12 Shocking Things Purity Culture Doesn’t Tell you | Overcoming Purity Culture

This post is all about overcoming purity culture

Purity culture has been in the news (and YouTube) a lot lately. While I do agree with some principles that purity culture teaches, I believe the angle and focus that it puts has made it become an idol for many.

I will explore 12 problems or things purity culture doesn’t tell you in this post. Keep in mind that these problems exist for individuals and the church as a whole. I will also share my personal story and other tools to overcome dangerous principles within the purity culture.

Ready? Let’s begin…

What is purity culture?

It’s a term used to describe communities that focus significantly on sexual purity. This includes abstaining from sex before marriage and limiting sexual activities to those within marriage. While there are testimonials in support of this movement, there are also many problems associated with purity culture.

Purity culture history

The purity movement gained traction in the1990s, thanks in part to the work of organizations and books that promoted abstinence-only education and encouraged young people to make “purity pledges,” in which they promised to remain virgins until marriage.

My story of purity culture and how it affected me

When I was a teenager in high school, there was this buzz about praying for your future husband and writing down a list of qualities and physical attributes of your future husband.

Without thinking, I wrote down the list (I still have it with me, I don’t know why). I just wrote things that came to mind, then added “God-fearing” at the end. I was spiritually immature at this point, so I don’t know why I didn’t get educated on some things and ideas that would have been age-appropriate at that time.

Anyways, there was an obsession among the girls in my high school about praying for our future husbands and asking God to keep them out of sin. This became an idol in my life—the idea of doing my best to remain physically pure. I got a purity ring with a butterfly, and I promised to stay pure. At this point, I was legalistic. I briefly discussed this in my post, “5 Characteristics of Legalism Theology (and its dangers)”.

To cut the story short, purity culture paired with legalism made me weary because I was chasing perfection. I was doing it all in my own strength. I also formed a soul tie because of my unhealthy approach to this culture. Yes, soul ties can form on a spiritual level without physical interaction.

So, what happened? I felt undeserving. If I had known the dangers of purity culture early on, I would have approached life differently.

I hope this post causes a paradigm shift for those who seek help to overcome this mentality.

12 Shocking Things Purity Culture Doesn’t Tell you

purity culture trauma

Here are the 12 problems with this culture:

1. Fear instead of love

One of the biggest problems with purity culture is that it’s based on fear instead of love. This means that people are taught to be afraid of sex instead of seeing it as a beautiful and special act between two married people.

2. Unrealistic

Purity culture sets unrealistic expectations for people, especially young people. It’s often based on the idea that people can’t control themselves, which is simply not true. Also, it puts unnecessary pressure on relationships.

3. Leads to shame and guilt

It can lead to feelings of shame and condemnation.  Because purity culture is based on fear and unrealistic expectations, it often leads to shame and guilt when one doesn’t fit this mold.

4. Exclusivity

It’s exclusive: Purity culture often excludes people who don’t fit the mold.

5. Judgmental

Another problem with purity culture is that it’s very judgmental. Yes, it can foster an environment of judgment and criticism. People are often judged for their past mistakes or for not living up to the unrealistic expectations that have been set.

6. Low self-worth

Purity culture leads people to believe that their worth is based on their virginity. Therefore, it can make people have a low sense of worth if they are no longer virgins.

7. Perfection/ own strength

It creates a false standard of perfection that is impossible to achieve.

Another problem with purity culture is that it distorts biblical teaching and turns it into something about humans being able to achieve perfection on their own.

Purity culture turns the focus away from God and onto humans. It puts emphasis on human effort rather than on the power of the Holy Spirit.

8. Idol in one’s life

It creates an obsession/idol in one’s life!

Let me quote a post I wrote about crystals and idolatry because it’s so perfect:

The Bible is clear that we are not to worship false idols (Exodus 20:22-26, 32:19-20, 34:15-16, Leviticus 26:30, Deuteronomy 31:16-18). This means that we should not worship anything or anyone other than God.

What Does The Bible Say About Crystals?

9. Manipulation

It can be used to control and manipulate people. I don’t think I need to explain this in detail, but I believe you understand the implications of opening oneself to such principles. They can be an open target for manipulation.

10. Not biblical

It’s not biblical: Purity culture is not actually based on the Bible. In fact, many things taught in purity culture are contrary to what the Bible says and are from man-made rules.

11. Legalism

Second, it leads to legalism and a works-based approach to salvation. 

12. Focus on outward

Lastly, it focuses on outward behavior rather than the heart.

“Saving myself for marriage”

The phrase “saving myself for marriage” is often used within purity culture to denote sexual abstinence. Although these words seemed harmful initially, over the years, this language (and many more in the purity culture scene) has morphed into something punitive and holds damaging connotations:

  • First, it creates a dichotomy between those who are “saved” and those who are not. It ties to that whole “exclusivity” I mentioned earlier.
  • Second, it implies that sex is something dirty or wrong. Some people can just approach it negatively once they do get married.
  • And third, it can make people who have sex outside of marriage feel like they are irredeemable.

Ultimately, this language is harmful. If you’re part of a pure culture, it’s essential to be aware of your tongue and how it might affect people. Instead of using phrases like “saving myself for marriage,” try using more affirming and inclusive language.

“I Kissed Dating Goodbye” by Joshua Harris

In 1997, Joshua Harris released a book called “I Kissed Dating Goodbye.” The book was written with the best of intentions. Joshua Harris wanted to help young people avoid the pain and heartache that can come from relationships.

However, the book had some harmful effects. It led to people missing out on opportunities for growth and connection. It also caused some unhealthy relationships and marriages. In light of these problems, Joshua Harris is re-evaluating his book and its message.

There is a documentary that is out where he explores his book. I applaud him for going through this journey…It’s a powerful reminder that we should renew our minds (according to the word) and never stop growing.

Here is the trailer for the documentary:

Renewing your mind or overcoming purity culture

1. Focus on your identity in Christ

One of the problems with purity culture is that it teaches us to view our worth in terms of our sexual activity. But the truth is, that our worth comes from God. We are His children and are loved by Him no matter what we do or don’t do sexually. So instead of focusing on your sexuality, focus on your identity in Christ.

2. Focus on the relationship with God

Another problem with purity culture is that it can cause us to view sex as a dirty and shameful act. But the truth is, God created sex and designed it to be a beautiful expression of love. So instead of seeing sex as something dirty or shameful, focus on the relationship with God. He is the one who created sex, and He wants us to enjoy it within the confines of marriage.

3. Rely on God and ministry of the Holy Spirit

As stated earlier, focus on your relationship with the Holy Spirit. Walk the Holy Spirit daily, so you don’t fulfill the desires of the flesh.

4. Love

One of the problems with purity culture is that it can cause us to view sex as a dirty and shameful act. But the truth is, sex is an expression of love. When two people come together in a physical and emotional union, it is a beautiful thing. So instead of seeing sex as something dirty or shameful, focus on the love it represents.

5. Avoid legalism

Purity culture often leads to legalism, where people focus on following the rules instead of having a heart for God. This can be counterproductive and actually drive people away from God.

6. Recognize that everyone is on a journey

We all have different journeys in life, and no one is perfect. Everyone makes mistakes, and everyone struggles with sin. What matters is that we are repentant and striving to live for God.

7. Don’t be afraid to talk about it

Many people struggle in silence because they are scared to talk about their struggles. But we need to break the silence and start talking about these issues. Only then can we begin to overcome them.

Coping strategies

overcoming purity culture examples

Leaving purity culture can be a difficult and overwhelming experience. There are many things to process and figure out.

Here are five ways to help you cope after leaving a purity culture:

  1. Journaling: Writing down your thoughts and feelings can be therapeutic. It can help you make sense of what you’re going through and figure out what you believe.
  2. Talking to a therapist: A therapist can provide professional help and guidance. They can help you process your experience and work through any trauma.
  3. Finding a support group: There are many online and in-person support groups for people who have left the purity culture. These groups can provide emotional support and practical advice.
  4. Reading books and articles: There is a lot of helpful information out there about leaving purity culture. Reading can help you understand what you’re going through and find answers to your questions.
  5. Taking care of yourself: It’s essential to take care of yourself emotionally and physically after leaving purity culture. Make sure to do things that make you happy and relaxed. Eat healthy, exercise, and get plenty of sleep. Self-care is crucial during this time.

Walking in the Spirit instead of purity culture

As Christians, we are called to live a life that is pleasing to God. We also know our bodies are the temple of the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20)

Unfortunately, many Christians have adopted a different standard to live by, one that is based on man-made rules and regulations. Living a life pleasing to God isn’t something we can do on our own, but something that is only possible through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Honestly, if someone is truly serving and worshipping God in Spirit and truth (John 4:24), then automatically, one will want to be in alignment with God’s will and desire in our lives. This is when we totally yield or surrender to Him.

I believe that at this point, God will naturally direct you to your spouse when you remain in Him. That still small voice will convict you and hold you steady as you wait or navigate through life.

Please, let us never forget the ministry of the Holy Spirit. I hope to write a detailed blog post on the Holy Spirit, so I will be sure to tag the post once I’m done.

Psalm 24:4-5 Show me your ways, Lord, teach me your paths. Guide me in your truth and teach me, for you are God my Savior, and my hope is in you all day long.

Galatians 5:16 I say then: Walk in the Spirit, and you shall not fulfill the lust of the flesh. 

John 14:26 But the Advocate, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, will teach you all things and will remind you of everything I have said to you.

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

Galatians 5:22-23 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

The love of Christ

When we look at ourselves through the lens of Christ’s love, we see that we are unconditionally loved and accepted by Him. We don’t have to earn His love or approval; He loves us just as we are. This knowledge can help us to start overcoming the perfectionism that is often a part of purity culture. Instead of striving to be perfect, we can strive to be obedient and trusting. Christ’s love for us gives us the freedom to live our lives for Him, instead of living in fear of His disapproval.

Another way that identity in Christ can help us overcome purity culture is by teaching us that our worth is not based on remaining ” pure” until marriage. This can make people feel like their worth is based on whether or not they have had sex. But the truth is, our worth comes from Christ. We are still loved and accepted by Christ.

I would encourage everyone to pursue a relationship with Christ, and let His love transform the way you see yourself. Allow His love to fill you with confidence so that you know that you are loved, accepted, and valued by Christ, and that is all that matters.

To those hurt by purity culture

If you feel shame or guilt due to a purity culture, know that God loves you unconditionally. That is the word someone gave me that helped me break free from legalism and this purity culture mindset. The love of God isn’t that of man; it’s unconditional.

Don’t feel the need to seek the approval of man; God has already predestined you for good works and plans to prosper you and not harm you.

Trust Him.

And remember that God’s grace is available and sufficient for you.

I pray that the arms of our loving heavenly father wrap around you today so that you can feel true hope and joy.

Call to me and I will answer you and tell you great and unsearchable things you do not know.

Jeremiah 33:3

And that’s it, folks, overcoming purity culture

I want to stress one thing: I do believe in purity, but purity according to reliance on God, not the strength of man.

If you’ve left purity culture or been hurt by some principles, know that you’re not alone. There are many people who have gone through the same thing. There is help and support available. You can heal and recover from this experience.

If you are called to start a ministry similar to that of purity culture or abstinence, I encourage you to review my post keenly. Seek the Holy Spirit to direct you into creating a strategic program that ties nicely to identity in Christ, ministry of the Holy Spirit, and one’s relationship with God. This way, nobody will feel alienated but strive to serve God wholly and be more purpose-driven.


Heather Chesiyna_Signature_MOS

2 thoughts on “12 Shocking Things Purity Culture Doesn’t Tell you | Overcoming Purity Culture”

  1. I agree with you on the fact that I believe in purity too but not on the reliance of man. The whole purity culture thing as an idea on the surface might have started because it looked as a good thing but got twisted into something that ended up hurting people.
    Thank you for this comprehensive look into what this can do.


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