In my last post I discussed the stigma surrounding the word “single.” I help to lead the single’s ministry at my church and someone recommended that we change the name of the ministry to not include the word “single” because it scares people away. I have to admit that I was pretty surprised to hear that and I challenged that idea by asking what other term we could use that would also help us to reach our target demographic. If we took out the word single, we would end up with married couples and seniors, who have their own groups catering to them. We decided to use an acronym (Single and Living Truth or S.A.L.T.) but they still said that the word “single” was scaring people away. I’ve struggled with the negative feelings associated with singleness many times before, but there’s really no other way to describe it. The only other term we came up with was “unmarried” but that term was too bulky and not as catchy. In my opinion, “unmarried” is almost worse because it implies that marriage is what SHOULD be and that you are not what you should be. Long story short, we decided to keep it as a “singles” ministry, but I wanted to address some things that helped me to overcome the sting and stigma that I felt about the word “single.”
So what can you do to combat that stigma that surrounds singleness, especially in the church?
- Own your singleness
As I’ve gotten older, one of the biggest things I’ve learned is that you need to own things that make you who you are. I’m a huge Disney and Harry Potter nerd and I have embraced it! People can try to make me feel bad about it, but when you own it and take pride in it, then what they say just doesn’t have the same level of impact as it used to. Being single is nothing to be ashamed of, whether you’re single for a season or for a lifetime. In our modern world, we can do so much more as singles so it’s time to embrace it and tell everyone else to move on from their own expectations.
2. Find ways to use this season productively
When you think of the stereotypical unmarried woman in her 30’s what traditionally comes to mind? Probably an image of a sad, miserable woman, past her prime, sitting on the couch watching a sappy romance movie while eating a tub of ice cream. Ok, maybe not that exactly, but likely something close to that. In my opinion, if you’re going to be single, then you may as well use that time wisely. God hasn’t given you this time to just sit around pining for the perfect guy/woman to show up, He wants you out in the world, furthering His kingdom and spreading His love to others! When we are obedient to follow the path that God has laid before us, even when the path doesn’t lead where we thought it would go, He gives us the strength and the desire to keep going. And while you shouldn’t follow His plan with the main motivation of finding a possible future relationship, who knows, maybe you’ll even meet “the one” by getting out and working for God?
3. Don’t be afraid to use the word “single”
There are words in the English language that carry a certain negative weight to them. Single is one of those words.
If you’re at all familiar with Harry Potter you’ll know that the main antagonist in the first few books is referred to as “he who must not be named” because the characters feel that the name of this person carries so much evil with it that it shouldn’t be uttered aloud. That seems to be the way that a lot of people feel about the word “single.” But, the more you use a word, the less of an impact it makes on you.
I’ve struggled with an anxiety disorder for most of my life and I was afraid for so long to say that out loud. Over the past few years I’ve worked through a lot of that anxiety and the number one thing that has helped me is to talk about it. Using the words “I have an anxiety disorder” gave ME the power and took the power away from the words that haunted me for so long. Expressing that you are single (and if you can manage to “fake it ‘til you make it” by acting proud of it) can be one way to help you take your power back and stifle the influence that a simple word has over your emotions and your mind. So take back your power my single friends!
4. Embrace the strength that God will provide you.
I think that it’s not often talked about, but there is an unspoken assumption that we singles, suffer alone in our singleness. This is simply not true. First off, God is with us through all of our struggles. He knows every breath we take, every move we make, every hair on our heads. He is right there with us, guiding us with His holy spirit and giving us the strength we need to follow His path. The caveat is that we need to accept it from Him. If you spend your days fighting with God and trying to convince Him that your way is better, you’re paving a rough road for yourself and you won’t fully experience the strength and the love that God has for you. If you humble yourself and allow God to be in control, then you’ll be surprised at what you can achieve. So give it to God and allow Him to fight your battles. Let His strength fill you so that you can continue furthering His kingdom.
5. Seek the truth of what God says about it, not the stigma that the world implies.
In the world of social media, it’s difficult to tune out the lies that bombard us at every turn. The world makes its living off of telling us that we are not enough. Not good enough, thin enough, pretty enough, manly enough, feminine enough, smart enough, whatever enough. Those messages are the loudest and most prevalent, so it’s hard to fight back if we don’t have our own weapons at the ready. That’s why it’s so important to research exactly what God says about singleness and marriage so that you can combat the lies the world feeds you with the ultimate truth.
I was at a Beth Moore simulcast that a friend was casting in her home last year and she had invited another friend who was single. She was an older woman who came with her adult daughter. She was talking about what the Bible says about marriage and she seemed very upset about the thought that being married was the only way to live biblically. I, luckily, had my go-to verse (1 Corinthians 7:7-8) ready to reinforce to her that the bible does not say one is better or worse than the other. She was surprised to hear that, but I could tell that it gave her some peace in knowing that the Bible did not condemn her singleness. If I hadn’t spent time alone with God, in His word, I might not have been able to combat the lie this woman was believing with God’s own truth!
The Bible gives numerous examples of single and married people who all achieved amazing things when they were obedient to what God called them to do. Paul was single and achieved great things. Esther was married and achieved great things. Mary was engaged and achieved great things. King David was married and achieved great things (as well as numerous scandals, but we won’t go there). Jesus was single and achieved beyond miraculous things. Singleness is no better or worse than marriage, they’re just different and both are blessings from God. So if you still feel stigmatized by your singleness, just remember that God is for you, not against you, and He loves you no matter what stage of life you may be in, whether it’s for a season or a lifetime. And when we allow Him to penetrate our hearts with His strength, His truth, and His light, we too can achieve great things!