As a single man, I don’t think I will ever reach a level of maturity as that of my married peers, because there is nothing material outside of me that I care more about than myself. The entire world revolves around me and my needs, even if they include the realm of the spiritual, and so I am the most important created being in the universe and always will be. That would change in an instant if I were to get married, but until then, my adult development has peaked.
Maturity is the de-idolization of self, the deicide of the god we make ourselves to be upon growing up in a Western culture that emphasizes individuality and personal will. I don’t see how a person can become mature in full form without marriage, either to a spouse or to the Church through the monastic vows where they die to the world. A single person may become a faithful follower of Jesus Christ, and his soul can certainly be saved, but always present within him will be a weed of self-idolatry that sprouts through the forms of neuroticism and conceitedness. Only the rough grinder of marriage can smooth out these childish and pathological qualities to allow the person to serve their fellow man as God intended.
There are four kinds of people: (1) Single people without God, (2) Single people with God, (3) Married people without God, and (4) Married people with God. As expected, single people without God are the most immature, essentially acting as children in fully-developed adult bodies, of which I was one in the not-so-distant past. You would then think that single people with God have more maturity than married people without God, but this is not automatically the case. Since marriage is given to us by God, it confers emotional and mental maturity to those who partake in it to aid them with raising a family. I have seen single people who go to church every Sunday acting far less mature than agnostic married couples, because while receiving the Eucharist during a two-hour church service is a sacrament, living as a single person in your pleasure-ensconced apartment box for the other 166 hours of the week is not, and unless that single person methodically chooses to be a “monk in the world”—and the debate is still out if that can be done successfully in modern times—his life will be more secular than Christian. Therefore, unless you have a burning zeal or unique ministry as a single person that keeps your eyes constantly on Christ, you will face an intense temptation to idolize your needs, perceptions, and pleasures.
Married people who have God in their lives (and I include monastics in this category) are the most mature, loving, altruistic, caring, and thoughtful people I’ve met. The grace that God has given them from marriage has allowed them to reach the height of Christian life that I simply don’t see in single believers, even ones who read Christian books all day like myself, because reading books or writing about God like I’m doing now are not sacraments and not enough on their own for salvation unless it coincides with a living faith. It is in God’s wisdom that he created marriage to essentially be a 24-hour church where you can constantly serve your neighbor (i.e. family) through love to help you be saved, and what a risk it is to try a novel and non-sacramental path to salvation by being a Christian hipster farmer or Christian content creator who takes down low IQ heretics. If maturity is an aid to serving God, and the only way to attain that maturity is through marriage, either to another person (the right person) or to the Church directly through monasticism, that should be a hint to us that we should be wholly unsatisfied with being single as a Christian life plan.
When I was received into ROCOR, I asked multiple priests and monks what advice they had for a newly baptized 41-year-old man with no wife. I was struck by the similarity in their response: “Stay close to the Church and don’t go it alone.” From their experience, a Christian is doomed to fall if he doesn’t take Church life seriously, and even I have seen firsthand how men who received God’s grace and believed they didn’t need the Church went on to fall for ancient heresies or other delusions that damaged their faith. From the guidance I’ve received, I can automatically reject plans where I am isolated from a local parish or other Christians.
For most people, single life is a dead life. They will fail to mature and grow spiritually, eventually succumbing to one of Satan’s tricks. I could make the argument that my writing is a fruitful ministry that can enable me to live in the world as a single man, but only time will tell. If I’m falling backward or am not developing spiritually then it will be time for a change. God clearly laid out his plan for us: either get married or become a monk. We should be wary of trying a third option.
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