In every culture there is a different way of going about dating. Some date one boy in particular and give him everything, others go out with many people and treat it as simply a way to become better friends. Whatever you do, and how you go about it... I think you learn lessons from dating. Over the last bit that I have been allowed to date (16 is when people in my religion may begin to date), I have treated it several different ways.
There are the friends who I have asked out on group dates, in order to just get to know them better. There are the boys who I have liked and called "boyfriend." Their are boys who I have adored and sorta gone out with, but we never called it anything. All of these boys, however we defined our dates, were a risk of the heart I hold. Not necessarily were they an opportunity for my heart to be broken, or hurt. But they all were an opportunity to have my heart changed.
Every person you meet in this world has an opportunity to change you somehow. Maybe just a little. But they have the opportunity to change you in some degree. The closer we let people, the more opportunity they have to change us, to influence us. And to go on a date is the step up from hanging out. Thus, it makes sense that people we go on dates, or a date, with would have more opportunity to shape us as a person.
The heart starts out ours, and slowly it changes. It grows. Family, friends, crushes, acquaintances, bullies. They all tie in making us who we are. Some introduce us to sushi. A few to snub remarks about hair. Others show us Folk Music. Many introduce pieces of us, that weren't but now are. Dating is... something where we say we are willing to open ourselves up to someone. We will allow those people to influence us somehow. We are open to it. We embrace it to some extent.
The healing of a long hug; the pain of being ignored; the finding that you like theater popcorn; figuring out you cannot stand super strong cologne; that you enjoy being asked if your comfortable; that you like boys who laugh at things you say; that you don't like boys who never make their own jokes; the building up of your confidence in a talent; or the weakening of one of your aspirations. These are things you can learn from dating, and which shape who you are. Done casually or seriously, dating is an opportunity to let things be added to your knowledge, and to your heart.
The heart is a pieced together thing. Always changing. Growing, shrinking, hurting, reaching. Dating is often fun, and should be enjoyable. The important thing is to remember, however you go about it... be wise as to whom you welcome, and open your heart to. We cannot exactly choose who we have feelings for. But we can keep such feelings from turning into love. We can choose who we will invite to touch our soul, our heart, our mind. The lessons I have learned are many. But this one encompasses them all: Go wisely, for the hearts sake.