I recently wrote an article for RELEVANT called “What Not to Say to Singles.” Immediately, it received an overwhelming amount of response from singles all over the country who identified and experienced the same type of interactions.
Apparently, I’m not the only person who endured the awkward conversations and discouraging comments from well-meaning (and sometimes not so well-meaning) people during my single years. What is it about singleness in our society that makes it so hard to deal with? Why is it so difficult to interact without conversation making its way to relationship status?
With all the feedback I received regarding how flat out discouraged some singles feel from the community around them, I put out a question to my single readers asking how best we can encourage them during this time in their lives. The feedback has been so refreshing, and a good reminder that at the end of the day, a little love really does go a long, long way. Here are some ways that we can all connect with, encourage, and love on our single brothers and sisters:
1. Validate Them.
From all the feedback I gathered from single young men and women across the country, one thing stood out to me more than the all rest: People need validation. There is so much truth in that statement whether a person is married, single or somewhere in between. As humans, we long to be validated—to be looked upon as though we are worthy and valuable, as though our lives have meaning. Sadly, and no thanks to our society at large, many times this value gets attached to our relationship status. Those who find themselves standing alone end up feeling less than the others in some way, shape or form.
Of all the phrases uttered to single young men and women, most of them are a reminder of what they do not have—rather than a spotlight on who they are. One of the most important ways we can love singles is reminding them that they are special and that we (the world around them) have taken notice.
I think sometimes non-single (whether married, dating, etc.) friends—particularly friends of the opposite sex—find it awkward to encourage the singles in their lives because they don’t want to come across inappropriate or send mixed messages. While of course we need to have wisdom in how we address the people around us, it’s important for us to remember that everyone needs to be encouraged! It’s so important to notice their strengths, talents, skills and personalities and let them know.
We are all made in the image of God, and it is crucial to notice that image and call it out in the lives of the people around us. It’s important to validate our brothers and sisters in Christ by focusing far less on whom they are in relationship with and far more on who God has called them to be—standing alone. It’s time for us to stop seeing singleness as a disease and, instead, encourage our single friends by repeating and reminding them of how valuable they are right here, right now, no strings (or spouses) attached. Let’s never let someone’s relationship status inhibit us from seeing the beauty and wonder of who God has made them to be.
2. Invite Them.
We’ve all been there—the moment you realize that someone has just been dubbed the “third wheel.” As a married woman, I myself have found myself struggling with this issue—not wanting my single friends to feel like a third wheel around my husband and I. So instead of facing what could be an awkward situation, most people avoid it. If I’m completely honest, I believe that dealing with singles in this way is a tactic straight from the pit of hell. The enemy longs for us to feel alone and outside of community, and the way this happens within the Church is when people go off two by two, forgetting that those who aren’t in “a relationship” are still part of this valuable community called the body of Christ. One of the best ways you can love on your single friends is by inviting them into your homes and embracing them into your worlds. Don’t let your personal fear of them feeling like “a third wheel” rob them of the chance to accept an invitation to invest in your life and you in theirs. Leave that choice up to them. Open your hearts by opening your homes and being a place that reflects the love of Jesus to all who enter—no matter their relationship status.
3. Engage with Them.
I think there is a natural tendency to try and make conversation with singles by talking about their singleness. “So, you seeing anyone?” “How’s the love life going these days?” While there is a time and place for these conversations (trust me, I’m all about this when the timing is right!) I think it’s crucial to make it a point to go above and beyond with our conversations by focusing on the bigger picture. Ask them what God is doing in their lives and share with them what He’s doing in yours. Tell them about your struggles and trials, and ask how you can be praying for them. Share with them your heart, and then allow them to take the lead in sharing theirs. Do them the favor of remembering that they are people who are not defined by their relationship status, but rather by the One whom they are ultimately in relationship with: Jesus.
It’s important for us to remember that single or married, we are all on this journey together. Rather than isolating and devaluing our brothers and sisters in Christ, let us be the ones to speak value, life and encouragement into their lives in a world that can sometimes be lacking. Let us learn to love on the singles in our lives in the best way we know how and, by doing so, give them a chance to love on us. It’s time to do community the right way. It’s time to practically live out what it means to be the body of Christ—a place where the only relationship that matters is the one we have with Jesus.
Debra is a Licensed Professional Counselor, relationship expert, speaker and author of several books, including True Love Dates. Debra is also the creator of the popular relationship advice blog TrueLoveDates.com, reaching millions of people with the message that healthy people make healthy relationships. Connect with her on Facebook or Twitter.