I found myself with a little extra spending money, and decided that my wardrobe was in bad need of an update. Having the same clothes at 27 that one possessed at 22 is just not cool. I imagined what kind of clothes I would want for the new hip, cool, mid-late twenty-something wardrobe. I immediately (don’t laugh) thought about what pant style makes my legs look good.
I recently wrote an article about how we understand beauty differently as we walk through freedom. It didn’t hit me until this moment that we probably understand modesty differently as well.
beauty is defined as how you view yourself, whereas modesty is how you present yourself to others.
For a woman recovering from a lust addiction, it is possible to view herself in a healthy way, and to understand that she is beautiful. It is also possible that the same woman, who believes and understands her beauty, displays that in a way that emphasizes her sexuality.
Then, here’s the fun part, she feels guilty about that, so she dresses in a potato sack. Then she feels ugly, which makes her feel depressed. To feel better, she turns back to masturbation or porn.
Well, that didn’t work so well.
This journey of freedom involves a lot of healing, and places that need fixing. Our understanding of modesty is one of those areas. To truly understand modesty, you need to ask yourself two questions.
Why is modesty important?
What does it mean to be modest?
First, why is modesty important? Let me tell you why it is not important.
Modesty is not for the sake of the men in your life.
I’ll say it again. Your primary, most important, number one reason for modesty is not to protect your brothers in Christ. If you make that your primary reason, you are going to get frustrated, because guys like to think about sex. Preferably, we want them to think about sex with women, which means if you are a woman, there’s a chance the man you’re standing by may be thinking about having sex with you. (Encouraging, right?)
I wrote about this not long after it happened, but a couple of years ago a male friend of mine blurted out that he had been “viewing my body as nothing more than a woman’s body and had been entertaining lustful fantasies about my body.” Yes, I was offended. Why? Because I was trying to keep that from happening. I was doing everything I could to keep that from happening, and here it had just happened.
If your objective in being modest is that no man ever ever ever ever thinks about having sex with you, then you need to find a cave.
You need to lock yourself away and alienate yourself from all male contact. Never be seen in public. Does that give men an excuse to lust after you? No, that issue is between them and their Lord. Does it give you permission to dress like a tramp? Not if you want men to stop treating you like one. That being said, though, modesty still is not about the men.
Modesty is about you.
That makes it sound selfish, but it truly isn’t. Modesty stems from a healthy understanding of the power of your body as a woman and the desire to reserve that power for one person (your husband). So many of us don’t understand the beauty of our body as women. As one of my speaker friends says,
“No one ever got fired for looking at pictures of rainbows online.”
Men are captivated by us. That’s why porn is such a problem for them. That’s why it pulls on them so much. They love our bodies. They were made to love our bodies. We are the only thing they lust after, that they long for, the only thing they will risk life and integrity to sneak around to get more of. Porn teaches them that we are easy, personless. Pardon my language, but porn essentially reduces us to breasts and vaginas… am I right? You know I’m right.
Here’s our problem: we women don’t get it either. We look at the Victoria Secret models. We look at the movies, read the books, read the magazines, and guess what they reduce us to… abs and butts. Right?
The magazines tell us to have flat abs, a sexy butt, and killer thighs. Male society tells us to be vaginas and breasts. We’ve just been reduced to a collection of body parts, and if you notice, they are all from the neck down.
But we are more than a collection of body parts, we are people created in the image of God.
If you want a man to get past your body and see you, you need to cover that body. Do not complain about men only wanting you for your body when that is the first and only thing they see! Beyond that, though, know who you are. Believe in your God-given beauty enough to know that you don’t need that affirmation from him.
Honestly, some of us wear clothes and our thought is, “He’ll notice my _______ in this” and then we spend the rest of our day thinking about how good our _______ looks in the outfit we are wearing. We watch his eyes waiting for that moment he locks in and notices our ________. Then, what do we do? When he can’t stop looking at our ____________, we get annoyed. Right?
So, if anything, immodesty is selfish. It is a selfish use of the beauty of our bodies in order to secure male affirmation. Modesty on the other hand, is a reservation of our bodies, because we understand just how powerful, precious and beautiful we are, and those men… well, they are going to need to get through us before they can have our bodies.
But modesty is more than your body.
Modesty encompasses more than your clothes. You can wear beautiful, fashionable clothes without looking like a porn star. Maybe your style is classy, or maybe it is more rocker chick, maybe it’s the young professional look, or hippy casual.
I’m rather eclectic. My day job requires some degree of professionalism, so I’m usually in a clean, crisp skirt/blouse ensemble. Today it was skirt, blouse and jacket with burgundy ballet flats. When I got home, I traded the skirt in for a pair of faded jeans, lost the jacket and put on some gray rocker chic gloves.
I love that little edge and pop of fun in the middle of my rather professional classy-elegance style. It’s just who I am. My personality is normally deep, reflective and serious (professional) but I have a wild side. Since skydiving isn’t necessarily an option for my every day life, I just paint my nails psycho colors. Our style can express us.
Modesty goes beyond your style.
It goes all the way down to your actions, your words, even your thoughts. Think about it, if you are thinking sexually about a man, what do you do? If you are hungering for his attention, you flirt to get it, and to keep it. If your actions lead him on, if your text messages are suggestive, if you laugh at his dirty jokes, if you tell them yourself, your dress code does you no good whatsoever. None.
Understand who you are in Christ. Realize how beautiful you are to Him. See yourself as a creation of His, as a masterpiece of His, as a woman who possesses power over men. Modesty is empowering because it covers a great mystery, and it is beautiful because it does not abuse that power.
Practice the art of being modest today- in dress, in word, in action, in spirit. Let your soul be what shines through.