“Their words told you that you weren’t enough and needed to change. Every step of the way, they took every opportunity to remind you of something that you are acutely aware of: you’ll never be enough for them. When they ran out of things to pick at, they made up flaws just so they could continue to put you down.” – Read More: The Truth
I received a message from a friend asking me what I planned on teaching my son about women, relationships and purity culture in light of the fact that I had some interesting experiences with purity culture. This video is my answer, though I may do another one to further elaborate. My apologies for crying halfway through.
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“A chewed up piece of gum.”
These cringe-worthy phrases from Christian purity culture ingrained themselves in the minds of the impressionable youth of my generation. Fearing the destruction of their children’s bodies and souls as the world around them became caught up in pushing a progressive sexual agenda, our parents and thought leaders rose up and sought to fight back against the lewdness and promiscuity surrounding us.
Unfortunately, their approach was entangled with fear and pain, going so far as to criminalize all forms of affection. This bore fruit of unprecedented physical, mental, and spiritual consequences as our worth and identity were found in what we did and didn’t do sexually, not in Christ and His sacrifice for us. The heavy-handed and legalistic emphasis on sexual-purity-at-all-costs left a legacy of emotional and spiritual devastation in its wake that follows many even into adulthood.
This book takes a vulnerable look at these issues through the eyes of someone who experienced it firsthand. It seeks to identify what purity culture got wrong and bring peace to the hearts of those whom it has wounded so deeply, by exposing the truth: It is Christ who makes us pure.
Make no mistake, this is not a Lightroom or Photoshop tutorial, this is an apology. I photoshopped my profile picture so you wouldn’t see my imperfections. After close to a year and vulnerablly discussing imperfections, I tried to hide mine from you.
If you have taken dagger to your flesh in yearning for release, I want you to know that there is an other side to this. It doesn’t end with this and it doesn’t continue in it. God has healing for you. Maybe you’ve cried out to Him for it but didn’t receive anything. Or perhaps you are too angry or hurt or ashamed to ask for it. You may think you deserve to feel this way or that you are beyond saving. I have been there.
I remember the rush of panic and how feeling so out of control was ironically my only sense of control. Self harm was easy and hard at the same time. It was scary and satisfying. I have felt so much emotion boiling up inside of me that I had to give it a way out. And after tears dried up, after the breaths evened and the attack stilled, I was left feeling shocked at the wounds. How did I get to this point? Am I too far gone to ever not do this? Where will this go from here? How will I hide these marks? I don’t want to be this way, but yet I kind of do. See, my ‘want’ was broken. I didn’t really want away from these feelings because they were mine. They were familiar and reliable when the hurt the rest of the world gave me was outside of me. I couldn’t control those hurts and I couldn’t face them like I could the ones I made myself. So I hid there. And when life got too stressful, I would go to the knife drawer. I would hold the blade against my arms and just press it in, then a little deeper, to see the mark. Many times it would end there, but sometimes it wouldn’t.
Please hear me. I have not only been free from this destructive battle for 4 years, but my marks are all gone. Jesus took my scars and added them to His own. You are worth more than feeling this way. Your creator and Heavenly Father wants you. He wants you. 2 Corinthians 11:2 “I am jealous for you with a godly jealousy.” You need to reach out. One of the things keeping you in the pit is isolation and darkness. Carefully seek a trustworthy councilor, confidant, a support group, and church family. They will help you find your way to freedom. Purge all unholy things from your life. Proverbs 4:23 “Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it.” This includes tasteless television shows, foul music, sour relationships, and poor dietary choices. What we put in to our minds and bodies effects what comes out.
Forgive. Forgive those around you and forgive yourself. Bitterness alone is enough to weigh a person down. And breathe. When you feel the escalation coming on from being overwhelmed, stop and just sit, slowly counting your breaths, then seek help. There is no shame in having weak moments. We were made to be in community. We were designed to receive and give support. One day you will be healed. You will be healed. And God will use your testimony to help heal others from the same. Isaiah 61:3 “and provide for those who grieve in Zion– to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of joy instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the LORD for the display of his splendor.”
You are not alone in this. You do not deserve to feel this way. You are not too far gone. You are wanted, loved, and are being waited for, longed for, by our God. Find the courage to step out and see what that really means. Find the strength to be healed forever.
I’m Stacy, an early 30’s stay-at-home mom who has a degree in film production that I do little to nothing with. I was born in raised in Las Vegas, NV then moved to Maui two times in three years. My husband and I have an amazing marriage because God is in the center of it. Our first child was born last year and we currently reside in Oklahoma City. If babies can be assholes, ours is one. Each day I just try to laugh, serve, and be a better version of myself than the day before. I love cookies, coffee, and Jesus. I am a neurotic organizer. I like to craft, drive fast, and feel pretty. I am funny, sometimes in a twisted way. I love loving people and sharing what I have grown through. I’m very transparent so let’s chat about anything!
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“My best friend might tell you when she began to suspect something was wrong, and my cousins would tell you they knew by the time I lost a few pounds. No matter how many people noticed, not one could tell you the exact moment anorexia took over, or why.
But I can.”
Guest Post for Thepublicblogger – The Roots of Anorexia
A short while ago, I wrote a post for Bubba (my son) called Purity Culture: 5 Things I Want My Son to Know. This post touched on my own experience with purity rings and purity culture after being raised in a community with legalistic tendencies and what I wanted my son to learn from it. As you might imagine, purity culture was not the only area of my childhood that I have looked back on with skepticism. Modesty was one of the many ideals that was impressed upon me as well.
Modesty was a very popular ideal to focus on during my youth, and although both physical and spiritual modesty were discussed, the conversations heavily leaned towards physical modesty. After all, it was perceived as being measurable by inches of skin and this was far easier to enforce than being modest in spirit.
The various community events I attended usually upheld a certain dress code and while not everything within the dress code was unreasonable, there was a good bit that went beyond what was appropriate. There was a laundry list of rules that included rules on shoes, length of skirts, shoulders showing, the content of t-shirts and the neckline of blouses. Perhaps unsurprisingly, men were generally not included in these rules.
Women and girls who did not dress modestly were often treated differently and gossiped about. Even if they did adhere to all of the dress code, they could still be accused of being immodest by how they wore the clothing or walked in it by some unspoken and arbitrary rules that were also in place. While it was the general consensus that these ladies were “out to get attention” and there was no indication of thought towards why that might be. I personally tend to view someone’s clothing and jewelry as revealing what they think of themselves. If they tend to show more, I usually assume that they might be insecure and overcompensating, though I know that there are exceptions to this. Regardless of the reason, there was never any grace and empathy towards these “types” of ladies.
In order to enforce this dress code and gain more willing compliance (especially among the young ladies who were viewed as rebellious) among the group’s youth, incentives were used. Phrases like “Modesty is Hottest” were a way to encourage the desired behavior while simultaneously leading the young girls to believe that this behavior would draw Godly men into our lives.
There were more than a few times where warnings were issued about “tempting” the young men. “Men are visual and can’t help themselves” was a popular refrain that led me to begin fearing my peers and the possibility of being raped because of a bra strap slip. While this may sound outlandish, to a child who didn’t know better, it was terrifying. This influence was reinforced by literature and horror stories of girls who had been molested by men who claimed that the girls (most often legally below the age of consent) had been tempting or immodest.
When there was doubt on whether or not an outfit was modest, it was usually up to the fathers to decide. I remember thinking, “Do fathers just have an internal sensor for this sort of thing?” right before the sickening question of “What if I’m tempting to my Dad and that’s how he decides whether this outfit is okay?” I was always too afraid of the answer to ask.
Modesty, in the context that I knew it in, had a variety of negative ramifications. Aside from the seeds of doubt that had been planted against my male friends and relatives, I also developed a sense of shame about my body. If it was so terrible that it lead men to be unable to control themselves, then I needed to cover and punish myself for being a “Jezebel”. This manifested in an eating disorder that took root and poisoned my mind. I was conveniently able to conceal my withering frame under layers of “modest” clothing.
Although the eating disorder has been treated, the emotions attached to modest had not resolved. They spilled over onto my wedding day as I held on to anxiety about the strapless wedding dress I had chosen, which caused me some anxiety about my own husband and the level of self-control he possessed.
I was surprised to find the rules of modesty changed after I got married. I was no longer bound by a list and a ruler measuring inches of skin. My husband even picked out clothing for me to wear in public that I once thought was immodest. I was unsure of what to do with this new freedom, and a little bit daunted by it. I had always wanted to wear so many different things, mostly sun dresses and spaghetti strap tops, so naturally I set out to find some. While spaghetti straps may not seem racy to the general public, my first time wearing a dress with them was nerve-wracking. I felt gorgeous and confident, but also guilty because this outfit, I had been led to believe, was supposed to be something that would cause a lack of self-control in men.
While I continued to have mixed emotions about the new wardrobe freedom I had, I soon had a bigger and more emotionally taxing situation to deal with. I was pregnant, and pregnancy is known to be counterproductive to modesty. Between exams, ultrasounds, cervical checks and actual labor and delivery, I was repeatedly traumatized and modesty, as I understood it, had been stolen from me.
In a similar way to purity culture’s take on virginity, I saw modesty as something I could not get back, and my actions showed that when I went against my own comfort and judgement by breastfeeding uncovered in public because I felt like I had nothing special to lose anymore.
The emotions that I’ve felt throughout my life regarding modesty have been many and varied. Among them have been frustration, anger, resentment, empowerment, comfort and confidence. Unfortunately, I’ve experienced more of the first few than the last. While I never believed that modesty was bad, or purposefully wanted to rebel from it, I felt it to be a burden throughout my young life.
Only recently, after careful consideration and intentional blocking out of the spectrum of opinions, have I been able to listen to my own conviction on modesty. I came to my own conclusions and see clearly that you cannot enforce a definition of modesty that goes against someone’s own conviction and expect to have good results.
Here are 7 things I want Bubba to learn from my journey:
- Modesty is defined different ways to different people.
- Modesty, in the sense that I knew it, had unintended (and generally bad) consequences.
- Generally, if an adult is obsessing over a child’s outward appearance (in this case, clothing), there is a certain level of unhealthy behavior going on.
- Fear of men and their levels of self-control was one of the “side-effects” of modesty as I knew it.
- Your definition of modesty might change as you age, and that is okay.
- Modesty isn’t just about girls.
- You don’t have to be a slave to your mind and body, please learn self-control.
I hope you are able to learn from these mistakes, Bubba. <3
New Crunchy Mom
I want to shelter you from the scary things out there, but I know it’s impossible to do and I want you to know about this before you encounter it yourself.
Bubba, I know people who hurt themselves.
They press knives and sharp things into their skin until they bleed.
Their compulsion leads them to mangle their own body and scrape at their own flesh.
Their arms, legs and other pieces of their body bear the burden of physical marks of emotional pain. It’s not always about pain though. Sometimes they do it just to feel anything at all.
These scars stay with them forever.
Some people hide their scars under sweaters, jeans and scarves. They’ll wear a long sleeves in 100 degree weather if it means their secret is safe.
Some people don’t hide their scars at all. Often times getting ridiculed for it.
People who don’t understand call them crazy, nuts or psycho. Accusations get thrown around of these people being “dramatic” or “overly sensitive” or “looking for attention”. And that is only when it is talked about, which is rare.
That’s not okay, Bubba. It’s dangerous to bully someone who needs help.
The fact that they have a problem doesn’t make them any less human. They are hurting in one way or another.
I don’t have all the answers for you on this. Regardless, I want you to know that you shouldn’t be afraid to talk about it, either with someone else or for yourself. It’s scary when someone you know hurts themselves and the way you respond is important.
Show love, be kind, listen.
It’s not your job to save anyone, in fact, you can’t. Only they can choose to recover. But you can be there for them, and that may be all they need.
New Crunchy Mom