out of the darkness: singleness & the church, part 2

singleness and the church part 2

i did a series of conversations in 2009 and 2010 called out of the darkness.  it had honest stories from my friends on topics that often never get talked about in church. if you didn’t read them, here they are:

one of the most popular ones was the last one, singleness and the church.  this topic is getting more play these days but we still have a long way to go to really addressing the needs of single friends in church.  in the refuge, a big chunk of our community is single–either never-been-married, divorced, or widowed. this is a big shift for me from years ago when we were mainly around a lot of other young-couples-with-kids, and i continue to learn how little i really know about singleness & the feelings that go along with it.

these interviews only scratch the surface, so i thought it would be good to do a part 2 on this one to flesh it out a little more.  remember, this is only one person’s perspective but i think many others–both women and men–can relate in one way or another.  for those of us who are married or have a partner, may we also listen well and learn.  again, meet RJ, a single Christian man bravely sharing his heart:

  • one of the things that we touched up on in the first interview was the issue of shame around being single.  shame is such a destroyer of hope and can really keep us stuck. can you flesh out a little bit more what shame looks like for you when it comes to your singleness.

Shame is such a powerful force when it infects our life.  It can permeate us so much that we feel like an actual weight is tying us down and we cannot budge. For me, shame affects me in being single by making me think and feel *less than.”  Many of us have been taught, especially from the Bible, that God’s intent for us was to find a soulmate to live life with *until death do us part.”  Being single causes a spotlight to shine down upon me, in my own mind’s eye, and is a constant reminder that I am somehow short of God’s ideal and lack something.  I feel shame more than I wish I did.  Shame often pulls at me like quicksand–stuck in its grasp and infiltrating my self-talk, energy and desire to accomplish things.

  • there are two other powerful emotions often associated with shame–fear and anger.  how do these 2 emotions play in to things for you?  

Fear and anger are definitely very strong emotions and I think many singles can relate to feeling them. Fear of being unattractive, unwanted, and unlovely are some that I can relate to.. Fear causes me to shrink back and hide inside myself. Anger can be caused by many of the same issues although the result and response is to lash out and attack instead of hide. I know I often feel fear and anger when it comes to my  singleness. I think the root is that thought/feeling of being valued less–whether that be that be by God, other people, or myself. What can get me intro trouble, too, if we misinterpret Scripture and  the work of the Holy Spirit and have a black/white  “I have to be rid of all my fear and anger before I can be worthy”  type of thinking. The pathway to less fear and anger is grace and acceptance. 

  • i think a lot of single friends doubt themselves–if i were only prettier, smarter, more this or more that, then maybe i’d find a partner.  what does this look like for you?

Doubting myself is related to the shame, fear, and anger issues. Constantly wondering about my attractiveness, my personality and abilities always loom large in my imagination. I had an experience when I first started college where I was in Biology lab and somehow 3 girls ended up fighting over me, so to speak. I have always battled with feeling  unattractive and unwanted by girls in any romantic or sexual way, and I didn’t know how to handle it. I dated one of them a short time, but I felt really awkward the whole time, even though on the inside i was thanking God for 3 cute girls all interested in me! I was engaged once as well, but the self-doubt remained even though i had a woman wanting to marry me. Shame and self-doubt are really tough phantoms to extinguish, even when we know they are dead-ends.

  • the part that often people don’t talk about surround issues of sex.  what are some areas that you think need to be more openly addressed when it comes to sex and singleness?

Sex–this important word is talked about so little in church.  Research and studies have shown that sexual struggles abound within the Church and it still is not an easy issue to openly discuss, although great strides have been made in the last decade. I think married couples experience a similar struggle as singles, actually. I just think singles are stigmatized more because the temptation is perceived as greater and harder to deal with.  I mentioned before that as an ordained minister landing a job as a single man is nearly impossible.  I think understanding boundaries is a good place to operate from in dealing with sexuality. Just what is supposedly okay and not okay. How do you handle the *heat of the moment*?  I also think a very important issue in all this is the *Big M*–Masturbation. I think masturbation  is one of the biggest unspoken sources of shame and guilt for so many Christian men.  Having been in Bible College and Seminary and lived in dorms, I had many a conversation with other guys who expressed such self-hatred over this.  

  • describe what it feels like when you go out on a date and early into it you know that there’s no connection.  what kinds of thoughts/feelings do you experience?

Being out on a date and halfway through, suddenly red flags begin blinking and   the *no connection here* alarm goes off has definitely happened to me. I often  internalize it and think “What is wrong with me? Have I not talked enough, entertained enough? Am I being totally boring?” All of my insecurities run through my mind in the span of 30 seconds and I feel like someone stuck in an elevator wanting to get out.  Then, in my saner moments I realize sometimes people just don’t click, and that’s okay. 

  • in looking back at the original questions, one that really jumped out at me was balancing “longing” and “acceptance.”  you shared a little bit about what that was like for you.  how have you seen other single friends navigate through these two feelings? 

In thinking about longing and acceptance, I see some who are able to commit their singleness over to God and not worry about it.  For me, this is so much easier said than done!  I know some who have spent many lonely hours longing for the *right one* to suddenly appear magically out of the sky. I know others who find contentment in being single until they die. I think a lot of it comes with letting go of expectations. Those who let others place expectations on them or do it to themselves find it harder to feel acceptance, and then the longing is painful as opposed to hopeful. I find that for me, longing and acceptance fluctuate on and off, depending on moods or certain things happening in life at the time.

  • what’s the most painful part about being single?

The most painful part for me is not having someone to share life with. Not having  someone to express all my emotions to and receive theirs back. Not having someone to sexually enjoy in all its wonder and splendor. Feeling like other people don’t see me as a whole person because of I am still single.

  • what’s the best part?

For me, the best part is being able to set my own timetable for anything.  I can do as I please in regards to things I like and want to do, and enjoy the company of single and married friends anytime.

* * * * *

thank you, RJ, for your honesty and for bravely sharing a little more of your feelings about being single.  between the 2 interviews i think you touched on some really real & raw feelings that often don’t get talked about in church.  i am so thankful for your friendship!  i’d love for those of you reading–single or married–to share some of what this interview stirred up.  we need to continue to get these things “out of the darkness” and into the light and live more honestly and freely in authentic community together.


Kathy Escobar

Kathy Escobar is dedicated to creating safe and brave spaces for transformation and healing in real life, online, and outside. She co-pastors at The Refuge, a hub for healing community, social action, and creative collaboration in North Denver, co-directs #communityheals, a non-profit organization dedicated to making spaces for transformation accessible for all, and is the author of Practicing: Changing Yourself to Change the World, Faith Shift: Finding Your Way Forward When Everything You Believe is Coming Apart and several other books.


  • Wow. Thanks RJ for being willing to share.

    Hmmm…It’s taken me a couple of days to get to the place where I can even write a comment. This stirred a lot of pain and anger that I thought was dealt with (ha!). Had a lot of angry words that I could have aimed at the people within the religious bubble. But really, it’s not just them who treat you weird. And the angry words…well, they don’t really help so much in a public setting.

    But, I will say this: there are a large number of reasons why someone might be single. All of them probably involve hurt in one form or another. If people would take the time to just get to know each other, the question wouldn’t even need to be asked. But for myself, if you really want to know why I have never married, be prepared to hear an answer that may be uncomfortable. If you do not want to hear the answer, don’t ask the question.

    Okay, wow, the anger is rising again, so I will stop now. 🙂

    • thanks my friend for your raw honesty. i think you express what many others feel as well. this is a tricky topic & i do wish we had more containers for good conversations about it together in real life, not just on blogs 🙂 love and hope from over the hill…

  • Katherine- very thankful to hear your comments. So sorry to see the anger evoked in you, but i totally get where your coming from. I have read your blog and empathize with so much you have shared on it. To add to my interview and along the lines of something you shared on your blog- I have battled feeling unworthy of being loved, be it God or a person, let alone a woman. I have felt shame and guilt over things I have experienced in life that were in no way my fault or doing, but I just have this internal automatic response to hold myself responsible and feel I have to tought it out and learn to be strong.I share this to go along with your insights on a variety of reasons why I am single. I wish torrents of grace,acceptance and peace flow like a waterfall inside you Katherine, which is a major reason I love Kathy and her blog so much. She envisions and pursues that!!!

    Kathy- thank you for letting me do part 2 Keep *going down* with Jesus special sister!!!

    • thanks RJ for your heart and honesty. i am so glad we are friends. my hope is that “torrents of grace, acceptance, and peace flow like waterfalls” inside us all as we keep pursuing God, healing, hope, and transformation. so pretty.

  • RJ – thanks. 🙂

    Man, do I understand that automatic response…for me, it has always been that if something is wrong, it must be my fault. I recognize it comes from growing up with a mother who was NEVER wrong and in a religious system that taught me the things done to me made me bad.

    To be honest, after 4 years of therapy and a lot of digging and learning and healing, I am still afraid of people, especially men. Even as friends, I find that fear present, but when I think about being alone with a man, even just as a friend. my chest tightens. If I think about a romantic relationship, I almost feel panicky….still. And I know that is because I have not yet experienced real friendship with a man – brother, father….it does not seem to be easily available.

    I so appreciate Kathy and what she does. I look forward to meeting her, hopefully soon….again, thanks, RJ.

    • oh that is so me, the automatic response “it must be my fault.” it’s freaky how natural that reflex is for me & i am sure comes from my history but it’s annoying! i do wish you lived closer, that’s for sure!

  • Oh thank you RJ, for the poignant & articulate look into the emotions of singleness. Being single as well, I have experienced a lot of the emotions that you have described. I personally vacillate between appreciating my independence & feeling worried that I will always be single. I worry that I will never feel ready enough to be in a serious relationship, and will die as a single woman. Thinking about living the rest of my life as a single person, and facing the looks and the awkward conversations of “you aren’t dating yet?!” *forever* make me feel a bit anxious. For now, though, I am thankful that I am in a community that accepts me no matter my relationship status on facebook, haha. 🙂


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