I’ve heard many times that there are a lot of fish in the sea, or numerous men to date in the world. Certainly, there are innumerable “fish” in cyberspace, where millions of singles converge to meet daily.
Have you ever wondered if there are rules for catching “fish” online? There certainly are. And, I like to think they are similar to the rules for fishing with a worm and a pole. Here are a few things to keep in mind as you travel the ocean of online dating and start fishing for men—or women—online.
Don’t use bad bait
“There are six things the Lord hates, seven that are detestable to him: haughty eyes, a lying tongue…” (Proverbs 6:17)
Last summer as I boarded my girlfriend’s SUV, she announced, “You have to listen to this song. It will make you laugh.” She popped in a country music CD and I giggled my way through “Cooler Online,” a song about a guy who works at Pizza Hut, drives a Hyundai, lives with his mom and dad and is 5’3″.
But when he’s dating online, his life is another story.
Behind the computer, he’s smooth, cool, works in Hollywood, drives a Maserati, has a black belt in karate and probably earns at least six figures.
From a fiction standpoint, this song is hilarious, but from a nonfiction view, it’s not funny at all. How many men—or women—have fallen prey to someone on the Internet who has lied about their identity?
This is the first rule for online fishing: Don’t use bad bait. Bad bait is anything that fish don’t like or goes against God’s principles of integrity.
The first type of bad bait is lying, about your age, height, marital status or anything else. Think about it. Would you want to date someone who is dishonest?
A second kind of bad bait is posting pictures that are immodest or using a distasteful screen name. Remember, if you want to catch a date with high morals, you’ve got to exemplify what you want.
A third type is communicating poorly. Following the ABCs of good grammar and spelling will get you everywhere.
Make sure you have a license to fish
“You shall not commit adultery.” (Exodus 20:14)
As a kid, my dad took me to the sporting goods store to purchase my fishing license. I had no idea that I needed permission to put my pole in the water, even if I didn’t catch anything. Dad told me that if I fished without a license, he could receive a fine.
Fishing online is much the same—you need permission. And, if you’re married or separated, you don’t have a license from God. Some people believe that if they are separated, that they are free to date. But if they’re not divorced, guess what? They’re still married. Some others may think, Well, I’ll just get online and look. Remember, that’s the way many affairs start—with just one look.
Make sure your tackle box is in order
“But seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things shall be added unto you.” (Matthew 6:33)
My sister, who loves to fish, has spent considerable time organizing her fishing gear. Why? Because she knows that if her box is a mess, she won’t have what she needs to fish well.
In the same way, before you head out to the open ocean of online dating, make sure your emotional and spiritual “toolbox” is in order. If you’ve had problems with rage, seek counseling before you look for a date or mate. If you have struggled with an addiction that has caused problems in past relationships, ask God and a professional for help. Get healthy, then get serious about dating. It’s the best thing for you and for others.
When you catch a fish you don’t want, throw it back
“My dear brothers, as believers in the Lord Jesus Christ, don’t show favoritism.” (James 2:1)
During a fishing trip to Texas with my father years ago, we caught more than 100 fish. There was only one problem—only a few of them met the required length for keeping, so we had to throw most of them back.
When you’re fishing for men or women online, you obviously won’t want to keep every fish because some won’t interest you. Your job is to maintain a Christ-like attitude and treat everyone who approaches you with respect. If you don’t share their enthusiasm to connect, simply write back and say, “I appreciate your note, but you live too far away,” “I’d like to meet someone closer to my age,” or “I already have children and I noticed that you don’t want to be a stepparent.” Short, but polite responses while you’re “throwing someone back” are often appreciated.
One of my male friends has made it a goal to respond to everyone who writes him, even if it’s just to say, “No thanks.” At first he was uncomfortable telling women that he didn’t want to correspond, but now he is amazed at how many appreciate his thoughtfulness. After all, everyone who has dated online has been ignored and no one likes it.
When you throw a fish back, be gentle
“Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.” (Luke 6:31)
When I was fishing with my dad, he was as gentle as possible when he removed the hook from the fish’s mouth so that it wouldn’t be permanently injured after he threw it back.
In the online dating ocean, use courtesy when you’re telling someone you’re not interested. After all, you don’t want to wrongfully wound them or cause them to have problems in future relationships. That means that it’s not OK to insult them or to treat them unkindly. Remember, there is a real person, with real emotions on the other side of the screen.
Don’t run into the water, and don’t go too deep
“For He guards the course of the just and protects the way of the faithful ones.” (Proverbs 2:8)
My friend, Tim, loves to fly fish. He’s a wise fisherman because he knows not to run into the water when he first steps into a stream, or go too deep because he could drown.
Again, these rules apply to fishing online. It’s unwise to rush into a relationship with someone you don’t know or to share too much too soon. How many young women have fallen prey to predators who have lured them into a dangerous sexual situation?
Additionally, the secret to turning any relationship (including an Internet one) into one that lasts, is to take your time. Unfortunately, dating sites can create an environment in which it’s easy to become emotionally intimate too fast, which can cause you to drown in relational waters later.
One day while I visited a Christian dating site, a man wrote me and said “Hello,” then immediately typed, “Give me your phone number. I’ll call you.” Because I didn’t know anything about him other than what he’d written in his profile, I responded, “I’m sorry, I don’t give my phone number out to people I don’t know.” Immediately, he became angry and retorted, “Fine! Forget it! Why would I want to date someone who doesn’t trust me?” Rather than being shocked, I was humored. Didn’t his mother tell him that wise girls use discernment in making companions? Of course, I was thankful that I hadn’t shared too much too soon. His explosive response and pushy demeanor revealed that he could be a shark in the sea of online dating.
Remember that God is in control
“I know that you can do all things; no plan of yours can be thwarted.” (Job 42:2)
Most of all, remember that God is ultimately in control of bringing you a mate. This means that you don’t need to panic or become obsessed with dating online. Keep your eyes on Him and determine to trust Him with your personal life, no matter what.