When I was 16, my dad took me to a pawnshop and helped me pick out a purity ring. I slid the black hills silver ring onto my ring finger, and I haven’t gone a day without it since.
It’s been five years since I walked out of the pawnshop, ring in place, and since then I’ve only taken it off for cleaning. When I take my ring off, I experience a strange sensation. I feel lighter, less responsible, free.
Don’t get me wrong, my ring doesn’t convict or enslave, but there’s a freedom stemming from the re- lease of a commitment made to God and myself. Even though I know my ring is only a physical representation of my abstinence, I feel more secure when I wear it, because it’s a tangible reminder.
With each passing year, my purity ring has become more and more weighted. Laced within the black hills silver is a weight of commitment, a weight of sacrifice and a weight of accountability. When I was 16, my ring was light and airy. I didn’t fully understand the importance of the commitment I made because I had never been physically tempted until I became a college student.
My ring sparks countless conversations with fellow classmates, my ring provides a reminder to others and myself. I constantly find myself in debates over my decision. Some people leave frustrated, others leave informed and sometimes I leave doubting myself. In those moments when I feel the faltering weight of my promise, I take off my ring to feel the freedom from responsibility I so despise. Without it I am naked and exposed but with it, I am comforted by the weight of purpose my left hand holds. Meant as a symbolic stand for abstinence, a purity ring defines a person’s character. There is a physical and spiritual commitment connected to the metal encircling the ring finger. Unfortunately, abstinence is not a highly valued societal trait. Some consider it a character flaw highlight- ing superiority complexes and prudish tendencies. It is rarely commended. According to AccuStatistics, only three percent of Americans wait until marriage to have sex and only 20 percent of individuals in highly religious groups remain abstinent until marriage. These statistics add to the societal weight of abstinence.
There’s always another side to the story though. Just as purity rings can empower a person, they can also strip them of their worth. There is a negative weight twisted within the precious metal by society’s dark influence.
Some who once had a purity ring no longer wear it because they have been stripped of their purity by force or beguiled into giving it to someone who didn’t deserve it. What was once a symbol of worth now magnifies shame, collecting sorrowful dust on a shelf.
Here’s the thing, purity is both physical and spiritual. Even if someone has lost their physical purity, it doesn’t mean they aren’t spiritually pure. The beauty of silver and gold is its ability to be cleaned and made new. The negative tarnish can be wiped away, removing the painful weight and replacing it with heavy forgiveness.
No matter what commitment a person makes, there is always a social impact, a social weight, affecting those around the individual taking a stand. Until I acquire my “Mrs.” degree, I will continue to wear my hefty purity ring, because I’d rather be heavy on the scale of commitment than light on the scale of accountability.
Story by Rachel Anderson, Illustration by Xavier Gonzalez