Stories inspire our life—but so often we listen to the wrong stories purely because of their abundance.
This is troublesome, especially when it comes to our expectations on dating, love and beauty. Because messages on love are circulating all around us in the media, it’s possible to let these messages seep into our love life and corrupt it.
This is how it happened for my marriage. When my wife and I entered into marriage, we were quickly faced with how loud the messages of culture were about love. It was a messy process learning the truth of how our marriage should be, but it helped to imagine the standards of Jesus—how living like Him would lead to a healthy marriage.
What we learned in this time is you have to call out what pop culture is saying about love. You have to imagine what dating, love and beauty would look like without pop culture’s influence. Then, work for that ideal. Bring Heaven to Earth.
Consider these five ways dating, love and beauty would look different if only we didn’t have pop culture’s influence tainting them:
1. Beauty without the filter
Instagram makes everyone look beautiful. All you have to do is add the appropriate filter. But what happens when you can’t place a filter on life? Then you would be face to face with natural beauty—the way God created beauty to be.
Too many people today feel like beauty doesn’t happen without the filter. Too many people are trying to tweak, adjust and “correct” how they appear, as if beauty is only on the skin.
Truth is, we do our best to change how we look on the outside, but how we look on the outside is not what people spend their time with the most. People engage our personalities and our character. It’s like this for a reason. God designed beauty to emanate from the place people engage with the most—and that doesn’t happen on the parts we can apply a filter to.
I might sound old-fashioned for saying this, but the ideal beauty is skin-deep.
2. Love as a test of character
Media twists love to look like a flurry of overwhelming passion. People instantly fall in love, skip a couple bases, let their emotions fly, and have the best or worst two weeks of their life in a relationship. This is how relationships are pictured on-screen.
What we don’t see is what happens on a day-to-day level, after the happily ever after and whirlwind of adolescent love. What happens is that people commit to each other.
This is the work of character, not so much heated passion.
What I’m saying is, media hands us the lie that once love lessens from the passionate intensity of its beginning stage, then it begins to die. But the truth is, commitment isn’t always exciting, and that’s OK.
In fact, if you were to look at love on a spectrum, you would find that most of its days are not spent in a phase of intense passion. Love is about committing to the other, which is why the love that lasts is the one that exercises character.
An always passionate and intense love is a lie media invents for the applause. Dedicated love is the stuff of real life.
3. Dating where men and women both want the same thing
In pop culture, men and women fall into stereotypes. Relationships are typically pictured as the man being sex-driven and the woman wanting a real emotional connection. But these stereotypes don’t work so well in real life.
The reality is, men can want an emotional connection too, and women aren’t always disinterested in sex.
The more we try to buy into these stereotypes, the more we think something is wrong when we want something other than what media’s script on love tells us. Men and women can want the same thing, and they can want different things in a relationship. But stop guessing what the man or woman wants from a relationship by looking to pop culture. It’ll often tell you a stereotype that can corrupt a healthy relationship.
4. Beauty without objectification
Beauty simply doesn’t happen when you turn a living person into an object to be briefly gawked at. This type of beauty is fleeting because you’ll quickly snap back into being a real human being with emotions, and people will still treat you like an object. The more you respect yourself to uphold the dignity of life and beauty, the more people will respect you. But the more you objectify yourself to be admired for only a moment, the more people will start treating you like less than a human being.
We are more than sexual beings. We deserve to be acknowledged for more than our sexual features because we are humans, not objects.
5. Marriage without the scandal
Not all marriages are ending because of an affair, no matter what you hear. Not all marriages end abruptly with one person falling out of love with their spouse. It is possible to stay committed to one person for a lifetime.
So don’t let the fear of a marriage possibly ending stop you from moving forward with marriage. Find the person of similar character, and reap the joy and comfort of being yourself in that relationship.
When it comes to your love life, you have to choose some story to inspire your life—whether it be the story of your parents or your friends. For me, I found that the story of how God created relationships to be was more than enough to inspire my love story. Whether you believe that story or not is your choice. Just don’t fall for the cheap picture of what pop culture says about love. It’s easy to blindly buy into its picture because of its presence everywhere in the media. But you can choose which story has more weight in your life. Let it be the story that adds health to your love life.