Shorn Hair

I get a lot of inquries about cutting one’s hair, especially from women who have sojourned with or joined sects that follow a strict Biblical interpretation of appearance. What is shorn hair? “Shorn” means it is cut close to the scalp, or very short so that the shape of the head shows. “Shorn” is the past tense of “to shear”, and shearing is what we do to sheep. We take off most of the fleece, not quite to the skin, because poor sheep need some protection from the sun and insects; shearing follows the contours of the sheep’s body.

Do we mean when we interpret the admonition from Paul that women should not cut their hair at all? No. Trimming is not shearing. Paul meant that women should have long hair, as a covering when they are naked, and to appear as women and not to try to pass as men. He called for women to honour their feminity by having long hair, revealed only to their husbands, and that they weren’t to cut it so short that they could dispense with covering. Covering protected the hair as well as protecting the modesty of a woman; her hair was not an object of beauty to be admired by all. (And those who think this is ridiculous, that uncovered hair can’t be immodest – well, what do all the product advertisements tell us? That we should have silky, shiny, sexy hair, that men will be attracted to our beautiful uncovered hair and other women will be envious. That sounds immodest and vain to me.)

Must a woman’s hair be uncut? I don’t think we should treat the teaching as a superstition. Some women will need to cut their hair for health or safety reasons. Some women will find their hair easier to care for if the ends are trimmed neatly. I believe the covering is more important than the state of the natural growth of hair underneath, since that is personal and between a woman and her husband. My own hair is uncut, not even trimmed, and past my waist. It is a goodly length of hair. I find it manageable.

I do not cut my hair because this is my personal sacrifice to God, that my hair will be as natural as possible and without any ornamentation. Most women my age cut their hair above their shoulders and colour it. My hair is completely natural, and I am not concerned about the colour or how good it looks. My husband has always been satisfied with this, and prefers the natural look of my long hair to anything styled or coloured. In this way, I am as God made me, without any anxiety as to how others view me. My air is covered in public, and through most of the day in the home.

In Plain dress, uncut hair and headcovering, I have no anxiety about whether my appearance is pleasing.

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Shorn Hair

Well, this question often comes up in the term searches, so I’ll just answer it quickly.

Is cutting your hair in any manner the same as shorn hair?

“Shearing” means to cut something very short. If I shear sheep, I put one blade of the sheep shears against the skin and cut as close as I can without nicking the animal. (I sometimes fail at that, and their lovely white delicate skin gets a nip, which is why there is Blu-Kote.)

“Shorn” is the old past tense of “to shear.” We say “sheared” now, but “shorn” is still correct if archaic.

“Shorn” hair is cut close to the skin, like a man’s military haircut.

Why was this wrong for women? Women were to embody their virtue of being women, as God made them. There may be an implication of peace in this, that women were the guardians of peace in the community. They were protectors of their children and hearth, but were not to fight and risk losing their lives, or their children would not be nursed or fed.

Those who did not go to war did not cut their hair short. Women, priests, Jewish men 2000 years ago; all exempt from military service, and this was indicated by long hair. Orthodox priests in the most traditional churches still do not cut their hair or beards. Some of them achieve impressive masses of locks!

For women, it was also a sign of modesty, that even if she were caught naked, she would be covered by her hair as by a veil or cloak. It suggests that Jewish and Christian women regarded modesty as a virtue missing amongst their pagan neighbours.

So should Christian women cut their hair short? Obviously, I don’t. I don’t cut mine at all. I would say the reasonable interpretation for women who are not bound to a rule or ordnung is that they may trim their hair, they may even cut it fairly short such as shoulder length, but it should always be modest and feminine, and accompanied by appropriate modesty of the body. We are not objects on display, after all; we are honoured members of the body of Christ, daughters of the king, children of God.