October 21, 2008

The Spiritual Lessons of Locs, Or Dreads, Or Dreadlocks

Here's a view of a couple of strands of hair.

I am now growing my second set of locs. There are some deep spiritual applications in the process. I am not Rasta, so I am not growing true organic dreadlocks. I twist my hair, style it, condition it, etc. I understand there is a large debate in the locked community about how this hairstyle is labeled. Some insist this twisty style be called dreadlocks, others insist it is OK to use the abbreviated term locs, others use the term dreads, African locks, etc.

There are a lot of myths surrounding this style. It's untrue you can't wash your hair if you have locs. It's untrue you must add all types of "stuff" (peanut butter, heavy gels and creams, etc.) to facilitate the locking of the hair. I have viewed youtube videos by those who claim to "make dreads" by using some pretty bizarre methods. Anyone with a camera and internet access can put their views out there. If you have kinky, African-type hair, you can cleanly, safely, and comfortably grow locs without using the aforementioned extreme methods.

Having said that, here are some lessons of locs. I knew much of this prior to growing locs, but having to work the principles on a personal and daily basis makes a huge difference.

1. What you do stays with you for a long time. If you make a large mistake, surgery may be required to correct your error. Those wiser than I have consistently taught unless you want unattractive build-up inside of your locs, always use clear, opaque, and easily rinsed away shampoos and conditioners. Natural ingredients are best.

I think the spiritual application is pretty clear on this one. What you do becomes a part of you. Make informed, careful choices. You can probably undo your mistake, but it is going to hurt.

2. Don't ignore regular maintenance and cleansing. Things can get out of hand very easily if you ignore the "small stuff." This hairstyle reminds me of a tapestry, custom-woven. No two are the same, and each is beautiful in its own way. Still, regardless of whether you go to a salon for a loctitian's services or are a do-it-yourselfer (like me), keep up a regular routine to insure the health of your hair.

Lesson 2: Consistency is the key to long term success. Starting off well isn't enough; day-by-day follow up keeps you on target. Here, we can refer to prayer, Bible reading, church and personal worship, positive thinking, killing negativity or redirecting it, regular meditation, etc. It only works if you keep at it. Also, if you decide something really is a bad idea and not worth your time, you can only be sure of your decision if you have stuck with your method long enough to prove to yourself it doesn't work.

3. We often pay much too much attention to outward appearances. This is a style which some refer to as having its "ugly stage." I'm not sure about that, but I know the style emerges and changes as the hair grows and is styled and shaped.

Lesson 3: If I want to understand someone, I am responsible for not making too many judgments based on outer appearance. It is just too easy to "fix a face or body" to look a certain way. What's going on inside of that person takes longer to discern and observe. If I want to have an honest experience with someone, I've got to take the time to know what's going on with their "interior person." And, they've got to be willing to share. If I don't want to invest the time, I should gracefully move on. Just as you can't "make dreads", you can't force knowledge or insight.

You can buy loc extensions to create "a look", but you can't buy understanding or empathy or concern. The real thing always takes more time.


J. Gabrielle said...

this post is from several months ago, but how lovely to find another Christian with locs...i too am on my second set. i'm interested to know your are you also of African descent with kinky hair? either way, i wish you well and i will pray for your hair...and your walk.

deborah evans said...

Yes, I am the happily-nappy bearer of African textured, very kinky hair. Thank you for your comments. Blessings to you on your journey.

J. Gabrielle said...

Thanks, lol. I couldn't tell. I look forward to reading more of your blog...

Semora Carter said...

So thank you for this post :) much luck on your spiritual journey. I wanted to know is locs a religion hairstyle. Are afrikan christians not into having locs? I have locs and they just locked up. Im excited for my journey as well.

Deborah Evans said...

Glad you are enjoying your journey, Semora! Thanks for your comments.

Locs are not necessarily a religious hairstyle. Locs have been worn by people from various cultures for centuries, possibly for thousands of years.

In our time, many people associate locs with Rastafarians or with Bob Marley, but it's very limiting and actually incorrect to think of locs only in this way.

In my brief research, I have read that Vikings, Senegalese (coastal West African) holy men, and (East) Indian holy men have worn locs and had locs associated with their histories.

From my point of view, Christians wear locs just as we wear braids, TWAs, weaves, perms, and everything else. It's our hair, not our souls.

Wishing you much happiness with your locs!

Anonymous said...

Hi Debra, I am currently trying to change my life, (seeking Jesus), my question is, how do I know if Im going about it in the right way, I read our daily bread, every day, Questions are frequently running through my mind in reference to living right. I research all these things that surface in my mind to find the answers, but a part of me feels like I should be doing more.It all seems so overwhelming to me. Is there something more I should be doing? Any guidance you can give me would be greatly appreciated. Thank you

Deborah Evans said...

Hi Anonymous. Thanks for writing.

I will make my best effort to answer your question. How you should best proceed is based on a number of factors, such as what country or region of the world you live in, if you have easy access to a Bible or a church, etc.

Assuming you live in a part of the world where you can get a Bible in your own language and you do not have to hide your search for Jesus, I am making the following suggestions. If my assumptions are wrong, post another comment and I will share another point of view.

1) My first suggestion is that you find a Bible translation you can easily read and understand and that you begin spending 10 to 15 minutes a day reading the New Testament. Any of the first four books of the New Testament (known as the Gospels) would be good starting places.

2) My second suggestion is that you spend 3-5 minutes a day (at a time most convenient for you, when you have time undisturbed and alone) in prayer. What topics should you pray about? I suggest: ask God to direct your search for Him, ask God to help you understand the Bible readings, ask God to reveal Himself clearly, ask God to help you find Christians who can help you and share the journey with you. Ask God to help you understand sin and help you reject sin.

3) My third suggestion is you accept that finding and following Jesus is based more on faith than on actions. Good actions will follow faith. Ask God to increase and shape your faith so that you can know and understand what it means to be a Christian.

You may be surprised that I did not include "go out and find a church" in these first suggestions. I do believe(if you live in a country where you can safely find a church to join) you should join a church. However, my belief is because so many churches today no longer teach and preach the Bible as the word of God, you need to have some time invested in reading and understanding the New Testament before you begin a search for a church.

A lot of this can be overwhelming. I completely understand why you would say that. I recommend that you go slowly, read the Bible and pray daily, and rely upon God to guide your steps in this process. This is not something you have to do on your own. As you take little steps, God will guide and direct you and bring into your life the people and situations you need to grow in the faith and grow closer to Him.

Wishing you all the best as you seek and find God!

Deborah Evans said...

Some questions regarding how often (and even if) someone who is growing locs should wash their hair have come to my attention, so I am using this space to answer.

Please remember: locs are hair and they are attached to your scalp, grow naturally from your body, and are therefore a part of your body.

Like any part of your body, hair should be regularly washed. Why do people question this when discussions of locs come into the picture?

I am writing based on the spiritual elements of growing locs. Honesty, therefore, is a big part of what I will write here. Locs are beautiful, and often potential loc wearers are in a hurry to obtain or achieve a certain "look" and then disregard even the most basic elements of personal grooming in order to achieve that "look." This is not a good idea. Also, it is not honest because it is not sustainable.

For the same reason, some stylists will suggest you should not wash your hair for weeks or even months at a time in order not to "disturb" the process locing your hair.

Please listen to me when I say this: do not begin something in a certain manner unless you are willing and able to maintain that approach.

If any part of your body is going to be clean and give honor to the Creator, you must wash it regularly. Imagine what your face or skin would look like if you avoided washing it for weeks or months. Your scalp is skin, and in order to be healthy, you must wash it regularly. I doubt you would substitute Sea Breeze or some other product for soap when washing your face or body. The same principle applies to your scalp and hair.

Having a certain "look" while your head, scalp, and hair are dirty is not a demonstration of wisdom or spirituality.

The honesty of washing your body and hair regularly are reflective of the spiritual truth that we live in an environment that adds dirt, odors, debris, and pollution to our bodies. These things must be removed regularly if we are to remain well and healthy.

We read Scriptures, pray, and practice obedience to the Word of God because these things create a cleansing effect in our hearts and our spirits.

In the same way, we wash our bodies --each part-- because we understand the necessity of regular cleansing. If we are too old, too young, or too infirm to do this for ourselves, someone does it for us. Failure to do this is considered neglect, and is a crime in many places.

Along these same lines, let us understand we must wash our hair whether we are locing our hair or not locing our hair. Depending upon our hair type, the locs may unravel and require some attention (unless you are freeforming or wearing organic locs). There are many sites and books describing the various methods of beginning and growing locs, along with tips based on your hair type, lifestyle and employment or school situation, and your personal preferences. Look at these sources and find an approach that works for you.

There is no such thing as "neglect" dreads. You may find this phrase in certain places, but the concept is not true nor is it possible. Any part of your body that is not cared for will become dirty, diseased, and definitely offensive to those around you. Hopefully, these things are not consistent with why you choose to wear locs.

I hope this answers the questions around the issue of should you wash your locs before they reach a certain stage, or do locs have to be dirty in order to develop well.

Probably, somewhere deep inside you already knew the answer. You have to wash your entire body frequently and regularly in order to be well and healthy and that includes the head and scalp and hair.

Be blessed, and enjoy your locs!