The following is an excerpt from the book “Detox Christian Dating: An Examination and Detoxification of Christian Dating Culture”:
In some spheres of Christian dating culture, physical attraction is entirely discredited as petty and poorly prioritized. Some would have you not even consider physical attraction even remotely. And while I can see some legitimacy to those claims in some situations, completely writing off physical attraction does not appear feasible and may actually be demonizing something that shouldn’t be. Realistically, attraction is a factor. I don’t think anyone is dying to not be attracted to their spouse. How many people do you know that just flat out have never been attracted to their spouse? But at what point does your lack of attraction to a person become a deal breaker? The person you may not find physically attractive could be the most ethical and godly person in the world, but if you shutter at the thought of kissing them then I think we have a potential issue.
1 Samuel 16 is often referenced in the discussion on physical attraction. As God said to Samuel, “Do not look on his appearance or on the height of his stature, because I have rejected him. For the Lord sees not as man sees: man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (verse 7). This verse is often used to convey that looks should not be a consideration for those wondering what to evaluate in a significant other. I would agree that physical attraction is not the most important thing, but I would disagree with the total disregard of physical attraction in the equation.
The context of 1 Samuel 16:7 is specifically talking about picking the next leader for Israel, not a spouse. Physical appearance is not a paramount point of consideration for the leader of a kingdom, leadership ability and character are. God saw the heart of David and knew that He was what Israel needed as a leader. But it’s not like David was not attractive; 1 Samuel 16:12 describes David as being ruddy, handsome, and having beautiful eyes. The leader of Israel during this time, King Saul, was notably handsome and taller than everyone else but lacked obedience and humility. It seems to me like the disregard of physical stature in 1 Samuel 16 has more to do with a contrast to how King Saul was than a total abandonment of considering attraction. The principle of how looks are not the paramount consideration can be taken from 1 Samuel 16:7, but the context is not specifically discussing spouses.
Song of Solomon takes note of character at various points but chapter four clearly beholds the beauty of the beloved. Who would fault Solomon for delighting in the beauty of his bride while never mentioning her character? I doubt anyone would. Jacob worked a total of fourteen years for Rachel, who he found beautiful, but was not attracted to Leah, who he was tricked into marrying. Jacob was not in the wrong to appreciate beauty, but would have been in the wrong had he been solely motivated by beauty, which is vain (Proverbs 31:30). Looks should be a consideration but not the primary fixation.
To be fair, even the people that harp on how physical attraction should not be a factor at all likely passed up on somebody at some point. Chances are, someone throughout your life has been single and has displayed godly character towards you and you didn’t pursue them romantically. The first person to be kind towards you does not have to be your future spouse. It is totally reasonable and understandable for you to want to be attracted to your spouse, just don’t value that over their faith and character, which I hope you will someday find to be attractive, in a way.
Keep in mind that attraction fluctuates as you get to know a person. I know of several couples that were friends before dating and were not attracted to each other in the slightest, but over time grew to find their significant other beautiful as they saw more of their heart. On the other hand, I know from personal experience that there are physically attractive people who have become less attractive in my eyes as I have gotten to know them personally. My personal policy is to give things an honest chance and just see where things go even if there is not a raging attraction element present because things can develop. But if attraction does not develop then there is no harm so long as I communicated and did not try to play around with another person’s heart. However, I could see an argument for not going on the first date to begin with if you knew you were not attracted to someone in order to not get their hopes up.
Prayer is necessary surrounding all things in a relationship. If you find yourself attracted to a person’s character but not attracted to the face that holds that character, then take it before the Lord in prayer. Ask Him to reorient your heart to see God’s craftsmanship behind this soul He knit together. If you find yourself still not being able to get over the things that hold you back, don’t stress as if they were your only chance at meeting someone godly. But take this opportunity to prayerfully evaluate your standards because if all you ever consider is a face or a body and then a heart further down the line then something is off in what you value.
I’m not going to recommend just forcing yourself to look past your complete lack of attraction to someone just because you notice something godly. Who wants to be with someone that holds the opinion “you really are not much to look at, but at least you’re kind” about them in the back of their mind? I know I don’t. Faith and character are monumentally more important than appearance, but we cannot be naïve and pretend as though physical attraction is some blurry background actor who should be totally disregarded. Outward adorning, beauty, and charm have an expiration date while character and faith typically do not, so our decisions should be based around what has a longer shelf life, but a consideration of attraction does not make someone’s standards entirely askew.
We’re human. We’re often trivial. I’ve heard something along the lines of this said: “You are the one that has to look at them the rest of your life, and if you can’t get past something about them physically then maybe you should let them go so they can find someone who doesn’t mind or even adores the thing that seems to bother you.” I’m not positive that this is the answer, but I do see the wisdom in knowing that there is likely someone out there who sees art where all you see is a few colors and some obscure shapes.
To not see someone as attractive does not mean that they are not fearfully and wonderfully made. God created each of us fearfully and wonderfully in His image (Genesis 1:27, Exodus 4:11, Psalm 139:14). Scripture does not shy away from the fact that humanity is not going to find all other humans attractive, but a lack of attraction should not mean that there is a lack of appreciation for God’s intentional job of knitting us together. I do not have to find a creation to be beautiful to recognize that the artist did a good job in making the art. My attraction or lack thereof towards someone does not change their inherent status of being fearfully and wonderfully made. If you are going to get married to someone then hopefully you will be with them for the rest of your life. To desire that the person you come home to is someone you are genuinely attracted to is not an inherently awful desire but it should not take precedence over faith and character.
Landen Swain is a writer, playwright, lyrist, poet, and aspiring author who is currently trying to get a book on Christian Dating Culture published. Since October of 2020, Swain has been building up a platform on TikTok and Instagram (@detoxchristiandating) in an effort to spread the word about the book and start conversations about Christian Dating Culture. You can contact him through the DMs of either one of those platforms.