I can guarantee there are two distinct reactions right now: “YES!” and “HECK NO.”
Well, not those exact words, but I’m sure you get the gist. There are some of you readers who will applaud and love the idea of wearing a ring to symbolize living a life of purity, while there are others who either don’t understand it or think it’s a bunch of malarkey. I hope I can address both reactions and explain why, in the best way possible, I have chosen not to wear one anymore (though it absolutely pains me to say so).
But first, I’d like to share with you why I got one. This may help you understand my recent decision better…
(Disclaimer: please know that this is my story, not yours. Just because I am not wearing mine anymore does not mean you should not wear yours too.)
When I was in 6th grade I discovered these books, multiple series actually, that really made a huge impact on my little mind and heart. Some of you may have heard of them: Christy Miller Series, Sierra Jensen Series, and the Christy and Todd, the College Years Series.
I can summarize these books for you in a few short seconds: a 14-year-old “nobody” (Christy) meets super hot, blue eyed, blond 16-year-old surfer (Todd) in California who is practically perfect, who knew from the moment he met her that she was the one, and through a long series of events, they end up marrying years later having remained virgins until their wedding day. Sierra Jensen is a friend of Christy’s that you meet at the end of Christy’s series who ends up having her own story told. As a 11 year old though, these books quickly became my favorite and began to influence me in so many different ways; many good, but also many that weren’t realistic. I wanted to be just like Christy. And Sierra. And like their friend Tracy who sadly doesn’t have her own series… yet.
I quickly became obsessed with the idea of purity. Christy and Tracy found the man of their dreams because of the life they chose to live, so why couldn’t the same happen to me?
Of course, combine this with the coping I was learning from abuse during this time (aka trying to be perfect at everything so people will like/love me), and a deadly ideal began to form: If I lived a perfectly pure life, then I would meet and marry Mr. Perfect and we would end up having the perfect life, perfect marriage, and perfect family of our own.
I can’t remember when or why I decided I needed a purity ring, but when I was 15 I couldn’t wait to get one when I was 16 (the typical age for such gifts) from my dad. So I begged him for one, except my 16th, 17th, and 18th birthday passed with no ring. I did, however, finally get one from him on my first day of college, though it took me buying my own to get my dad to react and finally give me one himself, ha. I absolutely loved my ring! I wore it with pride on my wedding finger every day, knowing it was proof I was a Christian. I viewed it as a symbol of commitment to living a completely pure life for my future husband, so that one day I could stand before him during our wedding vows and share how I had remained a virgin for him until our wedding day.
This actually breaks my heart as I write this, knowing how so wrapped up in this ideal I was but had gone about it for the wrong reasons. And sadly, this happens SO often with those who wear purity rings! I know I am not the only one wore it incorrectly. Many of us started with good intentions, seeing it as a reminder of a covenant with God, but without proper guidance and wisdom, we ended up abusing it and/or lording it over people.
I posed a question on my Facebook the other day and I absolutely loved the responses I got: “In one or two words, describe what you think when you hear the words, ‘Purity Ring.'”
I got a whole range of thoughts, from parents who had given rings and kids who had asked for one, to those who are very skeptical and/or hurt by the church and the “purity” culture. I actually had a few that didn’t understand the hype about purity rings, but still believed in the value of raising children with a full understanding of their worth and what sex is and does when it’s committed outside the covenant of marriage (which I think those last two points are gold).
Those who loved the idea of wearing a purity ring saw it as a tangible symbol of a commitment/covenant they had made with God/their parents. Some believe that when temptations come, the ring will be a visible reminder to them of this vow. For the first few years of wearing my purity ring, I was all about this, though I went to the extreme. I was the one who was cocky about their ring and tended to judge those who didn’t wear one and claimed to be a Christian.
Thankfully, I grew a lot in college and God began to teach me a lot about living a life that truly honors Him, not me and my “perfection.” I remember the moment I realized how commercial Christianity had turned purity rings into such a cliche. It was my senior year of college. I realized there was no depth to this symbol in stores. There was no teaching of healthy standards or boundaries to set. There was so explaining of what purity truly is: honoring God in every area of our lives. It was just about not having sex until marriage. You’ve stayed a virgin until you got married? Perfect… Now try to change your mindset that sex is bad to sex is good. There was so setting a line and living above it mentality. You’re just expected to change your mentality towards sex overnight and what was once forbidden was now not. I’ve heard of so many people struggling to make that switch mentally after striving so long to maintain their virginity before marriage.
Which leads me into the shame culture that has come out of this idea of wearing a purity ring. You know, the origin of the purity ring is actually from the Bush Administration in the 1990s. They were trying to promote safe sex and STI prevention and protection so they came up with this idea to help spur it on. But somewhere between this origin and where it is now, a lot of condemnation and shame have accompanied it. This is especially true for those who have ended up having sex after receiving this ring. Or, kind of like me, became addicted to pornography, masturbating, fantasizing, and/or other sexual addictions. There’s this expectation throughout many circles that by wearing this ring, we have to be spotless, and if we aren’t spotless, then we have failed. We have to live with our broken promises and endure judgement for our mistakes.
In large though, I do still think purity rings are a good idea, when understood and used correctly with grace. They did make a somewhat positive impact on my life and definitely saved me from experiencing some heartbreak, though it did hurt when my crushes started liking someone else (which happened, no joke, like every time). A few years ago I started wearing my claddagh ring on my left ring finger in the engaged setting. I had read somewhere that in the Bible, Jesus is referred to as the bridegroom (fiancé) and the church (us) as the bride. I thought wearing this ring that way was a perfect reminder of God’s love for me. I had lost the ring from my dad about a year before and was missing having that symbol in my life.
Okay, so why am I choosing to not wear a purity ring anymore?
Gah, this is so hard. I feel like such a sinner for saying or doing this…
I recently (as in a few days ago) realized something about myself. I know in my last few posts I have opened up about my fear of intimacy, especially emotionally and that I have talked with my counselor about it. Well, at work this topic and previous conversation with my counselor was on my mind, especially since many gentlemen come in the cafe I work at to get their Joe. I had decided a few minutes into my thought train that I was going to work on not shrinking back in fear if a guy was nice to me. For some reason, my mind interprets a guy’s niceness to mean he wants to date/marry me. This in turn terrifies me and I tend to try and barricade myself from them in whatever way I can. It’s a huge relief to have a counter between me and them to help me feel less vulnerable.
Of course, my train of thought wandered more on this topic and it dawned on me as I was taking a guy’s order: I rely so much on my ring to keep guys away from me. I mean, honestly I guess that’s a good thing, but not to the level I had taken it (I’m apparently I an overachiever). I was hiding behind my ring, knowing that by having it on my left ring finger, the likelihood of a guy asking me out was a LOT smaller that it would be otherwise. My Claddagh ring no longer was reminding me of God’s love for me or of my desire to live a pure and honorable life. It was helping me continue to live in fear and “safety.”
Since Monday, I have looked up information, asked others, and prayed a bunch. I have come to the conclusion that it is best for me not to wear a purity ring on my left hand, at least for this season of healing, though it may end up being the rest of my life. I don’t need this ring in order to live a life that honors God. I have His Word hidden in my heart and I know I will continue to invest my time in Him and grow from the roots up in my relationship with God. My ring no longer has the pure value I feel it should have. It is instead holding me back, keeping me from walking and living in confidence. It isn’t helping me heal or grow interpersonally at all. Because of that, I am taking it off. Well, sorta. It’s on my right ring finger right now because, well, I’m mostly Irish. I gotta represent! 😉
Do you have a purity ring? If so, why are you wearing it?
Check your intentions behind it and see if they are helping or hurting you. And please, remember we are all sinners and fall short of the glory of God. If you have a purity ring, remember to live in grace, towards yourself and towards others. God is a forgiving and gracious God. Keep standing firm in your faith and on your conviction, with grace. God can make a big impact through your life and testimony!
Woman of Purity~