NAS: Encouragement

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How do you give encouragement to other singles (or couples) who are struggling in their journey?

Linking up with Rachel and Lindsay!

So I could answer this prompt in one of two ways “how YOU (meaning me, actively) encourage people” or “just how do you (generally) give encouragement, anyway?”. From my limited experience, I only feel comfortable answering the latter, based on the encouragement I appreciated when I was single and what I hope for now as a couple.

  • Listen, listen, listen. I found it very encouraging when friends and family simply listened to me as I described my struggles. I wasn’t necessarily looking for solutions or the same well-meaning but also a little seemingly meaningless pearls of “wisdom.” I’m among the type of people who need to figure things out for themselves. It didn’t matter that my mom and sister were telling me to get back onto online dating when I was wrongly fixated on someone; I had to get to that place on my own. And I did! And it was the right time, because I met my husband! To me, knowing that you are listening, not judging, and giving me the space to work through it on my own gives me encouragement because I believe those people are accompanying me on my journey, a path I have to walk myself–as much as they’d lovingly want to pick me up and race me to the finish line.
  • Comfort In, Dump Out. Everyone should check out this diagram from a couple experiencing serious medical events.
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(Illustration by Wes Bausmith / Los Angeles Times)

I think the basic principle of loving inward to the person experiencing the struggle and letting the release of emotion flow outward is one that can be applied to many situations. To encourage people through their struggles, consider your relationship to them. If a single friend is having a hard time because of a skeezy guy, do not flood her with stories of your own bad dudes (unless she’s open to a wine-fueled kvetch fest). If your married friend confides in you about a difficulty in her marriage, don’t talk to her about how hard it is for you to hear that something’s wrong. The article in the link offers some advice for how you can comfort and love the person at the center of the problem ring.

  • Be her/their friend! It doesn’t matter if they’re now coupled up or you’re now coupled up. Never stop being a friend. Priorities do change for people in couples, but as a single person it was encouraging to me to have my friend still act like my friend. For example, instead of crashing at her boyfriend’s house after a late New Year’s party, my friend C. who was hosting me drove us back to her place so we could have girl time. And now even as a married lady, I make time for my friends, time without my husband, and time spent focusing on her. If you’re not already friends with a person, but think that a particular woman in Bible study seems like a kindred spirit, don’t balk if she’s partnered up. As a newlywed in a still-newish area, it’s hard to establish friendships–and life is not like a sitcom–we don’t have couple-friends to do dinner parties and game nights with every other week. But I’m still a person who wants to meet for coffee and walk around Hobby Lobby and such. Note: I’m really shy, so it’s helpful to me if extroverts make the “first move,” but I am working on it!

Encouragement does not mean saying a bunch of platitudes: “Buck up!”, “It gets better!”, “Do this, that, and the other thing because it worked for me, a totally different person in a basically different situation!” Encouragement means being there for the person, acknowledging their struggle, and responding to their needs. To me, it looks like this (but only do it if you know the way out):

“‘This guy’s walking down the street when he falls in a hole. The walls are so steep he can’t get out.”A doctor passes by and the guy shouts up, ‘Hey you. Can you help me out?’ The doctor writes a prescription, throws it down in the hole and moves on.”Then a priest comes along and the guy shouts up, ‘Father, I’m down in this hole can you help me out?’ The priest writes out a prayer, throws it down in the hole and moves on”Then a friend walks by, ‘Hey, Joe, it’s me can you help me out?’ And the friend jumps in the hole. Our guy says, ‘Are you stupid? Now we’re both down here.’ The friend says, ‘Yeah, but I’ve been down here before and I know the way out.'” — The West Wing, episode 32

Giveaway!

I have two sets of prizes, and many ways to get entries to win.

For the soon-to-be or already-engaged couples, the “Bridal Bundle.” Bridal Bargains was a great, compact resource when making so many decisions during wedding planning. The Knot Guide for the Groom is a fun little guide with mainly practical tips that helps a guy feel invested and informed (it’s his wedding, too!), and not too much stereotyping. For a Catholic wedding guide, everyone gets the recommendation to check out Stephanie Calis’s Invited.

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And for all the single ladies out there, I have three books for ya: The Closet’s All Mine: From a Seraphic Single by Dorothy Dummings (McLean), How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul: 21 Secrets for Women by Jason and Crystalina Evert, and The Catholic Girl’s Survival Guide to the Single Years by Emily Stimpson.

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To get one of these fine books, you can

  • Comment which bundle you’d like = 1 entry
  • Friend me on Facebook (just message me, too, that this is from the blog) = 2 entries
  • Share this giveaway blog post on social media = 3 entries per unique social media forum share
  • Share another blog post from me on social media = 5 entries per unique social media forum share per post
  • Write a review of my novel for teens, Ten Commandments for Kissing Gloria Jean, and send me the link = 7 entries
  • Write a review of the novel and share it with others = 10 entries, plus one extra for each social media venue you share it with

Giveaway runs through Friday, November 6, November 10 at 5 pm EST. On Wednesday, November 11, I’ll announce the winner. Good luck!

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2 thoughts on “NAS: Encouragement

  1. Hello, lovely, and thanks for joining today’s discussion!! I can definitely relate to the whole “I will listen to your advice but still need to figure it out on my own” comment. That doesn’t mean I will make bull-headed decisions just because I need to “figure it out”, but rather that discerning and growing are ultimately things that I need to pray about and figure out and get through by my own trial and error.

  2. Can we start a joint campaign to dispense with the platitudes? I appreciate that people mean well when they say things like “you’ll find someone” or “it will happen when you least expect it” or “just be patient.” That’s not really helpful. What is helpful is telling me (with love, because we are good friends) what things about me might turn men away. What is helpful is inviting me to gatherings that aren’t just for couples, kids, or married ladies. (I’m starting to feel like the odd one out at baby showers!) What is helpful is listening and jumping into the pit, like you said.

    (I have all the single girl books and am not in the right state in life for the married ones. Darn!)

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