For a couple of weeks, I was more emotional than usual. I have been struggling with a restlessness and discontentment that is pulling me in the wrong direction. It is always difficult for me to decide how much I ought to share in my blog. I can have a tendency to over-communicate, so I try to take my time and be thoughtful and prayerful about what to include. Much of my tendency to say too much stems from keeping too much inside. What I really want is someone to talk to. I don’t have a best friend to share my struggles with. It makes sense that there are things that I can’t share in a blog, but my problem is trying to work through the issues that I can’t share with anyone at all. I try to talk to God instead, and I pray for that to satisfy my need. Still, I long to have the kind of trusting friendship with another human being which would allow me to expose my most guarded vulnerabilities. Sometimes, I find myself skirting the edges of an issue, testing the water in the hope that someone cares about what I am going through. Other times, the things I hold inside well up and start spilling out, in spite of my best efforts. Communication is how I work through problems and make sense of things, so it shouldn’t be a surprise. Usually the overflow occurs at the wrong time and place. But even when it should be a “safe” place to share, I inevitably come to regret opening my mouth.
Over twenty years of struggling through life as a single person, I have learned that it is best to keep my mouth shut about what I feel. I have been hurt repeatedly by people who should show me love. The most painful remarks always seem to flow from sisters in Christ. There is an assumption that, because I am single, I don’t have any legitimate difficulties in my life. The responses I receive are usually characterized by a careless disregard for my feelings and punctuated by the sentiment that I have it better than they do. I think that somewhere between pity and platitudes there should be room for a compassionate response that shows the love of Christ. But examples are and far between.
Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear. And do not grieve the Holy Spirit of God, by whom you were sealed for the day of redemption. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.
There is no such thing as a perfect life; surely, we all know that. Yet somehow, we still let ourselves believe that the grass is greener on the other side of the fence. Even as people around us struggle with circumstances in their lives, we judge and make comparisons. In all of our comparing, we lose our compassion for one another. One of the important lessons that I’ve learned in my struggle with depression, is that self-pity is a kind of pride. And what else is it, except self-pity, if we let ourselves think that our trials are more severe than someone else’s? It is as though we don’t have any room in our lives to care about anyone other than ourselves.
Time and again, I have been crushed by the remarks of other believers who think that being single is an easier life. Even sharing about how God has helped me to grow and to have a better attitude, has gotten me pounced on by the ‘you-should-be-glad-you’re-single’ crowd. The major reason that I invest time in writing, is that I don’t want other single women to feel as though no one understands. It is painful and isolating when the women around you brush off your concerns and challenges, assuming that your life is easier than theirs. I feel God calling me to reach out to try to encourage others who are walking this path with me.
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience, bearing with one another and, if one has a complaint against another, forgiving each other; as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
In the past few months, I have gotten hooked on a YouTube vlog, The Frey Life. Mary Frey has cystic fibrosis, which means that her health is a constant challenge. But she likes to say, “Everyone has a story.” Even as she raises awareness of the disease that she fights, she never minimizes the pain or difficulties that others may be facing in their own lives. She is such an encouragement to me. I want to keep her attitude in mind when I speak with people who are facing struggles. It isn’t about me, after all.
The Bible is clear on the fact that life isn’t easy, and that we are to encourage one another and share each other’s burdens. I know that I can’t change other people, but as I have reflected on my experiences, I can see that I need to work on myself. I need to stop focusing on my own circumstances. Most importantly, I need to master the art of being “quick to hear, slow to speak.” (James 1:19) It is one thing for me to write about being an encouragement to others, and another thing for me to live it out in the day-to-day.