Purity rings! If you’re anywhere close to my age and grew up among Christian conservatives, chances are you’ve heard of them. Maybe you get one at 13, maybe 16. Maybe it was part of an event, or maybe it was a gift from your dad. You probably made a promise when you got it, something along the lines of saving sex for marriage. Maybe you meant that promise, maybe you didn’t. Maybe you called it a promise ring instead of a purity ring. It probably went along with books on courtship, kissing dating goodbye, and purity talks.
The emotions attached to a purity ring can vary widely. I’ve heard from those who found them meaningless, or took them off when they broke the promise. Those who thought it was just a funny idea. Others who took them very seriously, found them helpful, had them as part of their wedding ceremony.
Whatever your experience, can we just have a candid talk here? I’m hoping to hear your opinions in the comments, get your take on things, so please don’t take what I have to share here as gospel truth or anything. These are more my thoughts, my observations. But I don’t like skirting around issues, either. 🙂
First, the good. A physical reminder of a promise you made can be a very good thing. A very practical way of commemorating and keeping a vow. If the promise you made was serious, and if it’s flowing out of a relationship with Christ and obedience to Him, then it’s a promise worth commemorating. A radiant purity that comes from looking to Christ is a beautiful thing.
I personally prefer the term sexual integrity, as it’s so much more encompassing than “abstinence” or “purity” or “virginity”. This promise is supposed to much more than “saving sex for marriage”. It’s about a lifestyle of obedience to Christ, and as part of that lifestyle, walking in sexual integrity, reserving all sexual activity for the marriage relationship. It’s a lifestyle that continues after marriage.
You don’t lose your purity when you get married. You simply enter into the relationship that God sanctioned to include sex. You remain faithful to your spouse, before and during marriage. As part of that commitment, while that relationship remains “future” and the spouse remains unknown, a purity ring can be an excellent reminder and encouragement.
Next, the bad. A purity ring does not prevent you from breaking your promise. In fact, if it was given to you as part of a rule-motivated or shame-based promise, it will probably do you more harm than good. If the promise was mainly about preserving a physical “purity”, it will probably do you more harm than good. Even if the promise was to sexual integrity, but without a strong relationship with Christ, it won’t help.
The trouble is, no outward “thing”, not a ring, not a pledge card, not a verbal promise, nothing will ever fix your heart. Just like you can wear your wedding ring and have an affair, you can wear a purity ring and live a very impure life. Just like you can be technically faithful to your spouse and yet cheat on them by using porn, you can be a technical virgin and yet sin sexually by using porn or pushing the boundaries. All too often, the comment is “virginity was the important thing, so I did everything but lose my technical virginity”.
That’s not Jesus’ heart for you, and that is definitely not what purity is about. A purity ring won’t change a heart problem! So before you put on that ring, where is your heart? What is your purpose in wearing it? You can be pure without a ring, and you can be impure with a ring. Radiant purity comes from looking to Christ.
Lastly, the beautiful. I wear a purity ring, and here’s why I’m so glad I do. My parents gave me my purity ring when I was 15, as that’s the “coming of age” year for Colombian girls (my mom is Colombian), like a quinceanera. The ring is nothing fancy. There was no grand ceremony (not that there’s anything wrong with ceremonies, we just didn’t do it). I made a promise, but I don’t think I fully understood it at the time, didn’t know all that it would entail.
Over the years, this ring has taken on rich significance. As my understanding of sexual integrity has grown, so has my commitment. As I’ve grown closer to Christ, my desire to please Him has increased, and this ring represents so much. So many dreams, so many desires, so many as-of-yet unfulfilled hopes. And a promise that through it all, I will be faithful. Not just faithful to a future spouse, should the Lord have marriage for me (marriage is not a promise). But faithful to my Lord.
The ring doesn’t make me pure. What I have or haven’t done doesn’t make me pure. But this is a visual reminder that God is faithful, that He has chosen me and loved me and made me new, and that my promise to choose His way is worth it. My promise is to obey Christ in this area of sexual integrity, and that’s a promise I can choose to make every day. And that promise is beautiful. Not because I keep it perfectly. But because His mercies are new every morning, His faithfulness is great, and He is worthy of my love, my praise, and my obedience.
Choose radiant purity by looking to Jesus. Then it’s your choice to decide if you would like a ring to commemorate that or not. It really doesn’t matter that much, as long as your heart is right, though I do love mine.
As a fun sidenote, can I share one word of advice? If you choose to wear a purity ring, please don’t wear it on your left ring finger. It cause great confusion to others who check that finger as a quick way to find out if you’re “taken”. And if you’re not married or engaged, you’re not taken. You have lots of fingers, please pick a different one. 🙂