Monday, September 29, 2014

Why the big deal about MODESTY?

Despite any previous experiences you may have had,
modesty has nothing to do with shame
Oh no! Not another blog post about... don't say it... please... Modesty. There, it's out. I wouldn't blame you if you sighed in exasperation and didn't read another word. I mean, how many blogs are dedicated to this subject? Yet there's apparently a need to rehash it all. Not to mention argue about it. Personally, I'm sick of it.

 It's not that complicated. Not if you read your Bible and have an ounce of humility, it isn't.

 For many people, the word "modesty" is associated with Shame. Especially with church, camp, or school dress codes. Real Modesty doesn't equal shame. In fact, by definition, it means the opposite. But if people read their Bibles, they'd know that.

 Modesty is not a code. Modesty is an attitude. 
(and an attitude, I might add, cannot be legislated, but more on that later.)

Usually, I'd start out with the Bible verses on the subject, but I think it fitting to post Noah Webster's original 1828 definition of the word Modesty, since nobody seems to have a concept of what it is. (don't worry, I'll get to the Bible verses too)

MOD'ESTY, noun [Latin modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.

2. modesty as an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence. Thus we say, the petitioner urged his claims with modesty; the speaker addressed the audience with modesty

3. Moderation; decency.

A modest attitude is more beautiful that anything on the
4. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.

 I know, a lot of big words in there, but essentially, modesty is... moderate, humble, unobtrusive, and chaste. Antonyms include... extremity (being extreme), arrogance, presumption, audacity, impudence, and disgrace. (if you are not familiar with these adjectives, I highly suggest looking them up here)

 Hmm, so basically, being modest is just being a good person.

 From this point on, when you hear the dreaded word "modest" or "modesty," instead of thinking about clothing or shame or sexuality, think about an honorable, non-assuming person that is a delight to be around. Go ahead and practice this new word-association by saying  that word in your head a couple times. "Modest." It might take a while to get used to.

 How does this tie in to how one dresses?
 First of all, I used a gender-neutral reference there, because modesty is not just for women, just like lust is not just a problem for men. I'm not pulling a feminist-card here, because it's a fact that men are more generally visually stimulated than women, who are generally more emotionally stimulated. That is the reason why modest apparel is most often made into a woman's deal and not a man's.

 Wearing your attitude:
 When one shops for clothing, they're usually shopping to achieve a certain look, or create a certain impression. Shopping for your executive office job? You want to look sharp, professional, and powerful. This is called dressing for Impression. (There is also dressing for Function, which is a different topic). When dressing for impression, one has a certain attitude they desire to exude.
 Take a walk down any given street and you can guess a lot about someone you pass by how they dress. This is not judging them, it's simply observing. Clothing does not define who someone is, but it is one of the very best ways to convey who you are on the inside. It is such a powerful indicator that
celebrities and politicians hire professional Image Consultants to tell them what to wear, because that is how people will view them. And a first-impression is very, very valuable because it is nearly irreversible.

 You may not be a celebrity or have a social agenda, but you will still meet - or simply pass by - many people that you will be exhibiting your true self to. It may or may not matter to you personally if you have been falsely represented. But, if you are a Christian, your body is now the temple of the Holy Spirit. You are no longer the only one who is being represented by yourself. He is. That realization kind of took my breathe away.
 Suddenly modesty is a big deal. But not the way people are making it out to be. How does the world see your attitude? Is it presumptuous, disgraceful, arrogant, or impudent? I might add stubborn or mule-like to the list. If the answer to any of those adjectives is yes, then I'd say you have a lot more to worry about than what you wear.

 It's not that modest apparel is completely unimportant. It's that inner modesty - your attitude - is infinitely more important. However, how you present yourself is how people see your attitude, or at least at first.

 That's why I find all this bickering on the subject so repulsive and trivial. It's usually done in a spirit of pride, which is the exact opposite of what real modesty is. But the biggest reason I hate so much dispute is that is distracts from and sometimes eclipses what Christians should really be focus on: Christ and the gospel. Do you really think that God is looking down upon His church and says to Himself "little Susie is a brat who disrespects authority and refuses to love her neighbor, but at least her skirts are cut below the knee." I don't know if God talks to Himself, or if He is sarcastic, but that's what I picture Him thinking.

Show how much you respect yourself by being modest.
It takes a strong, capable woman to exhibit the character
of self-control, humility, and godliness.
 But what exactly does God say about modesty? Actually - depending on the translation - the word modest is only mentioned twice in the Bible. I'll mention one of them in this blog post, but feel free to look them all up here.

 "likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control... but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works." 1 Timothy 2:9-10 ESVA

I like this version as well, which puts modesty in the context of prayer. Why is prayer important? Because prayer is what keeps us humble and centered. "Likewise, the women, when they pray, should be dressed modestly and sensibly in respectable attire, not with elaborate hairstyles and gold jewelry, or pearls, or expensive clothes. Rather, they should adorn themselves with what is appropriate for women who claim to be worshiping God, namely, good deeds." CJB

 Ladies, dress respectably, sensibly, and with self-control. This does NOT mean you have to wear boxy, shapeless clothing. Remember that God created your body and it is nothing to be ashamed of! In fact, it is beautiful. Your body is a beautiful gift. But as with any gift given from God, there is a huge responsibility to handle it correctly. Don't hide it away in shame! But don't misrepresent it, or invite shame upon it.

 You're not responsible for how others see you. But you are responsible for presenting yourself respectably. And sometimes in this world that is all you can do.

 Sometimes, men will be men, and by that I mean that his lust is not a woman's responsibility to keep in check, because we can't, nor are we called to. But there is a big difference between a man lusting,
and his lust being invited.

 Men, I'm not letting you off the hook on this. It is your responsibility to keep your mind pure. Nuff said.

 What about dress code?
 Just as good parents will set rules for their children to follow in hopes of them adopting the principles behind them, sometimes I think it might be necessary to set boundaries. However, it should be done in the spirit of helpfulness, not shamefulness. Say, pool party for the church youth-group? Better to avoid that setting all together, but at least bring plain t-shirts for people to cover up suits with, if necessary. But for heaven's sake, don't make a big deal out of it! It's an outreach, not a righteousness contest. But know this: regulating what someone wears will not cure the problem of lust!

The heart of the matter is... the heart.

 It was always so. Lust is a problem with the heart rather than a problem with the eyes (and I'm not just speaking to men here). Modesty is a matter of the heart rather than that of appearance.
 When King David repented of his sin of open adultery, he did not pass the blame on to his mistress, saying "if she hadn't been bathing within my sight I wouldn't have stumbled." Nor did he pass it off as the norm, saying "it's just how guy's are wired. Any other fellow would've done the same thing." No, he humbled himself before God and cried out in his lowliness "create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a right spirit within me." Psalm 51:10 ESV. This attitude of modesty is something we can all learn from. Come to an understanding of who you are before God, and suddenly, clothes take a backseat in your mind. Live with an awareness of His presence, and you will present yourself differently. Grow in virtue and your attitude will dictate how you dress. There's a reason that appearance isn't mentioned much in the Bible. Because if you're reading the Word for what it's worth, that will come naturally.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

The Attitude Behind Photo Editing

 Photo Editing is so prevalent that apps exist to transform your face and add makeup even before the photo is taken. We're all aware that it's so unrealistic that most adds look absolutely nothing like the original shoot. All that deception and vanity has left a bitter taste in my mouth for photo editing. But is there a time and a place for it? Perhaps so. There's nothing wrong with wanting a picture to look its best, just so long as it accurately portrays the person. And sometimes pictures just don't do the person justice, or can capture annoying little features that otherwise wouldn't be noticed in "real life."
 Above you see, side-by-side, a before and after of a quick webcam pic of me. I'm not wearing much more makeup than I would on any given day - foundation, grey eye shadow, black eyeliner, and mascara - although some days I'll only wear foundation, or none.
 My process was simple: upload the picture to, and increased exposure. I literally just made it look more sunny. This doesn't change anything about me, it simply adjusts the environment. Then, I must admit, I used the "liquify" feature just to add just a touch of volume to the top of my hair. (I'm so ashamed of my conceit!) Then I cropped it to make a balanced photo. And that's all folks! Some simple, non-invasive adjustments can bring out the best in your photograph. And it only took 3-5 minutes.
 Another thing I could've done as well would  to erase the background, as it's distracting from the focal point, but I refuse to spend that much time on a snapshot of me.
 So where does one draw the line? I think that the attitude one brings into the editing makes a huge difference. Is it to make a picture a better picture, or to see how many "likes" you can get on your profile pic? That consideration alone makes a huge difference.
 Also, if you're changing something that is naturally part of you, I'd reconsider. I wouldn't use the "liquify" app to elongate my neck, or slim my body, or the "clone" app to erase my widows peak on my forehead. Those features are naturally part of who I am. I feel that the finished edit accurately portrays who I am.
 So next time you decide to edit a photo of you or a friend, look to lightly enhance and balance instead of change. Because the point of every surface self-improvement should be to enhance, not to over-haul.
 But, admittedly, I'm not very good at photography or editing. What are some tips you'd like to share?

Monday, September 1, 2014

The ALS Ice Water Challenge - the Good, the Bad, and our Nation's Response

 The nation is being hit with a wave of cold, icy water. And it's altogether deliberate. Yes, you already know what I'm referring to: the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge, to raise awareness and support for research in order to find a cure for Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis, a disease of the nervous system, which refutes the sufferer's brain signals to the rest of his muscles. This leads to paralysis, and eventually heart failure (the heart is a muscle). Needless to say, it is a terrible disease, and if people dumping freezing water over their heads in order to post the video to facebook helps in any way, I'm all for it. But the question is, does dumping freezing water over your head and posting it to facebook really help? Remember, the challenge is, do it OR donate. While some people take the challenge as well as donate, the publicity is really what it's about, raising $100 Million, as of August 29st (see source). All too often the publicity is all one really thinks about, giving many self-absorbed youngsters an excuse to strip down to their swimsuits, drench themselves for social media, and create a little network of friends to do the same. This being done, they are not obligated to donate. However, the motive doesn't matter as long as those with ALS get help, right? They are getting help, aren't they? The ALSA (Amyotrophic Lateral Sclerosis Association) is taking steps to find a cure. Steps, yes, but in my opinion - both moral and practical - not the right ones. Let me explain:
 I'm always very leery of any organization asking for my money. With the amount of medical and charitable organizations in the US alone, and the amount of money they acquire every year, you'd think that every problem in the world would be eradicated. Whether that is my ignorance speaking, or simply my cynical nature, I cannot say, but nonetheless I believe it is one's duty to find out what their resources are actually going toward. For example, many "non-profit" groups make their founders into millionaires because the proceeds collected goes straight into whomever's pocket he sees fit. While I'm sure that's not the case with ALSA, the method of research used may be a waste of time and human life. In fact, I'm absolutely sure it is both.
 Many medical research groups - including the ALSA - use the highly controversial Embryonic Stem Cell Research. It's been a sore spot in the news, and some states have banned the practice. What's the big deal?!
 Stem Cell Research takes stem cells from the base of one's brain, which can be experimented on in hopes of being transfused into someone else's body to heal and regenerate their own cells. It has taken remarkable strides and while still experimental, has already saved lives! To master Stem Cell Transfusion would be holy grail of medical science!
 Embryonic Stem Cell Research is similar, except it uses stem cells from frozen embryos created specifically for science, killing them in the process; duplicating children in labs in order to harvest their cells. The unavoidable question has been raised: "Is it morally right to kill in order to cure?" Many Christians say "absolutely not!" Because of this reaction, they've been categorized as morons constrained by outdated morality who would rather blast Bible verses from atop their holy mountain than advance science, turning a blind eye to those in need. Is this true? Does "thou shall not commit murder" really apply to advancing our ability to heal? Oh, God forbid it. (irony)
 Actually, contrary to Adult Stem Cell Research, Embryonic Stem Cell Research has proven Zero Percent
The sad reality is that he may not have needed to wait
- and the embryo would not have needed to die - if
adult stem cell research had been used.
effective. ZERO PERCENT. Not one case of embryonic stem cells has proven effective. Countless lives have been lost, millions - perhaps billions - of dollars have been wasted, our nation becomes sicker by the hour, and we wallow in a sea of blood and failure rather than waltz grandly into the future of health, free from the ancient chains of morality.
 Putting all morality aside, just for a second, would you donate to, or even humor, an organization that takes such fruitless measures? I won't try to tell you what your response should be. Just ponder that question.
 Coming back to the ethics of the matter, do you believe that it is right to manufacture children in their most vulnerable stage in order to use that life for science, even for the possibility of a cure for ALS, Alzheimer, or Cancer? Even an adult who is already deceased cannot be an organ donor without familial consent, or seeing to it himself to register beforehand. Human rights and the constitution would see to it that these children would at least have a shot at living. But perhaps we've outgrown such base beliefs as "rights" and "life." (that was sarcastic)
 But what else is there to do?
 Adult stem cell research has proven to have potential, and does no bodily harm to the donor, since they are highly regenerative. Also, one might look elsewhere, such as healing from the natural world (non-medical). Natural medicines and treatments, though unverified by Governmental organizations, have made well many sufferers, including cancer patients. It is uncertain whether there is a cure or not, so I believe all options should be tested.
 All cures aside, let's consider what else we can do. It seems to be our nation's mark to do anything possible to avoid making time to help someone with their own hands. We'd rather give a part of our paycheck or douse ourselves in ice water than take the Bible's advice and visit those in need (James 1:27). In fact, out of the 5 million American Alzheimer's sufferers, 800,000 of them live alone. Many sites exist with a big red "donate" button, but just as much as these people need a cure, they need care. Our nation's response is to skirt the real issue, and that is to love one another. Giving money may be one way to love those in need, supporting science may very well be another, and maybe going viral for something silly you did will raise awareness, but how will you know unless you take personal initiative. To Care as well as Cure. And I can't say that embryonic stem cell research can make either one of those claims.

Other articles:

More information on stem cell research (from secular view):