Purity Rings and Personal Values
There is a fine line in my mind that divides between instances when a person “should” and “shouldn’t” wear a purity ring. I don’t use “should” as an obligatory statement but rather of a sense of irony since purity rings do tend to carry unnecessary moral obligation.
Allow me to elaborate. I was one of a couple million young folks to have a purity pledge and ring. I did not purchase mine out of peer pressure from a Silver Ring Thing event or True Love Waits concert but nevertheless, it was a decision spurred in part by wanting to fit in. Many of my friends had rings, long before they even hit puberty or knew what the word “sex” meant, if they’d ever even heard the term to begin with. Essentially, most of the folks I knew with purity rings were not physically or emotionally mature enough to understand or consent to the commitment of abstaining from sexual activity that the rings symbolized.
Committing to sexual purity is a wonderful thing. It is something that Christians are called to so throughout Scripture, but forcing or coercing children to sign purity pledges without them understanding what that means is not a genuine conviction, even if they genuinely do think that they want to.
The marriage and drinking ages are what they are because we as a society recognize that there is a certain maturity that is necessary for making commitment that will have potentially lasting consequences. I’m not saying that no one under 18 should be allowed to wear a purity ring. Certainly not. I don’t want to add further dogma to the complex issue of purity rings and pledges. But I do believe that a minor should have a reasonable understanding of what sex is before making their commitment to abstaining a public affair.
Sexual purity, thought expected through scripture of Christians, is not always meant to be a public affair. Yes, many are called to a public testimony in this area and that is fantastic, but others are not. For most, it is a decision that is better left as private, even if only as a matter of propriety. Do you know how difficult it is to have made a public announcement of virginity through the use of a purity ring only to realize you’d given up your privacy in doing so? The moment I realized I no longer wanted to wear my ring, anger overcame me because all of the stories of folks who had done the same popped into my head. They were shamed, accused of sleeping around, etc, all for taking off a tiny silver ring meant to symbolize something good.
You see, purity rings often tie your commitment to the rings itself. People equate your decision with you wearing the ring so much that, when you take it off, they believe you’ve broken the commitment even if you simply lost the item down the drain while washing your hands!
I once lost mine at work and my coworkers feared for my reputation so much that they spent half an hour looking for it before I could go home despite me insisting it was okay. Once they returned my ring (which had fallen under a printer) I felt a sense of it carrying some unhealthy weight, which promoted my small outburst in which I threw it down the garbage disposable a few weeks later. I retrieved it moments later for fear of the consequences of being seen without it.
The issue with purity rings is that they truly are useless if the wearer didn’t understand the commitment they were making when putting it on. In addition, while it is fun to be part of a cool trend, purity rings carry a lot of weight for what they symbolize. If you are a private person, it may be best to keep your dedication private to avoid the stress that public knowledge of your sexuality (especially in a sex-saturated world) may bring. Ultimately, you should wear a purity ring if you want to, and only if you want to. It is a personal decision that is only healthy if you make it for yourself.