“I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty…But I am too busy thinking about myself.”
— Edith Sitwell

Kristin sent me a text this morning with a link to this article about modesty and bikini wearing and asked me for my reaction. [Insert wide smile here.]

Almost every time Kristin asks me for my reaction to something she’s read it means that she’s fairly certain my reaction is going to be contrary to the majority and I’ll admit, I think that’s a little fun.

A couple of things before I get into it-

sticker,375x360First, I don’t mean to sound harsh, but I also don’t apologize for my honesty.  Second, I work with teenage girls on a regular basis and I have nieces, sisters and friends for whom I care a great deal, I have a good bit invested in my opinions on this subject, so please don’t assume that I’ve come to them casually.

I’m going to quote a little of the article (I’m using the bits that stand out to me personally, please follow the link above and read the whole post yourself) and then I’m going to be lazy and copy & paste my text response to Kristin. Forgive me in advance, I just don’t have time to retype the whole thing. =)

… I want girls to know that dressing modestly is a SACRIFICE.

So why don’t you just wear a bikini, you ask? Why? Because I am making a sacrifice for the guys around me.

Let’s try and put ourselves in a guy’s shoes. I think we can all agree that as girls, exercise is important to us. We want to stay healthy and are often working on getting fit. We work out and stay away from carbs or sweets. We use all of our willpower to not eat the chocolate cake on the counter! Now, let’s pretend that someone picked up that chocolate cake and followed us around all the time, 24/7. We can never get away from the chocolate, it’s always right there, tempting us and even smelling all ooey gooey and chocolate-y. Most of us, myself included, would find it easy to break down and eat the cake. And we would probably continue to break down and eat cake, because it would always be there. Our exercise goals would be long gone in no time.

This is how I imagine it is for guys…

My response in text to Kristin was as follows:

I have mixed feelings

Here they are in order of feeling them…

1.) the writer is clearly young. 2.) I hate that she adopted such strong stereotypes, ie in spite of their best efforts men will always be ruled by their desire for sex and all women love chocolate cake. 3.) people miss the point when it comes to modesty and she certainly has.

True modesty is a heart condition and has nothing to do with what you do or do not wear. Obviously there’s a difference between clothing that is intentionally provocative and clothing that is not. But practicing modesty out of respect for the opposite sex has nothing to do with that, and everything to do with where your heart is when you’re interacting with guys. By being all, “look at me I’m so modest I NEVER wear bikinis because I am so concerned about keeping my male friends from sinning” she’s adopted a type of spiritual immodesty that’s much more dangerous as far as I’m concerned than walking on to the beach completely naked would be. Freedom in Christ means there are no “I nevers” there’s only obedience, which looks different on every person. It’s an important distinction to make because modesty has to do with not drawing attention to ourselves and giving glory to God instead. The moment we start with the “I nevers” it doesn’t matter what comes after those first two words because we’ve claimed the glory for ourselves.

Her intent is good, but young women would be way better off if they focused less on being a constant temptation for men, and more on who’s image they are made in and developing a relationship with God that allows them to know how to be obedient, whether that is in a bikini or not. Lets not forget we were all naked in the garden.

The only thing I’d like to add at this point is that modesty shouldn’t be something we seek to develop in relation to the opposite sex. Ever. It should be something we always seek to develop in relation to Christ. The virtues that grow in our lives in response to God will spill out and impact the ways in which we relate to other people, but as long as our “SACRIFICE” is motivated by other people, it will fall short and it will not be authentic. Please don’t misunderstand me here, I’m not trying to say that consideration for others around us is wrong, but rather, that to truly consider others it has to be filtered through our relationship with God. It has to start there or else we are putting ourselves on the throne. I write about it the way that I do because I feel like it’s a very important distinction to make, especially with young people.

As women, let’s not first assume an attitude of pride that focuses us on the idea that we are a constant temptation to men and then as result assume the role of savior.  It’s not who we are, it’s not who we were created to be.

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2 thoughts on “Modesty.

  1. Katie says:

    Reblogged this on prettysmart blog and commented:

    Wrote this for the other blog. Enjoy. =)

  2. This goes right back to that objectifying/subjectifying thing that came up the other day.

    To take the attitude that women should dress modestly “for the sake of men’s weakness” is to objectify men — ironic given that the apparent goal is to help men not objectify women! How is this objectifying men? Because instead of forming a subjective relationship with any given man and coming to understand what is or is not his particular weakness may be — and whether or not that weakness exhibits itself toward the woman (how prideful to assume that any woman in a bikini will cause sin in all men!!!) — rather men are objectified into a broad category of weak, helpless things which need women’s help — not God’s help — to avoid sin.

    It is in fact the exact opposite of modesty — pride. “I’m so desirable that unless I take drastic steps, men will be collapsing in waves behind me”.

    In most cases this is not only prideful, but deluded.

    And that is without getting into two obvious problems with the entire premise that avoiding bikini’s actually solves the supposed problem in the first place:

    1) Taken to its logical conclusion, this line of thinking is what has resulted in Muslim women being forced, under Sha’ria law to wear the hijab (or worse, the jilbab).

    2) It assumes that bikinis are inherently provocative and that one piece suits are not. It forgets, perhaps due to young age, that one of the most iconic images of an immodest woman in a bathing suit is “Bay Watch” star Pamela Anderson running up the beach — in a one piece suit.

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