Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Is Emotional Purity Harmful? - Purity Part 4

Part 1 - Emotional Purity: What Are Your Thoughts?
Part 2 - What is Emotional Purity?
Part 3 - The Struggle For Emotional Purity: A Guest Post By Emily Long

“All the broken hearts in the world still beat/Let's not make it harder than it has to be/Ohh, it's all the same thing/Girls chase boys chase girls” – Ingrid Michaelson

I think many people take the approach Ingrid Michaelson does in her song, “Girls Chase Boys.” What’s the big deal with emotional purity? All the broken hearts in the world still beat, let’s not make it harder than it has to be. That makes sense, right?  Emotional purity just over complicates things.

Others would go on to say that there are serious problems with the idea of emotional purity. Some mock emotional purity as unrealistic or a fantasy. “Surely emotional purity isn’t even possible in this day and age.” Others claim it is downright harmful, while still more insist that to have emotional purity you must “invent a sin” such as this article argues.

Do these critics have a point? 

While I believe that—like all good things—the concept of emotional purity can be twisted or abused, we shouldn't throw the baby out with the bathwater. The idea that we are to be pure in more than just our physical actions is good, Biblical, and very possible to maintain. As I said in part 2 of this series, I believe “emotional purity” is an unfortunate term to use, since people infer it is all about controlling emotions, when it’s actually about directing our thoughts, and being wise with our actions. This spiritual purity is rooted in self-control and love, both of which the Bible advocates.

But, there are some concerns.

Monday, August 25, 2014

The Struggle For Emotional Purity: Guest Post - Purity Part 3

Part 1 - Emotional Purity: What Are Your Thoughts?
Part 2 - What is Emotional Purity?

When emotional purity is discussed, I find it interesting that the focus is always on ourselves. We consider whether or not a given situation would be beneficial or detrimental to us. I think this is a very poor way of looking at the topic of emotional purity.

I hardly hear anyone talk about looking out for the best interests of others. I believe that we should be seeking to help one another, and as men, we should especially seek what is best for women.

Speaking to young men, rather than merely considering whether or not a given situation or interaction might harm us, we should instead consider how it might negatively impact a young woman. For example, perhaps a hug or communicating deeply in private would hold no emotional sway over you, but it might for the young woman.

Instead of trying to communicate myself how, in general, women are different from men when it comes to the area of emotional vulnerability, I decided to seek help from those who would know better than I what it's like to be a woman. A friend of mine, Emily Long, was gracious enough to write me a letter detailing the struggle for emotional purity from a young woman's perspective, and it is copied below. I hope you find it as enlightening as I did:
Dear Reagan,

You have asked for my opinion on the issue of emotional purity. I would like to do just that by illustrating it a little.

          First, let me introduce you to our characters. The main individual is a girl just 20 years old. She has not been very emotionally pure up to this point, but has not exactly had a solid emotional relationship yet. Just a crush here and there. Perfectly normal, wouldn’t you say? We shall call her Krystal. Because I like that name.

To continue…

          Joseph is our unassuming male counterpart, who is the same age as Krystal. Although he has never had girl friends or crushes, he can’t deny that he has noticed the female population, as they seem to be everywhere. Joseph also has no sisters, and therefore does not exactly know the interworkings of a female mind. To be honest, neither do females, but we won’t get into that.

          Krystal has a good relationship with Christ (as long as He doesn't ruin her fun, and she can still be popular). She has a heart for discipling young girls, she loves children, helping moms, serves the elderly, singing for the glory of the Lord, waiting (physically at least), for her prince charming, and keeping constructively busy being a stay-at-home-daughter. On the outside, she is doing everything right. But inside Krystal’s heart are longings. A desire to be loved, to feel beautiful, cared for, protected, safe. Her father is away a lot working to provide for her family, and Krystal just feels disconnected from him and doesn’t exactly know how to share her heart with him. She hasn’t grasped the concept that in Christ alone can all these longings be fulfilled.

          Now that you understand Krystal a little, let us introduce Joseph into her life. Here is young Joseph, noticing a pretty girl who is quite talented, popular with all the people who know her, and really seems to have a heart for God. Interested, he spends a little time with her. He is not in love, has not stated anything, and is possibly not even entertaining thoughts of that sort. She has noticed him as well, and believes that perhaps he is also interested. Their families spend more time together, giving Joseph and Krystal ample opportunities to talk, form opinions, and seek each other’s attention. In Krystal’s mind, thing are getting serious, especially since “the families are involved”. Joseph has never said anything, but he genuinely seems to be seeking her out. She finds him funny, kind, diligent, caring, protective; every girl's dream boat, right? He also happens to be handsome, which of course, doesn’t exactly matter, but it…matters. Another female thing.

          Moving on…

Friday, August 22, 2014

What Is "Emotional Purity"? - Purity Part 2

Click here for part 1

So before we can say whether or not emotional purity is good or bad, we first have to know what we’re talking about. What is emotional purity? Where did it come from?

I did a lot of research on the origins of the term “emotional purity,” and my research suggested that the term is actually fairly new. The vast majority of articles I found discussing emotional purity portrayed it in a negative light. It seems there are very few people who think emotional purity is a good thing.

After reading so many negative articles, it has caused me to rethink the whole issue quite a bit, and it has led me to conclude two things.

“Emotional Purity” is an unfortunate term. “Spiritual Purity” would be a better term to use.

Spiritual Purity is—in fact—Biblical.

Before I get to how I arrived at those conclusions, what is “emotional purity”? Most people just assume everyone already knows what it is, but based on how I’ve seen some people talk about emotional purity, it is clear they are talking about something completely different than what I have come to understand as “emotional purity.”

Some have the idea that emotional purity means suppressing any feelings of attraction for someone. Shutting down emotions.

Others describe emotional purity as “saving your heart” for the person you eventually marry.

And still others believe that emotional purity is rooted in fear, and simply a means to cope with the fear of getting hurt, a fear of “loving and losing.”

I think the easiest way to define emotional purity is to compare it to physical purity (though they certainly are distinct from one another).  Most Christians seem to believe at least some form of physical boundaries should exist before marriage.  We refer to physical purity as abstaining from intimate physical acts with someone outside of marriage. I’m going to define emotional purity within this same terminology.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

4 Good Ways To Disagree

“A basic rule of civil debate that should always guide not only Christians but all serious people: always describe your opponents' view as they describe it, and if you are going to accuse them of leading to a conclusion they do not actually embrace, say they do not actually embrace it.  Attributing to adherents of a particular view certain beliefs they explicitly reject is unfair at best, and dishonest at worst.” - Rodger Olsen

People don’t know how to disagree anymore. In fact, society has come to believe that disagreeing with someone means you personally detest them. This is nonsense. 

A lot of the criticism I receive is from people attacking things I never said, or points I don’t believe. This phenomenon is not unique to me. It’s everywhere. Whenever someone expresses an opinion, antagonists immediate twist and warp what was said.

This is unfair, uncivil, and really very barbaric. What is more, it is very unhelpful. It doesn't change anyone’s mind, and it simply spreads around false belief and slander.

There are plenty more civilized ways to disagree with someone. The quote above describes some foundational rules for civil debate:

1. Don’t Fight Scarecrows:

Describe your opponent’s view in the best possible light. Describe their position the way they would.

Why should we do this?

First of all, it’s only fair. You wouldn’t like someone twisting what you said, or painting your view in the worst possible light, correct? So don’t do that to other people.

Second of all, it’s a logical fallacy to set up a weak example of an argument and knock it down. This is called a “straw-man fallacy,” and other than ad hominem attacks, it’s the most frequent type of criticism I receive.  What have you really accomplished if you knock down a weak version of an argument? Nothing. You’ve accomplished nothing, except maybe falsely convincing yourself that you don’t have to listen to what the other person is saying.  

If you really want to refute an argument, you have to refute the most sound, and best represented version of the argument. Like the name suggests, straw-men attacks are just lazy, weak, and unfair. You haven’t defeated a real opponent if you fight a scarecrow and win.  

Monday, August 18, 2014

Paralyzed By The Pressure

My sister asked me the other day if I would rather be a successful writer or a successful music artist. I couldn’t decide. I would like to be BOTH! And yet, both seem impossible. I also am running out of time. I feel a pressure that I need to hurry up and succeed before life takes over and I’m stuck in a job I hate.

The problem is this pressure makes it incredibly hard to make much progress. If you’re a creative person (artist, writer, musician, filmmaker, etc.) I’m sure you know what I mean. This is probably why we get the expression, “You can’t rush art.” Pressure shuts down creativity, and distractions suddenly seem impossible to avoid. We look for anything to distract us from the pressure.

Of course, this doesn't just happen to creative people. People are paralyzed by pressure all the time. Trying to work through this feels sort of like you’re running a marathon while wearing a sopping wet tuxedo. Fear fuels the pressure, and we start to have doubts about whether or not we’re doing the right thing. If failure is imminent, then why even try at all? Hopelessness sets in, and soon you find yourself avoiding the very things you should be doing to become successful.

There is good news. It’s not up to you.

Friday, August 15, 2014

If I Think I'm Humble, Does That Mean I'm Not?

“He’s too humble to know he is.”

This is a compliment I’m sure you’ve heard before. While it is often just a figure of speech, is it really true that to be humble you must not be aware of your humility? This sounds correct. After all, “I’m the most humble person I know,” sounds less than modest.

To answer this question, I think we must first define what humility is. Here are some definitions I found from various online dictionaries.

“The quality or state of not thinking you are better than other people : the quality or state of being humble.” –

“The quality or condition of being humble; modest opinion or estimate of one's own importance, rank, etc.

Synonyms: lowliness, meekness, submissiveness.” –

And my favorite definition:

“Not talking about or reconising  your own achivments despite how good they are.
There are way better definitions about humility than this. I don't even kow why you're still reading this. There are plenty of more interesting words to look up. I reccomend irony or cynical.They're far better than this...  [sic]” –

I’m just kidding. I actually don’t like any of those definitions (though I do applaud the humor of, if not their writing mechanics). These definitions do hit at some true aspects of humility, but I think they are missing the essence of humility.  

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Emotional Purity: Part 1

I’ve come across a couple different articles recently which challenge the idea of emotional purity. I even saw one saying that saving your virginity for marriage is a bad idea too—posted on Facebook by a homeschooled Christian. These opponents of emotional purity usually point to Joshua Harris and the Ludy’s as being the culprits behind this harmful idea.

I find it interesting that most of the people I see criticizing the idea of emotional purity are homeschooled Christians who grew up in the so-called “purity movement.” I did not grow up in this movement, so perhaps what they experienced was harmful.

Growing up, I hardly knew any other homeschoolers. I didn’t go to a church youth group and was not immersed in the “purity culture.” The people I was around were public schoolers who didn’t care about purity. In fact, they cared very deeply about the opposite. For many of my peers, trying to date and be physically intimate with the best looking girls was a big priority for them.

I never had any desire to date or participate in that culture for a couple of reasons.  

Monday, August 11, 2014

Is Faith A Crutch?

Faith is widely misunderstood today. Many consider faith to be merely a crutch used to cope with the realities of life. Faith is seen by many to be the rejection of reason and rationality. The prominent atheist Richard Dawkins considers faith to be, “the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”

Rather than seeing Christians refute this claim, it seems many have come to accept that Mr. Dawkins is correct, and not only that, but it also appears that many Christians have come to see faith despite the evidence as something praiseworthy.

Both of these ideas about faith are wildly inaccurate.

Nowhere does the Bible advocate a “blind” faith or making a “leap” of faith. We should not believe in something just for the sake of believing.

Hebrews 11:1 defines faith as being: “the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen.”

Therefore, faith is believing in things that we can’t see. At first reading, you may be wondering how this is any different than blind faith. If you’re believing in something you can’t see then you must have no good reason to believe it. It’s blind faith. Right?

 Not so.

We all rely a lot more heavily on faith than knowledge in everyday life. If we only acted on knowledge, then we would be paralyzed and unable to live.

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Is It Wrong To Desire Admiration?

I have encountered Christians who have admitted that what drives them is admiration, and for people to think of them with favor and as being a unique person. Such people will also claim that selfish ambition can be a good thing, and that every action everyone takes is inherently selfish anyway. No one does the right thing just because it's the right thing to do.

Is this healthy? Is this what should drive us as Christians? Can selfish ambition be a good thing, as some claim?

I was rather disturbed to hear Christians saying admiration is what drives them, however, I sympathize with them at the same time. I myself certainly have been driven by the desire to glorify myself, and it's still a temptation that comes up from time to time. 

It's true that ambition alone, a strong desire to do or to achieve something, is not a bad thing. Indeed, I would agree that ambition is better than apathy or laziness. However, I don't agree that selfish ambition is good.  

It is also true that few people do the right thing merely because it’s the right thing to do. That is reality. I don’t believe that this is the case with everyone, nor do I agree that merely because it’s natural to be selfish that such behavior is justified. Belching is also very natural, but I don’t think we should make a habit of exercising this natural behavior in the presence of others. I think it is a bad thing that we are so easily directed by selfishness.

So often, we replace the word of God as our guide and replace it with our perceived understanding of the world. We forget Proverbs 3:5 – “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

But is it wrong to desire recognition and admiration? Is it wrong to want other people to think well of us?

Monday, August 4, 2014

I Might Have Cancer

The title of this post is a little vague, so I will break it down for you: I might have cancer. However, I don't want to scare anyone whom this news might scare, and I don't want to get anyone's hopes up whose hopes might get up from said news. It's more likely that I don't have cancer. I will explain. 

Back in October of 2011, I injured my knee during a high school football game. Roughly a week later, I was visiting our team doctor to get some of the blood drained out and to also try and figure out what the full extent of the damage was.

While he was looking at my knee, he randomly pointed at the mole on my lower thigh and said, “Oh, you should get that removed or it could lead to cancer,” and then went back to dealing with my knee, which was a lovely shade of purple and the size of a small watermelon.

I didn't think much of his warning about cancer. I was more concerned about the giant needle he was literally digging around inside my knee with no pain killers or numbing agents. It was far more painful than receiving the original injury was.

“Wow, you must have an incredibly high pain tolerance,” the doctor said after removing 95ccs of blood and other fluids from my knee. True, I hadn't flinched or made any noises, but he must have not seen the tears that had formed in my eyes. That was one of my least favorite experiences. 

I hobbled out of his office on my crutches before driving with my family down to the Wright-Patterson Air force Museum in Dayton Ohio for a previously scheduled social gathering. I thought no more of that little blemish on my lower thigh.