Selfishness and the Single’s Heart

I met my youth pastor and his wife and darling daughter for lunch today in Colorado Springs.  I have to admit, I was very nervous at first.  Since he moved to Wyoming over three years ago we hadn’t seen or even talked to each other at all.  Add that to the fact that I am naturally very reserved and apprehensive when meeting someone just to “catch up”.  I alwasy obsess over what we should talk about, or if I’ll be a pleasant companion, or if there will be any awkward moments when we find ourselves sitting there in silence, wondering what to say next.  Fortunately, none of my fears were confirmed.

Jay just has a natural ability to draw people out of themselves, to converse with no fear of rejection, to be honest and have a genuine conversation – even if we haven’t been involved in each other’s lives for an extended period of time.  Case in point: within thirty minutes of meeting we were discussing the finer points of Calvinism and Armenianism!  All in a friendly, conversant attitude that was focused more on sharing our knowledge and love of the Scriptures rather than vying for the theological high ground.

Of course, one of the things  Jay was most curious about was my fairly new (at least from his perspective) relationship with my boyfriend, Daniel.  On the drive back to Manitou Springs, I was able to really glean some insight and wisdom from him on the importance of being picky in my choice of a mate.  After all, this is the person with whom I will be spending the next 70+ years!

Singleness is the only stage of life where selfishness is a virtue.  One should strive to find a spouse who fulfills as many requirements as possible, who is anything she’s ever hoped for in a life-partner, who will be able to have fun with her, to do the things that will give both her and him joy.  For example, she shouldn’t want him to snowboard just because he knows that she loves to snowboard, but rather he will snowboard because they share a love of the sport!  Otherwise, he would be left in a cast and her in tears.

There are three areas, he said, where it is of the utmost importance to make sure two people are as compatible as possible.  One is spiritually.  If the pair cannot agree on the essentials of Christian doctrine, there will definitely be some tension.  Even in the nonessentials, it is important to try and find someone who is fairly similar in beliefs, although iron sharpening iron is also a good thing.  The second area is emotionally.  Does the pair share favorite hobbies, interest, and passions?  Do they like to do the same things, and can they understand each other on an emotional level?  Thirdly is physically.  One should be able to look at her potential mate and be absolutely certain that he is the most beautiful thing she has ever seen and that she would never want to be with any other person for the rest of her life.  The danger of not satisfying these three areas is if she settles for a partner, with full knowledge that in one or more of these areas there are severe differences in constitution between the two of them, then they are surely guaranteed a difficult marriage.  A marriage that will be full of nasty compromise, bitter resentment, and unfulfilled longings.  I think we have all witnessed this in the marriages of friends and family members – the happiest marriages are those where the husband and wife have the most things in common.  At the end of our “relationship” conversation, Jay passed on a quote that he had heard from an old friend:

“It is better to be single and want to be married, than to be married and want to be single; because you can’t do anything about the second part.”


About becklegacy

Emergency Veterinarian by night; Crossfit athlete by day; Redeemed work-in-progress by the Grace of God.
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3 Responses to Selfishness and the Single’s Heart

  1. James says:

    AMEN. Wise counsel from a wise man.

  2. Whitney says:

    Funny, with the exception of being like-minded in the very essentials of Christian doctrine, if I had tried to go by these “guidelines” I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today. Many people will give you many pieces of advice about relationships in your lifetime. But even when advice comes from people in whom you have the utmost trust, you should always ask yourself whether the advice is biblical. Is it EVER biblical to be selfish, or is this just a piece of advice someone has found helpful in their own life? I often wonder if there are so many unhappy marriages because two people who have spent 20-30 years of their life being “selfish” then get married and try living together.

    Ask yourself, is it biblical to try to find someone who shares most of your beliefs in non-essentials, or is it merely someone’s helpful advice? Lots of people have helpful advice. Even I have helpful advice, which I will share via some short stories, if only because I seem to go against almost every piece of this “wise advice”. When I met my husband, he was a firm believer in Armenianism and I and ardent Calvinist. We had quite a few heated and interesting arguments on the subject. I remember thinking “How could I ever be in a meaningful relationship with this guy if we have so many differences of opinion?” Well, start a relationship we did, and I remember praying, if not so succinctly, that God make us like-minded and show us the truth. My point here is that people grow and change and God does perform miracles, such as turning an Armenianist into a Calvinist.

    Ask yourself again. Is it biblical to look for someone emotionally similar to yourself? I will offer another story. You could not find to more emotionally different people than my husband and I, and many people worried about how it would affect our relationship. A few examples, for there are many. When upset, my husband gets angry and passionate and heated and needs time to be alone to cool down and think before resolving things. Myself, I tend to withdraw and get cold and silent, but I need very much to resolve things right away and make everything better. My husband is a very trusting person and I am very skeptical. When we met, my husband was a very energetic, loud, and outgoing person. But I was very calm, shy, quiet, and reserved. However, after 2 years of marriage, I look back and sometimes laugh at how much like each other we have become in some ways. He has become a little more reserved and I a little more outgoing. We have had two very happy wonderful years of marriage and have learned how to live together peacefully despite our emotional difference. And can I just say that some of the most fun times of my life been because I’ve been in a relationship with someone so different from myself? Even our likes and dislikes were very different when we met, and in some areas still are. But some of the most fun and interesting experiences of my life have been trying things I never imagined I would be doing. I met someone who was dressed Goth, enjoyed: anime, DDR, video games, screamo and heavy metal music, public speaking, and singing in front of lots of people, disliked: seafood, school work, reading, and sports, he didn’t know one end of a horse from another, would never consider playing soccer, and didn’t care much for biology (just the other day he mentioned something about urine being made by the gallbladder!) And yet here we are today! No one forces the other to try something new, rather it is enjoyable to do new things with someone you love and it is exciting to constantly be around someone who is different! Remember it’s all about 2 individuals becoming one!

    Lastly, is it biblical to look for someone physically attractive? When I met my husband I did not find him physically attractive at all, and I remember saying “I could never date him, because he’s not the kind of guy I find attractive”. I don’t really even remember at what point I started considering him physically attractive, but I do remember one point very clearly. I contemplated having to say no to him about beginning a relationship, because I knew we were both two very different people and he certainly wasn’t what I had always thought of as my dream guy. However, the very idea of not having him around forever was unthinkable as was having to break his heart.

    And can I just say that God has performed quite a few more impossible miracles than taking two completely different people and giving them a wonderful marriage?

    Just my two cents.

    • Karen says:

      This is the response of a person who has been happily married for 25 years.

      As a Christian the first consideration of whether someone is a prospective spouse should always be whether they are spiritually compatible in the essentials of the Christian Faith. If they are not then pursuing that person in a dating relationship is dangerous and I believe against God’s perfect design for marriage. The Bible is silent on the subject of choosing a spouse based on emotional and physical aspects. Therefore the questions of “if it is biblical” to look for someone emotionally similar to yourself or physically attractive have no merit. God gives no instructions in these areas, so we can neither say it is biblical or not. We must be careful not to add to God’s word.

      If spiritual compatibility in the essentials of the faith is the only thing you consider, then it is logical to say that you should be able to marry anyone who is a Christian and be happy regardless of how much difference there is between you when it comes to emotions, interests, & physical appearance. In that case lets go back to arranged marriages where the father picks your spouse and be done with the dating process, because after all, the dating process is for you to have time to determine whether or not you are compatible. You will never find a person who is exactly like you but there is wisdom in looking for someone that you are more compatible with than anyone else. Some people thrive on confrontations and lively discussions. For others this would cause great emotional distress. It is a matter of peace and serenity in the household. Yes there will be differences (usually you find these out after you are married). But starting out a marriage with many known differences makes for a more difficult road ahead as you stated so well Tiffany.

      “The danger of not satisfying these three areas is if she settles for a partner, with full knowledge that in one or more of these areas there are severe differences in constitution between the two of them, then they are surely guaranteed a difficult marriage. A marriage that will be full of nasty compromise, bitter resentment, and unfulfilled longings.”

      Note that these are severe differences. Let me say again, you will never find someone who is exactly like you. And that is a good thing. God will use your spouse to bring you joy as well as change you, shape you, stretch you, and sometimes to humble you.

      I feel like the word Selfish is being understood in two different contexts here. Whitney, I think you are understanding it to mean that you are only concerned with yourself. Tiffany I think you are speaking of the freedom to pursue paths in your life without having to consider one particular person in your plans. This would be more accurately termed “self interest”. It is difficult to argue that anyone ever acts outside their own self interest. Of course we are all called to consider others above ourselves, so in that sense whether married or single we can’t be “selfish”. But when you are married you need to consider your spouse when you want to go somewhere, do something, eat out or eat at home, etc… But when you are single you are free to make plans without checking with someone else. So you can be “selfish” in that respect. Paul talks in 1 Cor. about the married man who is anxious about worldly things, how to please his wife, and that his interests are divided. There is definitely no room for any kind of selfishness regardless of the definition once you say “I Do”.

      Whether or not people have spent 20-30 years or just a few years living by themselves and being “selfish” has no bearing on a happy or unhappy marriage. Unhappy marriages have to do with our sinful nature and whether or not we as a couple strive to live according to God’s plan for marriage. Does the husband love his wife as Christ loved the Church? Is the wife submitting to her husband’s authority? People can be selfish in marriage as well as singleness.

      As far as the “appearance” matter, this doesn’t mean that they are the most beautiful person you have ever seen when you first start the relationship. That would definitely be superficial and no basis for a relationship since beauty is fading as we get older. But as your relationship develops closer to engagement and marriage, if you are still looking at others in a longing fashion and you can imagine yourself without this person and with someone else that you find more attractive then your commitment to this prospective spouse should be in question.

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