As you might have guessed from the title, this is both the second part of the two promised yesterday, and a guest post from a friend of mine who has her own blog over at http://downyourally.wordpress.com/. It’s worth a read. Her words begin now:
So, the other day I was asked by a friend over at thesoapboxguild if I’d be interested in doing a two-part post on the issue of modesty. It was oddly well-timed; I’d been thinking a lot about modesty, considering that it’s summer (well… has been, anyway) and all, and while I didn’t think about posting a blog about it, this was a good opportunity to plunge into a public discussion/expression of my thoughts. So here goes.
Modesty is one of those topics discussed primarily in religious circles, and I wondered why that is. I can’t speak for other religions, but I can speak in regards to the Christian circle. There’s this thing called sin, and its effects are chaotic and ugly. In the context of modesty, I find myself particularly peeved at sin’s existence for a couple reasons I’ll explain in a minute. What sin does, generally speaking, is corrupt what is right and good. If there were no sin, there’d be no reason for modesty, and life would be great. However, because sin exists, the beauty of the body and its purpose in life has been twisted and corrupted to the point that bodies are viewed as objects of shame or lust, objects to be used up and taken advantage of, and as something to be used as a vehicle to find meaning or attention and “love”. I could go on, but this post would then expand to things beyond modesty, and I’m trying to avoid that. To summarize the above: modesty is a measure that must be taken because sin has corrupted (check a thesaurus to get a solid idea on what corruption is, if you need to) the originally intended beauty of the body, and has made it into something to be used, not prized and valued as it should be.
Modesty in regards to women has been an issue for who-knows-how-long. More recently though, there has been something of a surge in the discussion of modesty for men. My thoughts? Bull crap. Hearkening back to my friend’s blog post: “We had no idea that this was a problem.” The reason men don’t realize it’s a “problem” is because it hasn’t been until recently, and it’s only a “problem” because women want to make it a problem; they want somewhere else, besides themselves, to point their fingers. Is there a problem of pornography for women, in and out of the Christian circle? Definitely. Is it caused by a highly sexualized culture that takes advantage of women’s innate desire for the male body? Probably not. If there’s an issue of modesty for men, I’d say it has more to do with what’s in and comes out of the heart, rather than what they’re wearing. In my experience, if a woman finds herself lusting, it’s not because she saw, and BOOM! there it was; it’s more likely to have happened because she brought herself to it by following a certain thought pattern (that usually involves imagined emotional connections). Basically, it typically takes more than looking to get a woman lusting. This is just my opinion on the whole “male modesty” debate; honestly, I don’t think it’s as big a problem as people make it. But, I digress.
Now, what about modesty for women? Huge issue, I know, and I’m going to try to go beyond the whole discussion about “what is too tight/revealing/etc” and get to what I believe is the heart of the issue: the heart. I’m not saying that what we wear doesn’t matter at all, because it DOES matter. What I’m saying is that what is in our hearts ultimately comes out in our actions/dress/words, etc. I mentioned earlier how sin makes modesty an issue in the first place, right? Well, sin shows up at the heart of the issue of modesty too; its fingerprints are all over the place. I know it well because, as any woman who wants to take modesty seriously, the idea and undertaking of modesty clashes with everything our culture, other women (even Christian women), and selves say. It’s a real struggle, and is something I’ve had to wrestle with since I started caring about what I looked like.
I think the reason modesty is hard to live is because of our (women’s) deep desire to be noticed, thought beautiful, and loved. Our bodies have been a time-proven way of getting attention, albeit not necessarily the kind we really crave, but it’s something. So we settle for the shallow attention we get by dressing our bodies in a way that will get them noticed (side note here: a lot of people would say that noticing is bad because it leads to sin, and I’d counter and say that noticing and appreciating what God’s created is not a bad thing, but to take it any further would be crossing the line, thus setting yourself up for sin). This is the point where it all boils down to the question of “who’re you trying to please?” It’s easy to gloss it over and claim that you dress for yourself and nobody else; but honestly, how true is that really? Just think about it. Sometimes it is true, but more often than not, we’re not dressing without ulterior motives.
As I mentioned though, the existence of sin plays a heavy role in our hearts toward modesty. If what I experience is anything like what the typical modesty-seeking woman struggles with, there’s a constant, full-out war between the decision to dress in a way that respects our brothers and the decision to wear things that don’t necessarily hold that priority. It goes back to the heart: are we trying to find human affirmation, or do we want to put our identity and find affirmation by who we are in Christ?
The thing about men being responsible for their thoughts and actions is a valid argument. There’s another valid argument in that women are also responsible for their thoughts and actions, but for women, it goes deeper than what they think when they see something attractive, because their actions are dictated by how they think. Is it so hard to admit that, in this case, women simply have more responsibility than men? WHY is that a bad thing? People talk about equality between men and women, but honestly, I don’t think that can happen, simply because of the way we’re wired; what CAN happen, though, is recognizing the inequality and wielding it well. So yeah, women, you have more responsibility in this particular case… what are you going to do with it? Shove it off and try to make yourself less responsible by blaming men and making a big issue about their modesty issues, or will you take off the cloak of responsibility and, in respect to their struggle with trying to respect you, evaluate your heart and see where you stand. It won’t be easy, but if your heart is open, God can change it.
So in continuation with what my friend Lowell said: Think. Consider. Dig into the depths of your heart and see to the root of your “should I wear this or that” problem.