3 Reasons You Need to Stop ‘Saving Your Heart’

{By Taylor Turner}

If you are familiar with the “knight in shinning armor coming to save his princess” idea of relationships, the next couple paragraphs may hit home for you. [Side note, gals, if the armor is still shining, it may just be tinfoil because armor that is still shining has not been truly tested. Just sayin’.]

why you should stop saving your heart

After growing up in a community that promoted not giving your heart away and now realizing issues with it, I have called its bluff and found them to be just that, a bluff. The idea gained popularity quickly causing an extreme swing in the cultural pendulum ending in a belief system that breeds unrealistic, self-centered, and un-Christ like relationships. I don’t question the sincerity of the early proponents of this idea, the Ludys and Joshua Harris to name the most well known. I have read their books and other’s writings encouraging you to save your heart because it will almost guarantee a “good” relationship. Their catch phrase is emotional purity. However, as the saying goes, good intentions don’t equate to good policy. In fact, as C. S. Lewis is well known for saying, “good intentions can be the most oppressive” of all ideologies. And it is unfortunate this case is no exception.

What is emotional purity? What does it even mean to save your heart until marriage?

Technically, if you gave a part of your heart away, you would be dead. So not sure how that works out. The idea of emotional purity basically proposes that loving/being emotionally involved with someone before marriage is bad because once you get married you only have part of your heart to give to your spouse. And having anything but perfection is simply unacceptable. If you became emotionally vulnerable with someone or “gave part of your heart away” before marriage, you could never get back what you gave and thus you were not saving yourself for marriage. Moreover, you ended up as “damaged goods” with no room for redemption because how can God love someone who does that. (In case you wanted a reference, emotional purity is found in the Book of Second Opinions following the back cover of your Bible.)

There may be other superficial aspects, but fundamentally this is emotional purity: avoid vulnerability with anybody of the opposite sex until marriage. (There is much to say about this point, but suffice it to say that patterns you create before marriage will not magically disappear after you say “I do” – including an aversion to emotional vulnerability). There are three issues with emotional purity that stand in antithesis not only to reality but also a healthy relationship and the Gospel.

1. It’s a False View of Love

For starters, where else do you see this idea in life? Take a parent-child relationship for example. With the birth of their first kiddo, mom and dad experience a flood of love and affection toward the chunky, little baby. Here’s the rub: when they have their second child, it would be foolishness for the parents to say they have no more love to give because they “gave their heart away” to their first child. If a parent actually said that we would call them out for being unloving and preferential. This idea of love simply does not stand the test of reality.

2. It Cultivates Self-Centeredness

An even deeper problem with emotional purity is its cultivation of self-focus and pride. C. S. Lewis said of humility that it is “not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.” Am I emotionally pure enough? Am I saving myself enough? Am I too vulnerable to that person? Does God still love me because I gave part of my heart away? Is there still hope? These are all questions that center on self, merit before God, and our future spouse. Not only is it self-focused but emotional purity is also condemning of those who fall short and elevates rule-keepers because “surely God loves them.” A culture of comparison and condemnation is cultivated.

3. It Forgets Jesus & Limits Love

The most fundamental problem with striving to obey the “rule” of emotional purity is its overt lack of Jesus. Life is all about Jesus: understanding Him and being in relationship with Him helps makes sense of everything else. Life will not be ducky on account of sin but we will understand the good news of Jesus and how that impacts everything else. In relationship with Him, we experience Jesus’s unending, unchanging love. Since Jesus is an infinite being, the love emanating from Him is also infinite. Thus, the love of Jesus working in us through the Holy Spirit is not finite either. As believers, we do not have a limited amount of love to give and once we run out, it’s over. This reminds me of the good ole’ days when I was about 5 years old. I would play with the hose outside my house for hours on end. The water kept coming so I kept playing. I would end up getting tired but the hose continued gushing water. Jesus’s love is like a limitless hose for a kid on a summer day – it never runs out and those who love it stay close to the hose. Purity culture says the love you have is like a jar of water. The message of Jesus, however, is one of unchanging and unconditional love. In Christ, we have a fire hydrant of love to give, not a finite mason jar.

I want to leave you with this thought from a very wise man – a hero of mine in case you couldn’t already tell. Recently, I read through C. S. Lewis’s fantastic book “The Four Loves”, which is part of the reason I sat down to write this post. As I read through Lewis’s book, I came across one of his most poignant and clear statements about love and relationships. Lewis says:

“To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even 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. To love it to be vulnerable.”

To keep your heart in one piece you must be so consumed in a hobby and other unimportant things. Remove yourself from emotions, relationship, and community that you ultimately become immune to everything – including Christ. Don’t give your heart away and it will be nice and pretty for now . . . but as time passes, it will harden. A hardened heart that is unbreakable will break other’s hearts. A heart that is impenetrable will plow through others emotions. And a heart that is irredeemable will not seek the redemption that Jesus brings into this world for our good and His glory.

Vulnerability, however, is actually the antidote for a hardened heart and a heart averse to emotional vulnerability. Reject the unrealistic, self-centered, and un-Christ like message of the “purity culture.” Instead, love as Christ loves: selflessly, unconditionally, and unendingly. What do you think about saving your heart? Comment below, we love hearing from you! 

Comments

  1. Bianca Wohleking says:

    I think a way to sort of segway this conversation and promote what I believe actually isn’t to completely get rid of emotional purity. From the article there is obvious distain for emotional purity but reading between the lines it sounds like a call for more. No, we don’t want our Christian men and women to lock themselves up in their rooms hoping that there heart will stay *exactly* the way it is. Things do happen whether it was a lovely parting or a dirty break-up or we have used someone emotionally or physically there is the ugly feeling of either having just been used or using someone else. Yet, through the mercy of a loving Father who has made our hearts and knows us better than anyone else, he receives our sorrow and when given to Him can turn it into love. Alas, these things do happen and we are taught lessons in life. I think what we are calling for is emotional virtue. Prudence, patience, loving, honesty, perseverance, trustworthy these are the places we need our hearts in loving God, to our mother, to our boyfriend/girlfriend, and future spouse. Dating and relationships are hard; yes. We won’t leave a relationship the same way we came in and that is okay because if you are pursing a relationship in pure intention then you will leave holier. Modesty of intentions, interior confidence needs to be present. There is a freedom to really love someone. My point is that I do think there does need to be a form of emotional control and pure intention before, during, and after a relationship.

  2. L.M. Clarkson says:

    I think you should add quotes from people who teach “emotional purity”. It would make your argument stronger. Also, cite your sources.

    http://darcysheartstirrings.blogspot.com/2011/01/how-teachings-of-emotional-purity-and.html

  3. hazysabbath says:

    Very well written & authentic. What was so special about C.S. Lewis? His brutally honest journey through his life as a human with a soul, a spirit, a body & a mind. His willingness to explore those elents of himself separately & as a whole. His willingness to put that journey in print. That willingness meant he was able to brave all of life – openly & authentically but without creating a rule book. He just observed & wrote what he observed. He was blissfully unaware or resistant to creating a program for others. He was just in a deep relationship that he was trying toale sense of…. That is what we should all be doing. Just be in this deep relationship with our Creator, fully aware that He knows us completely & loves us completely & thus we are compelled to relate to Him, commune with Him & naturally share of this crazy beautiful relationship with anyone who cares to understand us. All the rest is just a silly waste of time & a distraction. God became human to show us how yo keep it simple not make it harder. To show us that being in relationship with our Creator looks & feels radical to other humans and even us, in our humaness. Life is hard & easy. To be a spiritual lover & a human is a contradiction. The only way to resolve it is to fully die to human reason & say OK God, let me just focus on You. Let me stop pretending. Let me stop caring what anybody thinks about me. Let me just hear You, follow You. You know me. You know I hurt. You know I get distracted. You know I hunger for earthly satiation. You know my desires, my hopes, my dreams, my fears…. So why pretend? You know me! So keep chasing me! Help me to search You out everyday. Let me let everyone else work out their own relationship. If they need help, they will ask or You will cause our paths to cross & compelling my mouth to speak. Beyond that, no worries. All I need to do is love You & treat others with the compassion You have shown me. If I screw up, ask for forgiveness & trust You lead me in a better path. If someone hurts me, forgive them & let You handle the rest. No crazy agendas. No complicated plans. Take care of those You ask me to care for & trust You for the rest. Amend when I mess up. Ask for help when I don’t know the answers. Give help when I’ve been given what someone else is in need of. Love. Love. Love. Trust. Trust. Trust. Hope. Hope. Hope. Repeat. Keep it simple.

  4. I love what you said, hazysabbath! I couldn’t agree more!

  5. Read this essay critically. It’s a classic straw man argument. The author calls for freeing oneself from the chains of emotional purity, only to turn around and defend the importance of not treating people like objects. All the references to C.S. Lewis aside, she vilifies her opponents without defining their beliefs exactly, nor does she give proper citations. One cannot assume that because emotional purity is held in high regard that it summarily causes emotional damage. Nor can she lump all the opposition into one neat little bundle when it suits her purposes. Sounds to me like she’s making excuses for “following her heart” instead of submitting to Christ and denying herself. What is the opposite of emotional purity? Emotional impurity? Hmmm.

  6. I apologize to Taylor. I just read your profile and realized that you were a guy! So change all those pronouns in the comment box!

    • No, worries, Sandy! I really appreciate all of your feedback.

      What I am not saying in this article is to “follow your heart.” Far from it! Just look at Jeremiah 17:9. If we think of this discussion as a pendulum, guarding your heart and following your heart, I think, are the two extremes. The happy medium is Christ – following Christ’s heart! Christ-likeness is our goal and honoring him with our lives is our mission. Anything other than that is a slippery slope towards legalism or license.

      As for defining the “opposition” (which they are really not: it’s not us versus them; its all of us continually pointing toward Christ and His Gospel), the fundamentals of “emotional purity” are laid out at the beginning of the article. I am not bashing Harris or the Ludys I respect them tremendously both as people who love Jesus and share His message; however, with regard to emotional purity, we disagree on account of the 3 reasons I laid out in the article.
      Looking back, I should have provide quotations from their books and speeches to provide a little more sustenance to defining “emotional purity.”

      Ultimately, I think relationships and discussions concerning emotions and relationship are, well, emotional and far from a cookie cutter discussion. They are dynamic and are not a one-size-fits-all. This article isn’t intended to be a “nail on the head” article to end discussion and debate forever. With its flaws and logical slip ups, I hope in the mean time that this will spur discussion and maybe be the prod that makes people rethink what is the most realistic, selfless, and Jesus-glorifying view for relationships.

      I hope this provides some clarification of my heart behind this article.

      Its all about Jesus!

      Taylor

  7. Christian Ortega says:

    I see where the writer is coming from. However, good intentions being misused are good intentions regardless. There seems to be another dangerous culture forming in my generation that as just as radical and scary as the one mentioned above. An idea that it’s ok to go out and date anybody because what our so called spiritual teachers is nonsense and we should disregard all of it.
    This is also a lie.
    If you date someone who you end up not marrying, of course not! Does that mean you can’t love your spouse with all your heart? Cockamamie!
    But it still hurts when you break up with that person. I’ve broken several romantic relationships off, and have had a few more broken by the other. Including one to a now ex fiance. It’s not fun. I’m sorry to anyone who has gone through heartbreak and/or depression from these. We share each other’s empathy.

    The writer mentions something else. Not involving Jesus. I completely agree. How are we going to change a generation if we aren’t even changing ourselves? Like a dog that returns to its own vomit. I’ve made the same mistakes several times. Sometimes I wouldn’t ask my Father for His wise advice. Other times I would and would disobey anyway.

    I would like to propose an idea. What if we waited to have a meaningful earthly relationship until we have really tasted the fruit of a mind blowing, Spirit-filled relationship with our Father? Because this relationship with our Father will honestly be so much better than any relationship we have with anyone else.
    Let’s accept the facts here guys, romance relationships are distracting. We can say whatever we want, but we can all honestly agree on that.
    Ideally, a good relationship leads to romance which leads to engagement leads to wedding leads to responsibility leads to dependency of children and spouse. For the rest of our lives. And that’s ideally.

    Why do we want so badly to perfect a relationship that will last for this lifetime, trying at it with multiple possibles that may or may not be interested and may or may not honestly be worth our time in the first place?

    If we really want to change the world guys, we have to start hanging out with the one Person Who actually knows how. We can fall in love. Be completely dependent on Him. Get to know Him better than anyone ever has before if we really want to.

    We can talk to Him just like we talk to anyone in the flesh. And the best part? He talks back. We can work on our relationship with Him, just like we do any relationship. We can learn how to hear His voice. And we can learn. All it takes is for us to be willing to try. We can become good friends with Him. So good He calls us one of His best friends. Could you imagine that as part of the title God, the Creator of the heavens and the earth, my Father and yours, saying you are one of His best friends? I can’t, but I know it would be awesome! I would feel pretty good about myself at that point.

    And something really cool? When we get so close to Him that we can talk to Him in the Spirit in such an intimate way, all we have to do is ask “, Which one do you think I-no-We should pursue Father? ” the cool part? He answers.

    My name is Christian Ortega. I am 20 years old, and I am God’s son. I want to change the world with my Heavenly Father. Do you?

  8. http://zoejumonville.blogspot.com/2014/08/emotional-virtue-thinking-deeper.html

    I wished to reply in this way and I hope you do not take offense. I am not attacking you, I’m just standing on the other side of the fence. You had good points!

  9. Taylor, I’m curious…have you ever read the books by Joshua Harris or the Ludys? I have not read Joshua Harris’ stuff, but have read the Ludy’s, and what they have to say/how they say it is nothing like what you describe here. In fact, it’s pretty much exactly like what it sounds like you are calling for: a focus on Christ and following Him, specifically in the area of romantic relationships.

Trackbacks

  1. […] 3 Reasons You Need To Stop ‘Saving Your Heart’ — Along the same lines as the former post, I thoroughly enjoyed Taylor Turner’s article over at Inside Magazine. With, wit, humour, and insight, Taylor reveals three reasons why you may just want to stop saving your heart for that knight in shining armour (or princess with a white veil). […]

  2. […]  3 Reasons to Stop Saving Your Heart  […]

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