A monthly forum on the third Saturday of each month from 6:30 to 7:30 P.M.
following Evening Prayer at 6
Saturday, September 16, 2006
Tonight’s Topic -
“ THE ART OF LIVING SINGLY”
led by The Reverend Roger G. Allee
Priest Associate, All Saints Episcopal Church, Ft. Lauderdale
When Dick Nolan contacted me and invited me to lead this
Forum on Living as a Single Person, I said, “Me?! Are you sure?
I don’t think I am doing it very well myself, so what would
I have to offer to others?” He assured me that he felt I,
in fact, had a lot to offer. So, here I am. I thought I would begin
by telling you my story, in which I will try not to bore you. Then,
we can open it up for questions and discussion.
From the Book of Common Prayer, we have the following prayer.
Almighty God, whose Son had nowhere to lay his head: Grant
that those who live alone may not be lonely in their solitude,
but that, following in his steps,
they may find fulfillment in loving you and their neighbors; through Jesus
Christ our Lord. Amen.
I wonder how many people even know this prayer is there. I
have never heard it used in worship.
Before going further, it is necessary for us to be clear about
the distinction between being alone and being lonely. Of
course, being alone is obvious – it
simply means being by one’s self and away from others. Loneliness is
quite different and may be a painful experience. From the Dictionary
of Pastoral Care and Counseling, we find that “loneliness is an unpleasant affect,
combining sadness and anxiety, a felt response to the absence of sufficient
relational contact. And, isolation is the condition of being separated from
all important persons, things, or relationships.”
Loneliness may be situational and temporary – caused by some kind of
life transition that disrupts relationships. Or, loneliness may habitual – a
characteristic built into a person’s personality. Habitual loneliness
often is the result of an individual’s anger, suspicion, and anxiety.
Clearly, the person suffering from habitual loneliness needs the help of a
I believe that all of us suffer from situational and temporary
loneliness from time to time. Also, I believe that any
of us can fall into habitual
loneliness – maybe
not for a lifetime, but for a span of time.
Loneliness can be caused by not feeling understood by others.
This can happen when one has no identity of one’s own, but only that which has been assigned
by someone else. King David suffered this kind of loneliness and so did Jesus.
The loneliness of not being understood – or heard, known attended to – can
be shattering to our lives. King David responded to his loneliness by shouting
out to God, demanding to be heard. He cried, “Lord, hear my voice! Let
your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!” [Psalm 130.2]
We each have a right to be known, understood, and attended
to and, so, perhaps we need to be like David and demand
to be heard
to be known.
Another cause of loneliness is feeling unnecessary. If no one
needs you, what is your identity? What is your value? Sometimes,
is forced upon us. We may be laid off or fired from your
job. A partner may leave us or die. Aging and illness may
once used to
make a difference. I imagine this is a form of loneliness
that God feels. Think
about it – God created all there is out of love and waits patiently for
all of creation to love God in return.
Loneliness can come from not feeling loved. Tom Ehrich, an
Episcopal priest who writes a daily meditation column,
says, “Feeling loved isn’t
a matter of getting attention, having companions, competing successfully, or
feeling attractive. Feeling loved is having someone who cares whether I exist – someone
at hand, someone whom I see across the table or room, looking at me with fondness.
Feeling loved is being listened to, taken seriously, and treasured for reasons
deeper than accomplishment or advantage. Feeling loved is a gift with no strings,
a greeting with no restraint, a conversation with no agenda.” To not
feel loved is a devastating feeling.
I enjoy solitude from time to time. I understand the value
of solitude for my spiritual health. But, I do not like
time and I find
that I can give in to feelings of loneliness quite easily.
Within the Episcopal Church, my experiences have been
that often parishes provide activities for couples,
citizens, for youth, and
sometimes for single
people. However, it seems to me that the single people
not thought of very much. Too often, when someone dies,
the surviving spouse/partner
is attended to for a while, but it doesn’t take long for the newly single
person to find they are alone. I have personally experienced that phenomenon.
It seems that the single person makes others uncomfortable, probably because
the coupled people simply do not know what to do or say.
Loneliness seems to be a topic that American society
and the Church do not wish to talk about. My take
on that is
as I do when
by saying to you that I don’t know what I have to offer. It is an area
where people suffer in silence because they don’t want to admit their
own struggle and/or they don’t know what to say to someone who does admit
their situation and feelings.
Living as a single person is something some people
choose to do. And, there are those who see it as
want to be single. I don’t want to be alone. I struggle with loneliness
and cravings to be with someone.
I read a newspaper article several weeks ago about
a young couple in North Carolina who were lonely
to meet friends.
up that many people – even married people – are lonely. The reporter
showed how our society has become more and more isolated, leaving people to
struggle with loneliness. So, you see loneliness can happen even when you have
someone in your life.
It is my belief that we are not intended to be
alone. The entirety of the Scripture story
is about community.
is a community. The Trinity is God living in
community with God’s self.
Everything points to us being in community and not alone. However, many of
us find ourselves alone.
In my case, I have an entire parish family
that is a part of my community. But, that
community has limits
I have some friends, but none where the friendship
such that I can call up and
say, “You want to come over for coffee?” Or, “you want to
go see a movie?” So, even with a parish family and some friends, I often
feel alone and I struggle with loneliness.
I grew up in a family that didn’t communicate much. As I look back on
it, I realize that I was for the most part alone as a child – oh, I had
two parents and a sister, but we didn’t do things together very often.
I remember going off to ride my bike every night after dinner, just to be away
and to find people to talk with or play with. When I got home, I mostly spent
time in my bedroom alone. I just didn’t have much in common with my family.
All through school I felt that I was somehow different and I didn’t have
I knew I had feelings for guys when I was
a teenager. However, being raised in
a small town and in
a fairly conservative
family, I had
no point of
reference for those feelings. I didn’t know what to do with them. My internal thoughts
told me my feelings must be wrong. I went to college and met a woman whom I
ultimately married. I knew almost immediately that that was a wrong action,
but I have always been a part of the church and I felt I had taken vows that
must not be broken.
After 29 years of marriage and three
children later, I left the marriage
because my wife
and I had grown
to “make things right”,
I came to the realization that this marriage was never going to be right and
we were both miserable. After leaving the marriage I came out to myself and
then to others.
I started looking for men. I met a
man with whom I spent 4 years. While
to me that
made another mistake. Again, I broke
off the relationship.
After leaving that relationship,
I vowed to myself that I would
mistake. I would
along, we would both know it. Well,
he did! Shawn and I met, began
moved in together. I had finally
found someone I truly loved and
me. It wasn’t that my ex-wife or my first partner didn’t love me,
but I didn’t really love them. Shawn and I had been together for about
4 months when he began not feeling well. His physical condition continued to
worsen until after three trips to the emergency room, the hospital admitted
him to find out what was really going on. He was admitted to ICU, stayed there
for one month when he died. We had been together for nine months at that point.
Shawn’s death was devastating! I had finally found real love and now
it was gone! I railed at God for being so unfair! I felt cheated and betrayed!
It has been quite an emotional
ride since his death. I went
ways. That was a time when I
fell into habitual loneliness filled
and anxiety. A friend kept telling
me I needed to see a counselor.
I resisted saying that I was
day I woke up and realized how
I had been
behaving. I made an appointment
with a counselor and began the
While I am doing well now, I
struggle often with loneliness.
I am tempted
to go back
to the unhealthy
behaviors. Often I cry
with the Psalmist
who said, “Out of the depths I cry to you, O LORD. Lord, hear my voice!
Let your ears be attentive to the voice of my supplications!” [Psalm
130:1-2] After all, all I want is someone to love and someone to love me. Is
that really asking for so much? I crave physical and emotional attention. Don’t
we all? I simply want to have someone to share my life with – the joys
and sorrows, the good times and bad, the mundane and the exciting.
There are times when I violate
the commandment not to covet
neighbor has. What
is it that I
Not their car. I covet a
relationship! I see a couple walking down
the street and I think, “Why
can’t I find someone to love and be loved by?” Oh yes, loneliness
sets in and I struggle.
In my good times, I am able
to look back and see all
The therapy I had helped
me to begin looking at
myself in deep
likes of which
I had never
explained why I had gone
that marriage and why
I ran into the
arms of my first
to be loved
others to provide that.
What I spent all my life
myself. A side note here – I have often preached about the fact that one must love
one’s self before one can love anyone else. You see, I knew that in my
head, but not in my heart. Through therapy, I have begun to love myself. It
is an on-going process – lots of years of unloving to undo!
I began to realize that
my failure to love
and the depth
pain when Shawn
died – a pain the likes of which I have never felt
before – is what led me to indulge in unhealthy behaviors. I said earlier
that I still struggle from time to time and am tempted to go back to those
behaviors. I have succeeded so far in not going back because I have begun loving
myself and even though I am tempted, I know that I do not want to indulge because
it is not a loving thing for me to do to me.
The pain of losing
Shawn has been and
a process. It takes
happens. But, learning
to love myself is
another matter. The
Psalmist again pleads
with God, “Rise up, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God!” [Psalm
3:7] And, again, “Listen to me and answer me; I have no peace, because
of my cares.” [Psalm 55:2] in each of these verses, the writer attributes
his unhappiness to others, but what I have had to learn is that I am my own
Years ago the Swiss
Jung asked: “What if I should discover
that the least of the [people] of Jesus, the one crying out most desperately
for reconciliation, forgiveness, and acceptance, is my self? That I myself
stand in need of the alms of my own kindness, that I myself am the enemy who
must be loved, what then? Will I do for myself what I do for others?” [Source:
of Jesus, Brennan Manning]
I strive to be
a good disciple
to serve others.
also serve myself.
If I can’t love myself, I
can’t love others. If I can’t love myself, how can I expect someone
else to love me?
is the author
Life (Loyola Press)
and leads retreats
on being single
She says, “We
won't make good partners for anyone in this life if we can't be a good partner
to ourselves first.”
A part of loving
my self is
It took me a while
was, in many
comfortable with myself.
I’m learning to be. How do I know?
I look back over the two years since Shawn died and I see a string of guys
that I met and who were attracted to me. I have begun to see a pattern – I
come on strong, I chase, I cling and ultimately drive them away. My first thought
each time was that they were losers! That I was better off without them. That
they didn’t deserve me! My, when I hear myself say those things, I realize
just how unloving, how needy, how unhealthy I was! The fact of the matter is
that most of those guys were, in fact, not the right guys for me or me for
them. I dated the last guy for five months when he called it off. I was devastated
because I really had deep feelings for him. They were genuine feelings – different
than the others. I did not feel that he was a loser, I did not feel I better
off without him, and I did not believe he didn’t deserve me.
He broke it
how I felt
as he did, he
didn’t feel the same way toward me. He told me that
he prayed daily to love me like I loved him. He wanted to be able to, but those
feelings just never came. When he broke off the relationship, he told me that
I deserved to be loved but that he was not the right one and that he knew that
the right guy will come along for me.
painful, but it
realize the pattern
of my behaviors – chasing, clinging,
and driving guys away. It was a wake up call for me to do more work on loving
myself, being comfortable with myself and not depending upon others to love
me. So, I’m on another learning curve.
sense of wholeness
to be with
I’ve had to take
time again to take stock of my core values – what is really important
to me? What, if anything, am I willing to forego in order to have a relationship?
Having someone in my life is not worth giving up who I am and what is important
to me. But, patiently waiting for that guy who can be in my life without my
having to give up who I am at the core of my being will be worth the wait.
You see, no one else can provide for me a sense of wholeness, completeness,
happiness and joy. I must do that for myself.
with my first
isn’t something a lot of people
want to do, including me! What most people, including me, want to do is avoid
the pain. But, avoiding the pain does not bring healing.
us – wonderfully
and lovingly created, but in need of forgiveness, reconciliation, and acceptance.
God is always ready to forgive us, always ready to be reconciled to us and
always accepts us. We, however, must be ready to forgive ourselves, be reconciled
with ourselves, and accept ourselves. In our Baptismal Covenant, we promise
to respect the dignity of every human being. That includes our selves.
asks, “How long, O Lord? Will you forget me forever?
How long will you hide your face from me?” [Psalm 13:1] Those questions
are the cry of someone in pain, someone who is looking for some magic silver
bullet that will take away their pain and give them what they long for. I have
discovered that is not how God works, at least not in my life.
something like, “Leave it in God’s hands.” Or, “Let’s
just pray about it.” You know what? God, in those statements simply is
enough! God isn’t enough because God is leaving it in our hands!
So, if you and I leave it to God and God leaves it to us, we go absolutely
people say, “It was God’s will that your child/spouse/partner/
parent die.” God did not cause the tsunami, or the hurricanes, or the
earthquakes that have devastated so many lives. God did not send those things
to punish people. God did not instruct or guide the terrorists to kill so many
innocent people. God did not take Shawn away from me. God does not want me
to suffer. God does not send me pain because it is somehow good for me. God
does, however, walk with me through all of that. God is there to hold my hand,
to strengthen me and to support me. But, God leaves the choices of how I respond
to life’s circumstances up to me. So, the way I deal with my loneliness
is all up to me.
writes, “Recovery is facing and embracing all the pain
in our lives, so that we will gain maximum growth: learning lessons, gaining
power and looking for ways to help others do the same. Those are the goals
of recovery, a destiny that is beyond what any person could achieve alone.
It takes other people’s loving involvement in order to develop our maturity,
and it takes God’s redemption to bring something good out of our own
pain. God is working in everything for our good – so that we will have
something extraordinary to give to others.” [The
about to try and tell you what is right for you. All I can do is share what
has worked for me as I struggle with being alone and lonely.
I didn’t like myself that way. So, I joined a gym, hired a trainer and
worked out faithfully three days a week. To fully understand the magnitude
of that decision, you need to know that I absolutely hate such physical activity!
But, my choices were continue to weigh more than I should and not like myself
or do something about it.
Also, I’ve been rediscovering
what it is that brings me joy. I enjoy cooking, needle pointing, going to the
beach, bicycle riding, and movies. None of those things requires that I have
someone with whom to do them. Would it be nice to have someone with me? Absolutely!
But, having someone with me is NOT a requirement. I have been making some improvements
to my apartment – some done by professionals, but some done by me. Just
the planning for what I wanted to have done gave me joy and something to do
that took me out of my self-pity. Also, I’ve never been one who was comfortable
striking up a conversation with someone I don’t know. I always wait for
them to do that. When they do, I enjoy conversing with people about many things.
Another choice that is mine to make is not waiting for others, but mustering
up the courage to strike up the conversation myself. After all, what is the
worse thing that could happen? They won’t allow themselves to be engaged
in conversation with me. If that happens, part of my own healing is to realize
it isn’t about me!
I can’t make anyone love me – and, it is unlikely that anyone
will love me if I don’t love myself.
be “complete” or be
who God created me to be? NO!
one’s self, what can a person do to deal
with loneliness and the feelings that go with it? The feelings that often accompany
loneliness are sadness, resentment, anxiety, and sometimes depression. To deal
with those, one first must realize they are not the only person is alone and
says, “Loneliness is part of being
human; no one is immune.” In my case, as I have shared, my current feelings
of loneliness have been created by the loss of Shawn. However, there are many
things that can trigger loneliness for people – even people in a relationship.
activities – have
do – learn,
don’t know if any of this has been of any value to anyone here tonight,
but it is the experience I have had, and that is all I can share. Now, we can
open this Forum up to questions and discussion. My hope is that anyone who
is here tonight and struggling with loneliness and being alone might just hear
something that will help them in making the choices they have to make.
A Brief Introduction To Fr. Allee
Churches have most often treated the issue of living as a
single person (regardless of sexual orientation, gender,
or age) simplistically and inadequately. Fr.
Allee, an excellent communicator, is openly gay and single. He has been
married and is the father of three adult daughters. His (male)
partner died of a
rare blood disease just a few years ago. His candid exploration
of living singly
will open up personal issues usually ignored or glossed over by both secular
and religious associations and communities.
Fr. Allee has been an active churchman since becoming an Episcopalian
in 1964. He has been involved in every aspect of parish
ministry as a lay
volunteer - including service on a rector search committee, vestry, and
He has also worked as an organist-choir director in five different Episcopal
parishes and as a parish administrator.
Fr. Roger worked in the Broward County Public School system
for many years where he served as a classroom teacher,
assistant principal, principal,
and staff & organizational developer. The skills and experience gained in the
public school system provided an excellent background qualifying him to teach
in the Diocesan School for Christian studies for several years.
Fr. Roger was ordained in the Diaconate in 1996 and served
in that role at St. Benedict’s (Plantation) until his ordination to the priesthood in
the fall of 2002. His current ministry at All Saints focuses on nurturing ministries.
Additionally, he serves as chaplain and Board member of Integrity Fort Lauderdale.
Fr. Allee has also served on the Bishop’s Council of Advice on Human