What does it mean to “honor your body”? Does it look like dressing modestly, being ever aware of the opposite sexes’ eyes on you? After all, modest is hottest, amiright? Does it look like keeping your skin clean from unnecessary, self-indulgent piercings and tattoos? Does it mean refraining from sexual encounters until marriage?
When you google “honor your body”, the first four hits are quite different. The first: a massage therapy place in Pittsburg. The second: a blog post from mindbodygreen about loving your body. The third: 1 Corinthians 6:19-20 from BibleGateway. And the fourth: a poem about honoring your body’s signals from an eating disorder recovery website.
Could these hits be a little different?
I first heard the phrase in church, similar to the third website above. The popularly-quoted verse comes from 1 Corinthians 6:19-20. I’ve quoted the New International Version (NIV) below, from BibleGateway:
Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
If there’s anything I learned in church, however, is that context is key. So, let’s expand our area of analysis to 1 Corinthians 6:15-25:
Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ himself? Shall I then take the members of Christ and unite them with a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that he who unites himself with a prostitute is one with her in body? For it is said, “The two will become one flesh.” But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit. Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; you were bought at a price. Therefore honor God with your bodies.
………..That’s sharp. Weighty.
I’ve heard this verse used in many ways. Obviously, it discusses sexual immorality. I’ve also heard it used as arguments against body modifications, such as tattoos and piercings or even hair dye. I’ve seen it used with regard to dressing modestly, so as not to encourage others to have impure thoughts.
It’s a difficult term to wrestle with, that’s for sure. What is included in “body”–is it limited to the physical being? And is it possible that “honoring your body” could mean different things to different people?
I spent years hating my body. I spent years struggling to love myself–my body, mind, spirit, personality. I still struggle with that. Self-love is hard. I flip-flopped from don’t wear yoga pants because it causes men to have impure thoughts to wear whatever the fuck you want because you’re your own person, or you’re fat so you shouldn’t wear that to fuck what they think!! It’s exhausting, quite frankly.
Over the years, I’ve kind of realized that people are so wrapped up in worrying about what others will think of them that they forget to judge others. I spend the bulk of my time wondering what others will think of my outfit, my words, my art, my life, instead of just living my life. I worry what others think… while everyone else is worrying what I think of them.
People are so wrapped up in worrying about what others will think of them that they forget to judge others.
At the heart of it all, we want to be accepted as we are.
And I think that’s where “honoring your body” comes in.
All of that flip-flopping I’ve done exhausted my mind to such an extent that I think I just kind of broke one day, and stopped caring at all. I literally just stopped cold turkey. I don’t think it works that way for everyone, but it did for me; one day, I just got so exhausted by and annoyed with the notion that we must live up to this invisible, impossible standard to impress other humans and I just didn’t care anymore. I stopped dressing for other people, I stopped following rules imposed on me by others, I stopped caring about how my social media looked, I just stopped. I realized that I cared more about what I thought of me than what others thought.
So what does honoring your body look like?
For me, honoring my body looks like wearing whatever I truly feel comfortable in. That looks like not wearing a bra. That looks like saying no, sometimes. That looks like creating the time and space for yoga, cooking, singing, writing, reading, watching Grey’s Anatomy. That means acknowledging that I am a dynamic being with interests that are always changing.
Maybe, for you, it means finally going for that dream you’ve been too scared of, because it’s difficult financially or your family doesn’t support it. Maybe it means travelling. Maybe it means being brave enough to recognize when you’ve had enough of a negative, toxic relationship. Maybe it means recognizing that you aren’t ready to wear certain clothes, but you’d like to one day, so you’re taking your time allowing yourself to be comfortable in your own skin. Feeling your true emotions, not what you think is right, is an exercise in honoring your body.
“Honoring your body” means staying true to your thoughts and feelings. That means listening to when you want to do something and when you don’t, in any sense of the word–sexually or otherwise. That means listening and responding when you hear someone give you instructions that don’t line up with your values. When you truly open your eyes to this, people are preaching messages everywhere–in houses of religion, in politics, in education, in the workplace, in grocery stores and Targets. Notice when you are being told something that doesn’t resound as true for you, and respond accordingly. Walk away, confront it, work to change it. Question your surroundings.
I think it’s one of life’s great challenges, and it’s really, really, really hard to do, but it’s one of our sacred callings as human beings. I mean, we tell others to do this all the time, but then judge and gossip behind closed doors when this is fleshed out in reality.
I think that means we have to check ourselves.
Honor your body by speaking highly of others. Honor your body by only surrounding yourself with people who lift you up–you know when you are around those kinds of people; your energy just feels like it’s on the same field as theirs. Honor your body by honoring others’ bodies.
How do you honor your body? What rules and boundaries do you have for yourself that you hold true to? What’s the hardest part of it for you? I’d love to hear your story and walk with you on your journey of health and redemption.