mental health · relationships · self-image

Thriving in Singleness

Being single really is a gift. Like marriage, it has its own challenges, but with a bit of work, it can be a beautiful life. In our culture, singleness is constantly portrayed as almost a disease to be rid of, a half-human state of existence, sub-par to the married class.

But being single is not a guarantee of a life of emptiness, loneliness or despair. And marriage is not a guarantee of happiness. If all of the hopes and dreams of a single person revolve around being “completed” by finding meaning and fulfilment in another person, then that person will end up in despair.

Living only for a relationship is too small a view of life. It is a sad compromise, a settling for average, when God offers us so much more joy to be had, so much more meaning and purpose. It is a lot like C.S Lewis’ analogy of the ignorant child content to make mud pies in the slum, “because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea… we are far too easily pleased.”

I’m not an expert on anything, let alone relationships, but as I slowly get older, and another year goes by without a significant other, I have slowly learned to take responsibility for my own life and happiness, and not wait around for another person to “complete me”.

Of course, life isn’t rosy, and it goes without saying that being single still carries a lot of challenges, and I’m not making light of those. But in this article, I want to focus on what has helped me make the most of singleness. Any married couple will tell you that a good marriage takes work, and living a good life as a single person is no different.

So, here’s my two cents on how to thrive as a single person, whether it is a temporary season of life, or a life-long journey.

  1. Identity: Your identity comes from who you already are, not from what you do

Here’s a good general principle for life: If you can lose it, then it is not a very good source of your ultimate identity. Relationships, career, body image, social status, wealth, possessions. All of these things can disappear in an instant.

Last year, within the space of a few weeks, I ended a serious relationship, stopped working an impressive job, was diagnosed with a chronic illness, became unemployed, and went “on the dole”. It was humiliating and humbling, and I struggled with feeling worthless. But what I came to realise was that in God’s eyes, I was still exactly the same person – a child of God, loved, forgiven, accepted, always. Jesus had died for my sins. God’s spirit lived in me. I was his child. I was still Carlin. Therefore, my identity had not changed one bit, just the superficial stuff had.

2. Accountability: You are not alone

Life is all about relationships, and 99.99999% of those relationships will not be romantic, and shouldn’t be. Life is first and foremost about our relationship with God, and second with whoever God has put around us.

Your friends, the people in your life who love you and build you up, are precious. Don’t let them drift away. Men like me especially need to hear this, as it is so easy to be swept away by distractions – career, to-do lists, hobbies, Netflix – and forget that life is really about relationships – God and people, the only things that will last forever.

If you can, set a time at least once a week where you can catch up with a friend or friends that you trust, who bring out the best in you, and will hold you accountable. Give them permission to go deep and ask you the tough questions. Laugh, cry, and do life together.

Grow your friendships and be accountable to them.

3. Mission: Your life has purpose as a single person – real, concrete purpose

Whether you know it or not, you are living for something. Why are you here? What is your true purpose? If it’s not to simply pair off with another human being, what is it?

Ultimately, I believe the purpose of every human being is to know God, and to live for his glory (1 Corinthians 10:31). This doesn’t require marriage – in fact, for some, marriage will actually hinder this purpose (see 1 Corinthians 7:29-35). I exist to know God, to love him, and share his love with the world. And being single doesn’t make me incapable of doing this.

That’s all well and good, but it is a bit abstract. So what is your purpose RIGHT NOW as a single person? Have you ever sat down and asked yourself what your vision for your life is, what your goals are?

I am NOT talking about a career. Personally, I wonder if God really cares much about whether or not we have a career at all, because ultimately, we are not what job we work, and it should not be the primary focus of our lives. Instead, focus on character, relationships, and living a meaningful life for God. This might involve your line of work, or it might not. (For more thoughts on that by people who know what they’re talking about, have a read of this.)

My personal purpose

A few months ago, I asked myself these questions again, and tried to summarise what I believed was God’s purpose for me in this season of my life. I came up with this: My goal is to show that Jesus is my treasure, through my weakness, and through my strengths.

What I mean is this – In this season of life, as I’ve worked through chronic illness, life has been ordinary, simple, and at times, kinda boring, while I’ve worked hard to improve my health and get my life back on track. So my mission has been to lean hard on my hope in God, and through my weakness, show that he is all I need. It’s been really tough, but it has been a beautiful journey. My faith has grown stronger, and I’m slowly growing in maturity through my character flaws.

What does that involve?

It means that my goal for this year has been to move out of my family’s home, and survive financially on my own two feet. This took months of planning, budgeting, saving, praying, and pushing through fear. And in God’s kindness, I’ve done it. Now, I am taking life one day at a time, doing the best that I can to move forward with my health.

It’s very important to me that I ask myself these questions every few months, with a notepad, and some quiet headspace. Am I still focussed on what I believe is God’s purpose for my life right now? Is anything getting in the way? What does this look like in my day to day life? Is there any way that I can keep improving on this?

This might seem totally irrelevant to singleness. It’s not. It is completely relevant, to all of life.

The main point I’m trying to make is this:

If you’re single, your life has already started

A dating or marriage partner is not going to complete you. The only thing that will do that is knowing personally God’s love in Jesus Christ. So, if you’re single and looking for a partner, you are not looking for another half, but a partner to come alongside you in the journey of life that you are ALREADY walking down. YOU HAVE ALREADY STARTED this journey, and if you meet the right person, they are helping you get there. They are not the start of the journey, so START NOW! Start living a life of purpose now, and if/when you meet the right person, they can help you keep living that life of purpose even better.

Grace for Failures is the blog of Carlin Doyle, to encourage and inspire those who have gotten life wrong for a long time, and want to try and do things a little differently. Click here for more info, and here for more posts.

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