Confronting the Ghost in Christian Dating

In a world of impossible standards, meaningless hookups and a disregard for the time and feelings of other people, Christians aren’t doing much better with dating, especially when it comes to the phenomenon of “ghosting.”

Topics: Dating

Dating is hard. Single friends—can I get an amen? We live in a world where it feels downright impossible. I’m being dramatic, I know, but I have enough #datingfail stories to fill a small book. One day, I imagine I’ll look back at my dating experiences and see purpose and comedy abounding, but I’m going to be honest with you—I’m not there yet.

Right now, I feel discouraged. I see a culture of impossible standards, meaningless hookups and a disregard for the time and feelings of other people. And, in my experience, Christian brothers and sisters—we aren’t doing much (or any) better than the world around us. I get it—it’s hard. There are so many verbalized rules and inherent concerns that we’re left fumbling through our attempts at dating or too paralyzed by fear to even try.

There’s a lot we could talk about around how believers could approach dating in a better way, but lately, I’ve had one thing about this whole process on my mind: ghosting.

What even Is ghosting?

There are plenty of definitions out there, but this one, from Bustle, is one of my favorites:

The wholly unpleasant phenomenon when someone you are dating decides to simply fade away into the ether rather than have an upfront, honest, adult conversation about why he or she no longer wants to keep seeing you.

Not cool, right? When you see it written out like that, it’s hard to imagine someone would do it. But I’ve got bad news—people do this all the time. Worse? In the world of Christian dating, you’re not immune.

It has happened to me and it just might happen to you (or *gasp*... you might even do it to someone else!). You think a date went well, that surely you’ll go out again soon. Maybe the other person even followed up to say they had a great time. They keep liking your Instagram posts or continue sending you Snapchats, but they never follow up to make plans. Whether it’s a matter of days, weeks or months, eventually you’ll clue in—you’ve been ghosted.

Why Shouldn’t Christians Ghost?

As believers, we have some pretty straightforward guidelines for how we should treat one another. And though the Bible doesn’t provide us an explicit guide to dating, we can apply a lot of what we know and see about other types of relationships to how we pursue dating relationships. When we’re talking about ghosting, specifically, I think about Romans 12:10: “Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor.”

Or consider it from the angle of Luke 6, where Jesus tells us to love our enemies and do good to those who hate us. If we’re supposed to be kind to our enemies, shouldn’t we definitely extend this mindset to the people we, at some point and to some degree, were interested in dating?

Maybe we think by not being honest—by not telling someone we aren’t interested—we’re helping them. We’re sparing their feelings. We’re being “kind.” Instead, I’d argue, we’re doing the opposite. Whether or not you want to continue pursuing someone you’ve gone on a date (or a few dates) with, to leave them wondering and confused is ultimately hurtful and not “loving them with brotherly (or sisterly) affection” or “showing them honor.”

So, What Do We Do Instead?

We should look again at Romans 12 or another passage like Philippians 2:3, “...in humility, value others above yourself.” It’s uncomfortable to be this honest—to put yourself and the other person in an almost certain position of vulnerability. I’ve experienced both sides and I’ll be honest—neither is fun. But when we do this with kindness and humility, we tell the other person that although we aren’t interested in dating, we value them (their time, thoughts and feelings) as our brother or sister in Christ.

We don’t do this so that we can check some moral checkbox; we do this because we first received kindness and love like this from our Creator. When we’re humbly honest with one another, we become just a tiny bit more like Christ. So as we seek to look more like Him, we strive to love our brothers and sisters unconditionally and selflessly, the way He first loved us.

So be brave! Have that conversation you’d rather avoid—and in that conversation, be kind and gentle, but also be honest. It will be awkward, but your five minutes of discomfort might spare them days, weeks or months of anxiety. In this small opportunity to put others before ourselves, let’s outdo one another in honor.