Between A Rock And A Hard Place: The Intractable Dilemma Of A Single Young Man

I’m not sure that I am the right person to be writing about a subject like this, given both my concern for as great a deal of objectivity as is possible as well as the fact that this particular subject strikes me very personally and very seriously, but as it is a subject that needs to be addressed and one that I do not see addressed by others, I feel it necessary to speak about to defend myself and those people (especially within the Church of God) who share my situation and face the same sort of dilemma I do when it comes to the stigmatization that results from being seen as the dreaded bachelor (a state that seems to start affecting people around the age of 30, as I have found to my chagrin). What I do not wish to do is throw anyone under the bus (as is often and corruptly done by others to me and those who share my state), but rather I would wish to examine the dilemmas as the base of this stigmatization to show the paradoxical treatment and doublespeak that is at the core of these problems, so that they may be dealt with openly and honestly, without hypocrisy.

To be honest, there are few people who are singles (men or women) who want to remain that way indefinitely. Most of us (myself definitely included) wish to leave that status and enjoy, for the rest of our lives, the love of a husband or wife. Many of us (myself included) wish to rear up godly children and lead godly families. This longing is natural and proper, and one that a majority of people get to enjoy. But yet it has to be justified for those of us who are single (particularly for a long time), given that this longing has not been fulfilled. Some people, in order to defend God from the implied accusation that He causes suffering by giving us a longing that He does not fulfill, or to defend our broken institutions from judgment in their own role in the problems that single people face, decide that the best way of dealing with the obvious problem of singleness is to attack the character and personality of the people who are single, a group that makes an easy target and scapegoat given our own marginal status within the congregation.

I am no stranger to false accusations, and I do not need to go into personal detail here, except to say that singles (like myself) are often placed in a position where false accusation thrives and is encouraged as people seek to explain how someone is single and resort to speculations on their character and even sexuality as a way of explaining it to their satisfaction without regard to asking us, or even better minding their own business. Singles, especially single men, are placed in an untenable position given the existence of two poles of a dilemma, one of them springing from our cultural adherence to traditional norms of gender behavior and the other springing from our unconscious acceptance of worldly standards of behavior that are in contradiction to each other. On the one hand, single men are told that they have to be more manly and pursue women, not relying on women to make the first move. While I am a shy and somewhat gallant fellow when it comes to such matters, I definitely make my interest obvious and plain, as is my responsibility as a man. On the other hand, though, any act of gallantry or politeness can be seen and judged as being aggressive and threatening by those who are worldly and critical, which means that unless a single man is dealing with a godly woman who is not fearful (and given the dangers of this world and the unjust suffering many young women have faced from the violence of men, that can be difficult to find) there is no behavior that would be considered manly that could also not be considered threatening. This is a serious problem, especially for those of us who make extreme efforts not to take advantage of others or not to attempt to coerce others into gratifying our longings and desires.

There are quite a few men in this particular dilemma (and I myself am one) who are neither emasculated wimps with no ambition or drive nor are we potential rapists looking to take advantage of young ladies for our own selfish and ungodly lusts. On the contrary, we all take heroic steps to prepare ourselves for success in life in the face of very unfriendly circumstances, serve our communities and congregations with our talents and enthusiasm, and very openly desire to leave our status when God wills it, hopefully to good marriages and the challenges of raising godly families in this wicked age. Our longings are not unjust or selfish, for everyone who is married with families has shared these longings and seen their fulfillment. There are a wide variety of reasons why people struggle to find loving relationships–personal history, the divided state of the church (and the resulting scarcity of potential partners for those of us who want to marry within the faith), and so on. Admitting these problems, and the larger failure of the church culture to provide for the needs of some of its brethren needs to be admitted, openly faced, and dealt with in a manner that does not attack single people.

It is far easier, in the face of serious cultural problems that may demand painful reflection and change, to blame people rather than to tackle those problems, but it is unjust to do so. We do need to admit that the divisiveness and conflict-ridden nature of our culture has directly harmed the ability of people (especially those in Generation X and older) to find suitable partners. The fact that we divide over political reasons and have over and over again been forced to pick sides in the quarrels of others has made matters very difficult for many of us. This difficulty needs to be owned up to by those who are largely responsible for it, and whose fortunate situation in their own young adulthood shielded them from the far more difficult situation faced now by those who are single and who desire godly marriage. The vast majority of my relationships have been long distance (and I am not alone in that) as a result of the scattering we have suffered. We would do better to encourage our singles, not through well-meaning but empty platitudes, not through the “tough love” of false accusations and slander of our character and motives, but through honest education and encouragement of our desires for love and the comforts of a godly family in these evil and difficult times. Life is hard enough when one does not have to carry the burden of slander and shame on top of the difficulties of living a productive and righteous life. And quite frankly, we need all the help we can get.

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
This entry was posted in Christianity, Church of God, Love & Marriage, Musings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

32 Responses to Between A Rock And A Hard Place: The Intractable Dilemma Of A Single Young Man

  1. William E. Males says:

    You certainly are not alone in this situation. I have several friends who greatly anguish at times over their loneliness and desire for a partner. But I also have witness many who in haste have covenanted themselves in marriage to people who afterwards proved more contentious than harmonious. I am convinced (though probably unqualified since I am married for 35 yrs) that it is best to wait for the one God provides than to hastily leap into the smoke of romance only to land on a cold hard floor.

    My thoughts . . . for what they are worth.

    • I wholeheartedly agree. Marriage is a covenant not to be made lightly or hastily, which is why I have not done it yet and why my own single life has been filled with a great deal of struggle and agonizing soul searching. Having seen it done so wrong so often so close to me, I want to do it correctly, but the opportunity has eluded me so far.

    • William E. Males says:

      Not to ignore all the other stuff about religious people meddling and gossiping when they should be filling the singleness-void as much as possible with brotherly love and compassion . . . .

      • This is true. I’m generally someone who puts a fair bit of pressure on myself even if other people tend to think me rather too laid back sometimes, but being pressured by and slandered about by others is something I find greatly galling and upsetting. I do my best to encourage others, but I’m also someone who tends to need a fair bit of encouragement myself that I do not do a good job at providing myself with.

  2. Oh Nathan. You and me both. We are each our congregation’s token ‘creepy 30 year old’ – I feel ya brother, and have thought more and more about the community and way I have thought about the ‘singles in the middle’, especially as I join their ranks. They haven’t always got a fair shake.

    However, the problem always has been that sometimes we *are* kinda weird. Maybe not you, but I sure am. I mean, dude, I dance like a crazy person, enjoy psycho-analyzing people, and have a very methodical and insane method to ensure I wear twice and evenly space the appearance of all my collared shirts. As I type this description, I laugh and shake my head at the same time. I am a creepy 30 year old. But I am okay with that.

    Keep growing, brother. The pace is slow for me … but I keep to it, thank God. I am glad to see you have a similar mindset, even if you may be faster than I.

    God speed.

    • I am so much more sympathetic now than I was when I was younger, although truth be told I was always sympathetic to the plight of others. I suppose I’m a little quirky, given my deep intellectual interests, but yeah, I can totally understand how that would appear creepy. I totally evenly space out of all of my collared shirts for church too *sighs*. Even given all of this, I’d say that we would probably appear much less creepy in the context of a loving relationship as opposed to being fairly isolated members of congregations. I may have a faster pace than you do, but I’m definitely of a similar mindset, and it’s always good to write something that brings people together. Given my rather compulsive need to defend my own legitimacy and personal honor, I figure I might as well help those who share my present state as best as possible.

  3. Amen! I only hope that my past comments and observations to you on this subject haven’t come across as well meaning but empty platitudes. I experienced a marriage that taught me more loneliness in a shared space than being alone. Afterward, I spent over a decade of singe life with very limited choices. My current marriage is unconventional to say the least, but I have finally, within the past year, started growing toward contentment in my current state, and am finding inner peace. It is a life-long process. You are doing a great work by sharing your feelings with others, for it creates a bond within the framework of the Church–and perhaps will engender a new cultural norm as the generations shift. I certainly hope so, at least. Thank you for moving away from the defensive mode and gravitating toward the giving one–for THAT is tthe hope so necessary for dialogue to deepen our spiritual relationships. Isn’t that what we should be all about? We of all ages have much to learn from your words and experiences. Please keep sharing these thoughts and observations–they are honest and true to heart.

    • Thanks for your comments. This particular message appears to have struck a chord with a lot of people, which is a good thing. With a subject like this I felt it was very important not only to defend myself but also to look at the larger context in the greater brokenness and insecurity of our time and place, and to recognize the concerns of others. Ultimately, if we are to develop into a loving family and community, we have to be able to relate to where other people are coming from and respond with love and respect rather than lash out in hurt and fear. That’s a difficult task, but hopefully we can all set good examples of that and do what we can to build up the waste places and rebuild the ruins of our life.

  4. Debbie Werner says:

    A friend of mine shared your link with me and I’m glad he did. I’m sorry to hear others have been saying things they shouldn’t–a new congregation should be a chance to extend your church family, not be psychanalyzed over one’s singleness and personality.

    And quirkiness is NOT creepy. 🙂 Normal is boring (and I’m probably one of the least normal people I know though it takes a little patience for people to discover that). The older I get, the less people’s comments seem to affect me, but sometimes, especially in an area of sensitivity, I find those wounds go deep.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective. I hope you find empathy from the majority of us in the congregation. That is, after all, how we all should be and I hope I’m growing in that more each day.

    • Thanks for your comments. I’m generally a pretty open and up front person about who I am and what I’m about, and I’m glad at least that those in the area (like yourself) are glad to know my perspective. It’s been a serious enough issue that I’ve had to bring it up to the local ministry to deal with, and that’s not something I do very lightly. At any rate, I hope to find the opportunity here in the area to get to know others, and I hope that the gossip and rumors can fall by the wayside.

  5. corbinisme says:

    I listened to a sermon about this yesterday. [And yes, there have been many sermons, but this offered an interesting perspective] http://chicago.ucg.org/sermon/sermon-singles

    It noted that being single is “not a blessing or a curse. It’s a challenge.” I would agree that it is a challenge indeed, and I often wonder what’s wrong with me that I’m single, but God is in control and there are things I can/need to be doing right where I am at in this season of my life.

    Besides, girls have cooties.

    • That’s pretty amusing. I certainly do agree that the state is a challenge (one which has drawbacks and benefits), but that the way that human beings respond to it can be a bit of a curse. Thanks for your input :).

  6. What I am about to say may sound like a cliche, but I have found it to be very true.

    I spent a lot of time thinking as you do. Questioning, wondering and hoping…always questioning why something wasn’t happening, wondering what I did to allow a relationship to fall apart and hoping that something would come along to make me feel less lonely.

    The thing is, very seldom do you find what you are looking for when you are looking for it. I met Laura a little bit after grandpa died. I was neither looking for a relationship or thought myself to be in a good position to be in one. I didn’t think to the future, for once, when I started dating Laura. We were so different in many ways and I never imagined that it would go very far…and within seven months, we were engaged.

    The best advice I can make is to work on yourself as much as you can and not worry about falling in love or meeting your future wife. Things really do happen when they are supposed to happen. Learn to enjoy your life, love yourself and things will eventually happen the way they are supposed to…remember, God has a plan for us all. We may not like the timing or the obstacles that we meet in out journey, but nothing happens without a reason.

    Take care, bro.

    • Thanks for your thoughts, bro. Perhaps not overanalyzing things with Laura made them work out better :D. I certainly agree with you about the reasons and plans that God works out without our own foreknowledge.

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