There have been a lot of very funny posts written over the past couple of years about some of the terrible things married people have said to their single friends (most of the ones I’ve read have been posted on Stuff Christians Like – because Jon Acuff is awesome like that).
This may not be one of the funny posts. I’m just going to call it like I see it.
The truth is, we often say a lot of things without thinking. And we often have the very best of intentions – we honestly just want to help. But the next time you’re tempted to counsel a single (whether you’re single yourself or married) – take a deep breath and ask God this question: “what does this person need from me right now?” – and consider that maybe just sympathizing (or better yet, empathizing, if you can) might be enough. If your single friend is bemoaning his/her singleness, it’s probably not the right moment to say any of the following (and incredibly cliché) things*:
Okay. Deep down, we do actually know this. We do know that God knows the times and seasons He has set for us, and we’re trying to trust Him with our futures. (And while we’re trying to do that, we are also trying really hard not to think too much about free will and predestination and did we take the right train this morning, or should we have gotten off at the other stop because OH MY GOODNESS, WHAT IF I DIDN’T SPEND ENOUGH TIME WITH GOD THIS MORNING, WHICH MEANS I WASN’T REALLY PAYING ENOUGH ATTENTION TO HIS VOICE AND WHAT IF I WAS SUPPOSED TO TURN RIGHT BACK THERE BUT I TURNED LEFT INSTEAD AND PRINCE CHARMING WAS WAITING AT THE END OF THAT OTHER BLOCK BUT I MISSED IT BECAUSE I WASN’T PRAYING AND NOW I AM DOOMED TO SINGLENESS FOR LIFE!!!!! (*insert gut-wrenching sobs here*))
Well… Maybe this is going to be a slightly funny post after all….
But here’s the thing. You can quote Paul at us all you want, but if you’re married, telling us that it’s better for us to be single (at least for right now) can be an incredibly hurtful thing. If it’s better for us, why wasn’t it better for you? Even Paul pointed out that we all have different gifts. In my (limited) experience, most of the people who actually have singleness as a gift have absolutely no desire to get married. If your single friend really doesn’t want to be single, chances are good – it’s not their gift. And even if it is – it’s not your job to tell them that. It’s God’s. So instead of telling us to treasure this season we don’t want to be in – could you tell us you’re sorry it’s hard? Find out what the hardest things about it are for us. And suggest practical things you can do to help make this season easier. What we really need from you right now is your friendship.
We know we need to be grateful for this season, and content in it. (And we’d really like to be!)
So tell us how awesome we are and talk about the value we add to your life as whole and complete persons, in and of ourselves. We’ll naturally start seeing the good things in our lives (for instance, friends like you!) when you do.
If you have ever said that to a guy, all I can say is …#awkward…
But please don’t say it to women, either. As one speaker on this subject once pointed out, Jesus does not leave his underwear on the floor.
We know that what you’re really trying to say is, “Jesus is enough.” And He is. He is also enough for married people, so that enough-ness has to be more than just filling in relational holes. Jesus is enough, yes. (We’ll talk more about that later on in this series.) But being with Jesus is not the same as being married. Maybe somehow the idea of Jesus being a husband actually works as a metaphor for you. That’s great. But when what we want is an actual husband – this is one of the worst things you could possibly say. So I’m begging you – please don’t say it. It’s … well, honestly, it’s just a little weird.
Yeah… we don’t really get it either.
But why does being a great person automatically qualify us for the “you should get married” track in our social circles? What if we don’t want to be? Or what if we’re actually successfully trusting God (and His ability to help us hear Him) and we’re okay just being great people for awhile?
We know you’re trying to be encouraging, but when you say things like this – or when your first question to us after we haven’t talked for awhile is “so, are you seeing anyone yet?” – it can plant doubts in our minds as to whether or not we’re okay as we are. We start to wonder if we’re not good enough – I mean, if we’re so great, why doesn’t someone want to go out on a date with us? What is wrong with us? And OH MY GOODNESS, WHAT IF WE MISSED IT?????!!!!!
(See? That crazy talk just comes out of nowhere…)
If you find yourself thinking about a single friend and wondering why they’re still single – please just ask God about that. Then go ahead and tell them that they’re awesome – and why – but I think you could probably just leave it at that…
Too… what, exactly? Old? Young? Heavy? Thin? Independent? Clingy? Emotional? Smart? Strong? Weak?
Everyone has room to grow – but when we make blanket statements like this, what people hear isn’t “here’s a way I’d like to help you grow.” That might be what we’re trying to do, but too often what they hear is, “Don’t be you, because someone loving you romantically is conditional upon certain criteria that you do not meet.”
Conditional love. Yep. That’s what we’ve been waiting for… 😛
Again. WE KNOW. And we know you’re trying to be comforting and encouraging. But “trusting God” is sometimes a very complicated and messy business. (Look at the places in your life where He’s calling you to trust Him more, and tell me it’s easy.) And the word “just” – boy, can that set us up to feel like failures. “Just trust God.” So… if we’re truly trusting God but He’s still not bringing the person we’re supposed to marry into our lives and we (and everyone else around us) start to wonder if we’re really trusting God… whoops. Apparently we weren’t. Epic trust fail right there. Or the worse way to look at it: if we’re trying to trust God, and He’s not bringing our future spouse along, then surely we’re just not trusting God enough or the right way or something – we’re failing at this, and it’s our fault we’re not married….
As if faith the size of a mustard-seed isn’t enough.
So what do you say?
Will you help stop the crazy talk?
At the end of the day, all that single people really need is the same thing married people need: good friends who care about you, are willing to listen, and are committed to walking this next stretch of the road with you – praying for you, being there for you, and loving you.
Let’s do that for each other.
*Note: I owe a special thanks to all the wonderful single people who answered a slew of questions for me about their joys and struggles as singles in the church. These five things came from their stories, as well as my own.
"Often when you think you're at the end of something, you're at the beginning of something else." —Fred Rogers via @momentumdash
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"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle." Einstein