By Amy Juran, Writing Assistant Intern
Lately I’ve been having this inner struggle about how my singleness might be making me into a selfish person.
I guess it makes sense that because I don’t have a husband or a family of my own, it appears I don’t have anyone to look out for but myself and my own needs. I can duck out early from social situations so I can get something done that I’ve been working on, or so I can get some me time in before work in the morning. I look around at people who have spouses and families, who probably barely remember what personal time feels like, and have to ask myself, “Is my singleness making me selfish?” To counteract the natural tendency to be self-centered, there are three resolutions I have made to help keep myself in check.
1.) Avoid Comparisons
It probably doesn’t help that I’m reaching a time in my life where the majority of my family and friends are married and an increasing number are pregnant or have kids. As a result, I get to hear a lot about the frustrations and challenges of marriage: how difficult it can be to coexist with another person, what little sleep you get with a crying newborn, and so on. There’s no arguing either, because it all does seem like a lot of work, but it’s the kind of work that gleans fulfilling rewards. Granted, I’ve never been married, so I may be completely off in my theory, but one of the beautiful things that I’ve observed in marriage is having an automatic purpose and mission right in front of you all the time. Of course people in relationships are called to many other tasks than being a good partner and providing for their spouse’s needs. However, when they are confronted with the daunting question of “What is my purpose in life?”, they have at least one go-to answer of “I am called to care for and honor my spouse” or “My mission is to set a good example for my children.”
Sometimes when I ask myself this same question, I get frustrated because it can be unclear what God wants for me in my life because I don’t have the automatic purpose married people do.
I have a wonderful friend, who has taught me a lot on this subject. She coordinates the children’s ministry at church, plans events for our life group, and cares for a home, all with a rambunctious two year old on her hip.
One day I had made a bunch of treats for the service, and she came up to me and was thanking me profusely for all my hard work. I couldn’t help but shy away from the compliment, and think how small my token was in comparison to everything she is involved with and responsible for. And then she said one of the kindest things I could hope to hear at this point in my life: ”Hey, your life is important too! Your contribution is no less than anyone else’s, and this place wouldn’t be the same without you.”
That validation got me a little emotional, to be honest, and it made me really reevaluate how I view singleness. I concluded that it’s not that I resent being alone or this season of my life because I am partnerless, but instead I am frustrated sometimes at how much more difficult it can be to live a life that seems meaningful or impactful in my community when realistically, my life is all about me right now.
The path isn’t always straight out ahead of me, and sometimes I’m searching vigorously before I find the answer. What I need to keep in mind, though, is that this challenge isn’t a bad thing. It forces me to stretch myself in personal interactions, and to step out in faith to do things that might make me uncomfortable. These inconsistencies between myself and others can lead to some pretty dangerous comparisons. When we feel that we don’t measure up, or that we should be further along in our journey than we are, some definite narcissism can emerge. By trying to look a certain way, or have the right things, it’s a way we can control the things that are in our power, and keep that dividing line between us and our peers as minimal as possible. And when it comes to being single, comparing yourself to others who are married or have children can lead to a skewed self-image or a discontent that makes us focus even more attention on ourselves and what we don’t have.
2.) Seek Out the Needs of Others
I must search for places to pour out love and to exert energy constructively. Instead of using my time only to do things that gratify myself, I must be intentional about seeking out others in need. When I have some spare time, instead of binge watching my favorite Netflix show, or rearranging my apartment for the tenth time, I could reach out to a friend, or call up my mom to see how she’s doing. There is something so healthy that happens when we put someone else’s needs ahead of our own. It definitely feels uncomfortable at first, but once I’ve made a habit of focusing my attention towards those around me, I begin to feel fulfilled.
3.) Find Contentment in Where God Has Me
When I begin to use singleness for these purposes, I don’t have time to focus on what I don’t have, or who I should be dating, or what I want my future to look like. Instead I can reach a place of contentment, in this place God has me for the present. And I can actually reap the benefits of this unique time of life where I don’t have a relationship or a family, and I can be wholly available to do whatever He calls me to.
So can singleness lead to selfish behavior? Absolutely. If I’m not consciously making an effort to put others first, I could quickly spiral into the black hole of my own needs and self-focus. But by seeking out the needs of others, cutting the comparisons, and finding contentment in where God has me at this time, singleness can actually be an extremely rich time of servant hood and caring.