Modesty is a hot topic among Christians these days. Especially among the ladies.
Rachel Held Evans has written about the topic multiple times, as has Emily Maynard (it’s kinda her thing). Even a few dudes have weighed in on the topic including Michael Hyatt and Tim Challies, though I think it’s kinda weird when guys get all amped up about modesty. I mean, I understand it, but it still comes off kinda creepy sometimes.
Regardless, I’m about to share my thoughts on the topic in spite of any potential creepiness that may occur.
First of all, I don’t have a problem with modesty rules in theory. I think it’s important that we have a positive self image without having to resort to questionable attire.
Secondly, I understand why there’s more emphasis on female modesty than male modesty. Women are hyper-sexualized in our culture, so I think the added emphasis on modesty for girls is a direct response to our culture’s view of sex. Unfortunately, modesty rules for girls are often handled with the same zeal as proponents who defend the sexualization of women in media and entertainment. There has to be balance otherwise our rules for modesty do more harm than good. Instead of encouraging and empowering our children, we make them feel shame and guilt; often for things outside of their control!
Finally, modesty is a very subjective ideal. Not just from culture to culture, but from state to state, town to town, and family to family! There are very black-and-white examples of modesty/immodesty, but we can’t ignore that there’s a ton of gray in the middle.
With that said, I’d like to offer some thoughts regarding a few popular pro-modesty arguments. Don’t call this a rebuttal. I’m not suggesting that we shouldn’t practice modesty. Rather, I’m suggesting that we take into careful consideration how we communicate our reasoning for modesty.
//You should dress modestly to show that you are dignified. Like a lot of modesty rules, I get where this one is coming from. One of the perks of dressing modestly is that it should command respect from others rather than derision. However, we need to understand that dressing modestly doesn’t make you dignified any more than going to church makes you a Christian. Dignity is a reflection of our self-respect, and our self-respect is affected greatly by our relationships. So, if you’re a parent who wants your children to value modesty, ask yourself some questions. What kind of relationship do I have with my spouse? What kind of relationship do I have with my children? What kind of relationships are we encouraging our children to join? If we’re modeling healthy relationships and encouraging healthy relationships, then we’re providing a solid foundation for our kids to develop self-respect and dignity without shaming them every time they walk out of the closet.
//You should dress modestly to draw attention away from yourself and toward God. I feel like this argument is just a Jesus Juke of epic proportions. Not only that, but it kinda contradicts the first argument regarding dignity. We’re telling our kids to dress in a manner that commands respect, but, at the same time, not to draw attention to themselves. Talk about a mixed message!
Look, WE ALL dress in a manner that draws attention to ourselves. Take me, for example. I am a prissy man. I like my hair to be coiffed just so, I brush my teeth three times a day, and I like to wear nice clothes. Clothes that fit and look nice make me feel confident, and that is totally normal and healthy. It is also not sinful. Do my BKE jeans and button-up shirts point people to God? Man, I don’t know. The way I see it, as long as what I wear doesn’t contradict what I say, then I’m good.
//You should dress modestly so that men will not be tempted to lust. Of all the the arguments for modesty, this is the one that makes my blood boil. Ladies hear this line of reasoning A LOT, and I think it’s completely unfair for two reasons: 1) It puts undue responsibility for a man’s thoughts on a woman’s shoulders, and 2) It suggests that men have no control over their thoughts and actions. What’s happened here is someone’s taken 1 Timothy 2:9-10, paired it with Romans 14:13-23 and created a deadly cocktail of shame. So here’s my response:
Ladies: This argument begs the question, “When is modest ‘modest enough’?” You can’t control how a man views you. Even if you were to wear a sheet with holes cut out for eyes, some dude would find that arousing. Weird, I know. If you’re carrying around this burden of “not tempting men to lust”, release it. It’s not yours to carry.
Gents: “Lust” is not the same as “sexual attraction”. It is totally normal and good for you to be attracted to a woman’s looks and her figure. However, when your thoughts begin to objectify a woman rather than see her as a person, then there’s a problem. Fix it.
There’s obviously a lot more I could say about this topic, but it’ll have to wait until another comic strip.
What are your thoughts on modesty rules?