Too often we fall into the trap of seeing our experiences as all-or-nothing. We might believe that if something doesn’t fulfill our full expectations of what it should have been, could have been, or what other people tell us it is was supposed to be; then it was worthless and shouldn’t have happened. This type of thinking causes a sobering devaluation of life’s greatest experiences.
We owe it to ourselves to value our experiences (since they are ALL a part of our unique and once-lived life). Thus, there is a desperate need to eliminate all-or-nothing thinking patterns. If something was bad or difficult it does not mean it was worthless.
Sure this is cliché advice, it’s advice that we give each other all the time. Despite our understanding of this concept in the abstract, I still see all-or-nothing thinking permeate our singles culture and damage our ability to appreciate our experiences. Each of the topics listed below are suggestions aimed at helping us truly value each other and the uniqueness of our lives. Most of these thoughts are specific to Mormons, but they can still apply to any person’s life. Regardless of your religion, I hope you will eliminate all-or-nothing thinking in your beautiful life.
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Success In Dating/Relationships CANNOT Be How You Measure Meaning
I was an RA during most of my time at BYU. There were times that I questioned that decision because my social life wasn’t typical. Most people react when they find out I was an RA by saying something like, “I could never do that, how was the dating?” Honestly, it was no better or worse than any other time I’ve been single. But when I think about the relationships I formed with those in my building it was one of the most valuable experiences I had at BYU. The value of that experience does not depend on how the dating was.
If you made beautiful friendships with people you would have never met otherwise, wasn’t that valuable enough?
Your YSA Ward is NOT only for dating. You should not believe that if you aren’t dating someone or wouldn’t date someone in your ward then you are wasting your time there. Did you ever think about what you can contribute instead of what you think you should receive? God needs good singles too: try serving instead of whining about the fact that you don’t walk into a sacrament meeting full of marriage-crazy models every week.
If you were able to serve a member of your singles ward while there, wasn’t that valuable enough?
Institute is NOT only for dating. As I attended an institute class at great sacrifice a while back I had the thought “why am I doing this? I’m not going on any dates because of it. There are no girls in my class and it’s taking lot so time...(you guys know the thought pattern).” Then a powerful question filled my mind. “Are you here to find her, or are you here to find me?” It was as if Christ himself was asking me this subtle, soul-searching question. Be at institute for what institute is really for, if it was only for dating it could just as well be a dance club.
If you came closer to God and understood the Savior’s role in your life, wasn’t that valuable enough?
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Spending Time With People You Don’t Marry (or wouldn’t marry) is NOT a Waste of Time
I hate the word “interest.” It seems so callous to ask, “Are you interested in her?” This common phrase mistakenly causes us to only value people we would like to date. These are humans, not products in a market. These are sons and daughters of God. Every person deserves our interest, regardless of our sexual/romantic pursuits. Our time is not wasted if it is spent showing interest in people that we don’t date, everyone needs people that care about them and I would hope we don’t only care to get to know people we are attracted to or want to date.
If you met someone and started a new friendship, wasn’t that valuable enough?
If you gave your time to someone who needed to feel cared about, wasn’t that valuable enough?
Your relationships that don’t work out were not a waste of time, even if it was a lot of time you invested in it. I’ve had a fair share of girls tell me “I don’t want you to waste your time.” Considering failed relationships as a waste of time would completely undervalue everything gained from getting to know those people.
If you learned about love, yourself, and how that can work with another person: wasn’t that valuable enough?
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Missions Are NEVER a Bad Thing
In the eternal time frame a year-and-a-half or two years is nothing. If the entire universe revolved around you and nobody else mattered it would be devastating when someone you were in love with left for a year or two. I hear guys complain about girls that went on missions instead of marrying them. So God, the all-knowing and all-loving being has put what you believed to be “your” marriage on hold. If he really is all knowing and all loving, he’s probably got something amazing ahead for you. You should thank him for the growth you experienced by dating someone that puts the Savior first.
A person you love has chosen to serve God and lives will change because of their sacrifice, isn’t that valuable enough?
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NEVER Feel Under-Qualified For Someone Else
If you didn’t go on a mission or complete your mission you ARE datable. My father didn’t serve a mission and I will fight you (with words, not fists) if you believe he didn’t deserve to marry my mother. He has been an excellent father. Although other character traits should be considered when dating, a mission alone measures absolutely nothing. No person’s goodness should be measured by a few years.
If you’ve already been through a marriage and are now single for any reason, you ARE datable. If you’ve been married you have experience in a long-term relationship; that will be a good thing to a person with the right attitude.
If you have a “rough” past you can still date/marry someone that doesn’t share those experiences. To deny someone because of a previous lifestyle or previous mistakes is to deny the power of Christ and the atonement. Then, the greater problem lies with you. We must accept people where they are spiritually and let go of where they’ve been.
All of us are made whole through the atonement, which makes us all valuable regardless of how broken our past may be. You are valuable enough.
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When DOESN'T Matter
This takes explaining, because, truthfully, timing is everything. But we often forget that our lives are a part of an eternal clock. There is no right or wrong time for eternal things. Your life doesn’t need to be anything like anybody else’s, especially regarding "when" things happen. If you are single until 50 or get married at 19 it doesn’t matter. If you serve a mission at 19 or 25 it doesn’t matter. Your unique experiences qualify you for unique contributions. Only if you look through the lens of “my life was supposed to be perfect like (insert person you envy here)” will you undervalue the unique timing of your life’s experiences. There is no expiration date on eternal things. Value the ones you have now and don’t worry about when something was “supposed to” or “should” happen.
Consider an analogy of the movement of the planets around the sun; they are in constant motion that is perfectly timed. Some people are like Mercury, the years go fast: by 30 they have 4 kids, a master’s degree, and served a mission. But some of us are like Pluto, still making our way around the sun years after our peers. Does it matter that Mercury made it around already? Does that change the fact that Pluto too will make it around the sun? All the planets have a unique atmosphere because of their distance from the sun. Pluto’s unique experiences qualify it for very different things. Consider what your unique speed has given you and forget what others at different speeds have.
If certain experiences take longer than expected and you were able to gain experience and perspective that aids you throughout your eternal life, isn’t that valuable enough?
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Every Life Has Value BECAUSE it is Unique
To think about what we “deserve” is to devalue what we have. In thinking about what we deserve we make the mistake of wanting what somebody else has, to deserve is to compare. To be truly grateful we must forget what we think we deserve. We should ignore the “should haves” and “wish I would (or wouldn’t) haves.” We all have a lifetime of experiences unique to us. We must never see our experiences as “bad” simply because they weren’t exactly how we wanted them or were different from those around us. You are valuable, even if you are like Pluto slowly making your way around the sun with an exceptionally unique and beautiful life.
The reason something is beautiful or valuable is because it is unique. Diamonds have value because each one is different. Your experiences are remarkably different from everyone else’s. Isn’t that valuable enough?