Is Your Singleness Selfish?

One of the things that used to bother me the most in my over 20 years of singleness was when people who were married would tell me things like, “Enjoy your singleness while you have it”, or “Take advantage of where you are at”, or “Enjoy the freedom you have bro.”

Now at some level there can be some wisdom here.  We should focus on living fully in the context we are in.  It doesn’t do us much good to have marriage as an idol and constantly be thinking that my whole world would be perfect if I just met the right person.  I get that.

But I think at this point it might be fair to say that in our context today, we might be taking a bit too much advantage of our singleness.  We might be too focussed on our “freedom” at times.  It’s not like everyone is launching into early marriage.  In fact almost no one is.  So maybe we should ask some different questions.

First of all, we need to get over the fact that life is hard.  Yes married people, I get it, marriage is hard.  But we need to be really, really careful with that because in our culture we seem to be equating hard with bad.  But in the Kingdom hard and bad are not synonyms.  Hard and Joy are not opposites.  And besides, singleness can be pretty dang hard too.  Life is hard sometimes.  And sometimes it isn’t.

So one trap we need to avoid is setting marriage up as this great loss.  Like somehow if you get married your personal life is over.  That’s a lie.  It’s different yes, but not over.

But there are even more traps here.

The idea of taking advantage of your “freedom” or living it up before you settle down is extremely dangerous spiritually.

I’ve had a lot of people tell me that getting married made them realize how selfish they are. I have no doubt about that.  I’ve had a few other friends tell me that they really realized how selfish they were when they had kids.  I for sure can see that.

But they were selfish the whole time.  They just didn’t realize it.  What if as a single person we went ahead and started working on this now?

Look, if everyone was still getting married when they were in the early twenties, maybe marriage would be a good time to realize you’re selfish.  But sense only 20% of people in their twenties are married, maybe we’d better not wait for marriage to realize it.

We have a more self-absorbed world than ever.  It’s so much easier to get away with it. Do you know that 50% of single people live by themselves?  Think about that.  We go where we want.  We eat what we want. We spend money on what we want, when we want, without anyone knowing about it.  If you’re single right now, name one person who knows your income to debt ratio.  

And the world encourages it.  Go get yours first.  You’re somehow not ready to be married until you’ve got your career where you want it or all your issues worked out.  Live it up, then get married.  What kind of plan is that? A plan to stay single – or have a rough marriage.

We say this spiritually too when we misinterpret scripture to mean that when your single you are more able to focus on God than if you are married?  Really?!  That is not what it says.  If that were true then literally no one should get married.  It’s not do great ministry while you can, before you get married.

This line of thinking also starts to bleed over into keeping us single when we shouldn’t be. Hear me clearly here.  Just because you are single doesn’t mean you being selfish.  But there are a huge number of people that are single in large part because they are living and/or dating selfishly.  

What would it take for us to get married? Well we need to meet the person who looks how we want, acts how we want, makes the money we want them too or in other words, “the one who meets all my expectations and needs”.  Friends, that person DOES NOT EXIST. Am I saying settle for anyone?  Heaven’s no.  But what I am saying is that the vows of marriage are not self centered.  We don’t stand up front at the wedding and talk about what we expect to receive.  We promise what we will give – until death.

Here’s the reality, neither singleness or marriage is about me.  Life is not about you.  It’s about God and the Kingdom.  

Our culture has crafted out a time of singleness for most people.  We are not called to spend that time being about ourselves or “taking advantage of our personal freedom”.  Instead we are called to deal with our sin and advance the kingdom.  Married or single we are called to crucify our flesh.  Jesus says “whoever loses his life will find it”.  There aren’t any parameters on that.  Not marriage, not a certain age, not after certain career goals are met.  Now!

If we get married it’s not so that I can get my needs perfectly met through a spouse.  It’s so we can follow God together.  If I have kids, they aren’t mine, they’re for me to shepherd and do my best to point towards God.  And if we are single, it’s not “our time”.  It’s God’s. In other words, start dealing with your selfishness now.

Is your singleness all about you?  Where is selfishness keeping you single?  Is anyone in your life besides you?  When is the last time you made a decision based on what was best for someone else?

Get Over Yourself

One of the big stories out of this last election cycle is the changing demographics of our country.  There has been a lot of talk about growing Latino population, the women vote, etc.  One thing that hasn’t been talked about is the fact that there are a lot less married people.  49% of America is unmarried right now.  Only 20% of those aged 18-29 are married.  That’s a crazy number.  So when they talk about the youth vote they also mean the single vote.

I don’t bring this up to talk about voting.  Someone else will have to do that research (and if they are smart they will do it).  What I want to do is write a few posts about why I think it’s the way it is out there right now.  Why is it that marriage has been delayed or even ruled out as a way of life?  What the heck is going on?  There are a lot of contributing factors but today I want start with one that is our fault.

We have become more self centered.

Now when I say this, I don’t mean that we have become more selfish, although maybe we have.  Really we’ve always been selfish.  What I’m talking about is that our whole culture is about individual accomplishment and choice.  It’s about gaining success or gratification instantly.  Even our faith has become all about a “personal relationship with Jesus”.  Now don’t get me wrong, I think we need a personal relationship with Jesus and I love that we have choices and freedom.  But is it any wonder that in that society people are by themselves?

We don’t know how to be in relationships – of any kind – let alone a marriage.  All of our relationships revolve around what they do for me.  Have an argument in your small group? That means those people don’t get me.  Disagree with how things are at church? Shop for a new one.  Not growing?  That must mean that people aren’t feeding you.  Not being treated right at work?  Time to look for the next job.

Relationships take work.  It’s just easier not to.  And after a while, it’s habit.  We live in a world that has more opportunity for connection to more different people than ever before, and because of it, we are more lonely and empty.

Everything is about self.  Self help, self improvement, self motivation.  We hire “coaches” (this is unbelievable to me that it’s an actual job) to hold us accountable – we actually pay for friends.  It’s all about us.

This translates into dating.  We are always looking for the perfect person or in other words, the person who meets our needs.  And when someone doesn’t, well then it must be wrong. We think that because we have the chance to choose a spouse that we should have one that perfectly meets our needs.

What’s funny about this of course is that if you are going to have a strong marriage then the opposite has to become true.  Like any covenant it requires sacrifice.  It’s not a contract where we sign up based on what the other person will do for me.  It’s a covenant where I promise what I will do for them – no matter what.  And most people don’t want anything to do with that.

I had a quasi-mentor many years ago say that college was the most self centered time of life.  The idea was that it was all about finding yourself and everything was about you, figuring out what you want to do, who you want to be etc.  I think in our youth worshiping culture we’ve decided to extend that way past college.

All of this is often subconscious and in a many cases not all our fault.  We’ve been told by the world to live it up and by the Church to “take advantage our our singleness and be focussed on the Lord.”  So why leave for sacrifice?  We are conditioned to view it this way.

Here’s the truth.  A whole lot of us, in a whole lot of different areas of life, need to get over ourselves.  It’s just time.  We need to own that we naturally think this way and that it affects how we view of life, including marriage and singleness.  We need to learn how to have actual friends including ones we can argue with.  We need to learn how to come to a small group, meeting, church, or job asking what we can offer not just what we can take away from it.  We need to quit looking for who can meet our needs and start looking for someone that we want to be in it with, no matter what.  We need a singleness and/or a marriage that is bigger than self.