Before You Send That Snapchat Selfie

My darling,

Can I call you that? I know we don't really know each other, but I write this letter to you with so much love in my heart. You are my fellow sister in Christ. We are the daughters of the King of Kings and although we only know each other from afar, I still cherish your heart like I do my biological sisters.

You may wonder what this letter is all about. It's a bit awkward - at least for me - to even talk about it, because I don't want this on the Internet since I know you probably intended this to only be seen by my brother. Please don't be angry with him, but he accidentally sent your selfie in our family group (he meant to send a picture of a certificate he received in school, but accidentally sent two pictures instead of one). You're probably freaking out slightly wondering what photo. You're wearing a sports bra and you took a photo in the mirror, flipping off the camera. The flash in the mirror covers most of your face so technically you can't even see it's you, but eventually I figured out who it was - and so did the rest of my family.

So, here we are. The words wouldn't let me go, so I put it in this open letter on the internet. I hope you don't mind, but I know you're not the only one in this situation and there are hundreds of photos even more revealing sent over Snapchat every day.

I hope you'll read this letter (which is bound to be super long), with an open heart. To make it a bit easier to read, I made a list (I love lists, don't you!!?).

So, here are five reasons you shouldn't send that seductive selfie:

1. You don't know where that photo will end up.

Okay, so this whole situation is the obvious example of this. You sent a photo to one boy (I'm assuming it's just one). Who accidentally shared it with his entire family (and I hope that is it, but knowing teenage boys, he likely showed it to his friends too - intentionally). I've seen you at church a few times and you seem like a lovely girl, but now when I see you, all I can see is you in the nude. I get that this is much as you'd probably see in a swimming suit, but that's a whole different conversation. All I know is that I'm having issues getting over seeing you as more than this photo, so I can't imagine the struggle my single and married brothers face who also saw this photo. They have to sit behind you in church and yet they've seen you practically naked. We've talked about this often - yes, men have their own responsibility to control their lusts, but as women, we also have a responsibility to intentionally clothe ourselves in modesty.

I won't even go into the whole revenge website thing. Disgruntled ex-boyfriends and bratty teenagers and college kids are posting nude photos and even sex videos online and on social media channels out of spite and amusement. I know you think he's different, that he may even love you, but once you send something into cyberspace, you can never ever take it back. And if that photo is posted on one of these sites, you can file a lawsuit to get it removed but it's an expensive and long legal battle with no guarantees of success. So, when you go for that job interview in a few years and your future boss googles you? Well, I'll let you figure out how you would react to seeing a job candidate half nude (or completely nude).

For nothing is secret that will not be revealed, nor anything hidden that will not be known and come to light. -Luke 8:17

Oh, and you know how Snapchat is known for the whole see an image for 10 seconds and it forever disappears? Well, technically, that isn't true. First, there is the screenshot feature that gives the recipient free use of your photo. But even more so, photos are saved and downloaded to the Snapchat servers for an indefinite period of time and may be used by the company and its business partners (think advertisers) in whatever way they see fit. Don't believe me? Read their privacy policy and terms and conditions (this article summarizes the relevant parts). So, really, you don't truly know who else is seeing (and saving!) those "sexy" and flirty selfies of yours. In a world of hacking and media leaks, anything in cyberspace is fair game to go public.

Therefore whatever you have spoken in the dark will be heard in the light, and what you have spoken in the ear in inner rooms will be proclaimed on the housetops. -Luke 12:3

2. If you're a minor, this is a friendly legal disclaimer for you

At one point in my legal career, I had the chance to work on child pornography cases. That's when I learned what an ugly world there is out there and how many innocent children - especially young women - get caught up unwillingly and unknowingly in the distribution of child pornography. People share nude photos and videos of their daughters, sisters, friends, and even just photos pulled of the internet for the purposes of pornography every day. You may think that as a believer from a Christian home and only talking to Christian friends, you're safe, but as much as it breaks my heart to tell you this: even Christians are prone to fall to the sin of sexual immorality and pornography is right at the top of that list (just read these statistics if you don't believe me).

But it's not even minors. My point for minors is that if you're a minor and he is of age and you're sharing nude photos with him, that is a statutory crime that is a crime just for the fact that you are a minor and he is an adult. Even if you're dating and in love. There are laws that protect minors, and even if you meant to share that naked selfie with him, if that photo gets into the hands of law enforcement (thanks to parental controls or just by accident), there is bound to be legal trouble.

3. Would you want your dad or pastor to see this photo? What about Jesus?

Think of a person in your life who you greatly admire and respect. Maybe it's your dad or your pastor. It could also be a teacher or even your best friend or mentor/boss. Someone who you want to respect you back. If you wouldn't send that photo to them, then you shouldn't send it to that boy either, because well, see reason number 1 above.

But, let's not forget the most important person: Jesus.

For God will bring every work into judgement, including every secret thing, whether good or evil. -Ecclesiastes 12:14

One day, we will all face our creator and have a long chat about how we spent this one short life we've been given. I'm assuming that if we have to answer for every word, we'll also have to explain every social media post and photo as well (see Matthew 12:36-37).

And there is no creature hidden from His sight, but all things are naked and open to the eyes of Him to whom we must give account. -Hebrews 4:13

..in the day when God will judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ, according to my [Paul's] gospel. -Romans 2:16

So, if you're like my 7-year-old brother who just answers "I don't care" to any reprimand, then I hope you at least care what Jesus thinks of you. And if your view of Him is only that of a merciful Father full of grace, go re-read the chapters in the Gospels - towards the end - and picture Him dying on the cross for your sin. Including the sin of sexual immorality (which is a sin - see 1 Corinthians 6:18).

But fornication and all uncleanness or covetousness, let it not even be named among you, as is fitting for saints. -Ephesians 5:3

4. Your body is for your husband's eyes alone.

Nevertheless, because of sexual immorality, let each man have his own wife, and let each woman have her own husband. Let the husband render to his wife the affection due her, and likewise also the wife to her husband. The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. - 1 Corinthians 7:2-4

In a society that puts dating and sex on a pedestal - I mean everyone does it, right? - a man is bound to see a woman's naked body dozens of times before he gets married - even Christian men. It wasn't always so - it used to be that the only naked woman a man saw was either a prostitute's if he went to a brothel or his own wife's after he got hitched. But, today you only have to turn on the TV or log into a social media site to see nude bodies everywhere.

Marriage is honorable among all, and the bed undefiled; but fornicators and adultery God will judge. -Hebrews 13:4

If you need a measuring line and you're single, ask yourself this: if you were married in this moment, would you still send this photo to that guy? I sure hope the answer is no. But, too often, single girls use husband or boyfriend hunting as an excuse to push the boundaries - we think it's okay to play the field until you settle down, and then you'll stop. First, that will be a long and awkward conversation as you explain to your new husband that there are maybe like a dozen or even a hundred guys who may have your semi-nude selfie on their phones. Second, when life gets busy and the honeymoon phase wears off, you may feel neglected that he's no longer lavishing you in attention, and you're likely to go right back to where you once found attention and "love" - behind a computer screen with men that aren't your husband.

But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart. -Matthew 5:28

5. You're so much more than a body or a pretty face.

I could write to you about this with perfect logic and pleading arguments until Kingdom come. But if those semi-nude or seductive selfies are rooted in your search for acceptance of your beauty and worth from the attention of a guy, then my words will only annoy or even anger you. Because accepting my words may mean no more compliments or attention from the guys you've been messaging. In fact, I can almost guarantee that as soon as you stop sending him photos of yourself in a bikini or kissy faces, he will disappear faster than a shooting star.

As for you? Until you shift your focus fully to Christ and find your worth in Him alone - until you decide to guard your dignity and virtue with all your might - you'll spend a lifetime chasing beauty and man's attention. You may succeed for awhile, but if his infatuation with you was only for your beauty or your body, eventually his attention will turn to someone younger and prettier. He'll ask another girl to marry him or maybe he will ask you to marry him. But, over the course of your lifetime you'll spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on beauty products and procedures, years of your life will be accumulated in front of the mirror, you'll probably struggle with an eating disorder at some point, and in the end, your body will still betray you with age and there will always be someone prettier and younger than you. I know that may sound harsh, but beauty is fleeting and charm is deceptive.

Charm is deceitful and beauty is passing, but a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised. -Proverbs 31:30

The truth is, I get it. I do. My dad told me all these things growing up. So did people in the church and even Christian speakers and bloggers. But there were still too many times I put on the short skirt or manipulated my appearance in hopes of attracting a guy's attention.

Maybe it's because no one ever sat me down and with love in their eyes and told me I had worth and that my worth had nothing at all to do with my outward appearance or whether a boy chose me. That there are Godly men who notice inner beauty even if the world thinks you dress like a grandma or don't seem to "care" about your appearance because you don't mold your body to fit the world's standards.

So, I want to be that person for you. I don't know if what I say will have any impact on you, but you are in my prayers and in my heart.

In the film, Little Women, there is a scene where Marmee cradles her eldest daughter, Meg, on her bed. Meg had just returned from a ball where she'd tried to impress the popular girls and potential suitors by wearing a revealing gown, drinking excessively, and acting in a way that didn't match her deeper values. At home, even though she felt some self-loathing, Meg also said she liked her moment of attention. I love Marmee's reply:

"I only care what you think of yourself. If you feel your value lies in being merely decorative, I fear that someday you might find yourself believing that's all that you really are. Time erodes all such beauty, but what it cannot diminish is the wonderful workings of your mind. Your humor, your kindness, and your moral courage. These are things I cherish so in you."

You're so much more than a pretty body, love. I know that with your youth in full bloom, you want to show off those curves and those lips. You like the attention and the compliments. You like looking better than the girl next to you. Even if you never admit these things aloud.

But there is a great big world out there that needs more than another pretty face: it needs strong, intelligent, kind, caring women who make this world a better place. Not another semi-nude selfie floating around cyberspace.

Yelena Bosovik