Modesty

Dear Reader,

I have been reading a lot of debates online among Christian women about modesty (read some here and here if you are brave and have 5 hours to kill). They can get quite heated. They tend to focus on specifics–Is it okay to wear tank tops? Should we only wear skirts? How long do those skirts have to be?

I have to say, after reading it all, I think I may just not be into modesty. I hope I am not immodest. I do think about what I wear, both for appropriateness to the situation and for how much it may show. But I am not sure I am into modest dress for modesty’s sake.

Occasionally in these discussions, the reasons for modesty are discussed. But mostly they seem lost in the shuffle of the practical details. So what are the reasons for modesty? It seems to be mainly not to incite undue lust in the males around us. And this is a good idea overall. We should not be dressing in a provocative way that leads otherwise normal males astray. But the truth is males are very visual. And at certain ages and times in life it seems like just being around a female is a stumbling block. We should not be deliberately provocative. But we also can’t take responsibility for their sin. Ultimately, their lust is their issue.

And in my mind there is a lot of room between being provocative and being modest. I do not think I dress in a provocative way. First, I would not be comfortable dressing in such a way (think cleavage, bottom hanging out, undergarments showing). Second, I think my husband would probably point it out to me (and discourage it, at least in public) if I were.

But yesterday I wore a tank top and shorts. The big event on my schedule was my kids’ tennis classes. I play around with them while they wait for their turns. They seemed like perfectly appropriate clothes to me. I would not wear this outfit to church. I probably would not wear it if the big event for the day were a doctor’s appointment (we have lots of those) because I am not sure it would convey the serious maternal image I want in those circumstances. I guess my point is context makes a big difference. Body type also makes a big difference (there are some things I cannot wear that others probably could). As does culture. What was appropriate 50 or 100 years ago need not bind us today. If I went to Africa standards would be different. I suspect that even within the US today there are many different standards based on where you live.

The real issue though is a matter of attitude. When I dress, I do not particularly consider modesty. But I hope that in my behavior I do act in an appropriate manner towards the men in my life. I think my tank top and shorts were fine for playing tennis with my kids. If I wore them to meet with a man (not my husband obviously) and then touched him or leaned over him a lot, that would not be appropriate. Touching, leaning over, flirting, even just hanging out with other males too much to my mind is immodest behavior. It is not just about inciting lust though there is that. It is about giving ideas that you might be interested in an inappropriate relationship. It is about giving the man or others the wrong idea. Flirtatious behavior, even if it is meant harmlessly, often leads to more than one expects.

So even more than our dress, I think we need to give attention to our behavior and attitudes. Are we giving any men in our lives mixed signals? Are we (married women) dressing to attract interest or attention from men other than our husbands? This is usually about our own vanity, the need to feel wanted still.

Mostly I just think we need to recognize that there are not a lot of clear commands from Scripture on this (some think there are; but if they were clear we wouldn’t be having all these arguments would we?). We need to leave a lot of leeway for others convictions, and look to our own dress without judging the choices of others.

Nebby

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3 responses to this post.

  1. Mostly I just think we need to recognize that there are not a lot of clear commands from Scripture on this (some think there are; but if they were clear we wouldn’t be having all these arguments would we?). We need to leave a lot of leeway for others convictions, and look to our own dress without judging the choices of others.

    Amen, Nebby. My point exactly!

    Reply

  2. I think you have a very well balanced and wise approach!

    Giving a thought to what I project is my key – and as you point out, more than clothing choices are part of that projection. Manner counts for a lot!

    I like to look nice as much as any woman. I try to be both age and occassion approprate and still look nice. What I don’t want is to appear that I’m – shopping.

    Thank you for this thoughtful post.

    Peace.

    Reply

  3. I LOVE YOUR POST! it is really balanced and in peace with what I realized just today.

    Now I’m sure I will no longer aim to wear ancle-length flowing skirts all the time. I’m going to stick to a sort of ‘something-in-between’ version of modesty.

    And I think it would be wise first of all to be modest in my BEHAVIOR (i like THIS article http://www.ehow.com/how_2121386_be-modest.html) as you said, not only towards men, but in general.

    I’ve come to realize being TOO focused on modesty is actually a BAD THING. So I personally need to stick to some BASIC principles and RELAX.

    It’s better to pray more (for others, for example) than to be CONSTANTLY preoccupied with the way I look.

    Reply

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