The concept of “hurting your witness” is something I was taught very early as a child.
What it means is that you need to be careful of what you do today, because it may hurt your ability to witness to someone else later. Remember that one of the main things for evangelicals is trying to “witness” to other people in order to save them from Hell, so this is a really big deal.
But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect, keeping a clear conscience, so that those who speak maliciously against your good behavior in Christ may be ashamed of their slander.1 Peter 3:15-16 (NIV)
I was taught that this is the reason that Baptists don’t drink, by the way. If I was seen with a beer in my hand today, someone might not believe me when I go to witness to them later. Also, if I’m drunk, I’m not prepared to give an answer, so I’m in violation of this verse.
This stopped me from doing a lot of things.
I’m transgender, and transitioning is not a quick (or easy) process. When you’re first starting out, there’s some awkward times, to be sure. They do get easier over time, but it’s scary and hard at first. Just the thought of running into someone from the church while in clothing that they wouldn’t have expected me in seemed horrific.
The concept of “hurting my witness” stopped me from even trying to do anything transition-related for decades.