Last week I promised a response to C. Marshall’s excellent question, but I’m afraid that I could not come up with a fully satisfying answer within such a short period of time (particularly during a week when I have midterms). So in lieu of a response, I’d like to post some quick thoughts on a recent holiday, Halloween.
One of the most puzzling things to me about Halloween is that one can take virtually any costume idea – nurse, nun, bunny – and add the word “slutty” to the front to create an acceptable costume for women. For some reason, girls today like to use Halloween as an excuse to wear that mini-mini-skirt that they can’t wear the rest of the year. I was surprised to see even some Christians I know wearing costumes that laid bare their bellies, that left none of their thigh to the imagination, that seemed intended for little else than leading the opposite gender astray.
Besides my fear for frost bite in the Cambridge night, a sense of modesty has always prevented me from wearing such things. (Although I must admit to wearing a green Princess Jasmine costume at age 6 that would have been rather risque if I been much older). But I have to wonder what these girls are thinking when they decide that Halloween is different than any other night? Why is one slutty for dressing like this any other night, but simply normal for dressing like this on Halloween?
I think it’s because people so easily compartmentalize: “Well, yeah, I dress like this on Halloween, but I’m not normally like this” or “Sure, I dress like that on Halloween, but that’s not who I am.” Somehow we think we can redefine “who we are” just by ignoring the decisions we make less regularly.
Yet my identity is not some set of decisions or behaviors that I self-select to make me look good. I am who I am all the time. All of my behaviors contribute to my character, not just the good ones or the ones that happen normally. My identity is the whole of me, not just a compartmentalized portion of myself.
This is something that I had to grapple with when I struggled with making some poor (although not terrible) decisions. I realized that when I’m tired, I don’t act like I normally do. I don’t feel like myself. Whereas during the day, I can generally make wise, good decisions, when I get very tired, my reasoning capabilities grow more limited and I’m more likely to ignore what I know is right. I had to come to grips with the fact that tired Jordan is still Jordan. I am still me when I am making those poor decisions. Bad judgment is part of my identity when I’m tired; I consistently exhibit it. If I want to build my character and ensure that I make wise, good decisions all the time, I must make sure that I am not letting myself get too tired.
Compartmentalizing this aspect of my character by saying that “it is not part of who I am” would be self-deception, pure and simple. But I can honestly say that I will not let this be part of who I will be. God can slowly kill this bad part of my character, so long as I let Him work. As I let God become the center of my life, I can reorient my whole life to slowly obliterate those imperfect behaviors that creep up and let sin seep in.
But I can’t do that if I consistently decide to ignore God because it’s Halloween or because I’m tired or because it’s the only time I’ll see my boyfriend this month. This week, I’m trying to get enough sleep so I won’t be too tired (or at least only lose it for studiously doing problem sets in the dining hall). Next Halloween, can you decide to not pick up that slutty pumpkin costume? Your less wind-chapped thighs will thank you.