WHEN we look below the surface of the single adult's personality, we find an other characteristic even more basic than loneliness. Anxiety, found in varying degrees, is a very realistic force within the modern young person.
The young person's anxiety is due basically to confusion and bewilderment about where he is going in the social world. Following are some of the questions troubling the single Seventh-day Adventist adult today: Should the unattached person strive to find Seventh-day Adventist association when it is hard to be found? Should the individual resign himself to loneliness? Should he maintain a social life by resorting to dates outside the church? Should he follow the teaching of the church in regard to sex and hopefully wait for sexual satisfaction sometime in the future? Should he follow the pressure of "everybody does it" as shown in the Kinsey Report?
One factor that complicates the problem and increases anxiety is that in certain areas either the women or the men outnumber their unattached counterparts in disturbing proportions. If either does not get to the altar at an early age, he fears that he is likely to be stranded. At some time in their lives most women and men do want marriage more than any thing else. During academy and college when there is plenty of association and the chances of marriage seem more certain, it may seem easy to put off marriage with out risk. But many young people know that chances do diminish rapidly. They read ratio reports such as the following:
"Nowadays, 70 percent of all American women marry before they are 24 years old. From then on, it's a downhill slide. By the time a woman is 30, there is about one chance in two she will ever get married."—E. HARRIS, "Women Without Men," Look, July 5, 1960.
Statistics of this nature for both male and female can easily cause a large degree of anxiety and bewilderment when the birthdays keep rolling on. This was made apparent by the replies to this question of the same questionnaire previously referred to: "Presently, do you feel that the selection of a life companion is your biggest problem?" Even though this question may have been somewhat threatening to some, the following comments are typical of the replies:
"One of them."
"Yes, and what a problem!"
"It is a big problem."
There are no simple answers, but the problems are quite real.
Conformity to Social Pressures
There is a frequent failure to recognize that many of the problems of the single Seventh-day Adventist adult are produced by outside forces.
During youth and adulthood a single individual becomes increasingly aware of social pressure and the need to expand the scope of his social participation beyond that of mere bachelorhood. He becomes increasingly cognizant that society is structured for the "couple" and especially for the married couple. The married state is assumed to be the inevitable eventuality for all "normal" people.
The unattached, being normal human beings with a normal amount of self-respect, naturally resent misconceptions regarding themselves. These resentments were noted in the two panel discussions conducted on the campus of Andrews University. The twelve panelists, from various geographical areas in the United States and Canada, discussed the problems and needs common to the unmarried person in his locale. One panelist put it this way:
I think that there is another definite problem that pertains to the single young adult—he is really condemned. He is to be treated as an adult and yet there is a status difference between being married and being single.
Single adults often resent certain "concerns" for their bachelorhood or spinsterhood. There is not a city, town, or village where a single eligible adult is safe from what often can be the rudest and least answerable question ever asked, "Why aren't you married?"
Sometimes the question is phrased differently. This is probably done purposely lest the oft-repeated question become monotonous. Frequent variations are: "How come you're not married yet?" "When are you going to break down and get married?" But the classic is usually, "Why isn't an attractive girl (or handsome man) like you married yet?" No matter how this question is asked, its implications denote an element of social pressure.
Occasionally family pressure is placed upon a son or daughter to marry. The young person who does not show any inclination to marry may be made the object of jokes. The mother, who has reared her daughter for marriage, wonders whether she has failed in her life mission. The father of a son begins to worry about not having an heir to carry on the family name. There is the embarrassment resulting from the never-ending matchmaking efforts of family and friends. The unattached, subject to this pressure, often be gins to reflect, "There must be something wrong with me."
This type of pressure propels some people into marriage before they are ready for it, or they marry unsuitable mates rather than remain single. Even though most people do marry, finding a mate and marrying is not necessarily the most desirable course of action for everyone. Without doubt, many Seventh-day Adventist young single people who might live happily and successfully either temporarily or permanently, are forced toward marriage by social pressure.
This is an unfortunate situation, and it would be well if social attitudes could be revised to accept single persons more realistically.
One problem that arises among the single adults is the necessity for making decisions on the question of sex conduct be fore marriage. Few who have worked with young people would deny that for a period of at least a past generation or so there seems to be a consistently progressive departure from the ideal of chastity.
The majority of single adults do believe that sex is to be reserved for marriage, and that sexual promiscuity is a deviation from Christian moral standards as held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. How ever, many of the leaders of the Seventh-day Adventist Church underestimate the seriousness with which single adults face the problems of morality in their own lives.
There appears to be an increasing number of problems for those single adults within the church who, geographically, live relatively isolated from one another. Those young people who live in an area where social activities and peer association are restricted may tend to look for dates with non-Seventh-day Adventists. Such a lack of dating opportunities makes the desire of maintaining chastity a difficult bur den. Such social participation may result in the single adult's questioning exactly what moral principles to believe in.
The great tendency, even in socially conducive areas, is for the unmarried couple to provide their own entertainment, "each couple for themselves." This adds to the number of moral perplexities the unattached face.
In speaking from personal experience and drawing also from the experience of others, I submit that peer-group association permits a natural social outlet, and adjustment in maintaining proper standards is made easier.
Many single adults today cling to and live on the hope that someday someone will appear in their lives and remove their loneliness. As the years roll by, the mind attempts to reject the growing feeling that it may be his or her lot to remain single. Many fear this but will not admit it.
The single adult reasons, and quite rationally, that to get invited or to invite he must locate an unattached counterpart. In some geographical areas, meeting a prospective companion or one with peer interests with whom to associate is almost impossible. Thus, many single persons have gone to States that have a higher percentage of available peers. Hundreds leave their homes and move to the big cities. Some decide they wish to "further their education" and return to college, while others merely locate near a college or university and take certain day or evening classes.
Many who follow this type of mobility arrive a stranger, and even in more favor able social areas they have great difficulty making friends. Even in their new location it is not an uncommon occurrence for many to despair because their search has not brought them any closer to a gentle, loving, religious, life companion.
The single person who realizes that all efforts at marriage thus far have been in vain may develop an emotional deprivation that tends to increase sexual frustration. One result of this has been extra marital dalliance. Unfortunately, a girl subjected to extended sexual frustrations may be an easy prey for married men on the prowl. However, most Seventh-day Adventist girls have endured, do endure, and would endure social deprivation rather than lose their self-respect.
An easily accessible club for single adults where wholesome association can be enjoyed, such as the Koinonia at Andrews University, would answer and fill their many emotional needs. Note the following excerpts from the panel discussion:
We all know the Koinonia Club that we have here on campus for the single adults. It has a good following; we have a lot of fun in it. I think clubs of this nature are the type of organization we should have everywhere, not only at Andrews.
A club tor single adults offers fine companionship with others his age. New members are coming in continually, thus affording many opportunities and social experiences.
From my experience with the club here at Andrews University, I would rather go to the activities of the club than to some of the programs provided by the university.
The following comments are just a few of the positive commentaries on the Koinonia Club in reply to the question "What is your personal feeling about the club for single adults with which you have associated?"
The only one that I have ever attended is the Koinonia Club here at Andrews University, and I feel enthusiastic about it.
It appears that the club has played a favorable role in many lives. Appreciation was expressed that the Koinonia Club was not totally socially orientated but provided the circumstances for religious activities, as well. The Koinonia did not sponsor stereotype lonely hearts socials, but rather provided an atmosphere of excellent Christian association.
The Church—the Single Adult
The battle for the possession of youth today is being fought on the morality front, and more directly along the lines of social activities. In this fight for the allegiance of youth the Seventh-day Adventist Church is contending with the shrewd est entertainment forces in the world; sin is gilded with pleasure; social recreation is filled with a thousand temptations and incitements to sin. Modern commercialism with a keen insight into the psychology of youth throws to them a snare teeming with sex suggestions and laden with appeals of love, ready to lure the young people hungry for social life away from the church.
Learning to translate the principles taught in the church into proper conduct in social life is a genuine problem for the unattached adult who finds himself in a socially restricted area. The majority of single adults, living in isolated districts such as are found away from a college campus, are not satisfied with the social activities provided by the church.
Some churches ignore their responsibilities in this regard; other churches are too limited to meet such responsibilities; still other churches make attempts that are too infrequent or inadequate. If the church is to maintain her hold on youth, she cannot afford to let the single adults seek social recreation and association wherever they can be found, but must provide opportunities for them.
The single adult is not at all adverse to having religion dominate his social life. In fact, he expects it and welcomes with hearty enthusiasm the least suggestion of limiting his social activities according to his religious beliefs. But when the church frowns on his association with peers not of the same faith, and yet makes no direct attempt to allow expression of his social nature with peers of the same faith, it appears too incongruous to understand.
The church is wise that knows and practices the fine art of handling its single adults and that provides a worth-while organization to meet their needs. Such an organization would provide for the social and spiritual welfare of its members, thus helping to solve the many problems that the single adults share. The church that provides such an organization is the church that gives true meaning to religion.