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‘Tis the Season to be Melancholy — Identity Pain and Singleness

For some who are single, their singleness can be a source cause of not feeling the "Christmas cheer".

Though touted as a "jolly" time for most, this time of year can often trigger pain and sadness for many singles. At family parties (and even in their own times of reflection), it's not uncommon for a single person to be asked the ever-dreaded question:

"Why are you still single?"

A not-so-harmless question

As previously discussed, not having the answers to life's hard questions can lead to a sense of ambiguity; of no resolve. Not having a clear answer to the question "Why am I single?" may trigger identity pain and cause one to conclude: "Because there is something wrong with me."

Oftentimes, a person's negative self-view comes from their "identity pain," which we define as the following:


"A person's experience of love in his family of origin and other early experiences form his self-perception or identity. If he receives treatment that is consistently warm and loving, communicating that he is unique, worthy, and desirable, then he will form a positive self-identity. On the other hand, if he does not experience consistent love, he will internalize the absence of love as a reflection on him. He will come to hold a negative, or pain-filled self-identity." -RelateStrong | Leadership Series eBook
Exactly what he or she concludes is wrong with him or herself would vary based on the circumstances in which their particular identity pain originated, rather than honest, objective self-assessment. He or she might feel myriad of emotions: failure, unloved, unworthy, insignificant, worthless, inadequate, unacceptable, unwanted, or defective.

A not-so-harmless response
In response to identity pain, people tend to cope in a variety of maladaptive ways. Pulling from the concepts of restoration therapy, we identify some of the responses as:

  • blaming others
  • shaming oneself
  • chaos/escape behaviors, or
  • controlling actions

All these coping strategies negatively affect relationships and, in turn, continue the cycle of identity pain in what is called a Pain Cycle. The following takeaways from our eBook can help as you minister to the singles in your church.

Takeaways as you minister to single adults:

  1. Know that the question, "Why am I single?" can trigger identity pain.
  2. If you have the relational capital, speak truth into possible lies that she may be believing why she is single.
  3. Again, if you have the relational capital, help the single person identify his Pain Cycle and how it might be keeping him stuck.