Too often people assume that nuns are women who couldn’t “get a guy” or who broke up with someone they thought was “the one” and was left with no alternative. Nuns are also stereotyped as sexually repressed, dowdy women who lack passion and care only about piety, cleanliness and order.

On the contrary …

Women do not become nuns because they had a bad relationship or because they don’t like sexual activity/energy or because they “can’t get a guy”. Nuns are women who would have made wonderful lovers, wives, and mothers. Still we choose to respond to God’s call to a different way of life, a way of life that is just as full and natural as single or married life.

I think I’ve pretty much covered this one already, but it deserves being said again: As a rule, nuns are not sexually repressed. (for more, read “How do nuns deal with sexual urges?“)

Nuns are not required by their Rule of Life (aka Constitutions), the Church, or anyone else to be dowdy. Frugal and modest? Absolutely. But this doesn’t mean we have to be bland or cover up our personality. I’ve seen nuns in some of the most plain, inexpensive habits and outfits but they shine and sparkle nonetheless. Nuns are not dowdy, generic women but women who are confident in themselves, in their God, and in their chosen way of life.

Nuns are some of the most passionate people I’ve ever known. Whether they are in prayer, wrangling executives on a school board, opening clinics in rural Brazil, protesting the death penalty, or catechizing children and adults, nuns are filled with passion for God, for others, and for life.

Piety, cleanliness, and order are good things, but they aren’t the only or even the main things that characterize us as nuns. How about these? Compassion, prayerfulness, humor, strength, gentleness, confidence, insight, forgiveness, openness, faithfulness … the list goes on. Many of these things are virtues that we all strive for, sometimes not quite reaching, but striving nonetheless.

So next time you see or hear one of these stereotypes, speak up and set the record straight.