Modest is hottest?

Can we talk about modesty?

No, not about how women need to cover up their legs and chest to keep men from stumbling. Not about how women need to “respect themselves” by covering up (really, what does that even mean?). Not even about how there’s a huge double standard and how we don’t talk about male modesty as much and how women are visual too (though, we are. Seriously, folks)

No, let’s talk about what modesty really is.

And let’s start with a t-shirt that I saw at a Christian book store a few years ago:

I hate to break it to you, folk, but this shirt isn’t modest. I don’t care if you buy it three sizes too big and you can drop a quarter through it and it passes the three finger rule (yeah, Baptist school girl. I know all the modesty tests).

It’s not modest.

Why?

Because modesty isn’t a dress standard. Modesty is humility. 

I cannot recall modesty in the Bible ever being linked to sexuality. Unless braided hair and gold were the boobs of the first century, I get the idea that passages on modesty were directed toward rich women who were bragging about their social status.

Biblical passages about modesty are calling women to the humility of Jesus. Biblical passages about modesty are reminding women of what is really important– not how well you dress, but how well you love.

This t-shirt, however, is sending the message, “My clothing contains more fabric in all the ‘right’ places, and therefore, I am more sexually attractive than you.”

This shirt is self-promotion, self-righteousness. This shirt, with hilarious irony, becomes the opposite of the very thing that it claims to promote. This shirt unintentionally parodies what the issue of modesty has become.

Under the guise of “not causing our brothers in Christ to stumble,” today’s so-called modesty is just another way to attract men sexually. Rather than showing it all off, we “leave some for the imagination.”  Both approaches achieve the same result.

Even when promoted with the best of intentions, even when the women dressing modestly truly care about their brothers in Christ and not just about being “hottest,” today’s so-called modesty is silly.

Why?

Because it’s okay for humans to be sexually attracted to other humans.

Seriously.

That’s natural. That’s just part of our biological makeup as sexual creatures. We’re wired to want sex. Covering up our bodies doesn’t change biology, nor should it.

Just as modesty is not about sexuality,  lust is also not about sexuality. Lust is about a lack of self-control. Lust is about over-indulging in natural desires. Lust is about consuming objects or people in an addictive manner that prevents the person lusting from truly seeing value in the object of lust.

Modesty is great. Women should be modest. Men should be modest. But somewhere along the line, modesty lost it’s meaning.

Modesty isn’t something that advertises itself on a t-shirt.

Modesty is not a leash that keeps men from getting into trouble.

Modesty is a meek and quiet Christ-like spirit that changes the world with love. 

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  • http://www.gatebeautiful.ca Bekka

    Loving this. Fantastic. And I wholeheartedly agree.

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      I’m glad I’m not the only one.

  • http://gravatar.com/beingnadia Natasha

    Thumbs definitely up! I have been ranting about this in my mind for ages. Glad you read my mind and wrote it out. ;)

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      I have been too! I’ve been waiting for someone to express my feelings, but never heard anyone say these things so I finally just let the rant out of my mind. haha

  • http://stitchinguptheseams.wordpress.com Stitch

    YES. Thank you. You really have a way of voicing what I think about a topic but that I always have a hard time putting into words. So you might get a lot of traffic from me as I share many of your posts with people saying, “THIS. This is what I think. She just says it better than me.”

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      I had a really hard time putting it into words, too, for some reason. We’ve just gotten the issue so backwards.

  • Jessica

    So much good stuff in this post. I don’t have anything to add but an amen. :)

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      well thank ya!

  • Tami M

    *standing ovation*

    Love this Sarah.

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      aw, shucks. :P

  • Jeanette

    YES YES YES

  • http://pauldebaufer.wordpress.com Paul DeBaufer

    Excellent post, Sarah.

    I had never considered modesty as humility before. I like that idea.

    We are sexual beings and we are physically attracted to others. Like you I see nothing wrong with this. It’s what we do with it. Do I go overboard and make you into an object robbing you of your humanity and Imago Dei, if I do then I sin. If I objectify another that is my failing. But I think that we can appreciate beauty, physical attractiveness while still honoring the person.

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      Agreed! There is a HUGE difference between objectifying and appreciating!

      I always think of it like beer. A person who, like my boyfriend, is a beer enthusiast, enjoys the taste of each beer, can tell the different between different kinds, and appreciates the quality of the brew. An alcoholic, on the other hand, consumes beer after beer, with no regard to quality.

      Obviously, humans aren’t beer. But I think we can appreciate the beauty in one another without selfishly consuming one another.

      • Natasha

        I like your example! (Even though I think beer would be better put back in the horse, so to speak. lol) ;)

        “But I think we can appreciate the beauty in one another without selfishly consuming one another.”

        So true!

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

    you’re completely right.

    We don’t have the same fundamentalist culture over here in Belgium. But some christians do have weird ideas sometimes about ‘modesty’. Why are we affraid of our bodies and living in a cramp, and putting so much pressure on girls.

    (Should’t we men and boys be training our self-control, and look at girls with eyes of brotherly love? Aren’t women beautiful because they’re made in the image of the divine Artist? Isn’t reducing them to sex objects even blasphemy then?)

    Did you ever read this article on relevant by Matthew from the Jesus needs New PR blog: http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/current-events/op-ed-blog/26523-is-modest-really-hottest

    peace

    Bram

    • http://theladyexpounds.wordpress.com Lady Tam Li

      I think there’s a difference between sexually attracted to someone….which is natural and God-given…..and actually turning them into objects.

      For instance, if you’re going to a strip bar every night, or picking up prostitutes or “loose women” on the weekends, yeah, you’re probably objectifying women.

      But if you think your girlfriend/fiancee/wife has awesome boobs, while also loving her less physical aspects, then that’s completely different.

      • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com brambonius

        I don’t say that sexual attraction always equals that one objectifies the other… But cultivating your attraction for someone that’s not byour partner, and being more interested in the other as a body to have sex with is. The genital part of our sexuality is reserved for relationships, and it’s not right to ‘take’ others in your mind… comitting adultery in your head with someone else’s lover, making someone who doesn’t love love yoour lover in your head is not a very good idea…

        Sexual attraction is a relationship is something completely different… And something good indeed. And finding people ‘attractive’ as a whole person, and repsect them for all they are, without wanting something like to use them for sex is also something good. Nothing wrong with liking other persons. Abusing them IRL or even in your mind is wrong though… But that’s a perversion of attraction. If you really like a person you’ll like all of it.

  • http://www.lambpower.net Steve D

    Excellent post! I’ve started to define modesty as “Not bringing undo attention to oneself”. Thanks for a great post.

  • http://theladyexpounds.wordpress.com Lady Tam Li

    I think you have a good point in a lot of ways. What I think guys don’t get is that it doesn’t matter how much (or how little) clothing they wear, we girls will still see them on occasion and think “How YOU doin’?” I also wholly agree with you about that shirt, and can testify that its message is completely incorrect. I *tried* the “covering up” method to the best of my ability…and no guys were interested. When I actually started accepting my body and dressing *attractively*, THEN guys noticed! So no, it’s just completely off-base. (Yes yes; we could go into the whole “It was THEIR problem!” thing, but it wasn’t. I had body issues, and was expecting them to ignore a fundamental part of their God-given natures.

    At the same time, what we wear has a certain stigma in society, and I think Christ would want us to avoid that stigma as much as possible…not because of “sin” reasons, but in order to be a better example for Him. (I’ve come to realize that much of what is commanded to us Christians isn’t so much a matter of sin for us personally, but more about whether or not we’re drawing others to Christ with our words and deeds.)

    For instance, if I see a girl with booty shorts and a ridiculously tight shirt, and her make-up and hair is done just so, there’s a certain stigma as to what she’s likely looking for.

    Is it fair? No, of course not. But at the same time, it *is* there, and we as Christians need to decide whether dressing like that helps the Kingdom in this society…..or not.

    (Keep in mind this is coming from a self-proclaimed adult Goth, and that I don’t mean it in the most extreme sense it could possibly be taken. ;) Just saying that true modesty is most likely somewhere in the middle between burkas and booty shorts.)

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      Good points. Also, I think one who shows off one’s body too much is probably not being that humble. I think modesty can definitely translate into individual dress standards, but I’m not sure it’s something that can be enforced all across the board without legalism. Too subjective.

    • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

      I’m two months late on this conversation, but I just had to comment that I laughed at the whole “how YOU doin’?” thing. It is so so true – I’m an extremely visual person, so if a guy is good looking and has dressed well (even if modestly), I will take notice. Making modesty the woman’s burden just because men are more “visual” is ridiculous.

      And Sarah, you explained lust in a way better than any other definition I’ve come across. Love, Joy, Feminism has talked a lot recently about the idea of thought crime, and I think you’ve found a good middle ground between “It’s okay if you don’t act on it” and “sexual thoughts are evil evil evil.”

      • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

        hah! yeah, I checked out the “I’d rather have a Proverbs 31 woman…” page and all the comments about modesty (because we know so much about what the Proverbs 31 woman wore) inspired me to dig this post up.

        • http://www.diannaeanderson.net Dianna

          I know, right? I’m glad you did because I missed this post the first time around (probably TMI, but I missed a lot of stuff from early Oct because that’s when the bf and I broke up).

          And I just went and re-read Proverbs 31 (for the umpteenth time), and the only verse mentioning clothing is 22: “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.” Which, as purple is the color of royalty, walking around clothed in it…probably not the most “modest” thing one could do!

  • jc

    The t-shirt is no more appropriate than trying to come up w/ a less than appropriate NEW definition of MODESTY

    The American Heritage Dictionary says that modesty is “reserve or propriety in speech, dress, or behavior.”

    The showing off of uncovered parts of the body….top and bottom….does not fall into the class of being RESERVE. There is one place that would be appropriate only and that is inside marriage w/ one’s spouse…..not in public.

    Trying to say God ONLY looks on the inward while man looks on the outward and dismiss the repsonsibilty of appropriate attire in this matter is not correct.

    Christian girls….not just Baptist girls as the author of this article dug at…..need to dress everywhere they go as if Jesus was going to be there in person. Would they wear clothing w/ cleavage along w/ other parts of the breasts showing? Would they wear a dress that barely covered their rear end? And be comfortable coming face to face w/ Jesus? What do they think Jesus would say to them? Someone He gave His life for and comissioned to go into all the world and tell of Him.

    There has been a disservice here to the role modesty should play in a Christian’s life. What one wears DOES matter. What is on the outside that mankind looks at does matter as much as what is in the heart.

    Do you want your female church leaders getting up and representing Jesus Christ as their Lord and Savior w/ the boobs hanging out or their skirt unable to cover their rear end when they sit down?

    Men and boys need to be responsible for their own attitudes and it not be all up to the women and girls to keep their minds on the right track! But why even go there and throw out the smallest of possiblity of tempting them.

    Modesty is a DRESS STANDARD as well as humility.

    The words “with reserve attire on” needs to be incorparated into the author’s definition somehow.

    Trying to redefine MODESTY and not include the need to look at the amount of clothing one wears or doesn’t is not being fully honest about the matter.

    • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

      Actually, Jesus sees me naked everyday so I honestly wouldn’t worry about it too much

      • Anonymous

        Well when you mature a little more you will understand the statement because your reply clearly points to the reasoning that you do not comprehend it at all….and your caddiness will hopefully become more down the line of showing compassion and understanding for how women/girls are to present themselves to others in the name of Jesus….and it is not nor will it ever be w/ revealing clothing & boobs/cleavage & reaar ends showing.

        Blessings to you as you grow & mature in modesty and in serving the Lord thru your blogging.

        • http://moonchild11.wordpress.com moonchild11

          Oh, I was just bein’ silly. Thanks for the blessings

  • Robin

    I. Love. This. I grew up being taught: “Sex is bad, don’t have it. Unless you’re married. And then only if you plan on getting pregnant. But don’t enjoy it. Because if you enjoy sex, you’re a whore.” I love love love love love that “Christian” (I always put quotes on that word, because I know too many people that use that word to define themselves that don’t display one single Christ-like behavior that I can find) women are finally free to talk openly about sex and acknowledge that WE – just like men – are SEXUAL beings! It doesn’t mean we’re slutty or promiscuous, it means that we are equally vulnerable to putting one of our greatest treasures on a plate and handing it to the hot guy with the great smile for a song and a sappy pick-up line. Ironically, the more we can admit this and actually TALK about it, the less susceptible we become to having it actually happen.

  • http://biglovelittlehouse.tumblr.com/ Andrea

    BUH-RILLIANT!! Thank you!

  • http://singlemomsoapbox.wordpress.com singlemomsoapbox

    Reblogged this on singlemomsoapbox and commented:
    Having grown up in the IFB, it’s refreshing to hear what real modesty is. :)

  • Pingback: Why the Rebelution's Modesty Survey Was A Bad Idea | Shaney Irene

  • Emma Olson

    not entirely so if we don’t spread the word now one will know. I do like you article though it is thought provoking


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