Modesty and Integrity … we can’t get along (as men and women) without them!Posted by Carmen
Summer’s here …
… even in Canada where I live! Well, sort of! We’ve had so much rain my husband has suggested we start looking around our acreage for gopherwood to reinforce our house’s foundation — just in case we have to launch it! Nevertheless, I’m sure hot days are just around the corner. (Yes, it does get hot here up north. Our hottest days hit 40+ degrees Celcius, which translates to 104+ degrees Farenheit!)
Inevitably, hot weather and sunshine bring along with them the temptation to drop the standards of modesty and just follow the fashion trends of our world. So I just want to address the issues of modesty and integrity in today’s blog.
Warning!This blog covers such an important issue,I’m afraid it will be a fairly long one!(Perhaps you’ll want to go grab a coffeeor an ice tea while you read!)Please stick with it though,as there is so much to be said about modesty and integrity,I want to be sure to cover the topics well!
So here we go … a few thoughts on Modesty and Integrity
I really like what Steve Wood says in his book to men, The ABCs of Choosing a Good Wife, “Modesty is the mysterious veil over a woman’s outward beauty that allows you to see her inner beauty as well.” How very true this is!
When a woman presents herself modestly before a man, there is no temptation for him to become distracted by lust in a way that would cause him to merely view her as an object. Instead, he sees the woman before him as a person worthy of his attention. Her inner beauty becomes as apparent as her outward beauty. When a woman dresses modestly a man looks at her eyes – and sees the person. When a woman dresses immodestly, a man might look everywhere but at her eyes – and can view her as the object of his lust.
So why does a woman need to dress modestly?
There are two reasons, plainly obvious.
The first is to protect herself from the lustful gazes of men.
The second is to demonstrate charity toward her brothers in Christ who must struggle against the temptation to sin with their eyes.
And as the character John Collins says in my book Surrender:
“You want to make it easy for the good guys to stay goodand hard for the bad guys to be bad!”
For many young women living in this modern-day culture, the question often occurs to them: “What’s the point? Why bother?” Why should you dress modestly – any guy can see as much as he wants of a woman’s body driving down the street, looking at billboards, picking up a magazine at the corner grocery store, turning on the television or going on-line. What difference does it make if you set modesty as a standard for how you dress?
We all know that sin abounds in our world. But we can’t allow ourselves to be drawn into the deception that it doesn’t matter what I do since no one else is trying! We need to demonstrate responsibility for ourselves and set an example for others. What you are trying to achieve, in dressing modestly, is to allow a man to look at you without stirring lust in his heart. We do not want to give our brothers a reason to sin. And while men have the opportunity to lust after women in all kinds of circumstances around you, you can have the assurance that you personally are not contributing to that sin!
Guys, stay with us …
… you are most definitely not off the hook, here! You have a responsibility in this issue as well!
While modesty is a primary virtue for women, men need to form themselves in virtue as well in this age of impurity. That primary virtue for men, which becomes the foundation of their Christian life, is reverence.
Guys, you need to be ready at all times to show reverence for women, no matter how they present themselves to you. If a woman is dressed immodestly, you have two choices. Turn your eyes away, lest they should cause you to sin. Or, look at her chastely. Look into her eyes, past all that would distract you, and treat her as a human being, a sister in Christ, worthy of your respect.
This takes practice and determination. A man will not be able to do this naturally when faced with a woman who is enticingly attractive to him. But where nature fails, grace supplies strength – supernatural strength! If you are going to be a man of integrity, you must be a man of self-discipline ! Through prayer and self-sacrifice, supernatural strength will sustain you.
There are men of integrity all around us.
Not all men lust after a woman who is dressed immodestly. Many men take to heart what Job says in Scripture: “I have made a covenant with my eyes.” (Job 31:1) They turn their gaze away from sin, and they have trained themselves to look at women through chaste eyes. We need to pray for more men to be formed in such virtues. And we need to applaud and support those men who have made that commitment – by not tempting them away from it!
Something important for you guys to consider …
You need to support the girls around you who are making the choice to be modest. They need to hear how much you appreciate the efforts they make — for it is a great effort in this day and age! They need to know that you admire them as your beautiful sisters in Christ. Girls tell me how much they appreciate their guy friends talking about the importance of modesty for them. Even if the world around makes fun of them, just a bit of support from their close guy friends makes all the difference in the world for a girl who is trying to be modest!
Train yourselves now in your youth
How many girls have shared with me that they are so discouraged when their Christian guy friends make fun of girls who dress modestly, and then fall all over themselves around immodestly dressed girls? Be the men of integrity that you are called to be, and do your part to encourage the girls around you, by recognizing that they are worthy of your attention as brothers in Christ.
Work diligently to keep that covenant with your eyes! For if you train your eyes to wonder now in your youth, do you think you will find it easy to keep them under control when you are a married man someday? Virtues are like muscles, they can only become strong through exercising them. Without virtue, you become weak and easily prey to vice.
So do the work outs now, build those “muscles” of virtue, and become men of integrity who admire and support the women of worth in your lives!
Charity for others and Self-Respect
Back to the ladies … when choosing our clothing, as Christian women, we have the responsibility of ensuring that our dress does not tempt men to sin. We do this out of love for our brothers – which is Christian charity – and we do this out of respect for ourselves.
And remember this:“If you want a man to look up to you,don’t give him a reason to look down!”
In dressing modestly we demonstrate self-respect. When we show this kind of respect for ourselves, we can expect it from others – and we will usually get it, too!
Men have more respect for women who dress modestly because they are attracted to the mystery of the woman herself. When a man’s lustful eyes can be filled by looking at a woman who is exposing herself for his pleasure, he certainly may be attracted to her immediately. But he will also quickly lose interest in her because the mystery of who she is as a woman has been lost. When all she has is available for anyone to come and see and take – there is little value to it. That which she possesses is viewed as commonplace and ordinary – easily discarded.
Men respond to the intrigue and mystery of modesty.
Deep down men are aware that modesty is guarding and protecting something which is sacred and beautiful. The wonder of modesty is that it can both present a woman’s beauty before others, while preserving the uniqueness of who she is as a woman. Through modesty, that special gift of a woman’s entire self is preserved – only to be unveiled within marriage.
Men love mystery. And they will sacrifice greatly in order to seek out a treasure that is valued to them. The feminine virtue of a wife is a priceless treasure. Modesty guards it within safe keeping!
The Mutual Relationship between Modesty and Reverence:
This is also why women who dress modestly often demonstrate more self-respect than women who do not embrace that virtue. They have not allowed themselves to suffer the degradation of being treated as an object of lust. They have a sense of their uniqueness and they value it. They find themselves treated with respect by men. And through this all they discover within themselves true femininity.
Equally, through the virtues of reverence and self-discipline, men discover their manliness, for it takes strength and courage to be willing to be a man of integrity.
And so we see thatin this mutual relationship of modesty and reverence,we help each other to become real women and real men –who will surely be the builders of a Civilization of Love.
Choosing to dress modestly:
So what clothes can you choose to wear, when many of the fashions for women are immodest? This is a real challenge! It is very hard to go into a store now-a-days and find something appropriate to wear. But it is possible – it just takes time, and it often takes creativity.
You want something that enhances your natural beauty. You want something in the summertime when it is hot that keeps you cool but is not immodest. You want something that is in style so you don’t stand out as “weird” or different.
One woman once offered me very sound advice. She said, “Pray before you go shopping for clothes, and ask Mary, the Mother of Virtue, to guide your search for modest clothing. Invite the Holy Spirit to guide your decisions.” I think that was very good advice.
Can clothes be immodest?
Please note, an object of clothing itself cannot be immodest. Clothes are inanimate objects. An inanimate object cannot possess virtue. It is the intention of the person wearing the garment that will determine the nature of modesty in that person. None of us can judge what anyone elses intentions truly are. Having said this, women need to act intelligently. I have a little story to illustrate my point …
I was out shopping with my daughters the other day and after two long hours in a mall I commented to them in the car on the way home, “You know what the difference is between nowadays and when I was a kid? Back then you could tell which ones were the hookers!” I know that sounds a bit harsh … but just look around us and think about it in terms of how far our culture has pushed the limits of immodesty!
Some fashions when worn by a woman will tempt men to lust – because the fashion was designed with that very purpose in mind. We have a sex-driven fashion industry. So a girl can not play naïve. She has the responsibility to choose garments that will reflect her intentions of modesty and purity.
We must all guard ourselves to not become judgmental of others!
When you see a woman not dressed in an appropriate manner, pray for her. (I had many opportunities to pray for many women and girls during my last visit to the mall!) … But let’s not judge them! Maybe no one has ever directed these women or girls in modesty.
If you have the opportunity to talk with someone who struggles with this issue — or is completely oblivious to it — share with her what dressing modestly means for you. And do it with charity!
If you are a guy, try to share with her how much it means to you when girls make the effort to dress modestly! Invite her into an understanding of how this virtue can help her discover within herself all that she was created to be.
You may be the only Gospel she ever hears. Your respect and compassion for her, combined with your words of truth, might be the catalyst for bringing Christ into her life!
Moms and Dads, you’re not off the hook!
Modesty can become such a hard issue to deal. In some homes, there is a constant battle going on over this very issue! Moms and Dads can quickly become overwhelmed as they see their little girls turning into young women and choosing new styles of clothes for themselves.
It is important to set standards and guide our daughters to make good choices, with modesty as the goal … but ultimately we want our daughters to make that choice of modesty their own and to choose those high standards for themselves!
Mom’s irreplaceable role!
Moms, we must take the time to sensitively discuss these things with our daughters! And we have to do so with charity. Girls, as we all well remember, are very self-conscious during their adolescence. They’re not quite sure themselves what to make of their changing bodies, desires, moods, interests and tastes in fashion. They need our guidance, understanding and above all, our support and encouragement that they can make good choices. Celebrate every good decision they make — every step they move in the direction of modesty! Sometimes our daughters, like anyone else, will make less-than-wonderful choices. When this happens, point out the problem with their choices of clothing when you are in private — not in public! If we avoid humiliating our daughters over issues of modesty, they will be much more receptive to the message.
We must not set an expectation for modesty that is not attractive nor attainable in this culture. We need to encourage them to make modest choices that allow them to feel comfortable in the world around them. We are to be in the world, not of the world … but we still need to be IN the world! Let’s have realistic standards — and discuss these with our daughters. I have set some ideas for guidelines below for your consideration.
Don’t forget, Moms, that we are to be a model of modesty and beauty for our daughters as well. Some women are not comfortable with that … perhaps they’ve never felt beautiful themselves. We all have areas of pain in our life that need healing. Many of us struggle with self-image. But as moms, we need to address this issue and grow through our own struggles so that we can be the proper support our daughters need. If we downplay beauty ourselves, our daughters will seek out the worldly models of beauty instead. There are all kinds of voices calling out to them — selling them an image of beauty that is not calling them to holiness or wholeness! As moms, we must show them what it means to be a beautiful woman by dressing modestly, with style and confidence, ourselves. Remember, more than anything, our daughters want to be beautiful — just like we are to them!
Dads … oy, yoy, yoy …
… do you have a BIG role to play in this whole issue. Suffice it to say that your daughters need you to form their feminine identity. They need to see themselves reflected in your eyes of love and respect … with total reverence for the mystery of who they are as women! Not a small role to fill!
Do not use the issue of modesty as a stick to beat over your daughter’s head! She is precious and dear … a sensitive soul who needs your love and craves your affection and attention. If she does not get that unconditional love and attention from you, she’ll seek it elsewhere. So be sure to treat her tenderly and lovingly — supporting every effort she makes towards purity and modesty.
If your daughter makes less-than-wonderful choices in the area of clothing, please take it to your wife and have her address it with your daughter. Daughters do not like to disappoint their daddy, and they certainly do not like to hear him talk about their body! Sometimes your daughter may come to you and ask you for advice or your opinion! Happy is the man who has this kind of relationship with his daughter! Earn this relationship with her by earning her trust, through modeling respect for who she is.
And be sure to be a model of godly manhood in her life! Demonstrate reverence in how you treat all women — especially your wife! Your daughter will learn from you how she, as a woman, is to be treated by a man! Be a man of virtue and integrity, and that’s the type of man she will seek in a husband! And of course, your sons will see this and model after you how they are to treat women as well!
So what are some general guidelines for modest dress?
Avoid clothes that are form-fitting tight. When a man can determine your exact measurements through your clothing – there’s a problem! And when you wear skin-tight clothes, you can be sure there will be men sizing you up! (This doesn’t mean you need to walk around in a gunny-sack! Just choose clothes that are fitted with a bit of ease in them for comfort. They should have some room in them to move comfortably over you skin, not be a second skin!)
If your pants don’t come up high enough, then make sure your shirt goes down low enough! (Say goodbye to the belly-button!) Skin peeping out in places where it shouldn’t be, is very distracting and stimulating to men’s curiosity.
Layer your clothing — it looks great and it “covers” a multitude of fashion vs. modesty issues. (Pun intended!) Avoid spaghetti straps and strapless garments being worn alone. Choose wide-strapped tank tops when you can. If you have a strapless garment, wear a light top over it to keep your shoulders covered appropriately. Be creative in adapting fashions.
Keep your undergarments UNDER your clothes. Keep straps covered — pin the bra straps together if you have to — otherwise they draw guys’ attention to under your clothes and stimulate their curiosity.
Choose tops and bottoms that are not see-through. It is very distracting for a man to be able to see through a woman’s clothes.
Wear appropriate undergarments. There is a fashion now where a woman will where dark undergarments under light clothes. This is like putting a magnifying glass to focus a man’s eyes exactly where they should not be on your body.
Don’t show cleavage! This is very stimulating to men and very distracting in women’s fashions. It is challenging for even the best of men to not look down at a woman when she is exposing cleavage. I’ve even heard a non-Christian guy say that he really appreciates it when a girl doesn’t show cleavage because he has such a hard time paying attention to anything she says when cleavage is showing … it’s a constant battle: “Don’t look down! What did she say? Don’t look down! What did she say?”
Don’t wear short-shorts and mini-skirts. Dressing modestly requires us to cover ourselves appropriately. Skirts need to come down far enough that bending over won’t be an issue. Men are very attracted to the legs of a woman. Do you want to be viewed as an object, or as a person? Keep your legs covered down to your knees or just above. There are many styles of shorts that come down longer – and they look great. Capris are an excellent fashion – comfortable, stylish and they keep you covered!
When it comes to swimwear – we face real challenges. While it is hard, it is possible to find some swimsuits that do not cut up as high at the bottom and that do not come down as low at the top. Wearing a pair of swimming shorts over your swimsuit is a fashionable way to adapt a suit that is cut too high. Avoid two pieces, unless you can find one that meets at the middle and stays together. I know lots of young girls who will wear a bikini for support and put a swimming tank top and swim shorts over it. They can move around with ease and have fun while feeling comfortably covered up and sporty. No one wants to deny you having fun at the pool or beach – but be sensitive to the fact that this is a very hard place for a guy to keeps his eyes inside his head!
An interesting tidbit on the history of bikinis … In planning the debut of his new swimsuit, in 1946, designer Louis Reard had trouble finding a professional model who would dare be seen in public in the scandalously skimpy two-piece he called a “bikini”. He had to hire an exotic dancer at the Casino de Paris, who had no qualms about appearing nearly nude in public. Look how far our culture has come … so few girls even question baring their bodies in public anymore! I would venture to say this is not progress!
Remember that some fashions just will never be adaptable to modest dress. But you can still fit in – without having to follow every fashion trend there is! Choose for yourself those styles that you like and that you can readily adapt for modesty. You won’t draw attention to yourself as a misfit; rather, you will earn the reputation of a modest woman. You will also be able to be satisfied that you have demonstrated respect for yourself and for the men around you.
When you get dressed to go out of the house, ask yourself this: “If I were to run into Jesus walking down the street, would I feel comfortable with Him seeing me the way I am dressed?” Remember, He does see you – for in “the least of your brothers” He is there. Love them as you would Christ.
Always make yourself pleasing to Him who gave His life for you. Make Him the center of your heart and life. Keep in mind that your body is the Temple of the Holy Spirit and that you want to adorn it appropriately, with beauty and grace. Clothe your heart in purity and it will be much easier for you to clothe your body in modesty.