As a young person growing up today, are you growing up in one of the easiest times, or is it one of the most challenging times? Most likely, you have never had to go to bed hungry. You have likely never had to worry about having clothes to wear or a warm bed to sleep in. You also do not need to worry about not being able to communicate with friends or family. From food to information, almost everything is readily available to you. You can quickly Google a question, text a friend, or watch a video. So, are you growing up in one of the easiest times? In one way, yes. However, when you look at the temptations of music and movies, the availability of drugs, and the pressure of indecency in society, you may say that it has never been as challenging to be a teenager as it is now.
Even in Christian circles, many young (and older) people are pressured to send sexually explicit pictures and texts which is termed “sexting.” Perhaps you have been pressured to send pictures you did not want to, or even worse, perhaps you are the one that pressured someone else to send you those pictures. For some of you, it may not seem like a big deal, but for some, it may haunt you.
What is the big deal?
In the society we are living in, it might not seem like a big deal. You might have apps on your phones such as Tik Tok or Snapchat or read articles in a magazine that normalize sexting and pornography. This inappropriate promotion and normalization can make resisting very difficult. However, when we look at our society, everything that is wrong is being made right and everything right is being made wrong. Therefore, if you consider what you have been taught from the Bible at home, in catechism and school, use your own judgement and conscience to analyze if something is wrong. When things you have been taught to be wrong are normalized or even promoted, perhaps that means you should avoid that app or magazine. When you have questions about this, try to study the Bible and pray for direction.
Our society has especially changed the moral grounds around marriage and sexuality. Even in our circles, you might notice that morality is declining. You might have heard your parents say, “well, we were young once too.” But ask yourself, has God changed? Will he no longer punish sins of indecency because of the immortality of the time you are growing up in? You know the answers to these questions.
We have been created to express our sexuality only in marriage. In marraige it is a special gift, but when it is expressed outside of marriage, it takes it away from the purity in which it was designed. Whether it be through premarital sex, watching pornography, or sexting, the pureness of your sexuality is defiled, and that can never be fully restored. When immorality is experienced outside of marriage, it can lead to emotional distress, emptiness and regret.
Resist sending indecent pictures
Many young people send pictures because they have been asked or threatened. Sometimes they feel like they have to do it because their friends are doing it, so they also need to. Others are threatened that if they do not send pictures, they will not be able to hang out with some of the popular groups or even a boyfriend may break up with them.
Remember that once you send a picture to someone, you can never take that back anymore. You no longer can control what they do with it or who they might share it with. In addition, once you have sent one picture, it is more difficult to say no to future requests. Previous pictures can be used as blackmail to get more pictures or do even worse acts. Even if you are in a relationship, is it right to have a lower level of decency? What if your relationship does not last? Many times, when pictures are shared without consent, it happens after a relationship has ended. Do you want previous actions to stain a future relationship and hopefully marriage?
Resist asking for indecent pictures
On the other hand, perhaps you have asked for pictures yourself. Whether you are in a relationship or not, it does not make it right to ask or pressure someone else for an intimate picture. Even if it seems like everyone else is sharing pictures, it does not make it right for you to do it. Sexting is linked closely with pornography and has connected negative impacts. There are many studies that show the negative affects of viewing pornography on a developing brain.
Besides being morally wrong, it could also get you into legal trouble. It is against the law to posses or share sexual pictures or videos of anyone under 18. There are different legal scenarios but pressuring for nudes, possessing them on your devices and sharing them can all be criminally charged.
What if I have sent or received indecent pictures?
Perhaps at this point, you feel guilty. You may be depressed. You may feel defiled. Do not let this push you further away, but try to move in a new direction. Alcohol, drugs or partying will not make it better. They may distract you for a while, but unfortunately, they can lead you even deeper. Instead, turn to places of help by opening up to your parents or another trusted adult. If you get turned away at any point, do not bury the shame but try to talk to someone else so that you can get help and advice from someone older. Talk to your friends to gain support and build a united front to oppose these pressures. Above all, try to pray about it and ask for help and strength.
Delete pictures that you have sent or received and if you have sent them to others, ask politely if they will also delete the pictures. If there are pictures of you being shared, tell someone in authority. This can be embarrassing, but the sooner the situation is dealt with, the quicker you can control the situation. If there are pictures online, try to report them to the website hosting service they are on so they can be removed.
Ask for forgiveness. This may be difficult, but if you were bold enough to ask for or shared intimate pictures, you must also be brave enough to own your actions. You cannot expect forgiveness, but asking can be the first step in healing a relationship. From there, you may be able to help the other person.
If you have requested or sent pictures in the past, you might feel that you are the victim of the time in which you live. Your parents did not have the same pressure as you do today. They did not grow up where everyone else had phones and were doing things you were told not to do. So, you can not help it, and therefore you excuse yourself. Please resist this excuse – it does not matter what everyone else is doing, as you are still accountable for your own actions. However, if you have been a victim of exploitation, blackmail or assault, that can not be brushed off, and you need to find someone you can trust to report this to.
In summary, should we not examine what the Bible says about this issue rather than what society or our friends are doing? In Genesis 2:24, it says: “Therefore shall a man leave his father and his mother, and shall cleave unto his wife: and they shall be one flesh.” That is the foundation of how we have been created as male and female. It is further expounded in Hebrews 13:4: “Marriage is honourable in all, and the bed undefiled: but whoremongers and adulterers God will judge.” Does this not clearly show how sexuality was designed only for within the marriage? In 1 Corinthians 6:18-19, Paul writes: “Flee fornication. Every sin that a man doeth is without the body; but he that committeth fornication sinneth against his own body. What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?” May this be our closing wish – may we flee these sins and pray for forgiveness for our many sins!