Unlike many today who believe in living a life of no regrets, I have regrets. I can tell myself that these “mistakes” (or non-mistakes for politically correct weirdos) have helped get me to where I am today, and this is probably true. But at the same time, if it is true that those choices could lead to something amazing given the infinite permutations of life paths, it is also true that among those infinite permutations could have been a better way, a wiser way, a way that doesn’t need me to rationalize, “I have no regrets.” The fact that I have to tell myself not to regret something already shows regret. It’s very common for us to contradict ourselves.
This post isn’t so much about regrets and how to deal with them but about the other thing I thought of while gathering my thoughts in advance preparation for a “singles event” I’ll be speaking in.
I’ve never been a fan of “Singles Events”, simply because I find it to be a weird classification. I don’t think “Singles” have unique needs or special circumstance. Listen to their concerns without getting lost in the symptoms, and you’ll find the same concerns that everyone faces – including married people. Feelings of loneliness aren’t cured by having someone. Feelings of inadequacy and insecurity, needing to feel beautiful, needing to feel desired, needing to feel loved, these issues will not be addressed by getting married, in fact, they’ll be highlighted. If you feel inadequate alone, imagine how you’ll feel when you have someone else relying on you for things you’re afraid you can’t deliver? You’ll feel worse. Being in a relationship will only emphasize the issues you’re already facing. If you have spent your life building the foundations of your life, you’ll be able to handle it and thrive. If not, you’ll find yourself, at best, insecure in a roller coaster of ups and downs, and at worst, miserable, crumbling, and jaded when you find that this thing called marriage, the thing that was supposed to complete you, is crushing you instead.
Underneath these issues is not a distinction between single or married. Both single and married people are facing the exact same things. A medical doctor doesn’t treat the cancer of a single person differently from the cancer of a married person. It’s irrelevant. He treats the cancer. To think that the condition of a single person is his or her being single is weird. It’s not a condition to be treated or handled with special care. Here are what I think the conditions are:
People Who Are Too Weak (particularly mentally, emotionally, and spiritually) to Stand On Their Own. Immature people are not mentally, emotionally, spiritually, and financially independent, so will be difficult in a marriage because marriage requires inter-dependence. How can a dependable partner depend on someone who can’t even take care of himself or herself? He or she will have a leach as a partner, and that leaching partner won’t realize it. They’re too immature to realize it.
People You Can’t Rely On. Connected to immaturity is irresponsibility. This is someone you cannot rely on, who always has an excuse for why they can’t deliver. These are people you end up building around instead of with. In time, you’ll lose respect for immature and irresponsible people because there’s nothing to respect.
People Who Think the World Owes Them. It’s not uncommon to find that many immature and irrespirable people, if not all, are accompanied by this disease: entitlement. It’s ironic because the person who contributes the least somehow thinks they deserve the most. This is most obvious when we don’t get why we want. Do we expect others to deliver what we can’t? It’s really weird.
People Who Can’t Reason Beyond What They Feel. In an age where the most important thing in the world is to be nice, get ready for more divorces – and from nice couples. This isn’t a fearless prediction. It’s plain logic. The cult of nice has removed Reasoning from the dialogue. When there’s no reason, there’s no meaning, when there’s no meaning, what we have is meaning-less. Why be in a relationship that meaning-less? No amount of inspiration or ritual can save a union that has lost meaning.
Being reasonable has nothing to do with being nice. It has everything to do with basing your understanding and discussion on objective truth. Is your position based on objective truth or a feeling? Truth doesn’t change. Feelings do. If I based my career on how I feel our companies would crash. Yet you have marriages listening to advice saying being nice is more important than being right.
They’re both important!
Without rightness and truth you will remove that essential ingredient to lasting relationships: respect. Again there’s nothing to respect. When nothing is true all that matters is how we feel. This person will not be teachable and will learn at a snail’s pace. Why? Instead of being sensitive to truth and picking up, the only way for them to learn is to be taught in a conducive environment by no one less than the Dalai Lama.
People Who Don’t Live with Purpose on Purpose. A lot of people have dreams that won’t come true. And it’s not because they’re not nice. It’s because they’re not backing up their dream with purposeful living – in other words: discipline. Discipline means limiting my activities to things that bring me closer to my goals. Many times we think that a fool is simply someone who is mean or evil. Not exactly. Those are mean and evil people. A fool is someone who doesn’t love with purpose on purpose, or lacks disciplein. It will be very difficult to be the partner of a fool, even if you are disciplined, especially if you are disciplined.
People Who are Obsessed with the Superficial Areas of Life. These are people who live for likes and shares, who would rather seem than be, who want to be liked more than known. These are the people taking 100 selfies in the bathroom, give themselves more cleavage, and brag about their stuff – stuff they won’t be using in a few months. Vain people are a black hole you’ll ever be able to fill, and they’ll resent you when you can’t fill it. Why even try?
People Who Think They’re the S**t, Including the Ones Who Don’t Realize It. It’s easy to spot pride in a high achiever. It’s more difficult to spot it in a low-achiever even if it is just as present. The question here isn’t whether we’re overconfident or underconfident. The question here is “Do I think about myself, my activities, my feelings, my present, my future, more than others?” If yes, that’s pride right there. The most obvious indicator of pride is the inability to say sorry simply because you hurt someone.
People Who Base Their Output On Feelings Not the Needs of the World. No one will admit to being lazy. Everyone thinks they’re very busy. Modern day laziness looks more like staying busy with whatever catches our fancy instead of being committed to meeting the needs of those we’re responsible for.
People Who Cannot Journey with Graciousness. This is a big one for me. I am incredibly impatient, especially with lack of logic, lack of common sense (and I think time and money management should be common), and incompetence. But there is no good reason to be impatient, so it’s important I learn to be more gracious, no matter how frustrating it can be to reason with people who lack the education and training of simple dialogue.
There are more conditions than these of course. These conditions will continue to hurt you and others, even when you’re married. These are all present in my life in different stages, and still crop up. They were present when I was single and they’re still present. Just ask my wife. That’s why what we need is not more feel good inspirational sound bites. We don’t address these conditions with quotes. Like a surgeon, we remove these soul cancers with a sharp knife. For Christians, we know that our cancer is so huge and so deeply rooted, that a scalpel won’t do. We actually use what Ephesians 6 calls a sword, the Word of God.
The insecurity, loneliness, and inadequacy singles face are not symptoms of being single but the symptoms of a people, single and married, who want to be loved and called beautiful without dealing with the vanity, entitlement, immaturity, pride, selfishness and foolishness that make us unlovable and not beautiful in the first place. Society’s cure to ugliness is to lie to us. We want to be told we’re sexy when we’re overweight, that we’re beautiful when we know we’re not our makeup, that we’d be a catch when we know we’re not. No external thing can make someone who is inwardly empty more fulfilled, no cosmetic treatment nor compliment.
What we need is deep surgery.
Contrary to the popular approach of reminding people they’re beautiful or that their best life is in front of them, I recommend doing what I’ve learned to do daily:
Daily devotions not as my daily dose of inspiration, but my daily surgery, daily healing, and daily loving.
Here’s my prayer:
Father, I want to feel loved. But I am honest enough to admit that my pride makes me closed to love, my selfishness makes me unloving, and I am incapable of dealing with these things on my own. I tell myself, “Today, I’ll be humble”, and within minutes I am cursing the man who cut me in traffic because I feel I was dishonored. I tell myself, “Today, I’ll be selfless” and within minutes I am agitated by a small comment from my wife. I blame others for the way I feel, when it is I who hold these feelings. How illogical my feelings have made me. How foolish and unwise am I. Every day I am reminded of how much I need You. I am closed to love, unloving, and incapable, in short, I am unlovable. So I come to You today without pretense for You know everything already, and I ask You to keep operating on my heart. Cut away what You must, heal what You must. Your will be done in my heart. For Your perfect love makes up for my imperfection, Your beauty drives away my ugliness like light banishes darkness. My Great Surgeon is also my Great Healer for He is my Great Lover. I can rest in the security and pleasure of Your hands.
Then I go about my day. I always used to say that if you need more than one person to love you’ll always feel insecure. If you love one horrible person you’ll still be insecure as well. But if you love the One who love you most, and you really really really love Him more than anyone else, who cares if no one else loves you?