I spent a lot of time last weekend learning about Elliot Rodger, the 22-year-old gunman who murdered six people near University of California, Santa Barbra campus before turning the gun on himself.
I read a dozen or so articles and watched his ‘Retribution’ You Tube video in which he points to his failures with girls and inability to convince one to have sex with him as the main reason for rampage.
More than a week later, his thinking still haunts me.
Now I’m far from qualified to make any sort of psychological evaluation, so I’m not even going to attempt to draw a conclusion about his mental stability or sanity. But I will say at the very least, it seems he took an aspect of life that would have been fine as a priority and made it the priority. It goes without saying, the downward spiral that followed was tragic.
To be honest, I don’t have a lot of experience with guys with Rodger’s type of thinking. Sure, I’ve come across a few guys who treat women as sexual conquests and who make sex the top priority in life, but I generally can’t handle being around them very long.
I have, however, been around a lot of people that have made finding, creating, and maintaining romantic relationships their top priority and I’ve seen the trouble it causes them.
I’ve known people willing to sacrifice friends, family, and even some, or all, of their religion for the sake of a relationship. Don’t get me wrong, these aren’t bad people and I’m not comparing them in any way to Elliot, but their overemphasis of that one area of life has often led to some major problems.
Perhaps worst of all is how easy, and seemingly acceptable, this is to do. I mean, our culture, both in and outside of the church, basically lists success in a romantic relationship as the key mark of achievement for all well-adjusted individuals.
I’m not saying that it isn’t important and I’m not saying those relationships don’t deserve some level of priority, but isn’t it a little dangerous to place them at the very top?
I think so, and the more I thought about it, I think there are a few things we should keep in mind just to keep ourselves in check.
(Full disclosure: These are the ramblings of a 32-year-old single dude. And yes, that wasn’t fun to type out.)
— Relationships aren’t conquests or milestones.
There is no Girl Scout badge, gold star or ribbon given for developing a romantic relationship. Nor is there one for getting married. Yes, as mentioned above, some people will look at you as if you are more “grown up” because of this, but in reality, anyone who does that probably don’t know you well enough for you to overly value their opinion anyway.
— No one is entitled to romance.
Spoiler alert! There’s nothing in life, or in the Bible, that promises everyone some sort of fairy tale love. It’s not owed to you or me and there isn’t some master plan within the world calculated so that we find that one true love. Don’t get me wrong, it sounds great, but so does the Easter Bunny. Actually, scratch that. A giant bunny running around people’s houses in the middle of the night would be freaky as crap.
Maybe you’ll be lucky enough to meet someone, develop something great, and stay attached for ever. Maybe not. But that’s kind of up to you and it’s the furthermost thing from a guarantee.
— Relationships aren’t a magic elixir
If you aren’t complete without a relationship, you’re never going to be complete with one. Whatever it is you’re really dealing with — lack of self esteem, depression, self worth issues, etc. — isn’t going away simply because you’re with another person. You’re just going to take those bags with you into that relationship and it’s likely going to damage it. Relationship don’t fix our problems, they just spread our problems onto other people.
— You can be fine on your own.
No one likes to think about it, but what if it never happens? What if you never find someone to develop that storybook romance with?
The answer: You’ll be fine.
You’ll survive. You’ll still have loving relationships with friends and family, which should also be a top priority, and you’ll still be able to develop a relationship with God, which should be the top priority.
Of all the things I’ve just said what I haven’t said is that relationships are bad. That’s because they are not.
Let me repeat that, so I’m not misunderstood.
Relationships are not bad. They can, and should, be awesome. They should make us better people, they should increase our joy, and they should bring us closer to God.
They should be a priority.
But they should not be the priority.