How the Teachings of Emotional Purity and Courtship Damage Healthy Relationships

CC image courtesy of Flickr, Randi Deuro.

HA note: The following is reprinted with permission from Darcy’s blog Darcy’s Heart-Stirrings. It was originally published on January 18, 2011.

There are many times that I don’t realize just how much strange teaching I’ve had to “un-do” in my life until I try to explain them to someone else. This happened to me the other night. A dear friend and I were talking about our kids and how to help them transition from children to adults. The topic of dating and relationships came up and we started talking about my story. Sometimes it’s actually comforting to me to be met with blank or incredulous stares from people I consider “normal”, good Christians. It somehow validates my belief that some of the teachings I grew up with were very wrong.

I’ve also lately started facing the ways in which the teachings of “emotional purity”, (a la Josh Harris, the Ludys, and others) have damaged the part of my brain that makes healthy relationships function.

I define “emotional purity” in the same way that popular homeschool writers have: it is the idea of “guarding your heart”. Which sounds all noble and righteous and everything but in this context is really just a facade for fear. Fear of loving and losing. Fear of making the wrong choice. Fear of getting hurt. Fear of being damaged. Fear of not measuring up. In my life it meant never having a crush on a guy, never allowing myself to “fall in love”, basically training myself to shut down a normal, healthy, functioning part of my human heart.

I’m 27 years old, been married for almost 7 years. I rejected the teachings of courtship and emotional purity when I was 19. But their effects have yet to leave.

There are several ways that these teachings can damage a person’s heart.

1. They cause shame.

Shame because sometimes you can’t help but like one guy a little more than another. Shame because that’s “sinful” and “emotionally impure”. Shame because it sets a standard and proclaims that you are somehow shameful if you cannot keep it. You are considered damaged goods if you have fallen in love and had your heart broken. It was Josh Harris in I Kissed Dating Goodbye and the Ludy’s in several of their books that popularized the idea that everytime you fall in love or get “emotionally attached” to someone, you give away a piece of your heart. The more pieces you give away, the less of your heart you have to give to your spouse someday. He even went so far as to say that each of those former flames actually have some sort of hold on you. This has got to be the most bogus and the most damaging teaching of this entire movement. Love doesn’t work that way. The more you give, the more you have. My 3rd child doesn’t have less of my heart just because I’ve loved two other children before him. And, really, I haven’t given them “pieces” of my heart. I’ve given them each all of my heart. The miracle of love is that it multiplies by being given.

Each person I love has “a piece of my heart”…my best friend, my sisters, my husband, my parents, my kids. It is ridiculous to suggest that there is not enough of my heart to go around.

And what view of redemption does this teaching proclaim? Not one that I want anything to do with. It is an incompetent redemption.

2. They cause pride.

Pride because suddenly you are better than everyone else. Because you have never had a crush on a guy. You have kept your heart for your spouse. You didn’t say “I love you” til your wedding day. Pride in human accomplishment. Pride because you are so much more spiritual than that poor girl over there who is crying because her boyfriend broke up with her. Because your heart is whole and she just gave a piece of hers to a guy she isn’t married to. Pride because you did it right, she did not. You have more to give your future husband than she does. She is damaged goods, you are the real prize.

This is exactly what happened to the Pharisees. They made up laws that God never condoned, then patted themselves on the back for keeping them, while looking down on those who didn’t. This has nothing to do with the righteousness and grace of God, and everything to do with the accomplishments of man. I remember watching a video where one of the biggest names in the courtship movement bragged with obvious arrogance that he didn’t tell his wife he loved her until their wedding. And I thought “how twisted can we get?” We took something as simple as saying “I love you”, built a strawman rule around it (“saying I love you is defrauding”) then hung it like a trophy on our walls. Job well done, folks.

3. They create skewed views of relationships which lead to dysfunction

This is where I still struggle. Where others see nothing wrong, I am suspicious of every look, every situation, every witty exchange. I am still uncomfortable hugging one of my best friends who is a guy. Because we were never to hug or have physical contact, even innocent, with a guy. Voices in my head scream “defrauder!” just by giving a friend a quick hug. I feel ill at ease sometimes even talking to other men. Oh, they never notice. Because I’m really good at pushing those feelings away and acting “normal”. But I am bothered by my reaction to everyday situations. We were taught never ever ever to be alone with a guy. Because it could look bad. He could be tempted. You might start thinking impure thoughts. You might even *gasp* flirt!

I was trying to explain this to my friend and it came out sounding so….crazy and embarrassing. I told her if she was to walk out of the room, leaving me and her husband in the same room, my first reaction would be one of panic. “This might look bad…. what if he talks to me…what if someone else sees us….what is he thinking…” My second reaction, close on the heels of the first, would be a coping mechanism that I learned long ago: I calmly tell myself that “this is perfectly normal and perfectly innocent…he probably doesn’t even notice me…this is a Godly man I know and trust….the only person who would ever freak out about this is me….to the rest of the world there’s nothing wrong here”. I then calm down, act normal, and hope nobody noticed my crazy internal battle. Cuz they’d probably admit me to a psych ward. Thank you, Josh Harris and Co. I hatethis about myself! I am a strong, confident person. But the idea that I can defraud just by a look, that I could become emotionally impure just by a thought, that I might become damaged goods with pieces of my heart strewn all over tarnation, and that guys “only have one thing on their mind” and we need to help them control themselves, has truly negatively affected what should be normal interactions with my friends. Honestly, I don’t get embarrassed talking about much. But this admission isn’t easy for me.

Guess what? In the real world, men and women can have innocent relationships. They can talk to each other without one of them thinking there’s ulterior motives. They can laugh and exchange wits and, yes, even drive in a car together without anybody thinking anything dubious is happening. They are not naiive but they are not afraid of their own shadows. Purity and integrity in relationships can be there without being unnaturally freaked out about it. The other night, I stuck my tongue out at a guy friend who was teasing me and his wife cracked up laughing. As I laughed, I felt myself looking down on the situation, amazed that nobody thought twice about it, then amazed that I DID…that I had to push away feelings of guilt because what if someone thought I was *gasp* flirting?! This is one dysfunction that I really wish I could be freed from. Maybe time is the only cure and I need to be more patient with myself. These teachings have deep, rotten roots and it takes time to pull them all out.

4. They teach us to make formulas to be safe

1 + 1= 2. Emotional purity + Biblical courtship = Godly marriage. But life doesn’t work that way. You can do everything “right” and your life can still suck. You can do everything “wrong” and still be blessed. Rain falls on the good and evil. Time and chance happen to them all. People who follow the courtship formula still get divorced. Or stuck in terrible marriages. Courtship is not the assurance of a good marriage. Life is too complicated for that. Love involves vulnerability. When you choose to love, you are choosing to accept risking a broken heart. No formula can protect you. Life involves risk. Following God involves risk. He is not a “safe” God. But He is good.

God doesn’t seem to like formulas. Because formula is the opposite of faith. Formula says “I will follow a God that I’ve put neatly in a box, to give me the desired results”. Faith says “I will follow You even when I can’t see where I’m going, even when the world is collapsing around me”. Formula says “I will not risk, I will be in control of my future”. Faith says “I will risk everything, I will trust Whom I cannot see, surrender what I cannot control anyway.” Formula is the assurance of things planned for, the conviction of things seen. Faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen (Heb. 11:1). But we are afraid. So we control instead of trust. We don’t take a step unless we can see where we’re going. We build neat little formulas and say “THIS will keep me safe!” Then we blame God when our puny formulas fail.

These teachings need to be stopped. They were new in my generation and now I, and others like me, are reaping the fruit of them. And the fruit is rotten to the core. I’m sure those who promoted such ideas had good intentions. But good intentions aren’t enough. Without Truth and Grace they can do more harm than good. Thanks to those good intentions, we are seeing an entire generation of homeschool alumni who have no idea how to have normal relationships. I have talked with literally hundreds of alumni my age, and am not exaggerating the extent of the issue. It’s nice to know I’m not alone in my dysfunction but discouraging as well. What is encouraging is that most of us have determined to stop the insanity. We will not be passing these things to the next generation. Instead we will teach our children to love God with all that they have, all that they are; and to love and respect others as they love themselves.

I leave you with the words of a very wise man:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal. Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness. But in that casket- safe, dark, motionless, airless–it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.”

~C. S. Lewis

Emotional Purity and Courtship: A Few Years Later


  • I would like to add that I read Passion and Purity before Josh Harris was even born. It was long loved and listens to before I Kissed Dating Goodbye

  • Hello. I don’t know why but “I Kissed Dating Goodbye” seemed to have a different effect on me. I seem to have understood it differently. I loved the principles laid out in the book. I think Harris’ “quitting dating” is an extreme response to his problem when he was young. It may not apply to everyone but it was helpful given his situation. I drew out the principles and was able to relate so much to the book.

    I have heard of people who think it’s too extreme and a particular friend recommend the book “Boundaries in Dating” instead, which is really good and actually encourages dating (as the title implies) and suggests certain boundaries that are more like principles rather than strict rules. My friend said it balances out what Harris teaches but actually when I read it, for me it teaches the same principles. But for my friend, she thinks it’s on the other side of the balance. So I don’t know, maybe we just respond to teaching differently.

    Except for the criticism on Josh Harris, I do agree with this problem presented in this post, that there is this tendency in the church to overspiritualize and exaggerate how to guard our emotions. I’ve fallen prey to this too and I’m glad I was able to be set free from the guilt and shame it causes. I would want the youth to not fall into this trap too so thank you for exposing these things.

  • Keaton Collins Dye

    Every single argument put forth was based on the author’s personal experience and subjective opinions. While I do believe formulation is a problem that can arise from courtship, it’s real root is in the whole of Western philosophy that compels us to separate and systemize all doctrine. Not once in this article was Scripture quoted. If you are going to make such bold claims on such a spiritual topic, it would be helpful to back your words up with objective reason and the Holy Bible. I found neither.

    You talk of “giving away pieces of your heart.” And I agree with you when you say that a bad way of putting it. It is absolutely ludicrous, though, to deny that a willy-nilly string of crushes and relationships can’t be enormously emotionally and relationally in the long term – especially as a guy. The phsycology of a woman is to question whether her man really loves her. As a result of a curse your relationship with whom you ultimately choose will never be perfect. However, we can help both of us in the long run by protecting our hearts as well as we can. Is that hard? Yes. Everything in life is hard. Relationships are difficult!

    Have you sinned, should you feel shame if you get a crush on someone? Certainly not. Pray about it. Take it slow. Ask the Lord to help you and show you why you feel as you do. Sometimes the correct thing will be to move forward and pursue! Sometimes the correct thing to do is wait and trust.

    No, courtship isn’t a perfect system. And it’s not necessarily helpful to think of it as a system. But you are extremely remiss if you think these subjective, unsubstantied points you have put forth justify abandoning the courtship philosophy altogether.

    It doesn’t matter what you go into, if you’re not centered in God, it can bad effects. Pride and shame and uncertainty aren’t somehow courtship’s fault. Pride comes from our sinful hearts. Shame comes from a misunderstanding of God. Uncertainty and loneliness are often the trials God uses to shape us and mold us.

    God Bless.


    I must say, the book Passion and Purity, which you rather flippantly dismissed, was written by Elisabeth Elliot, whose maturity and strength and wisdom in the Lord continue to inspire men and women around the world. That doesn’t make her infallible, but it does suggest that maybe you should respect saints such as her by backing up your contentions against her with something more than emotional fluff.

    • Thank you sooo much!!!!DIDO plus

    • Elisabeth Elliot is most certainly not a saint, and in fact champions some very troubling views about the submission and subservience of women. Also, you say “the psychology of a woman”, as though all 4.5 BILLION of us are the same. Do you even realize how staggeringly untrue that is? Lastly, just because you disagree with the author does not mean that the author is “subjective” and “emotional”, and that by default you are objective, logical, and of course right. But somehow I get the feeling that I haven’t quoted enough Scripture to convince you…

  • this, like many of the latest “Christian realization” is really based in bitter feelings. Let me tell you I once used to think it wasn’t a big deal to date, to “fall in love” until the one time you actually DO fall in love, the type of falling in love that makes you so happy you can cry, the thought of that one man just makes you crazy, you want to spend very moment with him, he’s your “everything” how can it not work out right? If he isn’t Gods match for you it won’t work out, and then you’re left with what? You have invested emotions, time , effort ect with someone who isn’t going to be in your life anymore. What was the significance? Hence why I strongly disagree withthe authors jab at giving pieces of your heart away, it happens when you get emotionally attached to someone they get the best of you, they get your heart, which is great if he’s your lobster(friends reference) BUT if he isn’t you now have a preconceived standard from someone who isn’t significant in your present but certainly will influence it. It’s very hard to move on and trust again when you had such high expectations for you last mister right, so why bother with all the “dating just because”. That right there is the reason for failed relationships, don’t ever think that attempting to be pure is the problem.
    P.s having a crush on someone doesn’t make you impure, neither does a simple “getting to know you” date. Let’s get real here

  • Hahahaha! It only took two posts for the first troll to pop up, and only four for the dreaded “you’re just bitter” accusation! You want to know what’s bitter, being married to a fundamentalist Christian who sucks at love and romance. Which is like, all fundamentalist Christians who were taught sexuality and romance are shameful and evil, and taught to shut down all feelings of sensuality and attraction. That is bitter, very very bitter indeed.

    • Yawn. It’s old news, the bitter thing. I just laugh about it these days. 🙂 I mean, really, can’t come up with anything original or even helpfully critical?

    can I post a reply that is a link to another page? Susan Hill is an author and speaker, and I love her blog. Interestingly this is her most recent entry.

    May I offer this as a response, or is this link going to set off the alarms? Go to susan hill . com and read her post titled the short rope. Angry dog sign pictured. She addresses some parenting issues.

  • When we reach adulthood, I think most of us spend time in retrospection, realizing our oddities and weaknesses, and want to understand why we are the way we are. This is good, for the most part, but though twenty-something seems old, our scope of experience and perspective is still very limited.
    I think it takes great guts for someone to write and publish their inner thoughts and feelings, knowing they will grow and change and perhaps disagree with those words one day. Darcy wrote this in 2011 at 27 years old. I’m guessing that this young woman who desires to follow and obey God and has had four more years of experience and sanctification, may have a different perspective now, or will have.
    1. Darcy speaks of the shame of loving and that the idea of “giving away ones heart” as “damaging and bogus” because love is meant to be shared and multiplied. This is a misconception that all love is the same; though sometimes similar in action, different types of relationships require a different kind of love. In Scripture, God calls a woman with multiple children blessed, while He calls a woman with multiple lovers a harlot. God also refers to the harlotry of Israel when they worship idols; He is a jealous God. It IS damaging to give yourself away to someone who isn’t worthy. There is a love that should be shared and given freely (as for a child, friend, neighbor) and a love that shouldn’t (as for a spouse or God). Apples and oranges.
    2. Undoubtedly there are people who have taken pride in courtship as well as their ability to guard their hearts. There are also people who take pride in having blonde hair or having run a 5K or having had never physically murdered someone. Does that mean we should shave our heads, never run, or commit a murder in order to guard against pride? Of course not. Pride is the root of all sin; it’s a heart issue. It requires awareness and continual repentance, not sinking to the lowest common denominator or dissolution of all things good.
    3. I was raised in a secular home and public school. I had many dating relationships prior to my marriage and became a Christian in my late twenties. I, too, have had to “undo much strange teaching”, but from the opposite end of the spectrum as Darcy. Interestingly, I have the same exact social “dysfunction” that she describes here. However, I consider this grace: the desire and ability to question and discern whether our intentions or actions are sinful. Pre-conversion, I had no such thoughts or cares. It is right and good to be cautious with the opposite gender and to be careful about “how things look”. It is simple discretion and love of one’s neighbor that causes us to be cautious because of a mature awareness of one’s sexuality and ability to offend, tempt or sin in that way. Out of respect for our husbands (if married), as well as compassion for girlfriends or wives in general, women should be cautious and seek to be above reproach in relationships with men. I think Darcy is also assuming that no one but her has any social discomforts or insecurities; she is mistaken.
    4. It’s true, life isn’t fair or predictable, and a formula for perfection will fail, but we must still use the knowledge and wisdom God gives us and not to be lead by our emotions. Darcy speaks of choosing to love and be vulnerable which is good and right, but only after you’ve discerned that person is worthy.
    I consider courtship a way of doing that and an intelligent and thoughtful alternative to dating:
    Dating: Becoming randomly and intimately involved with someone(s) with no end commitment in mind.
    Courtship: Not seeking a potentially intimate relationship with someone until you are spiritually, emotionally and physically ready to make the sacrifices necessary for a marriage and family.
    Dating: Being lead by your emotions and becoming intimate with someone before you know who they really are.
    Courtship: Getting to know who that person is, what they believe, what they expect and desire out of life, etc, all the while “guarding your heart” until you determine whether that person is compatible and worthy of your love and life.
    How this is carried out is as varied as the number of people applying it.
    Perhaps this generation’s courtship model has stemmed from a reaction to the increasing immorality and decadence in our society. Perhaps it’s a reaction from parents who wanted to protect their children from the pain and harm they suffered, but some went too far. Perhaps the philosophy of courtship is good, but the actual practice needs tweaking from those who have experienced it, as with all things new and revolutionary.
    May you have the wisdom to keep what is good, forgive what was bad, change what was wrong. But don’t throw the proverbial baby out with the bathwater.

    • On one thing you are correct. I have gown up a lot in the past 5 years. 😉 And the longer I live, the more I mature and my views change. My view on this piece have changed a lot, something I was discussing with my friends when this piece got shared again last week. I am actually writing a follow-up piece to this, which will be out in a couple weeks. My views now on the subject of courtship can be summed up in this statement: Courtship is bull@#$%. 😀 However, I promise to develop that thought more completely and eloquently in my post. Stay tuned. 😉

      • I’ll look forward to reading it. I just found this blog and I agree with this sentiment entirely. I have a lot to say about it, but don’t have the time right now to comment, but I’d like to hear your follow up.

    • YourWorshipfulness

      Let me begin by saying that emotional health is an extremely unique thing and while it may seem obvious, it bears repeating: what works for one person emotionally will not necessarily work for anyone else. It is almost always valuable to hear the stories of other people and how they cope or struggle to cope with various issues in their lives; it is when we begin attempting to generalize that we run into problems.

      Now addressing your points

      1.) You suggest here that there are different kinds of love and that not all should be freely given. Perhaps for you that is true and perhaps for you that works, but that is not true for all people. Love is such a complicated emotion and encompasses so many things, there may be 10 different types of love for one person and only 1 type of love to another.

      The idea that loving someone unworthy is damaging may have some merit, just as you damage yourself when a kife slips. You may be wounded, but you also have the capacity to heal. Ultimately it is that person’s individual emotional health that determines what happens after they have been–for lack of a better term–emotionally cut. And people who are less emotionally healthy may be permanently damaged by a painful relationship, but that doesn’t mean that people who can recover should try not to fall in love. It’s a personal thing that people should decide for themselves on a case-by-case basis.

      It seems to me like your argument is just looking for a way to blame a woman for her own pain. Like: Well, you should have known better than to fall in love with a man who wasn’t your husband. But that isn’t helpful to someone in pain. And God may be jealous, but isn’t he also love? And isn’t love patient? Isn’t love kind? Why don’t we concentrate on those aspects of God more? Let everyone love as much as they can and if they get hurt, love them and be patient with them.

      2.) You arguement seems to be that because we will never eliminate the sin of pride, so we should not toss out the idea of ‘pure courtship’ just because some people take pride in it. This seems reasonable. For some people, pure courtship may work very well. My argument is that we should not condemn people for whom pure courtship does not work. Pure courtship is one system of forming a relationship; there are countless others, all of them equally valid. If a virgin woman falls madly in love with a man, has extra-marital sex, gets pregnant, marries him, and he is the only one she ever loves and they stay together and in love until they die, that relationship was successful. Is is not our job to judge her.

      3.) It is important to understand that lots of people become emotionally scarred in lots of different ways, which are unique to each person. That doesn’t mean that who completely different people with completely different stories can’t end up with the same problems: alcoholism, commitment phobias, social anxiety etc.

      I think it is pretty clear that Darcy had a social anxiety that went beyond what was healthy. Collectively we create a culture with complex rules that tell us what is all right to do and what is not; these rules change over time and there is a great deal of flexability built into them. However, some things clearly fit the paradigm and others clearly do not. Being anxious about hugging a friend out of fear of the perceptions of others is not a healthy attitude.

      Honestly, I don’t think any woman should be ‘above reproach’ when it comes to men and I don’t think men should be ‘above reproach’ when it comes to women. Setting oneself up to be ‘above reproach’ in anything creates a hierarchy in which certain others are not ‘above reproach’ and from there we cycle nicely back into the argument about pride a purity.

      4.) Far be it from me to argue for leading with one’s emotions, as I espouse a rational view as much as possible, but for me it seems the Christian worldview has become increasingly obsessed with judgement. The concept that some people are worthy of a Godly woman’s love and others are not is inherently judgemental. We have become determined that we are capable of looking at a person, listening to a person, and seeing a person’s actions and then placing that person on a little shelf in our minds with a neat label below them. And honestly, sometimes we don’t even bother with the listening or seeing part of the equation. But people are not static; people change–for better or for worse–and people are not obvious–people hide the parts of themselves they are ashamed of and emphasize the parts they like or believe you will like. People are complicated individuals. There are few blanket statements that apply to them.

      I am also going to have to disagree with the increasing immorality and decadence in our society. I don’t see anything in today’s society that wasn’t present in humanity before. We haven’t invented any new perversions, that I can think of. It is only that society is more open about things which were previously hidden. I see this as a good thing, because when we refuse to look at things that make us uncomfortale, we can’t talk about solutions–or if solutions are even necessary. Perhaps society is becoming more secular, but that doesn’t take anything away from Christianity. If you believe in an all-powerful God, how can you fear anything?

    • Hello,

      I’m in Child Welfare-so I see the effects everyday the fruit of modern society’s relationship paradigm-which is “if it feels good do it”. There is a huge difference between the shaming that goes on in some segments of Christianity concerning purity and dating and the wise cultivating of relationship wisdom. I love the discussion that I see going on here, but as with most things the “all or nothing” extremes of shame or wantonness are never acceptable. The truth is normally somewhere in the middle. 1) we usually attract partners of the same health or wholeness. 2) the hook up culture, the teenage dating mill, and the paradigm of soul mate are all fairly destructive. 3) Love, mating and sex were God’s idea with the boundary of the committed marriage relationship. I’ve never interviewed anyone that said that sex without commitment didn’t complicate things.

      So as a Christian parent- how I teach principles related to love and relationship are really going to be an extension of my own emotional health which is why one family can use the cited texts in the article and have good results and why another family uses them to the detriment of their child.

      My own responses are 1) I want my daughter to be taught to be healthy, whole and in relationship to God-going after her dreams, her education, and her own relationship to the Lord. I want her to learn to deal with emotions, advocate for self, and know her own mind. I also intend that she will be self-sufficient and confident in independent living skills (checkbook, job hunting, meal planning) so that she doesn’t feel the need to settle for dependency in a relationship gone south. 2)I do intend and have actually always planted in her counter culture ideas of dating. Dating is a fun thing-but courtship is designed to find a mate (and God does get to have a say), but don’t prematurely try to find one. Highschool isn’t the place you are likely to meet therefore have friendships, go out in groups, and learn to negotiate conflict in healthy ways- but this isn’t the time for the serious relationship or sex 3) Relationship is built on friendship and mutual world views and intimacy of emotion and the courtship phase should not include sex at any age-as it certainly cements relationship. Allow a love to get to a place of “I really believe lifelong commitment with you will enhance my life”-take the plunge and then enjoy each other to the fullest extent.

      I’m sorry your own experiences of parental authority attempting to convey “love” relationship ideology were damaging to you. It may have had more to do with the vessel the message was poured through (your parents) then the message itself. I hope you find yourself today… in a place of wholeness and fullness and love.

      • Sex without commitment only complicates things when either parties are not on equal footing. Blanket statements like these hurt people who feel forced into religious norms. Casual and non-committal sex can be perfectly healthy for those who are not seeking anything but it. There are a lot of people who consent to casual relationships hoping that the partner will commit. Look at the case of Josh Duggar, jumping into something as permanent as a marriage without any previous sexual experience could cause a lot of stress and frustration. Humans are sexual creatures and forcing them to wait until marriage or rush to get married simply because of their sexual urges when they are mature enough to have them is mentally and emotionally damaging.

        Your list of responses may be a bit “pie-in-the-sky” simply because life doesn’t always turn out as expected simply because you follow a list of rules. The fallacy of the courtship principle is that, in order to “handle” one’s natural sexual desires you are pressured to get married.

      • I think we have run into the WALL in our conversation. You won’t agree to any teaching that is restraint oriented and I will never teach my children that sex without responsibility is ok. I will teach her that we are spirits in a body with a soul and that sex affects all three parts of self. Why? Because I have yet to find those people that have had casual sex who truly believe it hasn’t harmed them. I am not concerned that my beliefs or statements may make you feel uncomfortable. It isn’t my job to make you or anyone else comfortable. Nor is it your responsibility to live your life according to my beliefs. It is my job to train my daughter. My list is intended to set my daughter up for the best possible life to include sexual relationship… And we will adjust along the way as needed. Love is the plum line. Best wishes to you as you find your way!

      • I need to find my way because you have clearly found yours, right? You are arguing based on your experience. Experience enough and get back to me. Life is not a formula and no formula leads to the best possible life. Sexual shaming and treating others as if they are somehow dysfunctional for desiring a basic human desire only leads to frustration and unhealthy behavior.

      • I just had a healthy belly laugh. I’m not the argumentative one in this discussion dear. You are mistaking my security and knowledge based on a life time of experience for telling you what to do. By the way, you are also mistaking a healthy and boundary oriented approach to sex for prudish and stale living. I love sex with the mate that has some healthy boundaries too i.e. He loves just me, He’s committed to just me, He sees sex as a loving and generous and adventurous act meant to be shared between us.. I have found in my experiential living… that there is no substitute for truly knowing a person and trusting a person.. Yes.. I have found my way.. and I again.. wish you the absolute best as you find yours.

      • Human beings are *not* a monogamous species. Almost none are, and that’s why life is so abundant on earth.

        The problem isn’t with casual sex; it’s with the condemnation by religions that use sex to control people. The answer is just to ignore the religion and live your life according to your own philosophy. Throughout various times of your life, that philosophy may include abstinence, casual sex, and monogamy. None is better or worse than the other. I believe that our responsibility lies in being truthful about our current sexual situation and desire and allowing the other party to respond without our coercion. (I won’t say it’s easy, just honest.)

  • Much of what masquerades as Christian re. relationship boundaries is not Biblical but rather flows from the toxic writings of Roman Catholic philosopher Augustine. Augustine’s own life had been so filled with sexual misconduct that he presumed all others to be equally messed-up & imposed bizarre non-Biblical neo-Islamic regulations – forbidding even opposite-gender siblings from being alone together.
    Good Bereans will separate the extra-Biblical from the Biblical.
    At the other extreme is careless-permissiveness, equally non-Biblical.
    “Pagan Christianity” by Frank Viola and George Barna that asks some legitimate hard questions.
    I don’t agree with everything, and they lose me in some of their prescription for the solution, but much of their initial challenge should not be casually dismissed.
    Yes, we need to be careful not to create circumstances where the Enemy can nudge us into sin. I get that we are fallen & vulnerable – especially in an experience/sex-obsessed culture.
    The answer isn’t legalism but rather spiritual maturity and peer & “Elder” accountability.

  • There are so many spectrums regarding those who believe in emotional purity and courtship. Some extreme, and some probably almost identical to the social norm.

    Some anecdotal evidence suggests that some couples have had great success with courtship, and then there are articles like this that also point out how some people have had terrible experiences. Mostly, I feel the term is just the archaic word for whatever dating was back in those days. It pops up a lot in old-fashioned, fantasy, or medieval stories, some of which are completely out of the ballpark when it comes to Christian beliefs about relationships.

    I wouldn’t make a blanket statement that states that courtship is a surefire way to destroy relationships, because there isn’t even a common consensus on what courtship is (just search for “courtship” stories… 0_o), even to conservative Christians. Is emotional purity necessarily a bad thing? Is it fundamentally destructive? (I haven’t got an answer for that, I wouldn’t answer that for anybody other than to explain what I believe and why *if asked*.)

    What is clear to me is that no formula, rule or system, no matter how badly or well-designed is going to completely work/fail for anybody. Some non-Christians or non-conservatives might even chose to have old-fashioned relationships and it might work out for them.

    However, as a Christian and someone who believes in the Bible but doesn’t fall anywhere specifically on the liberal/conservative spectrum, I have benefited from reading about emotional purity and courtship because it gave me a *different* perspective. What I took away/concluded after personal deliberation was the “Four P’s” –

    1) Personal – don’t believe in a rule/system/formula. If it worked for someone else, it may not work for you because life is crazy. Make your own personal, educated decision based on whatever you decide is the guide for your life (The Bible, The Huffington Post, The Lord of the Rings Trilogy, “Eat Pray Love”, dreams based on your subconscious state, etc.)
    2) Protection – It’s always good to have other people’s (like your parent’s advice) when it comes to relationships. There’s safety in a multitude of counselors, etc. It can happen to anybody – falling head over heels and losing all capability for rational thought.
    3) Purity. Yeah, I believe in chastity, but in “purposeful chastity”, a Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

    “The essence of chastity is not the suppression of lust, but the total orientation of one’s life towards a goal. Without such a goal, chastity is bound to become ridiculous. Chastity is the sine qua non of lucidity and concentration.”

    4) Purpose – So, like, I don’t do recreational dating. If I get into a relationship, I think it would be better for me to do it towards a goal. That’s something the “Courtship Doctrine” has advocated for that I think is sensible 🙂

    The idea that grown-up adults need their parents to choose a spouse for them is ridiculous and demeaning. Whatever else people believe about marriage and how they wish to define it today, I think its commonly understood that it’s between adults. If an adult cannot be trusted to make the right decision, how will they be able to stand on their own feet and run/manage/lead their own family or make their way in the world? If they cannot be mature, individual, adults, then how can they be a mature, independent couple?

    If courtship and train-up-your-child advocates really believe in “Train up your child in the way he should go,” then they must believe in the next part that states that a grown-up child, a.k.a. an adult, should be able to walk in that same way independently and autonomously. I digress, but “Biblical Parenting” is more than just teaching, “Parents know best”.

    *growls irritatedly*.

    Thumbs up for a thoughtful and insightful article.


  • Excellent word, sister. Excellent, and I’ve had the same discovery. It’s not short suppressing our cutting off what God has naturally given us to help us find a good and compatible partner, but rather just doing it healthily.

    We have to have compatibility on each level, spirit, soul and body. We are careful to save sexual intimacy for the marriage bed, but there are several nonsexual ways to share physical intimacy, while also having healthy bonding spiritually and interpersonally.

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