The Booming Tatooing & De-Tattooing Businesses

Artistic tattoo on lower leg
Do not disturb: Regret in the making (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

I saw a news item today about how the growing popularity of tattoos is creating another boom — in the tattoo removal business. Apparently 1 out of 6 people regret their tattoos, but decisions don’t get undone that easily.

Here’s the link if you’d like to watch the news program, for yourself: “Youthful Tattoos Turn Into Grown-Up Regrets” from WMUR in New Hampshire.

(And in celebrity news, which you don’t get much here, actor Mark Wahlberg apparently had a tattoo removed recently as an example for his kids, according to the Montreal Gazette, even making them watch the painful procedure so they wouldn’t repeat the mistake he made in getting one. Hopefully the news item about Kelsey Grammer at the bottom of the article in the link is a mistake. But enough of that…)

The news segment spurred a few thoughts on the matter. The Bible is clear on tattooing in Leviticus 19:28, but that isn’t a standard too many give credence to anymore, and what a shame that this is so. Tattooist Don Ed Hardy apparently once said, “A tattoo is an affirmation: that this body is yours to have and to enjoy while you’re here. Nobody else can control what you do with it.” And yet there is Someone who claims the right to tell you what to do with your body: “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

Personally, I think the growing popularity of tattoos reflects a number of things (and feel free to share your own thoughts about it below) and that among them is a general coarsening of the culture and a devaluing of human value — in the sense that we reflect the very image of God, which is something that should be respected. I think it also reflects a growing fascination with those things that represent deviancy and a rejection of standards, as well as an appeal to be considered part of the culture that tattooing represents. (And, as I believe some have mentioned on my blog post about the preponderance of skull pictures on children’s t-shirts and other clothing items, the “tattoo culture” is spreading in other, not-directly-tattoo-related ways.)

At the same time, we all come from different backgrounds with a lot of baggage collected in our past before we “learned Christ” (cf. Eph. 4:20). One major difference between some mistakes and others is that some are forever visible while others, often more vile or spiritually damaging, leave no outward signs at all. After creating a list including such “sinner categories” as idolaters, fornicators, homosexuals, adulterers, thieves, drunkards, and extortioners in his letter to the Corinthians, Paul says to them, “such were some of you. But you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus and by the Spirit of our God” (1 Cor. 6:11). While none of my sins have left a permanent record on the outside of my flesh, I certainly feel the scars of some sins on the inside, making me all the more thankful both that forgiveness is available for every sin repented of and that the power of God’s Spirit is available to us that we may learn to make no new scars!

My brother’s “tats” may be on the outside and mine on the inside, but thank God we can both leave all they represent behind.

9 thoughts on “The Booming Tatooing & De-Tattooing Businesses

  1. The following is an article written by one of the most famous tattoo artists in the world:

    Why I Closed My Tattoo Studio

    by Joe Capobianco

    [EDIT: Thanks, Steve, for the article! I’ve cut the text from here due to size and copyright concerns, but I would love to link to it if you have an original source. I know that Capobianco is concerned about copyright infringement (his art/tattoo work is copied by many others), but if there is an original out there to which I could link, I’d be happy to add that here. Also, it strikes me as odd that he’s closed down his shop and says he’s stopped tattooing, because I saw an article on the HuffPost just three weeks ago in which he said he was still tattooing and enjoying it and he both has a current shop (Hope Gallery Tattoo) and currently serves as a judge on a tattoo-based reality program. Are you sure he is the original author of the article? If so and you can get a link I can post, we’ll put it here. 🙂 Thanks for writing in! — WGS]

  2. Glory T.

    So true…many adults do regret tattoos that they got when younger. I am one of them. I obtained 2 before my full conversion and baptism. I wish I did not have them now. I like your last sentence, too….we all have things inside (and some things that are visible on the outside to overcome). I use Leviticus 19v28 to comment when someone comments to me about “Ooh, what is your tattoo?” Those not in the church like to ask about them but to me, I would rather not discuss them since they are dumb to me (now;). Wished I was smarter in my teen years! Now, I can use them as a lesson to tell others, by asking them did you know tattoos are talked about in the Bible? Most peopel do NOT know that tattoos are talked about Biblically!

  3. obeirne

    I have never understood why anybody would want to mutilate their bodies through tatooing, but then I suppose those who get tatoos think they are enhancing their appearance for some reason. At first with many tatoos the colours are vibrant and attractive, yet later become dull and unsightly. But what is it that drives people to take such a drastic step? Is it that they lack a feeling of self-worth or that they are outwardly unattractive to others? Is there a spiritual dimension to their need to adorn their bodies with what they perceive as a thing of beauty or their need to make a statement of the individuality of their core values and aspirations? Or is their a deeper force within their sub-consciousness that is striving for an expression of a spiritual dimension that is lacking in their lives? My mother had a phrase she expressed when she saw somebody doing something she considered odd or starnge. She would say, ” There’s a want on them “. She was never aware of the tatooing fetish, but I am sure she would have applied those words to this particular phenomenon and she would have been right. There is a want on them, but what is it?

  4. John Wheeler (Johanan Rakkav)

    > “And yet there is Someone who claims the right to tell you what to do with your body…”

    Exactly. But guess who’s also out there to make sure humanity goes to extremes on even this matter of what one does with the body: abject slavery to the most foolish of outward demands (from self-flagellation to Moloch worship) on the one hand and total insistence on self-dominion on the other (which might, in fact, be the hidden agenda behind the aforementioned self-flagellation and Moloch worship, given what Paul said about “will worship” in Colossians).

  5. Obeirne: Sorry about that! I didn’t mean to post both, and when I first saw them I realized that one was a “rewrite” of the other. But when I got to clicking, I didn’t even notice I had clicked on both of them. 🙂 I’ve deleted one of them, and thanks for your patience! And the phrase “There’s a want on them” — how interesting! I’ve never heard that before.

  6. This reminds me of a joke I heard a long time ago about someone getting a tattoo of a yellow canary when they were young. Yet when they were older, their grandkids kept pestering them to show them Big Bird.

    We were at the Feast in the Dells a couple years ago and stayed at a resort with an indoor water park. I didn’t grow up a Pollyanna, but even I was shocked that you could just about discern who was there for the Feast by their un-tattooed skin. Nearly everyone else at adult age had them, and usually not just one or two. I guess I didn’t realize just how widespread it had gotten. (At least in the narrow demographic of indoor water park vacationers…) 🙂

  7. Glory T.

    More and more though, we will see people coming into the church that have had tattoos before they were converted. Our elder has a tattoo (he was in the Navy) and a few of the members have tattoos from before they were in the church. We had one older woman come to church covered in tattoos. She is one of the nicest people I have met & was baptized last year. She kept her first Passover a couple of weeks ago. Yes, getting a tattoo is a sin. But once the person changes, they are a new person. Like Mr Smith said, some sins are obvious on the outside, but others are hidden. We all have sin, and especially in our past before conversion. I hope we can all look past the tattoos that someone had before they came into the church;)! Honestly I got the 2 I have because I lived in Hollywood, and stupidly thought since everyone else was getting one, I should, too. My sister was really pressuring me-I should have stood up to her but I did not. I regret it. I got 2 tattoos at the wage of 15 when I was living basically on the streets, I came from a broken home, foster homes, abuse, etc. My sister is covered with tats from head to toe. God called me when I was 17 and I was baptized at 19. I am now 36 & hopefully a very faithful member in God’s church. I pretty much ignore the tats on my skin and sometimes wear a bandaid on my ankle to cover it. I hope it is not a stumbling block for others in the church. It is a past sin, I would like to forget. We should though openly love brethren who may come into the church with tattoos. They can and will change with God’s help! But the tattoos are always there (unless they have the money to get them removed-my family puts homeschooling our kids & being on one income as more importance right now). I really liked the article about tattoos that came out in the Living News about a year ago. It was very well written! 🙂 I recommend reading it!

  8. My father was a career Navy man with tatoos up and down both arms. I suppose it was part of the Navy culture at the time. He did tell me one time not to get them.

  9. Norbert

    From what I understand, having watched a few shows of LA Ink, the people there seem to be getting tattoos because there is a spiritual meaning to them. That is what I found interesting about the show. From reminding them of a dearly loved deceased relative to a dead pet or some other important and relevant thing in their life.

    I do believe that for a certain segment of those who live within a tattoo culture, the question isn’t about whether tattooing is right or wrong in God’s eyes. Their reasons have much less to do with the superficial subjects of peer pressure or making their bodies more attractive and those who wish to argue the subject on that level, would more than likely be viewed as not having a worthwhile understanding. In my view this is something that should have some serious consideration when meeting an unbeliever whose tattoos are important to them.

    The question is more about how to be permanently reminded of those important things in their life, is there a way to mark their body which won’t disappear in the hearts and minds?

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