Family Tip: Tattoos—To get or not to get?
Jul 21, 2017 / Written by: Thomas Ryder
At a casual family gathering, my 16-year-old nephew, Michael, sat next to me and said: “Uncle, I want to get a tattoo. What do you think about it?”
I raised my gaze and fixing it on his asked, “Do you want to get a tattoo or are your friends pressuring you to get one?”
Squirming a bit in his seat, he conceded, “Well… I mean…. It’s both.”
I did not press the point and asked, “But, what do you think, Michael? Do you think it is a good thing? Because if you are asking me about it, it seems to me that you consider this a moral issue. And you would be right there.”
“What do you mean by ‘moral’”? he asked.
“‘Moral’ determines if the action you are proposing is good or bad. Morality is the rule or principle that distinguishes good from bad or right from wrong.”
At this point, expressing a little frustration Michael said, “I just want to know if I should get one—yes or no?”
The time had arrived for me to dig in a bit deeper.
“O.K., Michael. Unless you are in a rush, give me five minutes and I will tell you what I think.”
Michael moved to the edge of his seat and gave me a nod. I had his full attention; at least for the next five minutes.
I began, “First of all, you are asking me to tell you what to do and in a way to make a decision for you. But since you are not six years old anymore, you are now 16, I am going to tell you what I think about it, and I am going to ask you to make your own decision.”
Michael acquiesced, proud that I was treating him with adult respect.
I went on, “Tell me something, suppose you and I decided to put our fortunes together and buy a magnificent car. And we don’t go half way with this; we use every penny we have to get our dream car. We both go to the dealer, spend many hours shopping around and finally, after a difficult process of decision-making, come back home with a car. Then, for a few weeks, we enjoy our new car and all its perfections…until, one day, you wake up to find that I had painted the image of a beaver on the hood of the car.”
Michael’s expression left it clear he would not have liked the idea in the least.
I continued, “You would have probably come up to my room, banged on my door and then punched me. And I, quite honestly, would have done the same if the roles were reversed. Now, imagine what God thinks of the fact that after He gave us this wonderful body that He made—and ‘bought’ at the price of His death and resurrection—we go and tattoo all over it?”
“But is it a sin?” Michael asked with insistence.
I held up my hands, saying, “Now hold on a bit. Keep in mind that God wants us not only to avoid sin, but to actually live in a way that pleases Him. We must live lives as He wishes. Just staying away from breaking rules is not good enough.”
I continued, “Everything God makes is perfect, including our bodies. And let me tell you that He did not plan on us using our bodies as some sort of billboard. Our bodies are, just as the Church teaches us, temples of the Holy Spirit, when we are in the state of grace."
“Now I have a question for you: why do you want a tattoo? What is the reason?”
Michael started to open his mouth, but I kept on going. My five minutes were almost up.
“Again, our Eternally Good God gave us reason so we can decide what is right and what is wrong. So what could be the reason for us to tattoo our bodies other than pressure from others or pressure to conform to the culture? Is pressure alone a good reason for us to do things?”
Michael responded promptly, “Of course not!”
“When God made us, He did it based on His Infinite Wisdom. His Wisdom and reasons for doing things go way beyond our little puny understanding."
“Our bodies should be mirrors of what we have inside. Thus, a good and virtuous person has a certain shine about him and will carry himself and dress in a way that will display to the world what he is inside. The same thing happens the other way around."
“Evil and malicious people eventually look like it. Look, for example, at a bad woman who spends her life as a prostitute selling her body to whomever will pay more in comparison with a woman of virtue who protects her virginity with daring and courage. Their faces will be like night and day.”
Michael interrupted and said, “Uncle, one of the things my friends at school tell me is that there is nothing in Scriptures against it.”
I smiled. “Is there anything in Scriptures against taking drugs? Does this mean it is okay?
“Along with the Scriptures, God gave us a sense of right and wrong; moral law called natural law is written in our hearts. People without access to the Scriptures are still responsible for doing what is right. God did not mean for the Scriptures to be the sole manual for our behavior. But incidentally you may direct your friends to Leviticus 19:28, where God says…..”
I could see from Michael’s glance at his cell phone that I had gone over my allotted time. Not wanting to be a breaker of bargains, I ended my advice there.
Standing up, I placed my hand over Michael’s shoulder and said to him, “But Michael, you are practically an adult. You have a job, are preparing for college and, if I am not mistaken, you are saving up for your first car. Just think about what we have talked about here today and, then, I encourage you to make your own decision.”
Looking straight into his eyes I asked, “Will you go along with everyone else or will you do what you believe to be right? And that, my dear boy, is the real question.
“Archbishop Fulton Sheen once said: “‘Dead bodies float downstream; it takes live bodies to resist the current.’”
Michael gave me a huge hug and by the unusual tightness with which he held me I left with the impression he had liked our little chat.
That evening I silently prayed to our Good Lord for Michael. “Give him strength, for You alone know what sort of crazy opinions and peer pressure these young people have to fight against these days.”
Image Credit: © Jonathan Weiss | Dreamstime (sign)
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