The Vocabulary of Singleness: From Shame to Messy Celebration

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I really don’t want to be known as the girl who always writes about singleness. Like if there was a list of ways to make yourself un-dateable, talking about how single you are all the time is probably towards the top of that list. However, it is probably a step below becoming a foster parent at 21, which is another thing I’ve considered, so I think I’ll embrace the possibility of accidentally becoming the poster child for singleness.

Singleness is a topic that is not super fun to talk about and even harder (and weirder) to do while you are still currently single. When you’re in the thick of it all, it can feel daunting and embarrassing and like talking about it means that you hate your life, are codependent, or have no dreams outside of relationships. Lies. Lies. A whole lot of lies.

Shame is what convinces us to stay silent – to not be willing to get messy and vulnerable and honest. Shame is about hiding. It’s about feeling fake and that if you let people in, they aren’t going to like what they see. Singleness is a topic that we’ve covered, coated, and sprinkled in shame.

There’s this presumption that if you talk candidly about singleness you are angry or depressed or needy or not dependent on God. Honestly, I’m none of those things. I am incredibly happy and love my life. Being a somewhat “hip” twenty-something surrounded by creatives and world changers with adventures around every turn is so freaking fun. I don’t view relationships as the beginning or the end of fully living life – just getting to sharing it with another person.

In Christian culture, there seems to be so many mixed signals of definitive statements and honestly, it’s both frustrating and confusing. We push being content in your singleness while at the same time praising marriage as the end-all-be-all. We tend to project this idea that marriage is a prize – a spouse is something you achieve if you do everything right, are blissfully content, and sprinkle some magic fairy dust in your bedtime prayers. Life is so much more messy and complex than that.

For example: please, do not tell me one more time to focus on becoming a better gift.

The reason I am single is not because I’m not a good enough gift.

Lies. Shame. No.

That’s implying that I am not enough. And that if you are in a relationship, it makes you more “enough” than I am. It implies you’re a better gift, potential spouse, and human than I am. I’m not going to believe that lie. Aint nobody got time for that sort of comparison and condemnation. Now if you use that phrase, there’s grace and I’ve said stuff along those lines before too. We get to move past that to tweaking how we talk.

That’s why I write about singleness – to extend the conversation and hopefully figure out how to change the vocabulary to allow people the freedom they need to live their lives without condemnation or shame. I don’t pretend to be an expert, I’m still working through lies and mental patterns that are destructive. This is what I am learning though as I seek the mind of Christ and critically examine this season of my own life.

The biggest lie I’ve identified is that of “enough-ness.” That because I am single, I am somehow less-than. That I need to do or be something more in order to be good enough for a relationship or for a guy to choose me. Getting really real here, this is a list of my own lies that I’ve believed:

  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because I haven’t traveled the world.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I can cook a mean crockpot soup.”
  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because of my family past and baggage.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I’m doing cool things with my life like starting a photography business and running a strip club outreach.”
  • “I am a less valuable potential mate because I struggle to keep my bedroom clean.”
  • “I am a more valuable potential mate because I have certain talents, giftings, or callings.”

No. This stems from a view that our worth is wrapped up in what we do. It’s performance mentality. It’s striving. It’s bondage. It’s religion. It sucks.

Identity is the core. I am hidden in Christ. I am seated in heavenly places. I have been crucified and raised.freaking.again. I am a kid and coheir in the Kingdom. I am fearfully and wonderfully made. I am redeemed, restored, and set free. I am enough because Jesus gives me His “enough-ness.” Do we really get this? Like truly? My life’s worth is unchanging. So is yours.

Is it sometimes easier to work on our junk while being single? For some people, yes.

Are there some areas in our lives that may need some serious growing or adaptation when we get into a relationship or get married? Yeah, life is full of processes.

Do some people take longer until they want to be in a committed relationship? Definitely.

Is it always the best idea to get into a relationship if you’re going through a big crisis, have a current addiction, or are emotionally unhealthy? Probs not.

What I am saying is that I am no more and no less enough in my singleness than my awesome married friends are. Marriage isn’t a Mecca or a state of enlightenment. They didn’t do something right that earned them their relationship, it was just that the life tapestry that God is weaving for them happened to include a spouse earlier on than mine. My engaged roommate is amazing at not giving off the vibe that she is better because of her relationship status – in fact, she’s one of the coolest, humblest, accepting, and validating people ever.

Now, I know that no one is trying to give off a bad vibe. No one intentionally is out to get single people. It just creeps into out attitude and is worth taking a look at in order to do some self-examining. That’s really all I ask for – let’s be willing to ask questions and see if the way we talk about singleness, relationships, and marriage is promoting lies about identity and worth.

I just want to live in the fullness of freedom and see others do the same. I want us to just admit that we don’t have cut and dry answers as to why some people get married earlier than others. It’s not a formula. There’s no “get married quick” scheme that will result in a perfect life. People are individuals and we all are living unique stories with twisty, messy plot lines. It’s part of the beauty. Let’s not let that beauty be under attack by over-glorifying any particular plot lines or plot points. Let’s make room for messy – for honesty and individuality.

Above all, can we just celebrate each other more? More high fives, hugs, dance parties, cake, and presents all around no matter what your life looks like. For that result, I’d gladly become the poster child of singleness.

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