Thursday, September 26, 2013

Theology Thursday: On the Subject of Modesty

Modesty is a part of charity.  It is charitable because it helps our brothers and sisters to avoid lust by helping our brothers and sisters to focus on the things that matter.  What is considered modest, though, varies greatly from culture to culture and age to age.  Victorian fashions covered the ankles - even the "ankles" of furniture - because it was deemed that these were likely to incite lust in men.  After having a discussion with a teenage friend of mine on the subject, I thought I would wade into this age old fight and put forth my two cents worth.

The Real Purpose Of Modesty

Modest dress is not about covering up what is dirty and filthy.  Our bodies are made good, which is why we did not need clothing in the Garden of Eden.  There is nothing wrong with the body, and in the proper context there is nothing wrong with nudity.  We are, after all, made in the likeness and image of God.  However, we also live in a fallen world.  God sent Adam and Eve out of the garden wearing clothing.  The purpose of clothing is to veil what is sacred from the eyes of those who are unworthy of viewing them.  It is about protecting yourself from being treated as an object of lust, rather than as a human being.

The Goal of Modesty

Modest clothing does not have to be frumpy or shapeless.  However, the goal should be to draw attention up toward the face and the eyes and away from other parts of the body.  Why the face and the eyes? Because you want people paying more attention to the most important part of you - what is in  your head - as opposed to the other parts of you, which are called secondary characteristics for a reason.  Dressing in a manner that emphasizes the head tells other people where you want their attention to go when they speak to you.

Immodest Dress

There's more to immodest dress than how much skin is exposed.  You can be in a pair of sweat pants that fully covers every ounce of skin on your legs, but if the word JUICY is imprinted on your behind, that's where the eyes are drawn and that's what makes that clothing immodest.  Clothing with slogans imprinted across the buttocks or the bust line draw attention to those areas, and no matter how much skin is covered cannot be considered modest.  Modest dress, as I stated earlier, should draw the attention up toward the face. Tight clothing which outlines the curves and shapes of the body is not modest no matter how much skin is covered because it serves only to draw attention to the body, rather than to the face.  

Pants versus Skirts?

Here is where many people expect, I am sure, that I will weigh in on the pants versus skirts debate for women.  One of the reasons that skirts are ideal is that they do a very effective job of drawing attention away from the lower half of your body - assuming those skirts are not skin tight or so short they barely cover the assets - and up toward the face.  However, wearing a skirt is not always the most modest choice. If you are your job involves a lot of climbing, then wearing a skirt would actually defeat the purpose of modesty.  The reality is that pants and skirts can be equally modest in the right circumstances and if attention is paid to making certain that the clothing does not draw undue attention away from your head.


Your choice of clothing is an act of charity, but it's also a way to protect yourself from being treated with less dignity than you deserve.  

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