The Leprosy of Singleness

Single adult households have become a much more common phenomenon over the past ten years in this country. I am one of millions of single American adults. But despite the demographic shifts taking place in society, there are still places where singles are viewed with suspicion or at least pitied for not having a full life.

It is as if some believe that you can’t be happy or fulfill your divine purpose without marriage and children. This is especially true in the Church. While I believe my church is better than most, there are still people who say or do things that make me feel weird that I am in my 30s and not married. It is almost as if a single person has a new form of social leprosy.

Most of my friends are really great about recognizing the wounds called by the “social leprosy” of singleness. But there are always the tough questions by aquaintances or old friends, such as, “Are you dating anyone right now?” I hate that question even when I do have a new girl friend. Even worse, is the question, “Don’t you want to get married?” Questions like that are laced with the thought that somehow life is empty unless you have found the person of your dreams. That is simply not true.

Increasingly, I am learning that until you learn who you are, you will never be able to really know who would be a good fit as a marriage partner. And more importantly, until you are secure and content with yourself in a deep relationship with God, you can’t truly be content in other relationships. This includes marriage. I meet many married people who are miserable because they never learned to be single. Their identity has been wrapped up in another person, which is a prescription for eventual disappointment or rejection.

As a Christian, I believe my identity and value comes from God. It is a joy to be married. Children are a blessing. But none of that works without God as the center. Being single provides a period of self discovery and refinement. In an increasingly dysfunctional society, this space is needed now more than ever. Many people bring an unhealthy amount of baggage to relationships. Space to heal could help turn the tide of America’s high divorce rate.

Honestly, I feel judged sometimes for being single. It seems like married people in churches have more social standing as adults. Married individuals are viewed as somehow more mature, knowledgeable of real life issues, emotionally stable, unselfish and the target demographic compared to singles. I have found that singles can be critical for running church programs, ministering to the unchurched and doing things that married couples with children just don’t have the time to do. Why then does this demographic get overlooked?

I don’t believe that singles are put upon by society or should be exempt from paying their fair share. I don’t even mind ways that everything from tax laws to corporate policies to church activities tend to favor married couples with children. I am all for doing more to help the next generation. At the same time, I think that singles should be embraced for what they contribute to the whole of society.

Consider this rant from a Forbes writer: http://www.forbes.com/2007/08/21/talbot-singles-discrimination-forbeslife-singles07_cx_lt_0821talbot.html

Or look at what the 2000 Census tells us about singles and couples: http://www.census.gov/prod/2001pubs/p20-537.pdfhe 

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3 responses to “The Leprosy of Singleness

  1. Great article, you make some important points about the importance of singleness. I can’t help but think of the gift of time that is closely linked to singlesness–time for service, for developing gifts, and furthering that relationship with God. Strange how there is such misunderstanding of singles (especially in the church like you said) when all married people had first to go through that time of singleness themself (or I could also say, “were blessed with that time of singleness.”)

  2. Thanks for info, and wish you good luck!

  3. I know that now is the time to do things that I won’t have time to do once I am married. Have I used the time wisely? I would say that I have used some of it wisely. I got my M.A. in Education, which would have been much more difficult as a married person. I spent 12 years volunteering in the youth ministry at church. I taught full time, coached and worked on my M.A. You are right. Singles do have an important contribution to the church.

    I believe that some of us are called to be single and and some of us are not. I believe I fall into that latter group. Some days it is difficult being single but other days I cherish the freedom that it gives me. For right now I just have to do what I believe I am called to do each day.

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