|Despite any previous experiences you may have had,|
modesty has nothing to do with shame
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|
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
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.
|It takes a strong, capable woman to exhibit the character|
of self-control, humility, and godliness.
"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.
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.