Advice for a teenager: everyone's dating but I'm not!

Got this in the mail today: 

"I've been feeling a bit left out and lonely at school. All my friends are dating and I'm the sore thumb...honestly I believe and trust in the Lord to sustain me. I'm worried about them. I personally discourage dating but I don't know what to say without sounding condemning or coming off as judgemental."

It does my bossy, know-it-all heart good to get a question like this. Mostly it makes me relieved that somewhere, somehow, someone young wants to listen to what I have to say, which is NOT ALWAYS THE CASE with the young people I live with. No names. Of course I answered it. 

"Thanks for your email. I'm sorry you're feeling a bit left out at school. I'm guessing you're about 15 or so, right? The age when lots of kids start to get into couples.

Okay, thing number one. You can't change them, so don't try. Your feelings about dating are obviously not their feelings about dating, so saying anything like, "I don't think that's a good idea" is going to distance you from your friends, which is not a great long term aim. Yes, you will come across as condemning and judgmental. Not cool.

The best thing you can do is to hold your own beliefs strongly, live them out, with love and grace, and then if someone asks you, say "Yeah, I don't think dating is for me in this season of my life because X, Y and Z." And then stop and shut up. They will have heard
you, and with the space to listen unjudged, they may even think about it.

I was quite keen to change all my friends' lives when I was your age, but let me tell you, it NEVER worked. As I've gotten older, I've learned to be content in letting them do what they do but still loving them, and being faithful to what I believe. I used to have a recurring dream where I was sitting around with my feet in a lake or the ocean with everyone, and I could see the sharks circling. I'd scream and yell at them, "GET OUT OF THE WATER" but they never did. In the end, all I could do was take my own feet
out and keep myself safe.

Thing number two: look around for the people who aren't in couples. There must be some! Join some clubs or other things to do where it's not all about who's going out with who. Make new friends who aren't in couples and stay busy doing some awesome stuff. If any of your old friends look at what you're doing, they'll see you having a great and fulfilled life, not just sitting on the sidelines watching all the couples but being judgey.

Organise stuff. Get some interests and projects. Hang out with your extended family more. Go volunteer for something. Join a drama club. There's so much out there for kids to do if they want to do it.

Or get a job! Earn money and focus on saving up for the thing you've always wanted, or wanted to do. Don't focus on what you're not doing (ie. dating), instead focus on what you ARE doing - doing great art, changing the world, volunteering, singing in a choir - whatever.

And, there will more than likely be a gorgeous fella out there for you one day. Start praying for him now, and learn great relationship skills so that when he does come along, you'll be awesome together.

Lots of love, Cecily xx

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