By Bailey Amaral
During February, the month of love, your social media is probably filled with snapshots of roses, romantic dinners, chocolate and strange pointless teddy bears. If you find yourself without a Valentine or a date, February can also be a time of doubt and loneliness. Desperation can cause us and many of the people that we care about to look for love in all the wrong places. This leads to pain, heartache and broken relationships that can haunt us for the rest of our lives.
Today, we see overwhelming evidence of broken relationships all around us in our culture. Fifty percent of marriages today end in divorce, according to the latest statistics. Divorce leads to single parents and hurting kids. As a result of their skepticism, cautious young people are waiting until later and later to get married. If something happens and an unplanned pregnancy results before you’re ready, then abortion is readily available. In fact, more than 3,000 abortions occur every day on average in the United States, and more than 60 million legal abortions have occurred since 1973 in the USA alone.
In many cases, millennials have decided that marriage is not worth it, so when two people are in love, they just move in together. Cohabitation seems like the best of both worlds. You get to stay free and unattached and avoid a messy divorce if things don’t work out. But this is setting ourselves up to fail, by leaving the door open to a break-up instead of pledging to commit for better or for worse and having a long-term mindset prior to starting a relationship. This view says that love is only a feeling that fades, and relationships are all about me, myself and I.
Worst of all, the hook-up culture is the new key to fulfillment and fun. We’ve decided that old fashioned, life-long love is not worth it. Today, with the swipe of a finger you can find someone to sleep with, with new adventures every night. In this kind of arrangement, there is no relationship, no commitment, no trust, and no love. Without love, there is also no humanity, no meaning, and no purpose behind the relationship. At the end of the day, the hook-up culture means that two people are just using each other for their own gain.
But what do relationships have to do with leadership anyway? That is a fair question. At Windrose, we are dedicated to developing young leaders, and relationships can make or break a leader. They are also a natural part of life, so we shouldn’t simply avoid them. Instead, the challenge for a young leader is to choose wisely and guard your heart, because the stakes are high. Your soul, your future, and your purpose are at stake.
Bad relationships sabotage leaders. Toxic relationships can lead to conflict and drama. Unhealthy relationships consume everything and alienate you from friends and family. Worse, they can distract you from your God-given purpose. Unfortunately, that hasn’t stopped people from looking for real, satisfying love in all the wrong places. The 20th century theologian and writer C.S. Lewis makes an important observation:
“If we find ourselves with a desire that nothing in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that we were made for another world.”
Good relationships bring real meaning in our lives. Healthy relationships shape our character and enrich our lives. They teach us humility, service, sacrifice and unconditional love.
The key here is to have priorities, because there are all different kinds of relationships. We have to know which relationships matter most! First, focus on your relationship with God. Our top priority must always be our relationship with our Creator. That is the only relationship that has the potential to actually fulfill and satisfy your soul. You see, your life has value that comes from your Creator. Your value does not depend on your partner. Your value doesn’t come from your relationship. Relationships with other people are not ultimate. A person cannot fulfill your soul.
Next, form strong friendships with people of the same gender. You should look for people who will challenge you to be a better person. Friendships teach us so much about service, forgiveness, and fun. The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that brotherly love “phileo” was the highest form of love. In addition, if you want your spouse to become your best friend, you should probably practice being a solid, dependable friend first.
Finally, commit to building a life-long marriage! Marriage is much more than a wedding day. In fact, at most weddings, you promise to love one another in sickness and in health, meaning on the good days and the bad days, until death do you part. At its core, marriage was designed to be a beautiful gift from God that knits two people together to pursue a common mission and build a family. Think of it like a triangle, with God at the top and the husband and wife at the other two corners. All three are connected. As a couple grows closer to God, they also grow closer to each other.
In America today, we look for love in a date, a one night stand, or even an app today. But clearly it’s not working. Instead, we should look for love in a long-lasting, committed relationship. We have to choose not to simply use the people around us for our own pleasure and gain. In order to do that, we must put God first as a strong foundation. Second, we must form strong friendships. Third, we should date with purpose and marry forever.
Marriage is worth fighting for, and therefore, it’s worth preparing for. If you’re looking for love, why not start by looking for commitment? Why not start by looking in the mirror and becoming the person your mate would want to live life with? At the end of the day, love is far more than a feeling; it is a thousand small decisions each day that say: “I choose you.”
— dedicated to the love of my life, Spencer Amaral