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To the Single Mom Who Feels Left Out

To the Single Mom Who Feels Left Out

My dad was a hard-working farmer from Mississippi who missed the first few weeks of school each year, because he had to pick cotton. He did, indeed, walk miles to school each day, barefooted and in overalls. Like his family before him, he made a living as a farmer and fisherman for most of my life. He had several side hustles, before anyone even knew what that was! While we always had plenty of food on the table and clothes on our back, there wasn’t much extra. When I was about nine, we moved to a new town and joined a new church. It was the largest church in town and many of the “cool” kids from the local private school went there. (I was a public-school kid.) As we moved through elementary and into junior high and high school, I felt more and more like I just didn’t fit in. While the youth group planned their annual trip to the ski retreat each winter, I was stapling the sole of my shoe back on to ensure it lasted to the end of the school year. All the girls seemed smarter, prettier, thinner, and richer, and I often felt very left out. 

Many of you probably have countless stories of feeling left out, too. Perhaps you are having a flashback to the dreaded daily cafeteria encounter in sixth grade, when your eyes quickly scanned the room for a set of friendly eyes, in desperate hopes of finding a seat. Maybe you were chosen last at P.E. for the kickball game regularly. Prom. College parties. Church socials. Friend gatherings. All of us have felt left out at one time or another. In fact, most of us have probably experienced the feeling on numerous occasions, so we need to get good at handling it! Here are a few things that I have learned that help, when I am feeling most left out:

  1. Focus on what is true // I don’t know about you, but my natural response tends to be worst-case-scenario. I have had to consciously train my thought life to be in alignment with God’s word. If not, it won’t take me long to be a down a rabbit hole of lies, e.g. They didn’t really like me anyway. I never fit in. No one is ever going to ask me. I don’t have anything of value to offer. They did this on purpose. Philippians 4:8 says, “Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.” This reminds us that we must focus on what is true. When our minds run to the lies, we counteract not with how we feel, but with God says. He says we are “loved, called, chosen, redeemed, healed, beloved, hope-filled, and complete” just to name a few! What’s also important to remember is that very often when we are left out of an event, invitation, etc., the ones who didn’t include us did not mean, in any way, to hurt us. Perhaps they had a limit on seating for their event, limited budget, or have been busy with life’s demands.  Maybe you just didn’t cross their minds for this outing, but will be included in the next. Fix your thoughts on what is true, worthy of praise, and lovely.  

  2. Communicate // Be honest when you’ve been hurt, if you have been left out repeatedly and genuinely want to foster a relationship with this person(s). Do not allow bitterness or offense to fester. Share your heart regarding the matter.  There are a variety of reasons why we aren’t included in invitations, groups, or events. Sometimes, it’s God’s protection for us. Sometimes, it’s because others aren’t clear on our interests or intentions. Sometimes, it’s because we simply didn’t speak up. Whatever the reason, Matthew 5:23-24 teaches us to resolve conflict with our sisters and brothers in Christ. Any unattended emotion that festers will get bigger. Before you know it, you’ve made a gigantic inferno where there once was only a flicker. Spiritual maturity requires open communication with hopes of resolution. 

  3. Forgive // The truth is, there are times, when people are simply mean. We didn’t get included because the mean girls in high school were just that – mean. We are called to forgive. You cannot be a forty-year old mother of three, working a full-time job, and juggling car pool and dirty clothes, and still festering over Brandi in junior high who always bullied you. Forgive her. Often, we have no idea what others are experiencing that result in their behavior towards us. Maybe abuse exists in their home. Maybe a father abandoned the family. Maybe the death of a loved one left a gaping heart wound that hasn’t healed. We simply do not have any idea what people are facing.  

  4. Evaluate insecurities // As a childhood abuse victim who has endured abuses of many kinds, the death of most of my family, and other trauma, I did not leave my childhood unscathed. I brought with me insecurities about my appearance, education level, social status, and countless others. The same is likely true for you. Life experiences can sometimes birth insecurities. It is important that we acknowledge that sometimes we were not left out. Others aren’t targeting us. We are just battling insecurity. We must learn to overcome with the power of the Holy Spirit and take control of our thought-life, as well as meditate on God’s word.  

  5. Be proactive with others // If you lack social engagement and are missing that aspect of your life, be proactive in scheduling an event and inviting friends. Host a fish fry or barbecue or game night or karaoke contest. Be intentional with making new friends. Rather than focusing on what you weren’t invited to or who didn’t include you, be proactive in nurturing strong relationships with friends and family. Further, you be the one at church, social events, or work gatherings that seeks out the lonely, dismissed, or ostracized. You initiate conversation and foster the gift of hospitality in your own life. Perhaps the Lord has given you the experience of feeling left out, so that you an use it as a ministry opportunity for others, knowing full-well how hard that experience has been for you to endure.  

  6. Pray about it // This one is hard to say (write) and may be even harder to hear (read). Sometimes, we aren’t included in invitations or social gatherings, because we are hard to be around. Maybe because of previous pain, unresolved trauma, a heart wound, or lack of social skills, we are combative, loud, know-it-alls, self-absorbed, bitter, complain-y, lack listening skills, or other. We need to pray and ask the Lord if there’s anything in our heart that does not align with his word or that hinders us from forming strong, meaningful, relationships. He is faithful to reveal to us the areas that we need to work on. And then, we must do the hard work of being honest with ourselves and improving in those areas. 

  7. Be kind to others // Despite how you have been treated, choose to be kind to others. Treat others the way you want to be treated, no matter how they have treated you.  

Jennifer Maggio is a mom to three, wife to Jeff, and founder of the national nonprofit, The Life of a Single Mom Ministries. She is author to four books, including The Church and the Single Mom. She was named one of the Top 10 Most Influential People in America by Dr. John Maxwell in 2017 and 2015 and has appeared in hundreds of media venues, including The New York Times, Family Talk Radio with Dr. James Dobson, Joni and Friends, and many others. 

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