16 years ago today, I wrote this in my journal:
I got a tour of the Voice Of The Martyrs office in Bartlesville. A girl named Christine from my Bible study class volunteers there almost everyday, and she arranged for me and another guy to get a tour. It was really interesting. VOM is an awesome organization. I’d love to volunteer there, but I don’t have much free time.
I kinda like that girl Christine. She’s really pretty, and it’s impressive how much she volunteers there. She must be really close to the Lord. But geez, I don’t know anything about her. She might already be with someone. I’m gonna try and find out. If she’s single, I’ll pray and ask God for a sign that I should try courting her.
— May 3rd 1999
Dear Former Self,
Asking God for a sign that this is the right girl for you might work… if God existed. But since he apparently doesn’t, all you’re doing is setting yourself up for confirmation bias.
If you really like this girl, then something will happen that you will interpret as a sign from God. A romantic song will come on the radio while you’re thinking about her, or you’ll open your Bible to a random page and see a verse about love, or she’ll just happen to park next to you at church.
But if you don’t really like this girl, then you won’t notice any of these coincidences. Either way you’ll be letting your feelings guide you, not God. Don’t get me wrong, your feelings are important, but you also need to use your brain. What if you follow a bunch of “signs” and start dating her, only to find out you have very little in common? Should you keep dating her?
That’s the whole problem with looking for messages from a god who isn’t there. They often conflict with what you know in your head. Many people have stayed in bad relationships for far too long because, for whatever reason, they thought God wanted them in that relationship. Even when the relationship was abusive.
This sort of mistake doesn’t just happen with relationships. There are countless other instances where Christians have made bad decisions based on supposed signs from God. In the coming years you will meet people who have purchased cars that turned out to be lemons, people who have taken out second mortgages when they shouldn’t have, and people who have quit their jobs only to end up worse off than before, all because they thought they could channel God. In reality, they were making rash decisions based on their emotions.
Trying to get good advice from God is as bad as trying to get good advice from a psychic. It just doesn’t work. Before making a decision, whether about a relationship, finances, or anything else, get advice from real people who know what they’re talking about, weigh all the options, and decide for yourself. Your life will be much simpler and happier if you stop bringing an imaginary God into every decision.
As for this girl you’re crushing on… come on, you know she’s not that pretty. You just think she’s a good match because she’s so religious. Since you’re not physically attracted to her, you won’t see any signs that you should “court” her. Funny how the brain works.
— Matt, May 3rd, 2015
This is part of an ongoing series called Letters to My Former Self.