Earlier this year I was attending a Christian women’s conference where I had the privilege of sharing some thoughts about the way the Bible speaks of an authentic purpose and belonging for the single Christian. We had a great morning and over lunch I found myself sitting next to two lovely, older Christian women. We had spent a bit of time chatting further about the implications of a high biblical regard for singleness, when suddenly, one of my new friends looked at me with a glint in her eyes and said “Wait! I just had a idea!”. I was excited. What was her idea? Was it something to do with taking some of these reflections back to her church pastor? Did she have some thoughts about how to encourage some of the younger single women (or men) in her church? Had she come up with a ministry or mission concept particularly focused on those who were unmarried?
She leant across me and said to her friend sitting to my right, “You know what we should do! We should introduce Dani to your son!”.
Now don’t get me wrong. These kind sisters in Christ were very well intentioned. (And because I know you’re wondering, unfortunately said son turned out to be 20 years older than me, lived interstate and wasn’t a Christian). However, it was just one of those moments that most single Christians know so well – a moment when the kindly meant words of someone (who themselves tend not to be single) just leave you saying and feeling and thinking “Oh”.
I recently asked the biblical singleness facebook community to share some of the frustrating, funny, bewildering, or – let’s be honest – slightly dumb things that their genuinely well-meaning Christian friends have said to them in the past.
I’m sharing their responses here in the hope that by thinking more carefully about what might not be best to say, we might all be better equipped to speak words which do truly build up and encourage our single friends instead.
WORDS OF (OFTEN BASELESS) ASSURANCE
- Don't worry. Your turn will come (Usually said at weddings to single people who up to that point didn't look worried at all.)
- Your turn will come. I know someone who didn't get married until (insert age a minimum of ten years younger than me here).
- Don’t worry. It’s all in God’s timing.
- You’ll be next!
- Stop looking. It will happen when you least expect it.
- When you get to be truly contented, then God will find you someone
- Just relax and it will happen
- There is someone just around the corner for you. I know it.
I WISH I WERE YOU
- Do you really want one? (As she points at her husband's latest strange behaviour)
- At least you don't have to carry your husband’s keys and wallet in your bag.
- You’re better off alone, you can do whatever you like whenever you want .
- I'm so jealous you got to travel, I really feel like I missed out
- Friend: You don't know how hard it is to have a husband and kids. You're lucky! I'm jealous of your freedom!
Me: So you regret getting married?
Friend: Oh no! Definitely not.
Me: Right. So... you wish you hadn't had kids?
Friend: What? No, of course not! I couldn't imagine my life without them.
Me: Yeah... tell me again about how much you envy my life?
I JUST DON’T GET IT…
- Why are you still single? You’re such a good catch!
- If I wasn’t already married, I’d marry you!
- If X can find herself a husband I just don’t understand why you can’t?! Seriously!
- I just don’t understand why someone hasn’t snapped you up yet
ACTUALLY, I DO GET IT...
- You’re single because you’re fat. You should lose some weight.
- Men don’t want women who are too independent. They need to feel needed
- You’re too fussy
- You're overcommitted to your job.
- You just have to put yourself out there more.
- Have you tried online dating?
THE THIRD WHEEL
- We didn't invite you because we didn't want you to feel awkward about being the single one
- The dinner is a family event- please bring your plus-one and your kids. X, I don't have a plus one for you, so you can come as a kid!
THE QUESTION ON EVERYONE'S MIND
- Are you gay?
I think it is important to address this last one briefly. The reality is that for a not insignificant number of single Christians the answer to this question will be “Yes” (even if that is an answer they do not wish to share publicly). It can be exceedingly difficult for same-sex attracted single Christians to constantly field questions and comments which assume that they are looking to find a romantic partner (of the opposite sex) to marry. And so, in one sense, it is helpful to keep this question in mind (without presuming to ask it!) as you speak to single Christians. However, for those singles who aren’t same-sex attracted, it can be upsetting to know that people may be making false assumptions about their sexuality simply because they aren’t married. It’s difficult to navigate our way through these waters, but ultimately I think we need to be sensitively aware that same-sex attraction may be a reality for some singles, without either presuming or speculating that it may be the case for a specific single friend unless we know otherwise.