasion. Be very careful, however, if a person’s integrity appears erratic. Honesty, humility, and forgiveness should be normal, not rare, traits. You want to date someone whose virtue is consistent. This does not mean that virtue is boring or predictable. On the contrary, dating someone with good character should free you to have a blast together. So, this year, improve your dating life by making the romantic resolution to concentrate on character!
Copyright © 2005 Rob Eagar, Used by Permission.
Rob Eagar is the author of “Dating with Pure Passion” and speaks full-time to over 10,000 singles and young adults each year. His message has been featured nationally on the CBS Early Show, CNN Radio, and The Los Angeles Times. Rob resides with his wife, Ashley, in Atlanta, GA, where they encourage single adults at North Point Community Church. For more details, visit www.RobEagar.com.