I read an article about single Catholics the other day. I’m seeing a lot more articles like that, and it makes me really happy. But what I find even more interesting than the articles themselves are the comments below.
In this particular article, there were several really good comments about the article itself, or the state of single life, etc. But then there were others – several of them – that were basically just complaints about how horrible it is to be single. They talked about being a fifth wheel, about not being included in social events, about losing friends when they get married. (“A friend married is a friend buried” was one quote that stood out in my mind.) They complained that family and holiday events were miserable because everybody felt sorry for them because they were unmarried and childless. The basic theme was that nobody wanted to be around them.
Reading through their laundry list of complaints, I’m not sure I’d want to be around them either.
I’m the first to acknowledge that, for someone who feels called to marriage, remaining single is a cross. I also believe that married life and religious life have their own crosses. I believe that we need to acknowledge the difficult aspects of our state of life, whatever they may be. I’m not of the grit-my-teeth-and-talk-about-how-wonderful-single-life-is school of thought.
But I’m not a big fan of wallowing in self pity either.
I thought about my family gatherings, my holidays, my time with friends. And I can’t think of a single time where I was aware of someone feeling sorry for me because I’m unmarried and childless. I suspect that’s because I wasn’t feeling sorry for myself. That’s not to say I don’t have my moments or my struggles. I bring those moments to prayer, to spiritual direction, to good friends in quiet moments. But I try not to bring them to parties. At gatherings of family or friends, I don’t focus on the children I don’t have. I try to concentrate on those I do have: the beautiful nieces and nephews and godchildren and friends’ kids who are such blessings in my life. And I focus on my friends, my community, whatever opportunity I have in that moment to be with them and enjoy their company.
I’ve written elsewhere about the importance of grieving childlessness, and I do think that’s an important prerequisite to fully enjoying other people’s children. Grieving, really facing the reality of our situation and going through the process of accepting it, isn’t easy or pleasant work. But with God’s help, we need to do it to free us to enjoy the gifts God has given us instead of obsessing over those we don’t have.
And to free other people to enjoy our company, instead of pitying our misery.