Recently, I had a single woman comment on one of my blogs about marriage. I honestly don’t know her story, but it was very clear that 1. She was single involuntarily. 2. She did not enjoy being single. 3. She felt as if married life is held up and celebrated, leaving her feeling “subhuman” and like an “alien.” My heart goes out to her, because it’s clearly something that she struggles with and it’s a cross that she is having a hard time enduring. I’m not sure why she is single, but whatever the reason, I’d like to talk to her issue. I don’t mean to call her out, but I think she brings up something that maybe a lot of people struggle with. I sensed a lot of bitterness and resentment for her state in life. It was clear that when she goes to church she is bothered by all the married couples and families. I’ve thought about this woman for several days now and after some reflection, I’ve got a couple thoughts on the matter.
First, I would have to agree with her that being single in our culture, or any culture for that matter, is seen as a sort of plague. People tend to think, “Well, what’s wrong with you?” Even if you choose to be single for a specific reason, it is a state of life that most people just can’t understand. We hold up marriage as the ideal relationship status in life and choosing to remain single seems more like a punishment. In order to avoid being single permanently, folks often say “yes” to the wrong person and get married hoping that things will work out. I’ve heard numerous stories of family and friends pressuring people into “finding someone–ANYONE!” just so that they can say that they are married.
I think part of the reason living the single life is seen as undesirable is because we are innately social creatures. We want to love and be loved and often times the single life can leave one very lonely. There are some that rebel against marriage because they want to be free to hop around from lover to lover. Others don’t want the responsibility of a family and wish to pursue their career with no strings attached. But, this was not the case for the woman above. She felt forced into the single life and she does desire to be married and have children. She even mentioned that she is living in purity which I have to commend her on, because that is a whole other level of hard. Hard, but worth it. I feel it is only natural to want to be with someone and when that can’t or doesn’t happen, we tend to feel bad about ourselves. Not to mention, society makes you feel like you’re some kind of outcast leper.
Second, I think it’s important to remember that married life is not always idyllic or easier than the single life. Many, many couples live in loneliness and downright misery because something is amiss within the marriage. Marriage is a good thing and it should be celebrated, but if not done properly, it can also be a hard cross to bear. There is a reason why it is a sacrament; you need special graces to do it well and do it right. I don’t say this to diminish her pain, but I say it because we must remember that every state in life has its difficulties and crosses. While one may suffer greatly in the single life because of loneliness, barren wombs, and feelings of inadequacy; there are those that suffer in marriage because of loneliness, barren wombs, feelings of inadequacy, adultery, abandonment, etc. Just because there is a ring on one’s finger doesn’t mean the trials of life are any easier.
Third, let me just say: St. Joan of Arc, St. Patrick, St. Ignatius of Loyola, St. Francis Xavier, St. Catherine of Siena, St. Mother Teresa, St. Pope John Paul II, St. Jerome, St. Rose of Lima, St. Philip Neri, St. John the Baptist…I could go on and on and on. For thousands of years the world has been blessed and served by some of the most holy and Christ-like people and guess what? Most of them were single. Most saints are single. There are some married ones, but there is a freedom in the single life that allows one to do incredible and amazing things for the world. The Catholic Church doesn’t see the single life as a plague or a disease. No, in fact, it sees it as a possible vocation in life where great things can be done. Really, whether you are married or single, we all are called to live out our lives serving God and serving others well. For some, that may be in the family setting. For others, that may be going out into the world and serving the poor, needy, and unloved in a way that married people can’t.
I know that for someone hurting in the single life these words may fall on numb ears. I know that I can’t fully understand what it is like to have to live my days without someone to come home to. But, I do know that we are all made for a very important purpose and our marital or single status does not make us more or less worthy. We need people in all walks of life. This world needs good single people–desperately. This world needs good married couples–desperately. Maybe this world needs to do a better job of encouraging and supporting those that are living a chaste single life, especially those that are doing it through much sacrifice and suffering. No matter what our lives entail, we must work to live out God’s will; we must find ways to be the best we can be. Above all, we must find ways to live joyfully.
Those living the single life often get overlooked and we don’t even realize that they may be suffering. Please pray for the suffering of those living the single life. Pray that they might have the strength to bear their cross, the fortitude to live chastely, and the grace to find joy.