By Beth Ann Baus, Crosswalk.com
Protecting your emotional purity can be a touchy subject.
We approach this subject having been influenced by our upbringing, our own experiences, and by observing what did and didn’t work for those around us. The other difficult part of this conversation is that people tend to make blanket statements implying there’s a “one size fits all” way to be emotionally pure.
And let’s be honest, some people don’t even know what we mean when we talk about emotional purity.
While there are biblical truths that can be applied to emotional purity, it is also true that emotional purity looks different for different people and in different stages of life. This is a complicated subject that deserves attention, yet we must all take this topic to the throne of God and ask for clarity.
My hope is that touching on this topic will encourage more conversation, contemplation, prayer, and consideration.
What Is Emotional Purity?
Understanding emotional purity can be helped by thinking of it in similar terms as sexual purity. The goal of sexual purity is to remain sexually pure for the glory of God.
We want to be sexually pure when we’re single, meaning we want to avoid sexual fantasies, pornography, masturbation, etc. When we’re dating we want to avoid all those things, as well as physical activity that should be kept for the marriage bed. When we’re married, we want to avoid any sexual activity that doesn’t include our spouse, etc.
Emotional purity should be thought about in the same way.
Sexual union is meant to be the completion of personal, emotional, and spiritual union. Sex in marriage is meant to be the binding of two people, and there are consequences if that binding is done outside of marriage.
Likewise, we can make the argument that there are consequences to emotional, or soul, bonding before marriage. We all know the hurt and damage that can be done when two people are sexually active before marriage and the relationship ends. In the same way, hurt and damage come about when two people become emotionally united before marriage and the relationship ends.
John Piper warns that we shouldn’t take ourselves into a depth of spiritual or emotional bonding that will not result in marriage and sexual union. He says, “Don’t awaken in each other desires of union beyond what you can control.” Every step that we take into spiritual or emotional union is a step towards physical union, meaning marriage.
In other words, don’t explore the depths of emotional oneness until there is a commitment that is taking you directly towards marriage. And if you’re married, don’t explore the depths of emotional oneness with anyone other than your spouse.
This brings up some questions. What exactly does this mean? How do you know if you’re taking steps towards emotional oneness? What is emotional oneness? Let’s unpack this a bit.
Emotional Purity and Singleness
When talking about emotional purity and singleness, don’t only imagine a young person who desires a romantic relationship. Singleness also includes divorcees, widows and widowers and can be of any age.
For the single person, the struggle for emotional purity is typically borne out of loneliness. Because we all know that there is an emotional intimacy that just isn’t fulfilled by friendships. We want to be desired, we want to be pursued, we want to be wanted. We want someone to notice us, to see us for who we really are, and to chase after us as if they can’t live without us.
The single person may find themself daydreaming about the perfect emotional exchange, thus giving a piece of their heart to a fleeting thought; a shadow of reality.
The single person might find themself latching on to someone who isn’t available--a married person of the opposite sex for example--and sharing details about themselves hoping for an emotional response that would be fulfilling to them, but could compromise the heart and marriage of the other person.
The single person might find themselves giving their heart to someone of the same sex. What starts as a harmless friendship can turn into a desire for more because a longing for attachment is being met.
Emotional purity for the single person is to reserve what was meant for the marriage covenant for the marriage covenant. It’s important to remember that God gave us emotions. He gave us a desire for companionship and human connection.
These desires aren’t sinful in and of themselves. The sin comes in when we fulfill these desires outside of God’s design. The goal is to remember that, as a single person, you are desired, you are pursued, and you are wanted! Deeply and passionately!
Your Heavenly Father knows your heart better than anyone in your life, including yourself. Latch on to Him. Give Him your whole heart. Allow Him to do what He does best, fully satisfy.
Emotional Purity and Dating
This arena is chock-full of opportunities to be emotionally impure. The biggest temptation here is to look at the person you’re dating as if you’re already married.
In other words, looking at your boyfriend as your husband when you’re only dating. Or looking at your girlfriend as your wife when you’re only dating. So, one way of defining emotional purity under the umbrella of dating is to keep what’s going on in your mind and in your heart in check with reality.
The emotional relationship of a dating couple shouldn’t mirror the emotional relationship of a married couple.
Several years ago, my husband and I had a friend (we’ll call him Steve) who asked a young woman (we’ll call her Julie) on a date. Right after their first date, Julie’s mother passed away unexpectedly.
Julie latched herself on to Steve. Steve was not only the initial shoulder she cried on, but he quickly became her number one, primary emotional support. This involved long, late-night phone calls and long daily walks to cry and reminisce about her mother.
Julie chose to make Steve the person who uplifted her spirits rather than her long-time gal pals. After about a year of walking Julie through her grief, Steve decided Julie wasn’t the woman he wanted to marry. He wanted to end their relationship.
Can you see where this is going? Steve stayed with her for far too long after he realized she wasn’t “the one” because he felt guilty. She needed him. She relied on him. How would she cope with the death of her mother and now the death of their relationship?
Steve found himself in a serious dilemma. He felt that breaking up with her would only send her deeper into depression. In hindsight, Steve wished he had been her initial shoulder to cry on but then encouraged her to go to her church family and established friendships as her main support system.
Do you see what Julie did here? She gave a piece of her heart to a man who wasn’t ready to receive that piece. And Steve accepted a piece of her heart that wasn’t meant for him.
They moved too quickly towards emotional oneness.
Emotional Purity and Marriage
Emotional purity is clearer in the context of marriage. When you commit yourself to someone through the covenant of marriage you are committing your heart, mind, and affections to that one person.
Your spouse becomes your emotional go-to for support. Now, does that mean you can’t confide in a trusted friend? Of course not. But, I think it’s fair to say your trusted friend should be of the same sex.
It’s all to easy for a person to confide in someone of the opposite sex and quickly decide that person is a better listener than their spouse. Or, to favor the way this person responds to you over the way your spouse does. In the context of marriage, emotional impurity easily leads to affairs of the heart.
I would also add here that when a couple moves from a dating relationship to an engagement, and a commitment of marriage has been made then there should be steps taken towards emotional oneness because they are also taking steps towards physical oneness.
And at this point, the exclusive rights to emotional oneness should be given to the fiance and should be guarded the same way they are after the marriage vows have been spoken.
Under the umbrella of the marriage covenant, I would define emotional purity as giving exclusive rights of emotional unity to your fiance/spouse thereby protecting both your emotional and physical oneness.
The Ultimate Goal
The ultimate goal in emotional purity is not to put up a wall and guard yourself from any deep connection or meaningful conversation in order to protect yourself from getting hurt. All earthly relationships come with risk.
We are sinful people and we hurt each other--sometimes on purpose and sometimes unintentionally. So please don’t confuse emotional purity with emotional protection. While a benefit of pursuing emotional purity is protection, protection isn’t the ultimate goal. The ultimate goal is honoring the Lord in all we do (Colossians 3:17).
The goal, for all of us, regardless of your stage of life, is to remember that we are desired, pursued, and wanted! Our biggest problem is that we aren’t satisfied with the emotional fulfillment that God offers us. We always want more. Which is ridiculous really, because there isn’t more.
What God offers us is all there is. It is everything. There is no greater love story than that of Jesus Christ!
How to Put it All into Practice
There are no scriptures that specifically say, “Thou shall remain emotionally pure and here’s how…” Yet, there are Biblical truths that apply to emotional purity.
When we’re tempted to be deeply connected emotionally with someone that we aren’t married to, we should ask ourselves, “what lie am I believing?” I start with this question because most likely, regardless of our stage of life, we compromise our emotional purity when we have a felt need that isn’t being met.
We’re lonely, we’re depressed, we’re anxious, we’re...fill in the blank...we believe the lie that this person we want to be emotionally connected to will make us feel good, wanted, whole. We must start with right thinking and ask ourselves, “Am I glorifying the Lord in this emotional attachment or am I simply out to meet a felt need that I have?”
Think back to the example of Steve and Julie. Sometimes we find ourselves in emotionally compromised positions after the damage has been done. Sometimes we put ourselves in these situations unknowingly. Sometimes a relationship starts out with the best of intentions and then turns into something that isn’t God-honoring.
The bottom line here is that, in every situation, we need to guard our hearts. Proverbs 4:23 says, “Keep your hearts with all vigilance for from it flow the springs of life.” In every relationship we should keep this Proverb in mind.
We should make a habit of asking the Lord to search our hearts and show us if we are taking inappropriate steps towards emotional oneness. And, as in every aspect of our lives, we should strive to be holy for the Lord is holy (1 Peter 1:15-16) and we should strive to glorify Him in all we do (Colossians 3:17).
Photo Credit: ©GettyImages/kieferpix
Beth Ann Baus is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys. She is a freelance writer and author of novels, Sister Sunday and My So Much More. In her writing, Beth often pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and OCD. Beth has a heart for women’s ministry and is in the process of becoming a certified Biblical Counselor. She loves serving alongside her husband and pointing couples to the Word for strengthening their marriages and home life. You can find more from her at www.bethannbaus.com.