I like to date. Sometimes it's friends I've known for a long time. Sometimes it's people I meet when I'm going about my business during the day. I've even been known to get acquainted with people over the Internet.
I enjoy meeting new people, but occasionally I've wondered how I can be sure that I'm not putting myself at risk by starting relationships with relative strangers from different walks of life.
The test came when I met someone particularly charming and attractive. He told me fascinating things about himself and treated me to some lovely evenings out. Frankly, I was very interested in getting closer to him. I didn't question what he said about himself or his actions toward me. (You're seeing the red flags already, I'll bet.)
What protected me from disaster? Morality.
You see, I've committed to some basic standards that I adhere to as best I can. I always tell the truth. And I won't have sex before marriage. It's not always easy or even fun. But I've discovered that going into any relationship with these two standards is a reliable way to determine if it's right to pursue.
And I'm finding more and more that meeting my standards is essential for bringing out the best in myself - and for discovering what's really important to the other person.
Left to our mere desires, we may resist honesty and abstinence as counter to short-term gratification. But there's an element in humanity that forbids total depravity. We possess conscience. We can think. We can reason. It's an inherent part of who we are. Of how we are inseparable from God.
The infinite Mind, God, created us in His image. We cannot truly have anything in consciousness that is unlike our creator. Speaking of man generically, both male and female, the Christian Science textbook says, "The spiritual man's consciousness and individuality are reflections of God. They are the emanations of Him who is Life, Truth, and Love. Immortal man is not and never was material, but always spiritual and eternal" ("Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures," by Mary Baker Eddy, pg. 336). Mind is also the one righteous Principle, and beautiful Soul. Upholding basic morality in our individual lives enables us to see more clearly our inherent ability to reflect God's nature. Christ Jesus taught, "Blessed are the pure in heart: for they shall see God" (Matt. 5:8).
In the relationship I mentioned, my protection from something potentially ugly came directly from my honesty and abstinence. The latter was actually the easier of the two. Even though the physical attraction was strong, I made my standards clear to the guy, and didn't let the physical aspect of our relationship take over. In previous years I might have jumped right in, but since then I've enjoyed it more when I let a relationship build from a kind of childlike purity.
But the honesty - that was harder. I discovered through a third party that it was possible not everything this guy had told me was true. I had to decide whether to ask him about this. It was difficult. I sure hoped he would be able to explain. But I knew that if he couldn't, we'd no longer be seeing each other.
So I took a deep breath and confronted him. His response was to cut off all communication immediately. And I was sure I'd done the right thing.
Afterward, I felt protected and cared for by God. I became even more convinced that those two moral standards - part of God's Ten Commandments to Moses - had blessed me. What made the biggest impression was my discovery that my protection hadn't depended on what the man was planning to do or not do in our relationship; it was my own conduct that had kept me free and clear. I saw that I have control over how I conduct myself. I don't need control over another person to remain free from victimization.
Although this relationship didn't pan out as I might have wished, others have deepened, through honestly and purity, into permanent friendships. And any long-term relationship - including marriage if it comes - will be that much stronger for it!
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(c) Copyright 1999. The Christian Science Publishing Society