“to abstain is to not… is to not.” | a rambly post about relationships.

{Partially inspired by this interview of one of my favorite people, Phylicia Masonheimer.}

girl standing in field

because every purity post needs a random picture of a girl with her hands up.

We’ve all heard the purity metaphors – the sticky note, the cake, the sucker…  As I wrote this post at Starbucks I came up with another.  (Bear with me.)

It was nearing lunchtime and I was hungry.  Starbucks doesn’t have any gluten-free options, so I really wanted to drive over to McDonald’s and get myself some fries (because fries are my one weakness – they’re so good but so bad).  However, I know they’re not gluten-free (which I have to have because of thyroid problems), so I know they’ll ruin my stomach.  Plus, I didn’t have any money to spend at the moment because I’m a poor college student, so I decided to wait.  I knew my mom was cooking a big Sunday lunch and that it would be delicious and healthy and fill me up and – best of all – it’s FREE!  (Bottom line: Instead of filling up on junky stuff, I waited for the thing that would truly satisfy me.)

As stupid and imperfect as that analogy is, it works.  (Sort of.)

I’ve been thinking about my convictions a lot recently (as you have probably noticed) and really trying to figure out what they mean to me. I’ve always understood that your parents’ convictions aren’t grandfathered into your own life, just like your parents’ faith isn’t. It has to be your own.

Lately, I’ve been thinking about purity and what it means to me. I shouldn’t blindly hold to what my parents think about purity and abstinence or else I’ll be swayed when a better opinion (or temptation) comes along.  I have to OWN my convictions so I can stand when temptation comes. (See Ephesians 6:10-18. Paul uses the word “stand” three times in the space of twelve words – I think that means something!)

There’s nothing wrong with thinking critically about your convictions, guys. I thought there was when I was in my teens, but then I realized that it’s just a part of growing up. It’s hard and it’s confusing but it’s what proves you’re maturing.  Owning your convictions – really knowing what you believe – is not something to be taken lightly.

Because of how much I’ve examined my convictions, I have some beliefs that my parents don’t have, just like they have some that I’ve let go of. As my siblings and I have gotten older, we’ve ALL – as an entire family – let go of some things that we used to think were mandatory. For instance, I wear shorts outside the house now, as opposed to up to a few years ago, when the girls in my family mostly wore skirts.  And even though we grew up completely sold on courtship, my sister – with my parents’ blessing – recently went out on a few dates with a guy to get to know him.  It didn’t work out, but neither she nor the guy were emotionally damaged or anything, and they both know a little more about what they want and need in a significant other now.  I’d say their experience wasn’t a “failure” at all.

Some of my family’s convictions have changed simply because my siblings and I have gotten older, and some have changed because our opinions have changed.  For instance, in the above paragraph, the shorts thing was a change of opinion, whereas the dating thing was a change in situation.  (The dates my sister went on would’ve looked a little different had they happened when she was sixteen or eighteen.)

Taking a closer look at my convictions has helped me understand the faults in modern dating and modern courtship and know what I want my relationship life to look like.  It’s not going to be perfect – far from it, knowing myself – but I’m learning from what other people who are, or were, in relationships have to show me.  And even though I was homeschooled most of my life and am now finishing my degree at home, I’ve still made some mistakes.  Shocking, right?  (Sarcasm.)

(And, yes, I think there are some faults in the idea of courtship, just like there are in dating.  HERESY, I KNOW.  I can explain my thoughts in another blog post if you guys want to hear them.  I’ve been thinking about it a lot.  Katelyn knows this.)

Rest assured, I haven’t given up on purity because of all of my thinking.  In fact, because of my research, both in the Bible and through mentors, I’ve become more firm in my convictions.  We all know the verses about how “your body is a temple” and how we should “set an example in purity,” but do we – and do I – really live like we know it?  And if we do, what does that look like?

I’m not saying it has to look the same in everybody’s lives.  Over the past few years, I’ve had dozens of conversations with people about what relationships look like to us.  Dating, courting, half-joking arranged marriage – I’ve heard it all.  I’ve talked to girls who have courted/dated several guys with no luck, girls who are nearing (or in) their thirties and don’t have any prospects, and girls who are married at or before twenty.  And I’ve talked to guys who have had good and bad experiences with dating, too, but mostly courtship (which I’m planning on talking about in a future post).

Here’s my main question: Does it matter whether you call it dating or courting?

When it all comes down to it, I really don’t think so.  What matters the most is glorifying God through your relationship.  What that looks like is between God, you, and your significant other.  Nobody else.

Who cares if somebody thinks you should always or never have a chaperone, or if somebody else thinks the parents should or shouldn’t be involved?!  Courtship, dating, whatever you want to call it and however you do it – it’s going to look different for every. single. person. and. every. single. relationship.  If that’s what God wants your relationship to look like, that’s what it should look like.

People are too judgmental sometimes, including myself.  Too often, I give unsolicited advice because I think I know best, even if I really don’t.  Just the other day, I found myself thinking, Well, she shouldn’t think that way because…  And then I just had to stop and tell myself, Who the heckydizzle am I to decide what’s right for her life?!  I’d hate it if she were doing this to me, so why am I doing it to her?!

Well, this post kind of derailed, but that’s what my brain is doing constantly.  Blame it on the stress of college.  Anyway, thoughts?  Agree?  Disagree?  Let me know in the comments.  I love talking with you guys.  🙂

P.S. The title is a quote borrowed from one of my new favorite rom-coms, She’s the Man.

P.P.S. Thanks for all of your help on my last post!  I was able to revise the short story based on your feedback (and other stuff I needed to change), and submitted it yesterday.  I’ll post the final version later when I get my grade!

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19 thoughts on ““to abstain is to not… is to not.” | a rambly post about relationships.

  1. Pingback: year in review: 2016. | inklings press

  2. I think why I enjoy reading this blog so much is because you have gone through so much similar stuff to me! In my teen years, I was all for courtship, read “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” and thought it amazing, watched the Duggars etc etc but as I slowly came out of legalism, I realised how incredibly damaging the whole “purity culture” in conservative Christian circles was. I’m absolutely not saying don’t be pure, but the whole don’t talk to guys etc etc really messed up the way I related to guys and I found it so difficult to talk to guys my age without feeling like I was throwing myself at them! It took me several years of pushing myself to relate naturally and working on unlearning all that legalistic stuff to feel comfortable around guys (in a normal, wholesome way) and sometimes it’s still a work in progress. I felt uneasy with the whole courtship thing and Thomas Umstattd’s “Why Courtship is Fundamentally Flawed” put how I was feeling so clearly and helped me understand WHY I was now so uncomfortable with the whole courtship thing. I don’t like to label things as dating OR courting but if I go out with a guy, I would call it dating simply because the word courting has those really negative, legalistic implications to me personally. Courtship sets expectations so incredibly high, you can’t help but be hurt if it doesn’t work out and I think never being alone with the guy before marriage is not healthy – if I can’t trust him before marriage, I can’t trust him after. (Having said that, for sure put safeguards in place etc). I also hate the whole patriarchy aspect of courtship – yes, of course involve the counsel of your parents as they have heaps of experience! – but at the end of the day, it’s two adults getting to know each other. If t he marriage is to work well, they need to grow up, take responsibility and act honourably before God. Anyway, that’s sort of where I’m at and it was great hearing your perspective! Tbh, I think we all overthink the whole courtship / dating thing a bit… I know I need to just chill a bit! 🙂

    • Aww, I’m glad you found me! I’m always so excited to find people who have had the same experiences or are at the same stage of life as me. 🙂 I was the *exact* same way! Certain aspects about me (such as the fact that I really didn’t care if I made mistakes when I was younger – whoops) kept me from thinking I had given my heart away every time I became friends with a guy, so I had several guy friends growing up who I was completely comfortable around, but I know people who didn’t have guy friends ’til they were eighteen or twenty just because the purity culture ingrained the whole “IF YOU LOOK AT A GUY, YOU ARE GIVING HIM YOUR HEART!” thing in their minds. And see, I read that article, too! Except I read it when I was like eighteen and still in the “COURTSHIP IS THE ONLY RIGHT WAY AND ANYONE ELSE WHO THINKS SO IS TOTALLY WRONG!!!!” mindset. *facepalm* I think I need to read it again… Yes, I completely agree – especially if it has negative implications for you. And YES to the alone thing. I know couples who did that and now don’t know how to be alone together as husband and wife. (Yes to pre-set safeguards, definitely, especially if you don’t know the guy very well.) YES YES YESSSSSS. If they can’t do that, they really have no business being in a relationship that’s so focused on marriage, in my opinion. That’s exactly where I am, too! 🙂 Haha, we really do. Can’t we just CALM DOWN a little?!?!?! XD

      • Yes! Read the Thomas Umstaddt article again – and also read his follow up article where he replies to some questions that came up from comments on the original one. They’re both really really good. I come from a church where it was an unwritten rule that guys and girls not interact once they hit puberty so once I started meeting Christians from other churches, it was soooo hard to talk normally to the guys without feeling really embarrassed and like I was being impure or something! The church I’m in now, I can interact really normally (most of the time; it can still be hard for me sometimes) but I have seen the other extreme as well, where some Christians date person after person. Obviously that’s a decision each one of us needs to make with God for ourselves, but I think seeing the two extremes has helped me to go to the Bible and work out things myself, which as you say makes my own beliefs so much stronger! We do need to calm down lol but coming from a background where purity is emphasised so heavily, I guess we just think about it heaps!! And yeah, I’m glad I started reading here as well! I used to read a few of the blogs similar to yours but never really yours but honestly you are going through EXACTLY what I’m going through! So cool to know I’m not unique / alone but other people are on the same “journey” (To sound like a reality TV show… they’re always on a journey..) Look forward to hearing more – esp if you write that follow up post on dating / courtship that you hinted at!

        • I did and I agree with him a lot more this time. (Except I still don’t think an “Ask my dad if you can date me” should be taken as a no.) Whoa, that’s so crazy! I know how harmful those ideas can be, though, and the lasting consequences are insane. I still don’t think serial dating should be a thing for me personally, but I definitely agree – seeing extremes really help us figure out what God wants us to do with our relationships! Aww, you’re so sweet. 🙂 I’m looking forward to writing it! (As long as I can do it without getting too heated, lol. We’ll see!)

  3. Great post, Ashley.

    You know, it’s so true what you said—we really do need to know why we believe the things we do, instead of simply holding on to them ONLY because it’s what we were taught as children. If you don’t thoroughly understand your religious convictions and make a conscious choice to accept them, you’re in danger of giving up on them when push comes to shove. (I think that’s partly what Jesus was talking about with the “sower and the seed” parable, actually . . .)

    You know what else I think? I know I’ve talked about this before; but, coming at this whole dating-and-relationships-business from a Roman Catholic angle, I have a really, really hard time understanding WHY so many people are so worried about dating. (Please don’t think I’m trying to offend anybody who thinks differently. I’m not. I just wanted to talk about how it all seems to me.) Dating isn’t “evil.” Sure, there are ways you can do it which might MAKE it evil; but the simple act of spending time alone with a guy, for the purposes of finding out whether you’re compatible with him and might want to marry him, IS NOT EVIL. It’s just common sense!

    I guess I’m just a little upset about this because I’ve been hearing people lately say that dating, per se, inevitably leads to divorce. And I’m like, “ummmmmmmmmmm, excuse me??” I know my parents dated for several years before getting married (after having dated other people before meeting each other), and they ARE STILL MARRIED TWENTY-FIVE YEARS LATER. Dating was a really good thing for them; and I think it’s wrong for people to just write it off wholesale as an awful, evil idea.

    I don’t understand, either, why people say “you should avoid dating because otherwise you’ll end up getting your heart broken if it doesn’t work out.” But . . . honestly, there’s no foolproof way of figuring out whether you’re compatible with somebody. Ultimately, whether you call it dating or courting, you HAVE to just take the plunge and try it. And what if it doesn’t end up working out? Is that really the end of the world? No, it’s not. Thinking maybe you like a guy and then realizing you really don’t . . . that’s just LIFE. Courting instead of dating can’t guarantee you protection from that experience. (Actually, it might be a little harder if you’re courting, because then you have the mindset from the beginning of “I’m TOTALLY going to marry this guy”; and if it doesn’t work out, I think you’d actually be way more disappointed than if you’d gone into it with a more flexible outlook.) And honestly, isn’t being disappointed in love kind of a learning experience, in a way? Even a “failed” relationship might teach you something important; or it might be the start of a good friendship; or it might even be the thing that sets you on the path to finding your actual true love. You never know. Let’s just sit back and enjoy the ride, is what I say 🙂

    You know, the more I think about all this, the more I’m reminded of what the Mother Abbess tells Maria in the Sound of Music: “These abbey walls were not built to shut out problems. You have to face them. You have to live the life you were born to live.” You see, I think sometimes we, as Christians, fall into the trap of thinking that our Christian faith is something that’s supposed to shield us from life’s problems, from pain and heartache and disappointment and regret. It’s kind of like we start to think, “Okay, I’m going to do everything RIGHT and then I’ll never have to suffer.” But that’s not true at all! Christ never promised us that faith in Him would make our lives perfect. He wants us to LIVE our lives—as human beings—trying our best, but also not being afraid of making mistakes. And He can use pain and suffering to teach us stuff we never even realized we didn’t know.

    Whew. Okay, I feel better now. Sorry ‘bout the rant 😉

    • EXACTLY!!! I completely agree with you. 🙂 (And I think that’s what He was talking about too!)

      AND I COMPLETELY AGREE WITH YOU ABOUT DATING. I think courtship was a great idea at first – esp when dating started becoming such a huge thing in the 90’s – but it’s warped into something completely different than anyone probably intended for it to. Asking to get to know a girl basically means asking for her hand in marriage – and if that’s not daunting, I don’t know what is!!! Gah, I’ve gotta write a post about this now. 😛 I’ve heard that, too. Dating *can* lead to divorce… just like courtship, though, especially if your motives are wrong or if you don’t completely assess your compatibility or whether or not it’s God’s will. My parents dated for less than a year before they were married, but they’re still together twenty-three years later! (It’s been a struggle at times, though. God’s grace is REAL.) SERIOUSLY THOUGH YES. Courtship does NOT equal a happy marriage. And I think that’s why so many courtships lead to UNhappy marriages! I have a friend who had panic attacks every night for like 4 months bc she was courting a guy and everybody saw them at the altar… except for her. They both ended up a little worse for wear afterwards (especially him), but it wasn’t a failure because they both learned lessons because of it.

      YES I totally agree. 🙂

      Haha, it’s perfectly fine. I love long, ranty comments. 🙂

      • PLEASE WRITE A POST ON IT YES. (No pressure, of course. Ahem. 😉 ) Because I seriously think that the courtship model has some SERIOUS flaws, the biggest one being that it puts just waaaaaaaaaaaay too much pressure on the two people involved. I mean, honestly, if you’re in a relationship with someone, you NEED to feel secure in the knowledge that you can back out of it if it’s not working; and if you’re having panic attacks every single night, clearly you don’t feel that security. And that is a Very Bad Thing.

        And the chaperoned-dates-only thing makes me SO MAD, too. I mean, come on, peoples. I am TWENTY-TWO YEARS OLD. You don’t trust me to behave myself without parents around to constantly check on me? Hey? Hey? HEY?????

        • I really probably will. Let me get my thoughts in order first, though. 😉 IT SERIOUSLY DOES. I completely agree.

          OH MAN I KNOW RIGHT?! I mean, I completely understand chaperones if you’re going to court a guy when you’re sixteen or eighteen, but… hello. Seriously? If a couple in their twenties need chaperones, either they’re too young/immature to court/date, or their parents don’t trust them. And I’ve heard good stories about chaperones, but I’ve also heard HORROR stories about chaperones, so… It just depends on the family and the young adults dating/courting, but I’d say anyone over 21 doesn’t need one. Honestly, if they can’t go out by themselves, they won’t know how to be alone together after marriage. And THAT freaks me out a little.

  4. One question: can I use this as a reference for a future blog post? I’ve been in a rut lately with no good ideas. And, based off conversations we’ve had, this has gotten my brain whirling with ideas.
    That being said, great post once again. You have managed to put into words what has been floating at the back of my mind for a few years now. Seriously, how are you so good at putting my thoughts into words!?! 😉 I especially like the ‘should we call it dating or courting’ question. Personally, I hesitate to use either word because of the image they’ve gotten. I don’t know what I’d call any serious relationship I get into, but it probably won’t be either of those.

    • Absolutely! 🙂 YES. Pleeeeease use our rambly conversations for good, Kate. XD

      Aww thank you so much! You’re too sweet. ❤ Oh, I've felt the same. Both terms get so much backlash from different people!!! I think I'm going to call my next serious relationship "intentional dating." Because it'll look like courtship (parents will be involved) but I'll definitely say no to only-chaperoned dates. XD Plus, I'm not going to date anyone I can't see myself with for the rest of my life (or at least give them a chance to see if it could work out), so it won't be "worldly" aimless dating. Feel free to steal. 😉

  5. You know… sometimes I wonder how you are so good at putting into words the thoughts that I have rambling around in my head. Are you a mind reader or something? 😯
    Seriously, though, I understand what you’re saying because I’ve had many of these thoughts myself. And you put them into words better than I’ve been able to. 😉

  6. Aye, please do give some more insight into this “heresy” of which you speak! ;] I’m highly interested in the whole “courtship versus dating” thing, and you always have interesting thoughts… so go right ahead with that post!

    Nice analogy – seems accurate and too-the-point, with a little less in the way of “elaborate floof” than some of the others.

    Love your caption for the photo, by the way. ;p

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