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How can I have better discernment in dating?

How can you find authenticity in the opposite sex when so many seem so phony?


Question 1 (from a guy)

Why are so many girls stuck up?

I’ve been trying to find a girlfriend for a while at my church, but so many are either snobby or stuck up. Do you have any advice to “break the ice” so I could see if they’re really snobby, or possibly nice?

Question 2 (from a girl)

How can I tell the good men from the jerks? This may seem like a stupid question, but I’ve apparently missed the memo on discernment, at least as far as men go. I’ve turned to your advice and articles many times over the years and found them helpful, so I thought perhaps you could help me out now.

I’d really like to hear a man’s answer to this, if possible; a man is likely to know men’s hearts better than a woman does.


If I could only get you two together it could be the makings of a great Hollywood Holiday love story. I thought I’d take a swing at answering both of your questions with one answer since you both seem to share the same problem — finding authenticity in the opposite sex.

Before I get to my thoughts, Candice has offered quite a bit of practical advice for women seeking mates. Those are more practical strategies. Now let’s address some heart issues.

One of you made a tongue-in-cheek reference to “discernment.” Actually, that is very much what you need when you are getting to know someone. Discernment is a gift from God and He wants you to use it. Anyone can act Christian for a while, but discernment will help you sort out the pretenders from the real deal.

Here’s the thing, we’re all jerks and we’re all stuck up — even the best of us. What sets some apart, though, is that they know it, they hate it, they want to change, and they are changing. Those are the authentic ones. Authentic doesn’t mean being perfect. It means being honest enough to acknowledge all of the imperfections, and, at least for Christians, it means being humble enough to know we can’t deal with them on our own, that only Jesus offers any real hope for change, and that we must daily — moment by moment, really — lean on Him and His grace if we are to have any hope for being authentically Christ-like.

What you must beware of is embracing an anemic vision of what it means to be a Christian, and using that as your standard for potential boy/girl friends. Just because someone behaves “Christianly,” i.e., appears to be moral, attends church, maybe even prays when asked, does not mean he or she is actually intentionally pursuing Christ. I’ve known plenty of guys (i.e., me) who’ve “cleaned up their act” so they could get a date with the pretty Christian girl, and vice-versa.

So how do you use this gift of discernment? Well, first you must do a little soul searching and answer some pointed questions: Am I authentically pursuing Christ? Am I being the type of person that I’m looking for in someone else? Am I willing and honest enough to acknowledge my own imperfections and humble enough to know how desperately I daily need the grace of God to be the kind of person I’m looking for in someone else? As I recently wrote, having a clear understanding of our own depravity goes a long way toward understanding others.

A couple of things will happen as you authentically pursue a relationship with Christ. One, you will attract those of the opposite sex who are doing the same. If you do happen to attract a pretender, he or she won’t hang around for long. They will either change or leave in short order — they can’t keep pretending when faced with the real thing. Two, you will discover the ability to more quickly recognize the same authenticity in others. That’s the gift of discernment.

But here’s the important thing about discernment: You have the choice whether to respond to it. If a guy or girl pops up on your radar, and all seems OK on the outside, but a red — or even yellow — warning light eventually begins flashing on the dashboard of your heart, you better pay attention. If you ignore it, and you get a less-than-desirable outcome, don’t blame the opposite sex.



Copyright 2006 John Thomas. All rights reserved.

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About the Author

John Thomas

John Thomas has been a Boundless contributor since its beginning in 1998. He and his wife, Alfie, have three children and live in Arkansas, where he serves as executive director of Ozark Camp and Conference Center, a youth camp and retreat center.


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