Safe Relationships and Expanding Hearts


Last week a friend posted a story about a girl who had been hurt by the book I Kissed Dating Goodbye by Joshua Harris. She believes that the IKDG mindset contributed to the rape she experienced. Another friend of mine, who is a man, commented that he disagreed with her conclusions. This was my response to him. I’m posting it here because I believe the IKDG movement and the purity culture that surrounds it is intensely damaging and dangerous, especially to girls and women. We must correct this mindset in our churches.

This woman’s story resonated with me and mirrors the stories of many any women I know. Her story is very, very common for those of us who were raised in this culture. I was never raped, thank God, but I was involved in an abusive relationship and, separately, something else bad happened to me for these exact reasons. When women are taught that men know best and that our bodies are primarily made for men, bad, bad things happen. Please listen to more women before you decide that this woman is wrong in her analysis of her own rape and the context of it.

Also, the sentiment she expresses about feeling like no one would want her if she’s not “pure”… COMPLETELY common. Women have even stopped trying to escape from kidnappers after being raped because they believe they are now worthless. I personally know women who have felt this way after a rape. This article is right on.

Not even after a rape… I have comforted sobbing women after kissing or making out… The fact that I have ever had to remind a friend that she is valuable after making out with someone is so sad to me. Equating a woman’s value with her sexual inexperience is wrong. Teaching women to trust a man above herself and her communication with God is dangerous. Not teaching her how to advocate for herself AND actively telling her she must not speak up because a godly woman follows her man… That is so so dangerous. That makes her completely vulnerable to whatever man she’s with. Rather than making her a full partner in the relationship, she has to simply pray that wherever he “leads” her will be safe and healthy. When he is in charge of how much say she has in the relationship, she is completely powerless to protect herself. A system that relies fully on one person’s “not being a jerk” – though I think the term rapist is more accurate here – is not safe for women. And a relationship paradigm that is not safe for half of the people in the world is not a good paradigm.

Harris is now in seminary and has apologized for the book. He was like 21 or 23 when he wrote it. He was just parroting back what he had learned. The church that he pastored at with the senior pastor that made his book a reality got into a lot of trouble for hiding sexual abuse, rape and pedophilia. When Harris found out about this, he resigned and finally went to seminary. He has personally been reaching out to people like this woman and apologizing.

I also don’t blame the book only… There are lots of crazy books on the world. The book just gathered up all the stupid and spread it much much further. Like me. My parents were not raised Christians and had no idea how to handle The Dating Question. So they heard of this book that was wildly popular, bought it for me when I was 14, and that was it. They didn’t even read it. I read it, believed it, and I did the rest. To my detriment. My parents were just glad they didn’t have to worry about me going out and kissing boys…

I don’t think she was blaming the book itself either but the movement, which was much bigger than the book. The book just gave a slogan to the movement. As she said, by the time she read the book, she already knew everything that was in it. That’s not the book’s fault. That’s the people around it. And I agree with her that this damage to her and me, and many many other women I know and have met, is absolutely due to the “I kissed dating goodbye” movement and the associated purity culture.

About giving away pieces of heart… People can get shattered hearts for many reasons. Romance can absolutely shatter hearts. But romance doesn’t cut your heart to pieces any more than friendship does. Just because I’ve had this many best friends doesn’t mean I don’t have a whole heart to give a future best friend. Just because I love my children with all my heart doesn’t mean that I wouldn’t be able to love another child with all my heart, too. Just because I loved a boy in college with my whole heart doesn’t mean that Brian doesn’t have my whole heart now. That’s what healing is about. That boy still has my college heart. Sure. But he has no piece of my present heart. My heart is not meat that can be split up. My heart is spirit that can be renewed, regenerated in the love of God. My heart does not get cut up. My heart gets expanded. If a heart is fragmented, it means it needs healing. It doesn’t mean that person is just ruined now. It doesn’t mean they’ll never have a whole heart again. It means they’re not done healing, not that there is no healing possible.

God made us to love. He did not give us finite hearts that only have so much love capacity so we better make sure we get it right the first time. He is the God of life and renewal. Always. He is Love. And He made us in His image.

Published by Nikki Holland

I am a Quaker wife, mother, pastor, and writer. I work as the country branch director of a fabulous NGO in Belize City and I recently graduated with an MDiv from Earlham School of Religion. I love my family, and I love my community.

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