The Glorification of Singleness
To give a rough explanation, singleness is the state of life that does not in and of itself require a commitment to another. (There are, of course, many single parents, but single parenthood is a deviation from the ideal of parenthood that is optimized within marriage.) Singleness is the state where one can be totally independent of obligation to others, which is probably the basic reason why the first world finds it so appealing. Modern Western culture has become all about self-actualization and license. However, putting the single state on a pedestal even above real marriage shows something more.
Of course, I am still not a parent, but I certainly understand better than before the joys that come with responsibility for someone else. Furthermore, I’m not even related to any of the kids at my school, so I can only imagine the infinitely greater joy of having a child of one’s own, and the loving and giving to that child that is a particular gift to the parents in and of itself. Young lovers, too, could find plenty of reasons why their relationships are delights rather than burdens. Now, as I understand it, God has called some people to singleness, whether for a period of time or for the duration of their lives, for His own reasons, but just because persons are single does not also mean they should be more selfish than married people, for example.
On the contrary, every one of us is called to serve and give in one capacity or another. Perhaps society’s greatest mistake is less in purely glorifying singleness than in attaching to it such a strong sense of selfishness. Thus, what’s glorified is not merely a lack of commitment, but turning that simple lack into self-absorption: “You don’t have kids or a spouse, so life is all about you.” Then, too, in putting this selfishness on a pedestal, the underlying message is, “There’s no need for you to give and sacrifice. Why would you want to?”
I believe most parents would say they sacrifice a lot for their kids, but that it’s all worthwhile. In fact, I suspect that most parents think having children not only changed their lives but infinitely for the better. Just looking at marriage, of course, we Catholics see it as a form of service to God, but hopefully non-Catholics and even non-religious would say that sharing their lives with another, their soulmate, was not just an improvement but a paramount one.
What is Important?
Made to Love
Often people can become embroiled in life-endangering activities like drugs or alcohol. Even if they stick to legal behaviors that won’t kill them—like promiscuity or narcissism—such a life is never really fulfilling. Modern people nearly all admit that their lives are missing something, and part of that is the meaning of a total gift of self. For example, there’s the story of this conversion of an atheist who had every worldly good, but his life had no meaning. He decided to end it all, but God intervened and showed him what he was missing.
In the end, is it bad simply to be single, considering the diverse vocations to which God has called everyone? More specifically, does it hurt to do something like order a box of treats because it’s called “Single Swag?” No, as I said earlier, there’s nothing wrong with occasional treats, nor being content in one’s current vocation. The problem is when we let ourselves become the entire focus of our lives, as society would have us do. Thus, we should all pray for the love of self in a healthy way, rather than letting ourselves take the place of everything else.