Editor's Note: The following is a report on the practical applications of Brienne Murk book, Eyes Wide Open: Avoiding the Heartbreak of Emotional Promiscuity, (Regal Books, 2007).
Abstaining from sex before marriage is a wise decision, but it’s not enough to keep your heart from being broken. If you give your emotions away at the wrong time or to the wrong person – even without giving your body away – you’ll still end up with deep heart wounds that God never intended you to suffer. But if you guard your heart and pursue purity in every part of your life, you’ll experience the blessing of God’s best for your relationships.
Here’s how you can avoid the heartbreak of emotional promiscuity and pursue true purity:
Recognize the power of emotions. Understand that when you awaken emotions in a romantic relationship, you create a strong bond that hurts badly when the relationship ends and the bond is broken. Know that your deepest emotions are much too valuable to share with someone who is not yet committed to you, as a fiancé, fiancée, or spouse would be. Realize that there is no such thing as “casual dating” because any romantic interaction stirs up powerful emotions.
Realize that emotions can’t be trusted. Know that emotions aren’t stable enough to build a relationship on; they constantly change with your circumstances, and they can deceive you. Understand that just because a relationship feels good doesn’t mean it’s right for you. Recognize that when you’re entrenched in your emotions, you often can’t think clearly and evaluate your motives and the motives of the person you’re dating. Don’t let yourself become so distracted by your emotions that you can’t think through your relationships or discern God’s guidance concerning them.
Know that there is a lot more to relationships than romance. Adopt the Bible’s standard for relationships (which is higher than our culture’s standard) by striving to love others with genuine affection and taking delight in honoring them. Remember that all believers are your brothers and sisters in Christ. Ask God to purify your motives when interacting with members of the opposite gender, and to treat them with respect. Instead of trying to find a boyfriend or girlfriend, try to love everyone with brotherly or sisterly love.
Pursue purity in every part of your life. Realize that true purity isn’t connected just to your sexuality, but to every part of your life. Ask God to show you which parts of your life are impure. Then confess those areas to God and repent, turning away from the sin and toward the attitudes and behaviors God wants you to have in those areas. Rather than trying to push the limits of purity by seeing how close you can get to the line of sin, decide to see how close you can get to God. Honestly consider whether or not your lifestyle shows that God is your top priority. Know that if you spend more time thinking about your sexual desires and emotional fantasies, you need to make some changes. Think about the movies and television shows you watch, the music you listen to, and the Web sites you visit, and ask yourself whether or not your media habits reveal a pure lifestyle. Remember that soap operas, romance novels, and Internet role playing games can be just as destructive to your emotions as pornography. Make it a habit to read, study, and meditate on the Bible often, so you can absorb its truths and allow them to transform you. Know that if you embrace biblical truth, it will strengthen and protect your heart. Pray for the strength you need to pursue purity in every part of your life; hold nothing back from God’s loving and wise control. Ask God to give you peace so you won’t be anxious about finding a future spouse. Trust Him to do what’s best for you, at the right time.
Live by faith instead of by feelings. Understand that a variety of circumstances can trigger a variety of feelings at any given time, but those feelings will be inconsistent and not reliably reflect reality. Decide to live according to what is true – biblical principles – instead of just according to how you happen to feel.
Manage your emotions so they don’t manage you. Expect your emotions to take you on lots of wild rollercoaster rides if you don’t keep them in check. Realize that whoever controls your emotions controls you. Lock your emotions away from people who aren’t worthy of receiving them, so they won’t be mishandled and cause you pain. Keep your emotions secure until the right person – the person you’re meant to marry – comes along. Then you can unleash them with joy in a passionate, committed relationship, as God intends.
Protect the whole you. Recognize that your spiritual, physical, and emotional components are connected in many ways, so that if your emotions are affected, your spirit and body are, too. Guard yourself in all three areas. Love God with all your heart, soul, and mind. Get enough sleep, rest, and exercise, and eat a nutritious diet. Strive to keep all the parts of your health in the right balance.
Instead of just waiting to meet the right person, become the right person for your future spouse. Don’t waste your time wondering when the romantic partner of your dreams will enter your life. Decide to living out your faith fully while you wait, trusting in God’s promises, and embracing opportunities to grow into the type of person God wants you to become before He brings your future spouse to you. Understand that a healthy marriage doesn’t involve two incomplete people hoping to complete each other; it involves two whole people who look to God to complete them.
Set boundaries. Know that the only way to avoid emotional heartbreak to set boundaries to guard your heart – before you’re in a situation where you need to put boundaries into practice. Think and pray about specific boundaries to set, and commit to them, and clearly communicate them to friends and family who will hold you accountable, as well as to any people that you date. Consider setting boundaries like these: dating only Christians; building a solid friendship before advancing into romance; refraining from flirting; avoiding being alone with someone of the opposite gender in a home, car, or closed room and limiting alone time to public places; and refraining from tickling, back rubs or other forms of physical touch. Remember that boundaries aren’t meant to prevent you from having fun; they enable you to live life to the fullest by living at the center of God’s will. Make sure that God is first in your life. Live according to the light of truth that He shines into your life. Whenever you find yourself in a dangerous situation, take a time out to reevaluate. Don’t convince yourself that just looking at attractive men or women is okay; don’t let images stir up destructive fantasies in your mind. Avoid talking to someone of the opposite gender late at night, when you’re more prone than other times to say things you shouldn’t. When talking at any time, don’t discuss sex or relationships. Avoid one-on-one prayer time because it fosters strong emotional intimacy. Don’t let a relationship get to the point where it starts isolating you from friends and family; practice biblical principles of fellowship and accountability. Talk openly with your friends and family about all your relationships with people of the opposite gender, and seek wisdom from those you respect.
Wait for God’s best. Be assured that waiting for the right spouse and the right time to get married is worthwhile. Ask God to give you the patience you need to wait. Instead of being frustrated with where you are now in life, accept and embrace this season, making the most of the freedoms you have as a single person. Don’t rush into any relationships; pray thoroughly about them. Pray for the Holy Spirit to fill your heart with God’s love so you’ll have what you need to wait for human, romantic love.
Be careful on the Internet. Recognize that the Internet’s anonymity makes it an especially dangerous place to engage in relationships. Understand that people you communicate with online may not be who they claim to be. Avoid chat rooms or use extreme caution when participating in them. Never reveal personal information online, such as your real name, address, telephone number, or picture (either in a chat room, through e-mails or instant messages, or posting information on Facebook, Xanga, or MySpace). Don’t meet someone you’ve been chatting with online unless it’s in a public place and unless you’re accompanied by a trusted friend or family member. Set limits on how frequently you e-mail members of the opposite gender who aren’t family members. Use a filtering service to block objectionable websites. Make sure you’re always spending more time with God than you are online.
Escape emotional entanglements. Don’t seek fulfillment in the things of the world. Realize that true fulfillment is found only in God; cultivate a heart that is completely focused on Him. Live with integrity, without pretending to be someone you’re not to try to impress a potential romantic partner. Don’t be afraid to end emotionally impure relationships (ones that isolate you from God, your friends, or your family or ones in which you cross boundary lines or compromise your convictions). Ask God to give you the courage you need to start over. Accept His forgiveness for your mistakes, and embrace the grace He offers you to heal.
Embrace your first love. Remember that no one can ever love you more than Jesus Christ, your first love. Passionately pursue intimacy with Him while you wait for romance with the spouse who may be in your future. Decide to put at least as much time and energy into your relationship with Jesus as you would into a romantic relationship. Give your heart completely to Jesus to discover the greatest love of all.
Live with no regrets. Be willing to get rid of anything that is interfering with your pursuit of purity, no matter what it costs you to do so. Don’t pursue any romantic relationship until: you’re spending time with God on a daily basis, you have a list of what you’re looking for in a life partner, you have a list of things you will and won’t do in a relationship, and you have clearance from God and the authorities He has put in your life (such as your parents, pastor, or mentor) to proceed with a romantic relationship. Make the investment of faithfulness now so you’ll have the best kind of romantic relationship possible when it does come – a lasting, joyful marriage to your best friend.
Adapted from Eyes Wide Open: Avoiding the Heartbreak of Emotional Promiscuity, copyright 2007 by Brienne Murk. Published by Regal Books, a division of Gospel Light, Ventura, Ca., www.regalbooks.com.
Brienne Murk is a college student and in her early 20s. She has been involved full time in the Christian music industry since she was a small child. With her family’s group, Myrrh, she travels around the world performing and speaking at churches, camps, conferences, conventions and crusades. Together with her sister Heather, she has developed a seminar for youth that focuses on living one’s faith in everyday life, as well as an Eyes Wide Open seminar based on this book. Her writing and speaking credits include numerous appearances on national and international TV and radio programs, and she has also conceptualized, scripted and produced a nationally syndicated radio special and a four-part teaching CD series; performed for, produced and directed four DVDs; and recorded three CDs.