Tattoos seem to be on the rise in our American culture. Through mere observation, anyone can see that people are getting inked at a much higher rate than previous generations. Self-proclaimed Christians seem to be practicing this type of body art at the same pace as those who are not believers. Perhaps even adopting inking at a faster rate than the culture around them.

I am no stranger to the tattoo gun on a personal level. Two images have been permanently inked into my skin. One of the realities of being young is that we don’t think about the long term impact of the decisions we make. This truth becomes self-evident because many young adults live as if the decisions they make today will not impact them tomorrow. Young people think this way because they lack wisdom, which comes from life experiences.

With this thought in mind, here is the advice I would give to my younger self before sitting in my first tattoo studio.

  • Do not get a tattoo for self-identity. As a believer, I would have told myself that a tattoo is not a form of identity for others to see. The tattoo should not be a means of telling others about who I am: a rebel, “cool,” macho, handsome, or any other descriptive term. Christians need to remember that we have been given a new identity in Christ (cf. Galatians 3:25-29). Therefore, we don’t need a tattoo to define who we are because Jesus has told us that we are sons and daughters of God through him.
  • Think about your future career. For a believer, what is the Lord leading you to do with your life for his glory and the advancement of his Kingdom? I would inform my younger self that certain professions require attire that represents the standards of the guild. The military exists as a prime example. Certain types of tattoos and their locations on the body could hinder a person from joining a military organization. Thus, take time to think about your future career before getting inked.
  • Think about your future family. Children want to be like their parents when they are young, and will go above and beyond their parents when they are older. In other words, if you have a tattoo, your children might not only want one to be like you, but also decide to get 10 more than you. As a future parents, you will lead your family by example, and a tattoo could potentially lead your future children to a more permissive tattooing lifestyle. Of course, my younger self never thought about the impact that my decisions might have on my future family.
  • Do not get a tattoo on a whim. Many regrets in life seem to come from hasty decisions, and getting a tattoo is not a decision you should make on an impulse. Whatever image you put on your body will be there permanently. Due to the permanence of this practice, take time to think about your design. Asks questions like, “Does it have significant meaning?” Or “Is this something I want to see every day for the rest of my life?” Perhaps get a design and think about it for predetermined time period (maybe a year?), and return to the drawing and see if you still like it after all that time. The point is to realize that tattoos are permanent. Younger me, really think through it before you do it.
  • Think wisely about tattoo placement. Think wisely about where you put the ink on your skin. Do you want it located in a place that you can cover and uncover it with ease or do you want it somewhere that it can be constantly visible? The placement of a tattoo can be received differently by the people who see it. To put it another way, a tattoo on your face will be received differently than a tattoo on your shoulder. Also, think about how your ink will fade over time and how your skin shifts throughout the different phases of life. Tattoo placement is of critical importance, younger me.

I am sure I could give more advice to my younger self who was about to sit in a tattoo chair, but these 5 guidelines would have been sufficient to think about before this permanent act happened. Notice that I have remained morally neutral on the subject of getting inked. The morality of tattoos was intentionally not addressed due to the purpose of this post. Maybe I will provide a theology of tattoos later, but until then, here is some advice that young people should think about before getting tattooed.

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