Friday, October 9, 2009

You Have Permission to Hurt Me, Not Harm Me

What do fast-food chain restaurants and many of today’s relationships have in common? They both take pride in offering a product with awesome expediency. Thankfully, although still being the fattest country in the world, the sobering reality that fast food may in fact make us “well-feed” while not “well-nourished” has awoke many from their artery-clogged comas! In other words, I’ll be the first to admit that while consuming a Big Mac and a large fry definitely does not hurt going done, it does in fact harm me in the long run (see Super Size Me for frightening statistics). On the other hand, while ordering a bag of carrots and a small salad may hurt my desire for something other than “horse food,” it is undeniable that such a superior decision will in fact be good for me in the long run!

As I mentioned above, while we have come to a sobering reality of the negative effects of fast food (i.e. obesity, diabetes, disease), we are still the fattest country in the world. Apparently, knowledge is not sufficient for change! In the end, the practical reality that I want food and want it now will often trump any rational discourse on what may be better in the long run. Thus, the element of change will only come when we actual desire the good over the convenient and this takes time and sacrifice. It will hurt in the immediacy but it will be incredibly good in the long run!

I say all this to present a poignant analogy to a current trend in dating relationships. Like the starving gentleman looking to satiate his desire for food as quickly and conveniently as possible, our culture seems to be starving for relationships which is propelling them to seek in the same matter as they would seek food: quickly and conveniently. Such a relationship moves from the exchange of numbers to the exchange of house keys, and the words “I love you” are exchanged before either knows the other’s middle name.

Unsurprisingly, the effects of “fast food dating” have been equally if not more damaging than the actual fast food industry. These effects manifest themselves in depression, increased rates of suicide, and even abuse. What has happened in our culture is that in the name of love we have erratically begun searching for relationships. We become “well-feed” but ill nourished which ultimately propagates the seemingly insatiable desire. In the end we find ourselves in a closed system of “quick fixes” which only leave us starving all the more!

The diagnosis of the symptoms is that we are made for more than just enjoyment! We are made to know and be known, to love and to be loved deeply and authentically with the purpose of giving ourselves wholly to another. The fast food relationship culture has impeded nearly all opportunities for one to really know, love and give oneself to the other. The necessity to quench one’s own desires becomes the dominating impulse and general pulse of the relationship. In other words, it remains inward focused rather than outward and so becomes ill nourished. Fortunately, Christ has come into the world to set us free from the selfish desires of our heart so that we may love as we were created to love. With Christ as our strength, I would like to share two ways of overcoming the damaging forces of fast food dating!

The beginning of a relationship is incredibly exhilarating as passions and emotions are become intoxicating. During this time, the man is typically dominated by the question “when” while the women is typically dominated by the question “why.” As for the man, he is asking himself, “When will I be able to kiss this woman?” As for the woman, she is asking herself, “Why should I kiss this man?” It is the man who, being initially motivated by the sexual urge, needs to have his question moved from a “when” to a “who.” Who is this woman I long to kiss? This transition from when to who is powerfully and effectively driven by a woman’s “no.” It will be the woman’s assertive and loving “no” that will become the fertile ground for a man to say yes to her as a person rather than an object of appropriation.

Finally, this “no” may appear mean and uncharitable but that is far from the truth. As stated above, we must always make the distinction between hurting and harming another. While we ought never to harm anyone, we are not under the same moral mandate when it comes to hurting another. It is not easy for a man to hear the word no, but it may good for him. Likewise, it is not easy for a woman to hear the word no but it may be good for her! Our yes’s mean nothing unless we have the ability to say no. Our no’s and yes’s define where each of us begin and where we end! This creates clear boundaries for the other so that one can love the other for who they actually are, not what one may desire to conform them to be!

Resting confidently in our redemption with Christ, may we strive to seek holy and healthy relationships by establishing healthy boundaries with our no’s and yes’s allowing us to love and be loved as we are, not what others would like us to be. May God be Praised!