The response for my article 4 Ways For Singles to Feel Accepted in the Church (which was originally published as Why It Sucks to Be Unintentionally Overlooked on my blog) has been pretty overwhelming. I have had 132 comments and counting. Two readers told me that they left the church because they felt left out as singles. Many others expounded on how they have had to hide their pain because they haven’t felt like it would be accepted by their loved ones and their churches.
There have been encouraging things too: I had links to two sermons which were given by single head pastors (very encouraging!) There were also married people that have tried to understand what we’re going through by saying “I don’t know what singles want! Please tell me!”
So dear church and married friends, I want to tell you in the next three posts what would be helpful and life-giving to us as singles in the church. This is all based on input from the comments from the last post. These are things multiple people have said and not just my personal opinion on this topic.
In the next three posts I will cover the most prominent themes in the comments people gave…
#1- Validate single’s pain.
#2- Acknowledge that singles have equal wisdom and life experience to married people and deserve to be considered for leadership roles .
#3 Be proactive in creating impactful singles groups and/or groups where people from different life walks can connect.
Let’s start with #1: Validate single’s pain. It is of utmost importance to us that you acknowledge that we have truly difficult struggles we are dealing with.
With this post and my other most popular post What Single People Wish Married People Knew hundreds of people wrote in to say how hurt they have been when married people and churches have made them feel like their pain is not valid. One of the questions I asked in the last post was “Do you ever feel ashamed over your grief as a single person?” The answer was a resounding yes!!
One of the married commenters on the last post said “Part of me thinks you don’t want to hear it from married people anyway. Part of me thinks in a small way, you are making yourself feel worse than you have to because you are letting yourself feel like a victim…I guess I would also wonder if much of the guilt and shame over grieving your singleness is largely self inflicted.”
This was very hard to read. On one hand, I don’t want to be navel gazing. I don’t want to be hateful towards the church. I don’t want to miss all of the things that God has for me in my singleness.
On the other hand, it is comments like these that make us want to hide away in shame our pain. But our pain is so real. We are facing incredibly difficult things like not having a person to walk through life together, little to no physical touch in our lives, and the horrible possibility of never having children.
Please, please, try to see things from our perspective. Try to understand how deeply these things hurt. Try to allow us to share our feelings without any guilt or shame.
Secondly, let’s all stop playing the comparison game. Human beings have a propensity towards competition. Often, when someone shares their pain, our first response is “that’s not as hard as what I am going through.” Singles are just as guilty of this as married people.
The truth is, being human is hard. It is hard to be single. It is hard to be childless. It is hard to be married. It is hard to have children. Sometimes, singles can barely stand eating one more dinner alone. And sometimes, moms can barely handle making one more dinner. Let’s all make a point to stop doing this.
Remember that competition is the enemy of contentment.
Lastly, married people and church, it is so, so frustrating for us when you give us boxed in, formulaic answers to our pain. Comments like “You should be happy your single. Marriage is so hard, ” “If you just let go, you’ll find the one” “Paul said that being single was better anyway, so you just need to embrace it” “You’re still so young,” “Just let Jesus be your husband” or “You’re just too picky” are all things that commenters told me are incredibly painful for them. These responses not only make us feel like our pain is not valid, it can even make us feel like we are not married because there is something innately in us that isn’t good enough or that our relationship with God is lacking.
Can you see why we would be scared to share with you when these are the responses we get?
So how do we combat this propensity towards comparing and these formulaic responses?
We must learn to listen with compassion and empathy and love. Listening and loving are so closely related you can barely tell them apart.
Maybe sometimes instead of giving formulaic answers you should answer with more questions. “What is the hardest thing you face as a single?” “Have you ever felt angry with God over this?” “Do you remember a time where you felt comforted by God in your singleness? or “How can I love you through this?” are all great questions.
And maybe sometimes you should not answer at all. Maybe you should just give us a hug and let us cry. Sometimes we just need to sit in the questions and allow ourselves to feel our pain.
Allowing ourselves to authentically wrestle with our questions can be more comforting than empty answers. And sitting with the questions with a friend is so much better than sitting with questions alone.
Singles, what are some other questions that you would like to be asked?
Married people and church leaders, is this helpful to you? Does it make you see how some of your responses in the past might have been hurtful?
Married and singles both, have you found yourself comparing your pain to others?
Have you ever felt healing in sitting in the questions rather than having to have boxed in answers?