They Do Exist.

Fear Of Causing My Brother To Stumble Almost Gave Me Scoliosis

Editor’s Note: Today’s post is written by Crystal Sprague. She is the director of MyRefugeHouse.com. Has your posture or health been negatively affected by this fear? Leave a comment and let us know. I have bad posture/lower back problems for the same reason, and I’m really curious to know how many others there are out there. – Lauren

I’ve had pretty severe back problems for years.

A few months ago, I tried out another Chiropractor.

X-rays confirmed that the abnormal grade of my spine was somewhere around 7% off with the unnatural curves in my upper and lower back extending in opposite directions. I don’t look terribly abnormal when I stand up, because the two sides balance each other out, but underneath the skin, my back is a bit of a mess.

A couple of weeks ago, I decided to try Physical Therapy. The first thing the doctor said to me was: “Stand up straight. Stick out your chest. Pull your shoulders back. Stick out your butt. Your back is supposed to have an arch. Why aren’t you sticking out your butt? Like THIS.”

And then he proceeded to pull my posterior into a position that was not only uncomfortable from a decade of disuse, it also made my inner soul scream out in mild panic.

You see, as much as I loved my church in high school, and my pastors, they were pretty passionate about not hindering men/boys with unnecessary thoughts of lust.

When I say “pretty passionate,” what I mean is, it was usually a source of conversation weekly. And wearing something “inappropriate” would get you a private counseling session as well.

Because this is the thing: I was the girl whom God saved, wholly and passionately. He was filling my hurting little heart with grace and strength to push forward in a life that doesn’t always (or ever) make sense. And I wanted so desperately to please that God, AND the church who wrapped their arms around me so lovingly, that I went the extra measure. Or an extra 100 measures, if I thought I could.

With my whole self I wanted to please God. And if that meant not causing my brother to stumble, than I would go to every. single. measure. Even if it meant hiding my female body. And if I wasn’t accomplishing it, I must be at fault.

Cue baggy clothes, weight gain and over a decade of unhealthy self-worth. Cue standing in ways that hid my chest, my butt. Cue hunched shoulders and the inability to stop guilt and mild panic when men look at me. Cue eating disorder. Cue extreme back pain.

It wasn’t really my pastor’s fault. He saw an eager kid with a willing heart in a sea full of teens who often just didn’t want to listen. And I learned things during that stage of my life that have shaped me and changed me, in every way, for the better.

We live in a world of extremes. All in or all out. Yes or No. With us or against us.

But if I could go back, I would beg someone to show me a bit of balance. Plead with someone to show me that it’s ok to not be perfect in this crazy world, even if God is in your heart. Appeal to someone to show me that extremes are easy, and balance is more challenging… but much more sustainable.

And if I could go back, I would beg someone to tell me that my body is beautiful and a gift from God. To tell me that yes, I can and should stand up straight.


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29 Responses

  1. Three years, eleven different doctors and healers. I can't even tell you how much money, because I'm afraid to count. It's in the multiple thousands of dollars, and I even have health insurance.

    This sort of spirit damage has lasting and costly physical effects. Thank you for speaking up about this. I am praying for healing as you stand tall.

    February 10, 2013 at 1:51 am

  2. Not long ago I went to a physical therapist because I had terrible pain in my shoulders and neck. He kept showing me how to stand up straight, and I kept resisting. Finally I burst into tears telling him I could not stand up straight because of the shame of sticking out my chest. That in doing so I may ’cause men to stumble’. He was so shocked when I told him this, unable to comprehend it. Attempting to stand up straight took me right back to the times when Christian’s (even when I was not yet a part of their church), had told me to stop trying to draw attention to that part of my body.

    Last night we were watching one of those programs on television that teaches women dress for their bodies, and the hostess asked the participant why she hated her chest so much. This girl also started to cry, and echoed the same thing; that she had been made to feel ashamed for having a naturally full chest. I commented that she must have been to church since I know that feeling of shame, and my housemate, who has never been to a church, was as confused as the physical therapist. It made me incredibly sad to sit there and realise I find it totally normal that in Christian context, woman would be full of hurt and shame for her body, while my friends who haven’t been exposed to religion find it completely illogical that you would be held accountable for someone else’s problem.

    I so relate to your story Crystal, oh how my heart longs that we will break free from the shame and weight that causes our spine to curve in fear and that we would stand-up straight, knowing our bodies were created as beautiful God-given gifts!

    xoxo

    February 10, 2013 at 7:03 am

  3. Reading this makes me so sad. I was raised in church but thankfully missed this "lesson." It saddens me to think of so many women being shamed into physically and mentally hurting themselves on the chance that SOMEONE ELSE would do something wrong. The Bible says we are made in HIS image and "fearfully and wonderfully made," and I believe that applies to BOTH sexes! I sincerely hope that all those who are dealing with these problems can find help and confidence to act in a way that doesn't harm them. And that this lesson of balance and taking a good thing too far is taught to future generations.

    February 10, 2013 at 9:15 am

  4. Thank you for sharing your story. I also spent a lot of effort trying to be "modest", feeling guilty for thinking I was beautiful, guilty for wearing feminine clothes, trying to walk a little stiff so I wouldn't "draw attention" to curves. I'm actually surprised to hear that this can cause real health problems- but I totally understand what you mean about wanting to follow God so much, to the best of your ability, and going to the extreme. (I wrote about this on my blog recently: The Story of Me and Modesty)

    But God wants us to be free! God created our bodies! Femininity is NOT evil! Your body is NOT evil or dangerous. Be free!

    February 10, 2013 at 6:32 pm

  5. Joyce

    If there is anything I want to tell the me when I was in my teens, it will be that there is nothing shameful about my body.

    After listening to those "teachings", and watching as fellow girls were lectured for wearing shorts, I started to be afraid of wearing dresses and more feminine clothes without even being aware of it! One incident was when the female leaders did a midnight spot check on all the girls during a camp, making the girls borrow longer shorts from their friends if they failed their spot check. That lead to tears and fears. It was till I left my cell group and started reading Good Women Project etc that I realised how extreme it all was.

    Now I try to be balanced, neither wearing shorts that show my underwear nor wearing long pants everyday in the week AND not being judgemental of girls who dress in more revealing clothes… It is tough to get over the fear of my body, esp since my fair skin and figure attracts unwanted attention, but i am getting better just like it will for all of you. May we all shine the way God wants us to.

    February 11, 2013 at 9:00 am

  6. Ore

    I was actually quite shocked to read this. My mum and virtually all the women around me always taught me to stand up straight for as long as i can remember! It’s sad that anyone would be taught to hide who they are so they dont “cause someone to stumble”. That teaching SERIOUSLY needs to be reviewed! I pray women around they world come too know the truth: You can never control what anyone else is thinking!

    February 11, 2013 at 9:56 am

  7. Robin

    Although I didn't have physical issues of not standing up straight, I was certainly raised to be what I call “beige” or a wallflower. Colorful clothes or anything relatively stylish would draw unwanted attention so neutrals were always strongly encouraged whether in color or cut. Outerwear and accessories should be neutral as well so you look “classic”. This is something that I was raised with and completely fell for. It made sense to me even more so when I had a few summers of dealing with harassment by some local boys. I just wanted to fade away into the background and not be seen. I know that my mother meant well and really did have my best interest at heart but it really was devastating. It drives my husband crazy because now even after 20 years of marriage I still struggle with wearing anything very colorful, let alone…gasp…sexy. Because someone else had a problem keeping himself in check , I paid the price. I vowed to not pass that on to my daughter.

    February 11, 2013 at 1:09 pm

  8. A happy weird guy

    Sisters in Christ, you NEVER have to be modest to keep me from stumbling–not to the point of wearing baggy clothes, and *certainly* not to the point of giving yourself scoliosis.

    The whole “stumbling block” thing is taken soooo out of context by churches. The “stumbling block” has two contexts expressed in the New Testament. The first is in 1st Corinthians 8, the second in Romans 14. The first refers to misunderstandings–cases where one Christian, who does not know how to dicipher right and wrong on a certain issue, sees another Christian exercising freedom in that issue, and comes to think then that there is no wrong in that issue and that they are totally free–even though the first Christian was not trying to exercise their freedom but simply knew how to go about the issue the right way. For this case, Paul says to act with caution because even though you are doing what is right, another Christian less-experienced in that issue may by watching you be emboldened to do what is wrong in that issue because they do not yet know the difference between the two. The second type of stumbling block is where one Christian knows they struggle with a certain issue; in that case it would be good for another Christian to not act in such a way as to trigger that struggle.

    I can’t water down that a lot of us men (myself included) often struggle with sexual issues in either matter, either convincing ourselves that the issues are really okay, or knowing that they’re wrong but still struggling with them nonetheless (which usually actually means that we know they’re wrong but really are still trying to convince ourselves that they’re right). But, with time, patience, and discipline, and above all by following Jesus, we can learn to overcome it. We are not weak creatures incapable of viewing women purely–rather we are very strong beings who often want to view women sexually. But because we are so wrong, we can also choose to view women purely. It’s a step-by-step journey from wanting impure to wanting pure, a journey which we can only make with God’s help.

    In that journey, it is not your job, sisters, to hold us men accountable. In either of the stumbling block scenarios Paul cites, all that I really think we can pull out if that you should not flaunt your body. That doesn’t mean to try to hide it, or to measure the length of your skirt, or to refrain from tank tops, V-Necks and bikinis. It certainly doesn’t mean to walk in such a way as to physically injure yourself. To me, it means mostly just that girls shouldn’t flaunt themselves and in certain situations should exercise caution about dress–but again, this caution and the level to take it is ultimately situational, and never needs to be taken to the degree that typical modesty nazis take it. There is a balance, and to me it’s not very complicated. I take it as that my sisters should be proud of their bodies and not be afraid to look good or look like women.

    I think “perfectnumber628” had it right–it’s probably a good idea to not go overboard on cleavage and the like, but that doesn’t mean that you should have to dress yourself so conservatively that you don’t feel like a woman. If you are dressing nicely and beautifully, but I look at you with lust and impure thoughts, that’s on me, not you. Even if you dressed in such a way that others might call “immodest” (which again is totally subjective and often defined rather arbitrarily), so long as you were not dressing with bad intent and so long as you were taking care to not go overboard, you have no guilt, and even if you did go overboard, again it’s ultimately on me the man who looked at you, not you who dressed this way or that.

    I apologize for the disorganized nature of this message–I am very tired. To sum it up, I say simply this: yes, there is such a thing as dressing with wrong intent, and there is such a thing as dressing in a way that might cause trouble with those of us men who struggle with sexual things to struggle more–but in the latter case, I think the general danger zone is much farther away than modesty nazis generally make it, and ultimately whatever struggle he endures at any level is his own fault and it is his responsibility to work with God to fix his heart. You cannot fix his (my) heart. If anything, your dressing overconservative gives him (me) an excuse to not work on his (my) heart the way he (I) really should. At the end of the day, even if you dressed at the opposite edge of the spectrum, the responsibility is his (mine).

    I’m so sorry that men and women in the church have imposed on you such arbitrary restrictions on your body and beauty, and I am sorry that the church has indicted you as criminal for your beauty, and I am sorry that the church has not taught us men to be in better control of ourselves. I work on it with God every day and hope that today I will look at you with less lust today than I did yesterday. In the meantime, keep being beautiful and don’t worry about my sin that I need to work on. Don’t go overboard, but remember that overboard is nowhere near as to to go as the church so often implies it to be.

    February 11, 2013 at 11:01 pm

  9. Happy Weird Guy

    CORRECTION, above where I said "but becuase we are so wrong", that should be "but because we are so strong". Had a typo there, I'm tired.

    February 11, 2013 at 11:03 pm

  10. Jill

    This is the most ridiculous post I’ve ever seen on this site. Scoliosis is typically a genetic trait. When back pain is developed from bad posture it is almost always a symptom of poor core strength and bad sitting habits – not poor doctrine.

    The author seems to be looking for a way to justify her own bitterness. If her back issues were fixed by simply improving her standing posture she was indeed never in danger having a scoliosis issue. Whatever that means. If you want to blame the church for back pain – blame the pews.

    This type of irresponsible rock throwing is immature and childish. Blaming a church for experiencing back pain is silly, at best.

    Blanket blame casting with sensationalist headlines is a detriment to the reputation and credibility of this author and of the entire GWP.

    February 12, 2013 at 4:17 pm

  11. I’ve been struggling with the message behind this article (and other similar). Even though I agree that women are NOT responsible for men’s sins and even though I know we’ve suffered from the consequences of being told our bodies cause men to stumble… I have to ask, aren’t we just shifting the blame?
    From being told we cause men to sin we are now telling ourselves that our insecurities have been caused by the pressure the men in our lives have put on us. We’re onto a vicious cycle of blaming others for what’s wrong in us (and both, men and women are doing this).
    It is ultimately up to us (and God) to know our beauty and our worth and it is on us if we let others’ idea of modesty/ beauty define us.
    Even if sometimes what others’ say can affect us WE have the responsibility of always going back to God to find our worth.
    People won’t (ever) stop telling us what they think we should do with our bodies in order to be beautiful or modest.
    It is on us if we believe what we’re being told.
    So, in my opinion, you don’t need to wait on anyone to tell you that your body is beautiful and a gift from God. It just is…. because GOD said so. Preach this truth to yourself and then just stand up straight because you can.

    February 12, 2013 at 11:47 pm

  12. Ashley Jones

    Ashley Jones!!
    I’m so excited about this, these are super cute
    dayminfarah@gmail.com

    February 13, 2013 at 1:20 pm

  13. I can so relate to this. The fear of causing my brother to stumble has made me feel incomfortable in my own body and with my physicality. Thank you for writing this.

    February 15, 2013 at 10:23 pm

  14. Thank you so much for sharing! I so, so much relate to this. My posture is awful for this same reason; I’ve found through seeing pictures of myself that I awkwardly move and bend myself so as never to stick out my butt or chest. I’d only mildly suspected it to be related to a conservative upbringing and having read your article, I’m now sure. Thank you for the reminder of how beautiful our bodies are and how anything associated with shame is definitely not from God, who created us to be womanly and beautiful. :)

    February 17, 2013 at 3:50 pm

  15. Crystal, beautiful words from a beautiful girl!

    February 18, 2013 at 10:50 pm

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  17. Madeline

    Thanks so much for being real! Love this!
    check out my blog here: http://foreverhisbymadeline.blogspot.ca

    March 6, 2013 at 10:28 pm

  18. There is so much about this I understand that I wish I didn’t. Struggles I have with my body that I know are related to this. Ugh it’s all a nasty struggle.

    Thank you so much for sharing,

    Bethany

    March 25, 2013 at 12:57 am

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