Tattoos, piercings, employment, and peanut butter

TattooOne of the topics Mr. Sena and I got to cover in our Teen Bible Study Ministerial Tag-Team Extravaganza at the Feast was the matter of getting tattoos. I’ve mentioned the subject here on the blog before, I think (EDIT: Sure enough: here), and the topic was brought up by the teens’ own questions, as was every topic in the Bible Study.

So, I had that study in mind when I saw this letter to the editor over at, highlighted by James Taranto on his Best of the Web feature for the WSJ, with the heading “Tattoos, piercings not signs of one’s skills, work ethic” (click to read the letter yourself).

The point of the letter’s author is that tattoos and obnoxious piercings do not indicate, in his opinion, a lack of work skills or work ethic and that they should not be considered in any way in any employment situation. In particular, he was denied employment at a call center and gets “weird looks” because of his “tattoos and stretched lobes.” (Didn’t he modify his outward appearance because, among other things, he wanted people to notice? Anyway…) He equates judging someone because of their tattoos and piercings with judging someone solely based on their race.

Please do read his argument. However, I would have to strenuously disagree with him. The fact that God disapproves of tattooing aside (though, in reality, such a consideration is never truly “aside,” is it?), is there any logical reason an employer might consider tattoos and piercings a negative for hiring, even for a “phone” job? Absolutely. An employer has every right to consider a potential employees level of personal discernment and his ability to make good judgments. And coming to an interview all “tatted up” and bearing earlobes with holes one could pass a baked ham through communicates something about the individual’s personal judgment. It would be no different if a man came in looking for a job shirtless, wearing one of his shoes on his head, and with his pants freshly dipped in  a vat of peanut butter. The rest of the interview might go swimmingly, but his outward appearance is an expression of his personal choices and judgment, and I wouldn’t hire that guy. Even though I really, really like peanut butter.

Of course, that makes it completely different from race. One’s race does not reflect on his judgment. I didn’t choose to be white, therefore it would be wrong for someone to judge me as if my race were a choice I made. (Though I admit that I do enjoy a good Barry Manilow song.) But if I choose to file my teeth down so that I look like a lizard, and choose to have my tongue surgically split so that it looks forked, and I choose to have my skin tattooed all over so that I look like I have scales like an iguana, all of that is a choice. And the world is free to look at that and judge my level of discernment and my ability to make good judgments. (Frankly, I probably invited a bit of judgment about my discernment with my Barry Manilow admission, didn’t I? Thought so…)

Does that mean that a potential employer might miss out on a few good employees? Probably. For instance, I know some people who have gotten tattoos and piercings before they knew any better (I’m just thankful that most of my sinful impulses or youthful indiscretions didn’t leave outward hallmarks, dumb as my own were), and their tatted state does not reflect their current levels of personal judgment or wisdom. And Mr. Peanut Butter Pants the Shirtless Shoe-Headed Wonder might have been the best car salesman in town. His interviewer will never know. But you have to call them as you see them sometimes and decide as best you can on the facts and evidence you have at hand.

If Mr. Letter Writer did not want people questioning his ability to make good judgment calls, he should consider the judgment calls he is broadcasting to the world through his appearance. If he wants others to know that he has good personal judgment, then he should be prepared to defend his tatting/piercing choices. And if he doesn’t think personal judgment has anything to do with being a good employee, he isn’t thinking like an employer.

15 thoughts on “Tattoos, piercings, employment, and peanut butter

  1. And if he doesn’t think personal judgment has anything to do with being a good employee, he isn’t thinking like an employer.

    Or, to be perfectly honest, he isn’t thinking like a potential employee, at least not in the mainstream business world.

  2. JDC3

    Now you’ve done it! Dragging peanut butter, one of the staples of life, into the fray. Maybe his jar leaked…

  3. TeapotTempest

    I am comforted that my preference for chunky peanut butter will have no negative effect on my application for employment at the The National Radio Astronomy Observatory in Green Bank, West Virginia, where they are studying the trend in wobble of the earth due to uneven formation of ice at the poles. You know, of course, that it’s only a matter of time before the wobble gets to bad that it causes the earth’s mantle to slip and the poles to shift one more time. They didn’t seem to mind employees with long hair either. (I’m thinking of building an igloo on the back half acre to store my chunky peanut butter).

  4. Don Wheatley

    Mr. Herbert W. Armstrong warned about peanuts and I try to avoid them and corn and only eat hard boiled egg WHITES. Jack LaLane ate 8 hard-boiled egg whites per day and lived until he was 96 and worked out up to the day or day before he died.

    From Mr. Armstrong’s “Autobiography” Volume I, Chapter 4:

    “…He explained that I had a somewhat torpid liver that would not readily assimilate an excess of eggs, corn, or peanuts. Some people seem to be able to eat eggs every morning for breakfast without harm. I found, from this osteopath’s advice and subsequent experience, that my liver is apparently different. I can eat eggs occasionally without harm — but I must avoid eating them regularly. I have found that lemon juice seems to be the antidote. Accordingly, ever since that experience in Franklin, Pennsylvania, I have eaten sparingly of eggs, and taken generously of lemon juice. If I may seem to have some fair degree of energy, vitality, and physical stamina, it is largely due to being careful about diet, among other things.
    I mention this because some of our readers may be suffering from the same inert sluggishness, feeling dopey, and drowsy a good deal of the time, caused by the same kind of liver. If so, try eliminating the eggs, corn and peanuts for a while, and start drinking lemon juice every morning before breakfast (without sugar).”


    Don W.

  5. Kathy Hall

    In the book “Mandela’s Way: Fifteen Lessons on Life, Love and Courage”, one of Nelson Mandela’s life lessons was “Look the Part”. He said “We strive to judge others by the content of their character, but sometimes the best way to help others see your character is by how you appear.” He encouraged his readers to consider their impressions and the impact it may have on others. It takes time to learn what a person’s character is like. That comes through watching their actions, how they speak and how they present themselves and as you said, the choices they make. When an employer is hiring someone, they have to condense all that into a very short period of time and make a judgment call. Clearly, the outward appearance is not who we are, but it does, no matter how much anyone wishes to deny it, tell people something about us.

  6. Don: Howdy! I’m only going to comment on what you’ve said once and then ensure that the thread goes no further, because your comment is way off topic for a post about tattoos and I don’t tolerate topic hijacking much, even if unintended. If you’d like to talk about the evils of peanuts, feel free and do that on a post about peanuts. If you want to talk about tattoos and getting a job, then come on back!

    Before I go, though, I will note that Mr. Armstrong did not “warn about peanuts” for everyone, even in the quote you have provided. He merely said that, in his experience, some people with livers like his might have a harder time digesting them, while others may be just fine. Also, it is interesting that you choose to eat only egg whites when Mr. Armstrong generally taught us to eat whole foods without man’s artificial separations and not to try to “improve” on God’s design by breaking food up into components in order to ignore some. Interesting.

    Kathy: Good observation! That’s a good quote from Mandela, and your words are just plain common sense. Hopefully the gentleman who wrote the letter will hear similar advice. In a world like ours where jobs are drying up, there will be more and more people to choose from. First impressions are important — sometimes they are the only thing that allows you to follow up with a second impression.

  7. Patsy Cordery

    An interesting topic, and also interesting answers. Nobody so far has, though, mentioned the offense it causes to other other people. Most of the tattoos I have seen have had absolutely no meaning (except to the people who have adorned themselves with them), and the amount of body covered by them is sometimes extraordinary. I have often said to my husband “Fancy waking up seeing that every morning.” I can’t think of anything more revolting, and if I was a lawmaker, I would pass a law banning them to be shown in public – just as it is a law (I am sure that I read recently somewhere), banning prayer in public. Roll on the day when Christ returns and everything is ‘made new’.

    The only time I saw a tattoo that I would, even then, not deem to be appropriate, but at least had a legitimate reason for having it done, was on a woman that had a terrible burn on her front shoulder. She had had a small butterfly tattooed over the burn which was not offensive to the eye, and probably made her feel better about her dis-figuration.

  8. Don Wheatley

    Many have a kind of a “tattoo” or “mark”, if you will, in their right hands and in their foreheads right now and do not even realize it. And in this case, only those who have these “tattoos” will be able to hold a job when the Beast Power comes on the scene and enforces Revelation 13:16-17.

    Revelation 13:
    16 And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads:
    17 And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.


    Don W.

  9. It’s sort of strange. I was actually thinking about this this morning about how getting a tattoo is nothing like skin color or ethnicity. It seems the general trend these days is to compare things that can be chosen to those that cannot, thus making false comparisons.

  10. Don Wheatley

    >because your comment is way off topic for a post about tattoos and I don’t tolerate topic hijacking much, even if unintended.

    With this comment, I am not trying to violate your wish to not go off-topic but rather would just like to correct the post that I made in order to avoid confusion for some.

    I stated how I avoided the things that Mr. Armstrong suggested but I would like to take back the comment about egg whites and Jack LaLanne. Simply try all that Mr. Armstrong suggested if you think you have the same condition he had or are experiencing the same symptoms he mentioned. Thanks…


    Don W.

  11. Thanks, Mr. Wheatley, for your gracious clarification. I hope I was not too sharp in my own comment about going too far off topic and I apologize if I was, but it’s something I try to keep a handle on, however inconsistently I may do so. You can ask poor John Wheeler about it, as I’ve probably “course adjusted” him more than anyone! 🙂

    Again, thanks for being so gracious. And I do agree with you: whether his approach was for everyone or not, it’s hard to argue with Mr. LaLanne’s results — they certainly worked for him!

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