Ciara’s Advice to #LevelUp is Not a Form of Respectability Politics But a Lesson on Self-Love

“He who finds a wife finds a good thing, and obtains favor from the Lord.”

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#LevelUp. Don’t Settle.

A post shared by Ciara (@ciara) on

On Saturday, Ciara posted a video of Pastor John Gray’s interpretation of this Scripture. In the video clip, a quote from his sermon and one of its main takeaways were captioned: “Too many women want to be married but you’re walking in the spirit of girlfriend.” Her cosign with the hashtag “Level Up,” resulted in a frenzy that positioned her at the center of an unofficial Twitter debate: Was Ciara in a position to have posted a video with this message? Was she living in a glass house and throwing stones?

Half of the Twitter world criticized Ciara for sharing the content with a tone that could be interpreted as judgmental despite her share of failed relationships. Others believed that her learned experiences deemed her seasoned and capable of offering advice in area in which she once fell short. My view: Ciara’s intentions were pure. It’s her delivery that resulted in any misinterpretation.

For starters, Pastor Gray’s analysis of Proverbs 18:22 was in some ways, obscure. “You’re not a wife when I marry you,” he says. “You’re a wife when I find you. You become my wife when I marry you but a wife is not the presence of a ring, its the presence of your character.” He goes on to say that rather than walking in the spirit of a girlfriend, women must carry themselves as if they’re already taken to find husbands who take them seriously, not boys who just play games.

But, what does it mean to walk in the spirit of a girlfriend? What exactly does it consist of? Other than a ring, which he says does not define a wife, what really separates the spirit and behavior of a wife versus that of a girlfriend? The truth is: this part of Gray’s sermon can be reappropriated to mean different things for different people. So, who is to say Ciara was advocating respectability politics and not just advocating the level up?

Despite her experience of practicing celibacy before marriage, Ciara’s view of acting as a wife may have had nothing to with how women should carry themselves in the physical sense. Celibacy was probably just the physical channel that SHE used to obtain the spiritual mentality she needed to level up. Her understanding of the “spirit of a girlfriend” could have had nothing to do with the actual title, but rather the value in which women should view themselves. It could’ve referred to those actions of actively seeking love or approval in the wrong ways or with the wrong people. It could’ve alluded to those who focus more on appeasing their partners than they do working on themselves. Her definition of the “spirit of a wife,” at least in societal standards, could have just meant reaching a certain level of security in oneself , which is not necessarily obtained through being a wife, but instead through self love. A love that heals wounds, prepares you to be who God created you to be, and preps you to receive (not tarnish) love once it  comes your way. A love, might I mention, that is also necessary for men themselves to obtain before they reach the level of security at which they’re ready to seek the wife they will someday find.

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A post shared by Ciara (@ciara) on

Ciara eventually followed up with a post that did what her previous one did not do and probably should have done: it clarified her intent with a clear message that is less likely to be misconstrued. She had no obligation to respond. For all we know it could be damage control, but the message she said she’s trying to relay is an important one that shouldn’t be overlooked. It’s a lesson both men and women aught to embrace and that’s the practice of self love!


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