Over the years I’ve gotten used to my ideas of traditional womanhood and godly femininity being called “too conservative,” but, even so, I’ve sometimes wondered if friends and family were right: I just needed to loosen up.
After all, going to extremes can be dangerous, and being too conservative is no better than going to the other extreme and being too liberal, right? At least, that’s what I was beginning to wonder after being repeatedly told so all along.
But the other day, a conversation with a friend called me back to a truth I had forgotten: It’s better to be more conservative, because you can always loosen up if you’ve been too narrow in your thinking, but going too far in the other direction is dangerous, because it can be incredibly hard to “hike back” and reclaim lost ground.
I can personally attest to lost ground being hard to reclaim, as I struggle to reclaim convictions that I lost in college. When I arrived at college after eighteen years of homeschooling, I was shocked–absolutely shocked–by certain things in our Christian college community. From the inappropriate lyrics of songs blasting around me, to the inappropriate pictures of men displayed in the girl’s bathroom (which were taken down after I wrote a letter to the floor RA), the amount of worldliness, as well as the proud and outright delight taken in lust, was something that I was just unaccustomed to and perfectly shocked by.
But when I left college three years later, the worldliness, the drinking, partying, music, and filthy language had become all too normal. It was all around me, every day, and the whispers of “Guess what I did last night?” had become familiar and had lost their shock value to the point where I no longer felt prompted to act or speak up. I myself, was, for the first time, really being tempted by the things of world, and I found myself actually struggling to resist behaviors I would have never even entertained two years before.
All this to say, as human beings, we can normalize any behavior. We can literally get used to anything, and putting our morals into reverse turns out to be a whole lot harder than we had initially thought. You may think “If I resisted this before and never did ______, it can’t hurt me to try it for a while, since I can always go back.”
But going back can be like swimming upstream.
I’ll give you an example. I recently got a new car–a Toyota Corolla, to be exact. It just so happens to be much smaller than my parent’s SUV, which I had happily driven for all four years of my driving career. Now, I drove that SUV for four years with no major complaints, but as soon as I went back to the SUV after only one month of driving my Corolla, I suddenly noticed what a drag it was to drive! All of a sudden, I had to exert so much pressure on the brake to stop! I felt like my foot was getting quite the workout and wondered if my muscles had atrophied in that short amount of time. But besides that, it was annoying how slow I had to take the corners, and how hard it was to accelerate going uphill! I just wanted to be driving my little Corolla again!
I thought about it and realized that this feeling was exactly what I had been feeling in other areas of my life where I was trying to reclaim lost ground. Before, I never noticed these areas of concern–they weren’t even on my radar. But, afterward, after I had given in, just like driving the SUV, it was apparent that I would have to be painfully aware of the difference. Those muscles I had built for braking would have to be rebuilt, but, even when they had, I would still know the difference between how much pressure it took to resist and get myself to stop than it did before.
Taking a step too far away from what you know to be right in any area can make it hard to come back. For me, this means reminding myself, among many other things, that if I live for a career and practice too much individualism now, I shouldn’t be surprised if it’s incredibly hard to give that up and submit to a man in marriage (a caution I’m constantly telling myself!). For you, it might be a variety of other things, but whatever it is, it’s better if you just never go “there”–wherever “there” is. Ask any older adult with regrets and they’ll tell you the same thing: it’s better (and easier) to never give sin or unwanted behaviors a foothold.