Questions to Consider Before Getting a Tattoo
by Eddie Foster - October 16, 2018
From a butterfly on an ankle to a skull and crossbones on a forearm, tattoos are a very visual and permanent way to express ourselves to others. Before getting one, here are some questions to consider.
Recently, I was sitting on my front porch with my neighbor, who is around my age (mid-30s). As we talked about various things, I happened to notice a partially visible large tattoo on the inside of his bicep.
He saw me look at it and immediately tried to cover it up, giving off a little laugh of embarrassment. He then explained how his tattoo belonged to a time of his life when he used to party a lot, but he wasn’t like that anymore. He was certainly aware of the negative connotation of having a tattoo.
I felt bad for him. First, I felt bad because he clammed up a little, probably thinking I was judging him for having a tattoo. (I wasn’t.) We all make mistakes, and he definitely wasn’t flaunting it.
Second, I felt bad for him because he considered the tattoo a mistake, and yet there it was. Many times we can try to rectify various mistakes, but with tattoos it can be difficult. Removing a tattoo is an expensive and painful process, and the skin will always bear some kind of scar or mark.
So, if you’re thinking of getting a tattoo, please consider the following questions to help you flesh out the decision (pun intended).
Does the Bible forbid getting tattoos?
The Bible clearly forbids making marks or cuts on our bodies: “You shall not make any cuttings in your flesh for the dead, nor tattoo any marks on you: I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:28). For some people, that one verse is enough to make the decision for them. But some may counter, “I’m not worshipping any pagan gods or doing it to mourn the dead; it’s just a butterfly!” Consider this: If something is seemingly so important to us that we want to permanently brand it on our bodies, might it possibly be a form of idolatry?
The Bible also teaches that the physical body is a temple for God and His Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19-20). When the temple stood in biblical times, would God have wanted graffiti on it? Does He want graffiti on the bodies that are the temples (or future temples) of His Spirit?
With that in mind, we shouldn’t forget that there are also health risks associated with getting a tattoo. Do an online search, and you’ll find a long list of skin infections and problems, blood-borne diseases and other serious complications that are possible—many of which can’t be avoided just by using a reputable studio with hygienic practices.
Is there a better way to express ourselves than tattooing an image onto our skin?
Can we get across our personality in ways that others can appreciate and understand without tattoos? Yes. Language is infinitely more powerful in expressing who we are to others than an image somewhere on our bodies.
How about our clothes, our interests in the various arts, blogging and writing, our creations or designs, our sense of humor, or photography? All of these options do not involve a permanent symbol on our bodies that may bring a lifelong supply of embarrassment and regret.
Consider that our interests, personalities and desires do evolve over time. Who we are today isn’t exactly who we were five or 10 years ago. And who we are today won’t be exactly who we are five or 10 years in the future.
When considering a tattoo, think of my neighbor who now carries an everyday reminder of the person he no longer is. One of the characteristics of wisdom taught in the Bible is carefully weighing the future consequence of our decisions (Proverbs 14:15; 22:3; 27:12).
Is there an easier way to find self-awareness and feel good about ourselves than with a tattoo?
We may say, “I’m doing this for me, not to express myself to others,” but is there something else we could do that doesn’t involve permanently inking our skin? How about journaling, prayer, reflection, meditation, taking up a hobby? The deepest realizations about ourselves are not going to come from something etched onto our skin, but rather what we etch into our minds and hearts.
Will we still want a tattoo when we are professional adults?
People seem to experiment with tattoos most often when they are young: in high school, college or their mid-20s. These are times with limited responsibilities and few consequences for drastic alterations to personal appearance. Life changes. I used to wear a necklace as a teenager and well into my 20s. Now I don’t; because I’ve grown out of it.
Do a lot of 30-year-olds get tattoos? Maybe. The better question might be, Do a lot of 30-year-old successful professionals get tattoos? Hmm. Unlike a necklace, a tattoo is a little harder to grow out of; it doesn’t just snap off and get thrown in the garbage once it’s outgrown. That goes for covered and hidden tattoos, as well as the ones out there for all to see. There are still workplaces that have policies about tattoos.
Here are some other situations to consider:
- How will your future fiancé or spouse feel about the tattoo? Remember, right now your body is your own, but if you get married someday—that changes.
- When people get a glance at a tattoo, they will form a quick opinion about you. This may seem unfair, but consider that’s just the way it is, and you will have to live with those snap judgments for the rest of your life.
To get inked, or not to get inked
After asking and answering these questions, does it seem like tattoos are still worth it? Tattooing a picture, symbol or phrase into our skin will definitely change how we view ourselves and how others view us. It will definitely mark how we are at a certain point in time in our lives, which may not reflect who we are years in the future.
With so many consequences to consider, better alternatives available to express ourselves and sound biblical guidance against them, the best question to ask may be, “Why would I even want to get one?” rather than “Should I get one?”
For more insight on this topic, read “Tattoos: What Does the Bible Say?”