Yea! A blog post on modesty, I thought to myself the other day, that will get people excited! No Christian blogger has ever written about modesty before. Joking. Nonetheless, I’m raising a daughter now and so I’ve been thinking about this. And I generally blog about whatever is on my mind so follow along as my mind spills out of my fingertips and onto the computer.
As a man, modesty is not on the front of my mind when I get dressed in the morning. I simply pick out a pair of blue jeans and then put on a t-shirt. If it’s cold, I also put on my favorite Under Armor hoodie I bought at a Black Friday sale seven years ago. It has holes in it and stains arranged in unattractive patterns but I love it anyway. The only modesty issues that arise happen when I wear my old pants that have holes on the upper thighs, and even that is only a minor emergency because my thighs are so white that it makes people shut their eyes.
However, it seems that, as a church (speaking generally) we seem to place the issue of modesty squarely on women’s shoulders. It’s their responsibility to dress modestly so we as men don’t have to deal with the temptation to lust. I think this is unfair. Both parties have a chicken in this fight. Of course, I’m only speaking in metaphorical terms since cock fighting is illegal in most states.
I’m tackling just one perspective of this conversation that is often overlooked, so there may be many points that I’m missing. I know what you’re thinking, But Josh always knows everything! Granted, in this rare instance, I don’t have all the answers but I do have a few ideas here.
Why is modesty such a contentious issue? For one thing, the two genders don’t understand each other. Guys are sexually aroused differently than women are so our perspectives on clothing are not the same. But I believe it’s also because men don’t want to be responsible for the lust in their hearts so we say it’s the woman’s responsibility to keep our thoughts pure. On the flip side, a woman’s core desire is to feel admired and dressing immodestly is the easiest and quickest way to feel admired. So it stands to reason that when we discuss this subject, shields are quickly raised while offensives are hurriedly mounted so that the root issues are left untouched. The issue of modesty is only a symptom of deeper root issues. Let’s get to the root issues, shall we?
Now, I’m not a woman but I’m married to one and we’ve had many discussions on this subject so I’ll take a stab at it, metaphorically speaking. I don’t condone literal violence unless it’s against people who drive slowly in the passing lane. When women feel admired, they feel like they’re worth something. Women, I believe, reflect the Beauty trait of God and are designed to do so. It’s not a sin to be beautiful! Woman were built with that desire in them. However, when men pursue that beauty without regard to the individual who possesses it, they make the woman feel ugly and used. That’s because she was. This is pornography in a nutshell. Men want pleasure without the commitment. Men want to experience the beauty of a woman without the work and discipline that enables that beauty to grow and flourish in a nurturing environment. Instead of planting a seed in the ground, watering it, weeding it, tending it, then partaking in its beauty they simply pluck the flower and admire it until it dies then look for another. Pursuing lust to it’s end destroys beauty, just like plucking a flower from it’s stem. A passerby who picks a flower at whim will appreciate it far less than the gardener who bought the seeds, hoes the ground, weeds the flowerbed, and waters it daily. Lust uses beauty and discards it. When a man is lusting after a woman’s body, he is not admiring her, only the body she’s in. Whoever occupies that body is of zero consequence to him. She, as an individual, is actually worthless in his mind.
So maybe modesty actually starts with men in some ways.
The foundation of human existence depends on men and women falling in love (example: Your mom and dad). This process gets twisted when the population of men become accustomed to consuming pornography. Modesty is not an attractive trait to a man who pursues lust with no regard to personality. Modesty is spiritual trait that gets in the way of his physical objective. So if women want to get noticed (a natural desire) they have to start competing with the unrealistic expectations that men have learned to expect as normal: impossibly shaped woman (with plenty of cosmetic enhancements) who give away their bodies with little regard to their own hopes, dreams, or self worth. Men usually initiate relationships and so, in a way, men are buying and women are selling. And the women learn to sell what the market demands. I would say that a sexually explicit culture is the fault of the men.
“Ah,” you think to yourself, “But Christian men wouldn’t do that.” According to surveys, the level of pornography consumption in the church is the same as in the world.
72% of Christian young adults (ages 18-24) actively seek out pornography on the internet.
57% of pastors in the United States struggle with pornography personally.
68% of youth pastors struggle with porn.
Here’s the clincher: Even if a woman is giving you her sexuality free of charge, it’s not actually hers to give away! It’s like me giving you an Enzo from the local Ferrari dealership. Trust me, you’ll still be arrested for Grand Theft Auto because that Ferrari is not mine to give away! It’s the same way with sexuality: God owns it. A woman can give away her sexuality but you’re still stealing from God, even if it was a “gift.” It’s not hers to give away! It’s like going into Solomon’s Temple and taking a pick axe to the gold plated altar, pocketing the gold, and running out the door. If you steal glory from God’s temple, you will pay for it. And if you think Satan is scary, wait until you tick off God.
I think now is a good time to mention that I think modesty is relative to the culture it’s in. So what may be modest in the jungles of Africa will definitely not be in a Mennonite church in Indiana. In the book Bruchko, Bruce Olson talks about modesty in a South American tribe of Indians who run around nearly naked. Their idea of modesty doesn’t address what people wear; rather how people act. Two woman wearing the same thing (or wearing the same nothing, in this case) can be considered modest or in-modest simply by the way they act. Now I think that being naked is a bit extreme, not to mention it would likely result in some uncomfortable sunburns. God did clothe Adam and Eve in the garden so obviously He wanted them to cover themselves. However, that was only after they committed sin and were made aware of their nakedness. Before that, they did not need clothing.
Clothing, or modesty is an idea invented because of sin. Sex is not a sin. It feels that many preachers, and therefore Christians, view sex as inherently sinful. They seem to think if one tries hard enough under the right circumstances, sex is a regrettably redeemable activity but must never be mentioned or discussed. It’s shrouded in secrecy and shame. This is the wrong attitude. Sex was designed by God and is not an ugly thing. Sex is a powerful tool designed to unite a married man and woman as one flesh and it works pretty well, as does most of God’s designs. Sex is a beautiful thing until Satan perverts it. Only then is it evil. Of course, since sex is so powerful, it can also be powerfully evil. This is why clothing was brought into existence; to reserve sexual desires for a certain time and place (i.e. marriage). Clothing is the veil that is supposed to refrain sexual desires. So then we can assume that if clothing is worn with the intention of making others imagine the wearer more naked, then it’s not doing it’s job. For example: A woman wears a dress that covers all the important parts but is made in such a way that it invites the man’s imagination to fill in the rest. So, while the woman is clothed, she is dressing in a way that makes men imagine her naked. So the clothing isn’t doing its job. That makes sense, right?
A little personal testimony here.
My ideals for a marriage partner were different when I was a teenager. I could not understand how men could be faithful to women who were not that attractive. I would have been so disappointed if I didn’t marry someone who was “hot.” I finally get to indulge my desires so my wife better be good looking! Marriage is a done deal and I wouldn’t want to waste my one shot at sex with an ugly woman. Wow! OK, that’s embarrassing to admit I thought that way. I’m just being frighteningly honest here. Interestingly, I was also struggling with porn at that time in my life. That addiction was tainting my ability to have a healthy relationship although I had no idea it affected me at the time.
As life went on and God rescued me from my addictions (that’s a story in itself), my emotional health began to recover and I began to see things differently. Now, it’s not wrong to be attracted to someone because they’re pretty. This certainly was the case with Janice. She’s cute! Whistles! But let me fill you in on a secret, young men. Women have babies. Babies change women. Even the most beautiful woman will likely lose that hourglass figure as she ages and will begin taking on the shape of a crayon melting in the sunshine. Maybe that’s a problem for you but it’s not for me. Why? Because I’ve fallen in love with who my wife is, not what she looks like. I used to think that’s what people said who needed an excuse to make themselves feel better but I’m finding as time goes on, I care less and less what Janice looks like! It doesn’t matter! I love Janice because she’s Janice and whatever her weight may be, whatever strange pregnancy symptoms she may have, however many wrinkles may appear – it still won’t change that.
Don’t get me wrong, If I woke up tomorrow and she weighed three tons and I needed a forklift and a semi-truck to take her out for coffee, I may be a little disappointed. Forklifts are expensive!
Men, learn to respect women even in the most dark recesses of your heart where all the stale popcorn, loose change, and dirty socks are. Let God take a vacuum cleaner to your insides. You know, that place where you stick stuff you don’t want people to see. I know you think it doesn’t affect you but it does. This will transform your relationships and will help you see women as individuals, not a collection of body parts. This will help women feel appreciated even if they are not dressed to impress. If the women feel appreciated for who they are they will be less inclined to win your affection through your eyes but rather through the heart. That’s a relationship that will last.
Women, know that they are men out there who appreciate you for who you are. If you dress to get sexual attention from men, you will attract men who only like you for your sexuality and will repel men who want to respect you but have a hard time doing so because you dress provocatively. The best way to find a man who cares for your heart is to find a man who is willing to plant the garden and tend the soil before he admires the flower. If you’re letting him admire the flower without making him learn how to garden first, you’re doing it wrong.
If you’re letting him admire the flower without making him learn how to garden first, you’re doing it wrong.
Of course, it needs to be said that just because a woman dresses immodestly doesn’t mean it’s a man’s fault. Some woman just enjoy attention and that’s definitely one way to get it.
Basically it comes down to the fact that all of the problems in the world can be solved with a healthy dose of the Holy Spirit. Jesus is the answer for the world today. If we solve the spiritual, the physical will follow. But you already knew that so I guess I just wasted your time. Better luck with the next blog!
Josh, Janice, & Adilene Snader