I was 19 when I read the book of Joshua Harris entitled “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” but even before that, I was already embracing the “Purity Culture” around me.
This is my story and I want the younger ones to learn from me.
I was a part of the True Love Waits movement when I was 14. I am one of those teenagers who vowed to God to never have sex before marriage. Six years after that, I decided to take the ring off as my way of opposing to how Christians view purity in a very wrong way and treat virginity as the only means of being pure. I remained true to that promise even after I took the ring off but the error I saw in the Purity Culture is undeniable. I had a glimpse of it, but it only made sense to me last night when I watched the documentary “I Survived I Kissed Dating Goodbye”.
I understand the frustrations some Christians feel about not having a clear guide to courtship and dating. That’s why when Joshua Harris wrote the book, Christians embraced it. It was published last 1997 but the hype among Christian Teenagers were still on even up to the 2010s. I remember our church leaders telling us again and again to read the book so we know what to do with our lives.
I remember struggling to make friends with the opposite sex after I read the book. I was College back then and most of my friends were guys. I remember being so scared of meeting Church Leaders on the streets when I am hanging out with my guy friends thinking they will judge me for being too close to them. I remember a guy friend of mine who also shared to me the same guilt he feels when he was seen by their Pastor or Church Members hanging out with us. They’re my friends up to now, but I remember how quick we were back then to tell the people we meet that we were just friends. The hype indirectly influenced how we form relationships with the people around us. And it is kind of a bit sad especially if you only see them as brothers in Christ.
I felt like every crush has to end up in marriage or else I have sinned. I felt like I am not allowed to feel anything towards others unless I am not sure with what I feel. I remember how my guy friends hesitated in approaching the girls they like thinking it was too early to do so. I’ve seen my friends struggle, and I’ve seen myself struggle over it too. But one thing is clear, we embraced Purity Culture thinking it is right. And it’s not just Joshua Harris’ fault at all. It was also ours for not discerning those things in light with the wisdom that comes from God.
It has been six years since the year that I graduated in College and today, 50% of the people I personally know who was so into the Purity Culture back then are still single and 80% of them thinks they deserve so much better because they have waited perfectly for the right one. The book has set a standard so high enough we became Pharisees. So high enough we cannot that extend grace towards others who have a messy life before they knew Christ. Purity Culture has not only set the standards high, it also became an avenue for some to close their doors to those whom they think have not waited patiently. As a domino effect, we see more and more Christians marry unbelievers, thinking they are not good enough for the Christians inside their churches who set their standards so high.
Sadly, I am one of those who kept my standards very high when it comes to dating because there’s this one chapter in Joshua Harris’ book that became my favorite. Chapter 7: The Direction to Purity. Purity in Action #2 was about setting your standards too high. All this time I thought I am doing the right thing. But instead of extending some grace to those who wanted to date me, I end up dumping all of them thinking I wasn’t pursued rightly. I wanted courtship, no more no less. I put up high walls around my heart because I think it was right. I despised midnight conversations because I don’t want to settle for anything less. I hesitated making friends with the guys I like because I am scared of hurting myself. I despised those who have no clear intentions and saw them undeserving. But today, after watching the documentary, I saw myself as nothing but prideful and I don’t blame Joshua Harris for that. I blame myself for believing he has all the answers. I blame myself for not seeing that everybody has a unique story and not all of us will fit on the same mold.
I am turning 27 next week and I have never been in a relationship for so many reasons. The influence of the Purity Culture was the main reason plus the big factor that I went to Medical School at the age that everybody is getting married. I never dated anybody in MedSchool thinking I cannot fully commit to anyone. I am now a Medical Intern and I already feel like I am meant to live my life alone. But honestly, a part of me hopes it’s never too late.
So for those who are younger than me, please learn from me. Learn to extend grace to those who show interest on you. I am not saying you compromise all your core beliefs but try to get to know them and understand that we are all sinners; we commit mistakes. And even if how messy that person’s life before he knew Christ, learn to understand. Nobody will ever be good enough for you if you always see yourself higher than anyone else. And I hope in dating and courtship, you’ll learn to show them God’s grace.
Please don’t make the same mistakes I did. I have no power to turn back the time. I can only move forward, and I hope as I move forward, I bring with me the lessons I learned the hard way.
I haven’t survived “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” yet, but I hope you will. And I hope someday, I will.