In today’s society, singleness is viewed as a disease – something to be avoided at all costs. A single woman cannot possibly be happy. Many believe that I am either involved in a secret relationship or that I am lying through my teeth about my satisfaction with life.
It may sound ridiculous, but sometimes I feel as if people are waiting for me to fall apart or wind up pregnant. At times I do feel lonely. At times I long for a relationship. Overall, I am content.
People rarely admit that they view singleness as an illness. However, in keeping with the old cliché, actions speak louder than words. Take a look at a typical conversation I repeated with several men when I first became a bank teller:
I don a friendly smile and greet him, “Hi! How are you today?”
He grins. “Good. How are you?”
“Great,” I reply, and then look to the transaction.
“So you’re new here, right? I don’t remember seeing you before.”
“Yep. I’m the new girl. I just started a little while ago.”
He’s still smiling as he inquires, “How old are you?”
I’m not nearly as interested in conversation. My focus is mainly on the transaction, but I respond politely, “Eighteen.”
“Are you married?”
My lips straighten significantly. I’m pretty sure I know where this conversation is going. “No.”
“Do you have a boyfriend?” he pries further.
“No.” My smile disappears. His fades.
“Are you gay?” he asks somewhat hesitantly.
His beam quickly reappears. I glare.
If the man liked me, he proceeded to hit on me. Some asked about weekends or holidays. Others were less patient and tried to set things up with me after work that very day. Those men never seemed to get the gentle hints that I wasn’t interested. They could not understand why I didn’t want my singleness “cured.”
Other men posed even more questions.
“Why are you single?”
“Do you hate men?”
“Are your standards too high?”
“What’s wrong with the men you know now?”
When they finally ran out of questions, most of which I never did have good answers for, they would plug in advice. The most common tip I received:
“You should get married.”
Thanks. Real helpful.
Or sometimes my single status piqued the interest of women. They also asked lots of questions and offered plenty of advice. But rather than halting there, they pulled out their wallets to display pictures of their sons, nephews, or grandsons. Next, they would boast about these wonderful young men and then clarify which ones were single and closest to my age.
I can’t really blame these meddlers because I know that they mean well. Their eyes focus on the negative aspects of singleness, diagnosing it as very lonely and painful. Their main motive is to help me. Matchmaking is the only way they know how. They are often unaware of my Savior, who is more than capable of keeping me healthy and strong in the midst of my singleness.
Unfortunately, similar problems exist within the Christian realm. My passion for Christ leads me into several different churches and introduces me to several different Christians. I love meeting other Christians; God places us together to support each other, love each other, care for, encourage, and rejoice with each other.
However, as a young, single, Christian girl, I tend to attract some highly-determined parents. I am often approached with pleasant compliments quickly followed by references to their smart, handsome, Christ-like sons who also “happen to be single.” In response to my polite, but usually uninterested smile, they either continue to gloat over their extraordinary offspring or they begin to interrogate me – which is even worse. Questions about college, career goals, and future plans soon flood my ears.
I try not to be rude. I’m just not enamored by parents pursuing wives for their children. It’s especially irritating when I’m not likely to ever meet these sons. Rather than feeling like a friend or sister in Christ to these well-meaning parents, I feel like prey. I wait helplessly as they poke and prod into my life, all with the intent of snatching me up and bringing me home to their nest of crying hatchlings.
Sometimes I wonder if they believe I’m sick based on the symptoms they see amongst their own children. Although singleness is not a disease in and of itself, many singles are plagued by a different infirmity I call Woe-is-Me Syndrome.
Woe-is-me Syndrome is spreading rampantly through the Church today. Singles frequently fall to this ailment, then pass it on to their friends. Though the antidote is easy to come by, many singles refuse to take it. The more of a person’s life this affliction controls, the harder it is for that person to recognize or accept the antidote.
This syndrome destroys by filling a person’s mind with herself. It causes one to focus on her own struggles, her feelings, her life, to the point that she has nothing left to offer anybody else. She dominates conversations by talking about herself and what her life lacks. She glances over the needs of others, completely consumed with her own feelings of inadequacy. Not only does Woe-is-me Syndrome harm the body, but it can be absolutely detrimental to relationships. It must be, for relationships lead to it’s antidote.
This illness exists widely amongst singles due to our vulnerable circumstances. We are more susceptible simply because we have no husbands or children to care for. We may not be forced to focus on anybody but ourselves for weeks at a time. Woe-is-me Syndrome starts with a little case of self-centeredness or a few thoughts beginning with the phrase “if only”. It quickly morphs into a full blown disease boasting symptoms of depression, loneliness, envy, broken friendships, and resentment toward others’ lives and relationships.
How do we fight this dreadful malady? A change in focus destroys this condition. When we put others before ourselves, we send these symptoms packing.
A Saturday night with no plans may leave me feeling disappointed or neglected. Then I decide to write letters to an older lady at my church who lives by herself and rarely gets visitors. Suddenly some free time on a Saturday night provides a wonderful opportunity to develop a new relationship.
How about those days when finances are tight? I look at my married friends and envy their beautiful homes, then sulk that I cannot afford my own. As I head to the coffee shop for my favorite drink, I think of the things I can afford. I can spend a dollar or two on a drink each day with hardly a thought. I may not be able to afford a mortgage each month, but I could give up my coffee each day and use the dollar or two I save to sponsor a child in a different country. My living arrangements don’t seem so bad when I compare my life to those children overseas. Letters back and forth to a child living in different circumstances may greatly alter my sour perspective toward money.
Although singles may be more susceptible to Woe-is-Me Syndrome than our married counterparts, we must remember that our married friends fight other “diseases”. We are not victims. We are not doomed to a lifestyle plagued by this nasty condition. Jesus Christ is our ultimate model of a healthy single person. As we imitate Him, we can pray that others may watch us and also be freed from the bondage of Woe-is-Me Syndrome. We cannot be completely healed without His help. We do not have the willpower to resist those attitudes by our own effort. But with a focus on Christ, any single person can beat Woe-is-Me Syndrome.