No, You Are Not Damaged Goods
“Only a low quality man would marry such damaged goods.”
I made a mistake the other day. I logged on to Twitter. I’ve been staying off it because it really messes with my emotions- even more than lacking sleep or food. Honestly, nothing compares to the low I get from being on Twitter. It’s the most depressing place on the internet for me, and my experience the other day reminded me of why.
To be clear, the statement above was in reference to Rachael Denhollander and her husband, Jacob. Oddly enough, it’s in response to Jacob promoting Rachael’s upcoming book “What is a girl worth?” (Apparently, Twitter dude’s response would be ‘not much.’)
However, the term “damaged goods” is used for Christian women more often than it ever should be (which would be never).
I can’t tell you the number of e-mails I get from young women who tell me they feel like “damaged goods.” It could be from the sexual abuse the experienced as a child, from a rape they experienced in college, from consensual sex with an ex-boyfriend, from an addiction to pornography, and even from masturbation.
And I blame it squarely on the rhetoric promoted during the purity movement. (I want to emphasize that for those who felt my Facebook post about Josh Harris somehow “defended” the purity culture).
There are some components of the purity movement that are beneficial. However, the arguments of that movement unfortunately (and perhaps unintentionally) objectified people, built their identity solely around their sexuality and slathered shame on them.
A flower that is missing petals.
A napkin ripped to shreds.
Piles of stinking trash bags in your hotel room on your wedding night.
Settling for a greasy cheeseburger.
Chewed up bubble gum.
A used car and your future driver has a right to know the mileage.
A line of lovers waiting at the wedding altar with your heartbroken would-be husband sobbing as he runs back up the aisle.
We worshipped virginity.
In doing so, we objectified people. We turned them into “goods” that could be “damaged.” Instead of treating people like people who deserve respect and are afforded grace, we reduced them to things and pinned all of their value and identity on their sexual history.
And the result has been a generation of women so ensnared by shame that they can’t even see hope of a way out.
Abused as a child? “Damaged goods”
Raped in college? “Damaged goods”
Slept with your ex-boyfriend? “Damaged goods”
Addicted to porn? “Damaged goods”
Struggling with masturbation? “Damaged goods”
But I don’t care who you are or what your history is, here’s the truth: You are not “damaged goods.”
That line is a disgusting, shame-filled lie from the pit of you-know-where. It is an assassin, meant to kill any hope of grace and leave you limping in a permanent state of brokenness.
But I get it.
I get it, because for years I looked at myself this way. I’m a survivor of childhood sexual trauma and physical abuse who then went on to be a porn addict and attempted to be a porn star. I grew up in the True Love Waits movement and felt the weight of failure.
As I entered my 20s, I felt so broken and so defective that I believed no one would ever be able to love me. Emotionally, I was too high maintenance. My “baggage” would take up one of those big carts at the airport and then some.
Guys would find out my dad left and I would be labeled as having “daddy issues.” You know some well-meaning Christians tell men to stay away from women like me – because my dad left? (The opposite is also true- Christian women are often counseled to stay away from men who don’t have a great relationship with mom, but what if mom is the instigator?)
Guys would find out I had sexual trauma and struggles and they would vanish.
They were being taught the same line this guy on Twitter believed: it takes a low-quality man to marry such damaged goods.
But, Twitter dude is wrong.
We all have some sort of “baggage.”
What makes my blood boil about this particular situation is that Rachael is a victim of sexual abuse. It’s not even of her own doing and she’s still getting the “damaged goods” label. It’s as if there are some Christian lines of thought where only virgin women with virgin eyes and virgin ears and zero sexual exposure at all are considered “undamaged goods.”
Every single one of us experiences some level of brokenness. So, in a sense, we all have a bit of damage. The world we are in is broken, and if sex doesn’t get you, a broken home, disengaged parents, bullying in school, or some tragedy or trauma will.
Any one of us at any given time in our lives will experience some level of “breaking.” That’s part of the human experience. None of us are immune.
We are not products.
However, and perhaps most importantly, that damage and brokenness never needs to define us and should never determine our worth. It doesn’t matter if it’s something we did or something done against us. Rachael, a victim of sexual abuse, is not damaged goods and I, a former porn addict, am not damaged goods. You, whatever your situation, are not damaged goods.
If anyone treats you like a product, leave them. If anyone refers to you as a product, ignore them. You are not a product whose value is defined by your sexual struggles- past or present. You are a person, created in the image of the Creator God. That defines your value, not your virginity.
Things change when you stop viewing yourself as worthless damaged goods and start viewing yourself as a loved broken person.
Only one of those aligns with God’s view of you.
Wait for a “high quality” guy.
Twitter dude’s jab was double-edged. He hit Rachael with the damaged goods claim and then sucker punched her husband as a “low quality” man. Jacob is not and even making that accusation makes it abundantly clear who the low-quality man is in this exchange.
And that’s a fear many women have. They’re going to have to settle. When it comes to finding a future husband, they’re convinced no good Christian man would ever want them. So, they are tempted to settle for sleezy, sub-par, even abusive relationships because “that’s all I’m worth.”
How can I put this succinctly?
That’s not true.
It does not matter who you are or what you’ve done, you wait for a man who sees you like God does- as a loved, broken person.
This is something I stress over and over again when I’m speaking on singleness. Inevitably, during the Q & A, some woman will share her story and say, “I’m doomed to be single forever. How could a man ever love me after this?”
Answer: any man worth his salt will understand grace and will love you in spite of it.
You wait for a man like that. Any man who would start treating you like damaged goods because of your past is not a man you want.
I’m grateful to have that in my husband.
He knew much of my story before we even met. (We met because he read my book). But there’s more that never touched those pages, and sharing it meant many tears and hours of counseling.
Nothing makes you feel like “damaged goods” more than having a panic attack about sex just weeks away from your wedding.
And through it all, he has been resolute in grace. When I felt broken and damaged, he was the first to speak this truth into my life:
“No, you are not broken. You are whole. You are redeemed. You are loved.”
That’s not a low-quality man. That’s a man who gets grace and who loves like Jesus.
I promise you, I didn’t marry the last one, but my own view of being “damaged goods” nearly drove me away from him.
That’s how shame works. It drives us away from the very thing that can prove it wrong. Shame is a liar. Fear is a liar. Twitter dude is a liar.
You are not damaged goods. You are a person, created in the image of God, loved by God, able to receive and experience grace and all of its riches and restoration. You are a story of grace.