5 Ideas for Showing Love to Single Adults

It can be hard to interact with people who live different lives than we do. As a single adult in a church that cares deeply about the marriage and family, I know many single adults who feel like their married friends, family, and church leaders are critical of their lives, hyper-focused on their single status, or insensitive to their unique experiences. I also know many friends, family, and church leaders that believe single adults are too defensive, not motivated, too comfortable and oh-so-distracted. There is truth in all of this.

This disconnect between single adults and married adults in the church has troubled me. Jennifer Finlayson-Fife is a mormon therapist who has written about this topic. She sums it up well:

When marriage is an essential achievement of earth-life, single adults represent an aberration from our theological ideal. If one doesn’t get married (whether by choice or lack of opportunity), and marriage is the desired state, it is very easy to treat singles as though they are in a prolonged adolescence, in a holding pattern, waiting patiently to arrive at true adulthood, for their lives to truly begin.

I would add that it is very easy to feel as if we are in a holding pattern. We put a lot of pressure on ourselves. When we or others see us as though we are not whole people if not married, it causes unnecessary pressure, obsessive focus on marriage, and undermines our ability to serve and minister to others — all of which detract from the main goal of marriage itself.

No doubt this is a complex issue and one that I certainly haven’t completely resolved. However, in my own struggle to make peace with my current life and the married life I hope to live one day, I’ve noticed one thing that helps immensely to bridge this disconnect between married and single adults. A member of my church stood up once in front of our congregation and boldly declared that in spite of her “issues” all she ever wanted was to “feel loved and not judged.” Don’t we all want to feel that way?

So… how do we show love and not judgment? Here are some ideas that have helped me most as I interact with my friends and family.

Sincerely Ask About Their Life
Show genuine love and concern for the whole person, not just about their single status. Ask them about their hobbies, their friends, their job, their church experience. Ask questions that start with “Tell me more about… “ or “What’s your experience with…” or “How do you feel about…” Above all, show love. If you show your sincerity, they’ll likely talk to you about every aspect of their life… but only if they feel loved and not judged. This takes time. Especially if there’s previous hurt or frustration. Don’t give up! In your busy life, you might not have time for a deep conversation. Once while visiting my home ward, a family I barely knew passed me a note across the aisle, delivered by their 4 year-old boy. It said, “Lindsay – we’re so glad you are here – the Davis’ are big fans of you!” It’s been at least 4 years, and I still remember how I felt when I received that note.

Show Confidence In Them
Whether or not they share their life with you, try to find a way to show love and confidence for them. We all want to feel significant, important, valued. That we matter. I once heard Steve Young speak about his own search for marriage, and the rare opportunity he had to meet with several senior church leaders, seeking their advice. He eagerly anticipated each meeting but over the course of several years, he began to notice that their advice generally include the same two phrases no matter what their experience or authority on the topic. They would listen intently. Then, inevitably they would respond with some version of 1) “We love you.” and 2) “Good luck!” In my experience, that’s infinitely better than any dating story or marriage advice.

Find Things In Common
One way to show love and not judgment is to find things in common. It’s easy for us to get obsessed with ourselves. Share with us your own feelings and thoughts and life experiences. The reality is that our lives are more alike than different. And the private struggle you feel in marriage is no less a struggle than the one we bear alone. We hardly remember this. Remind us of the challenges you face and the human in us will respond. Whether married or single, those who are happiest find “all things common” among their family and friends.

Be an Example
A million times better than talking about marriage is seeing a marriage worth emulating. Great marriages seem easy to talk about, but hard to do. So when I see couple having fun, solving problems, loving each other, showing kindness in little things – that makes me want to get married more than anything! Show us why it’s worth it. With declining marriage rates, and increasing dysfunctional relationships, it’s imperative that we find good examples of marriage and family from which to set our sights on.

Pray for Them
Once, a friend of mine (who happens to be married with four kids and a busy job) emailed me and told me he was praying for me. I had to hold back the tears while sitting at my office computer. Not only did he take the time to ask me about my life, but he also asked God about my life. That meant the world to me. If you care enough about them, care enough to ask God “How would thou have me interact with thy son or daughter?” Because he loves both of you, God has double the reason to answer that type of prayer.

In Crossing to Safety, Wallace Stegnar sums up the feeling of being loved and not judged in a simple backward glance: “Our necks craned for a last look at the people who above any other two on earth made us feel good, wanted, loved, important, and happy.” I’m forever indebted to the family and friends that make me feel this way.

Take back your power to choose

It all started with this NYT Op-Doc. Then I taught this lesson at church. Then I was faced with some big decisions in my life and ultimately decided to quit my job and take a four-week sabbatical. What I do next is up in the air so you can imagine that I’ve been thinking a lot about choices this year. And I’ve come to the conclusion that making our own choices is the best and hardest thing we do. I don’t think we take them seriously.
Here’s what I’ve learned about choices in the last few months:
  • Self-doubt and hesitation are real and debilitating. The only thing that effectively eliminates them is action.
  • We don’t get to choose the actions of others, but we can choose how we respond to them.
  • Email, texting, social media, tv shows or other addictions distract from our ability to choose.
  • Making passive choices can be as destructive as making wrong choices.
  • The reality of individual choice is that only you choose how to spend your energy and your time.
  • Assuming responsibility for choices is hard but liberating.
This is a call to arms. It’s time we take back our right to choose. Here are a couple of suggestions that have helped me:
  • What is impacting your ability to choose how you spend your energy and your time? Identify where you are passively making choices and take back your right to choose.
  • Watch your language: Use the words “I choose to” rather than “I have to” or “I felt” rather than “You made me feel”.
  • Assume responsibility by asking the question, “What’s my role in this matter?”
What can you do to take back your power to choose? At a conference I recently attended, Clayton Christensen spoke about the choices he’s made that have had the most impact. He noted that the choices he made on his own free will and desire meant so much more to him and have had greater impact than when someone else had told him to do something. I believe that. Actively making choices breeds happiness and success. So don’t give up your ability to choose.

Manly Qualities: A Tribute to Andrew Marshall

IMG_3589I met Andrew 7 years ago and have been following him around ever since. We live parallel lives. Not only do we share similar beliefs and hobbies, but we share the same educational background and career—we live in similar worlds while even sharing the same desk space. Six years ago, I wrote a paragraph about why I admired him. Since then, I’ve seen him engaging in academic debates, consulting with federal clients, supervising new employees, presiding over his congregation, teaching his children and going on dates with his wife. You learn a lot about a person when seeing them in such different environments. And since it was his birthday last Saturday, and I feel it’s time to give him a proper tribute. What do I admire about Andrew? He is:

  • Authentic. He loves Pixar, biking, and musical theatre; has little interest in sports; cares a ton about his family and church; and rarely consumes pop culture. Andrew makes everything more fun by being true to his creative side. He is who he is– a man without guile, who helps you feel more comfortable in your own skin. People are drawn to him. He shares his interests freely and owns up to what he doesn’t know. If you looked up the word ‘humble’ in the dictionary, you’d probably find a picture of him.
  • Loyal. Whether it be God, family, friends, or employer, Andrew decides what he cares about and is unwaveringly loyal. He’s there. He’s all in. I’ve seen him keep commitments to his wife to be home for dinner, to a friend to help with their move, to a client to submit a proposal, or to his church responsibilities – even when he’s exhausted, busy, or both.
  • Compassionate. Andrew cares deeply. This shows up most in his family life—the minute you start asking him about his children, you can see the great love he has for them. But it doesn’t stop there – Andrew thinks a lot about others, gives them the benefit of the doubt, and actively supports those around him. He once sent me an email saying that he prayed for me. That simple act of compassion meant the world to me. I’m sure he’s prayed for hundreds of people over the years.

Andrew knows who he is, what he values, and what’s important to him. Then he acts according to that knowledge. I can think of no higher compliment and I aspire to be like him. Happy birthday to one of the greatest humans I know.

What will be your legacy?

I’ve been into Lincoln lately. What a man! Turns out I’m late to the bandwagon because there are more than 16,000 books written about our 16th president. In my study, I’ve noticed people often discuss Lincoln in terms of his results (ending the civil war, the Emancipation Proclamation, 13th amendment, etc.) or his character (integrity, ambition, and humor, to name a few). This sparked a question in me: What will be my legacy? What will I be known for?

IMG_0002Recently my boss wrote a summary of my accomplishments in the last few years. He talked about the programs I’ve managed, the projects I’ve led and the contributions I’ve made to our team. He talked about the improvements we’ve made and how I contributed to them. He was kind and generous with his words, but it made me wonder: Is this what I want to be known for? Will this be my legacy?

Around the same time, I read a biography for my sister-in-law that my brother had written about her role as the mother of their 5 kids. Like Lincoln, Becky is known for both her character and her results. I’ve included it almost in it’s entirety here because it impacted me so much:

Rebecca Ellen Thomas was born and raised in Olathe, KS.  She served a mission in Panama, Panama City and graduated with a 2 year degree from Ricks College and a Bachelor’s of Science degree from Brigham Young University, Provo in Biology Teaching in 2001.  She married Damon Larry Johnson in 1999.

Becky and Damon graduated from BYU together, started a new job, bought a new house, and had their first baby all within about 1 week.  Life hasn’t slowed down since. They now have 5 children:  Parker, Ellen, Bryant, Leah, and Katelyn. Becky has been a stay at home mother from the beginning.  

Although most of her time is spent raising children and caring for home, she is a woman of other varied talents and experiences.  She has experience and love for dancing, piano, orchestra, science, sewing, outdoors, and reading among other things. But she is best known to her kids for her animal impersonations skills including “monkeys” and “crickets”!  :) 

IMG_2899

Becky and family at Lincoln’s tomb

She loves to learn!  She is a lifetime student and there are few things she doesn’t master when presented with an opportunity. She always learning something new and working on new projects at home. 

One of her most important qualities is that she is willing to pay the price when others aren’t. She feels great compassion for others and will sacrifice anything for someone in need. She is an avid listener, compassionate friend, and resourceful problem solver.  People flock to her to help solve their problems when others can’t help. She has a “no nonsense” personality that makes her practical, real, and determined. This, combined with her personal, warm and welcoming nature, creates the ideal atmosphere to help people grow. Because of this, she is incredible resource wherever she is called to serve.

Her bright eyes, warm smile, and welcoming laugh attract people to her, especially her family. They want to be with her constantly.  Her husband and kids adore her because of how good she is and good she makes them feel. She is like the “little stream” in the primary song, “giving” wherever she goes, making the “grass grow greener still”. 

What results do you want? What values will you live? What will be your legacy?

a gentle man–a man who does things gently, with love.

“You know the meaning of the word “gentleman.” It means a gentle man–a man who does things gently, with love. That is the whole art and mystery of it.” – Henry Drummond

I once made a resolution to always accept a kind gesture. This is hard from someone who is prideful and who thrives on efficiencies. Not that chivalry isn’t efficient – it very well may be. But sometimes, when I’m getting off at the next metro stop it just doesn’t seem to make sense to take the seat that is offered me. Regardless, accepting and embracing these acts has changed the way I view kindness.

Let me give you a few examples.

  • An 18-year-old I work with offered to carry a box I was holding (that wasn’t heavy in the slightest), with the words, “Can I please hold that?” I let him.
  • A good friend and I walked turned on to a busy road and he silently switched places with me putting him on the street side shielding me from the traffic. I felt safer then.
  • I was at a museum the other day wandering with a large group. I became friends with a gentleman who was quite a bit older than me. Throughout the exhibit, he waited stepped to the side to allow me to go before him, sometimes gently guiding me ahead. His kindness was contagious and I felt to do the same.
  • A senior executive at work stopped me in the all and said sincerely, “how are things going?” I felt like he really wanted to know.
  • A new friend and I started talking as we walked home from church together. Seemingly caught up in our conversation, we passed his house and he walked me to my door. I knew he valued our conversation.
  • My brother went to a movie with me and bought me dinner. He could have taken a dozen girls. I felt love from my brother.
  • During a work meeting a colleague attentively listened and held eye contact throughout my presentation. I felt encouraged and confident because of his actions.
  • A friend quietly began doing dishes after a small gathering at my house and insisted that he continue. I felt gratitude from him.

I salute all you gentlemen, all of you real men. Because of you, I long to show love to those around me. After all, real men do things gently, with real love.

My Words Exactly

Thank you, Mr. Stanley, for explaining perfectly my west coast home and simultaneously describing how I feel in every new east coast place i visit.

“Many a Saturday during that year of our residence, my wife and I would load our car and take to the freeways, whose sprawling network placed a few hundred cities, the vast Mojave Desert, several mountain ranges, and the mighty Pacific all in an hour’s reach. We traveled throughout the area, seeing as much as we could, though only a fraction of what was there: downtown skylines and entertainment districts; train stations and ship harbors; farmers’ markets and world bazaars; public parks and botanic gardens; mountaintop villages and lakeside resorts; commonplace lodgings and luxury estates; towns in the desert and cities by the sea. There was almost no place we visited for which I did not conceive at least some small desire to move there. It was never as though I judged that this new setting would suit me better but simply that everywhere I went I saw life, and life attracted me. Driving through the streets of an unfamiliar city, with cars zipping by and taxis taking people places; residents out walking their dogs, merchants setting out their wares, and businessmen hurrying down the sidewalks; couples sitting on verandas, friends chatting in cafes, and surfers heading for the beach; people working in their yards, or on the roads, or on their romances, with the sun going round overhead—all in a place I had never been before—I would think to myself: how is it that life has been going on here all this while, and I not a part of it? Can it be that I shall live only in my own little corner of the world, far from here, and not walk daily down these streets or at evenings retire to those fine homes on the hillside? Know merely my own neighbors, and not learn the names of these people and listen to their stories? Life was happening in that place, and it seemed a shame that I should miss out on it. Though an actual move would have been impossible, I could not help daydreaming about it, not merely playfully but with real hope, for our imagination runs ahead of our reason.”

And thank you, dear Catherine, for always leading me to words that thrill me.

a thrill like music

“Isn’t it funny the way some combinations of words can give you—almost apart from their meaning—a thrill like music?” – C.S. Lewis

Went to my favorite place with the padres today: The Library of Congress. These quotes never get old. I looooove reading them amidst the phenomenal artwork and stately architecture. I hold great esteem for each of these men and wholly believe in each one of these bits of truth.

BEAUTY IS TRUTH, TRUTH BEAUTY
Keats, Ode on a Grecian Urn

TOO LOW THEY BUILD WHO BUILD BENEATH THE STARS
Edward Young, Night Thoughts, “Night,” viii, 215

THERE IS BUT ONE TEMPLE IN THE UNIVERSE
AND THAT IS THE BODY OF MAN
Novalis, Philosophy and Physics

THERE IS ONE ONLY GOOD, NAMELY, KNOWLEDGE;
AND ONE ONLY EVIL, NAMELY IGNORANCE
Diogenes Laertius, Socrates, Sec. xiv.

A LITTLE LEARNING IS A DANGEROUS THING;
DRINK DEEP OR TASTE NOT OF THE PIERIAN SPRING.
Pope, Essay on Criticism, Pt. ii, 215

THE NOBLEST MOTIVE IS THE PUBLIC GOOD
Virgil

IGNORANCE IS THE CURSE OF GOD,
KNOWLEDGE THE WING WHEREWITH WE FLY TO HEAVEN
Shakespeare, Henry IV, pt. ii, Act iv., Sc. 7

THE TRUE UNIVERSITY OF THESE DAYS IS A COLLECTION OF BOOKS
Carlyle, On Heroes and Hero-Worship, “The Hero as a Man of Letters.”

NATURE IS THE ART OF GOD
Sir Thomas Browne

THEY ARE NEVER ALONE THAT ARE ACCOMPANIED WITH NOBLE THOUGHTS
Sir Philip Sidney, Arcadi

WORDS ARE ALSO ACTIONS AND ACTIONS ARE A KIND OF WORDS
Emerson, Essays, “The Poet”

THE FOUNDATION OF EVERY STATE IS THE EDUCATION OF ITS YOUTH
Dionysius

THE HISTORY OF THE WORLD IS THE BIOGRAPHY OF GREAT MEN
Carlyle, Essays, “History”

ALL ARE BUT PARTS OF ONE STUPENDOUS WHOLE,
WHOSE BODY NATURE IS, AND GOD THE SOUL
Pope, Essay on Man, “Epistle” i, 267