Modesty Myths

I hope my female readers will take special note of this particular post.  I hope the men will appreciate the need to have these conversations with the Christian women we work and worship with:

Phylicia MasonheimerA recently married 20-something, Phylicia works full time as a liaison between youth pastors and university recruitment. She writes at her personal blog Phylicia Delta, where she addresses issues that face young women in today’s culture. Her passion is spiritual and practical discipleship for teenage girls, college-aged women, and new brides. She is graduating with her bachelor’s degree in Religion in May 2015 through Liberty University and resides in Central Virginia with her husband, Josh. In her spare time, Phylicia enjoys road trips, biographies of the Founding Fathers, and really good coffee.

Below are some excerpts from a very well written and challenging article written by Phylicia.  I appreciate so much what she writes.

I have attempted to have this conversation with young ladies and always feel like I’m not getting it across well.  I encourage you to follow the link to the article and read the entirety.  Meanwhile.  Consider this digested version:

Modesty, Yoga Pants and 5 Myths You Need to Know

I picked at the tag on a buffet table, glancing at myself in a mirror in the corner. It was just one request he had made—a request based on what he knew of his own male mind and the minds of the men around him. But I wanted MY way, so I ignored it.

But there are consequences.

The issue here is not that I wore yoga pants. The issue isn’t yoga pants at all, but the principle of the matter. The pants are skin tight. You can see every curve of my lower body. Not only is it attractive to Mr. M, but from several informal interviews, comments and input from other men, it’s a recurring blind spot with Christian women everywhere. It’s about how hot I look, or how I want to dress, regardless of what anybody thinks.

In many cases, the very women offended by the negative attention of men are dressing in such a way as to earn it.

The issue of modesty gets heated, as fingers are pointed and hemlines discussed, but I’m going to skip all that fuss and speak woman to woman, because I think we can handle it!

#1 Myth of Modesty: ‘It’s his job not to look.’

It’s true, lust is a sin, and men shouldn’t entertain it.

But the level of their lust is directly related to how much of our bodies is available to lust after. The less we advertise, the less opportunity we give them to covet our bodies.

Do we really expect to wear whatever we want and then tell them not to look at us? Do we really expect to fit in with the latest (often sexually promiscuous) trends and NOT be viewed as an object of sexual desire?

It is not just his job not to look; it is our responsibility to provide nothing provocative to look at. We cannot blame men for what we instigate, and it is time for women of God to start acknowledging our responsibility in this matter, taking up our cross and honoring God with our dress.

#2 Myth of Modesty: Setting standards is legalistic.

I will always have a reader who emails me about my modesty posts saying that she wore yoga pants and it wasn’t a big deal.

“I understand you were convicted that it was wrong,” the email might kindly explain. “But I haven’t been convicted yet.”

I’m not here to write a list of rules to be broken or ignored, but rather to talk about real issues that address real young women. I realize that it is not my job to write your personal standards of modesty.

What is the real issue here?

Is it what not to wear? In our hearts, we know it isn’t.

It’s a standard of behavior, not a standard of dress, that is ultimately missing from our lives when we fail to be modest.

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

Paul wanted women to dress with ‘decency and propriety … as appropriate for women who profess to worship God.’

This high calling is our standard of behavior, which directly influences our standard of dress. It calls us to be different from the trends, the culture and the leanings of the modern church. It calls us to align our spiritual life with our outward life in all things, willing to make personal sacrifices in order to do so.

Setting standards is not legalistic.

Saying that modesty is required in order to be saved is legalistic, and regulating others rather than looking into our own hearts is legalistic.

#3 Myth of Modesty: Men don’t care what I wear.

Oh, they do. They care.

Why else would we care so much? Why do we place such value on being told we are pretty or beautiful by a man? Why do we spend half an hour getting ready before a date?

Because men DO care what we wear, and we know it!

Men care so much what we do (or do not) wear, they are very conscious of it at all times.

On an innocent level, men simply like pretty things.

My brothers notice when a girl looks put together. My dad has commented on movie actresses who are classy and well-dressed. Mr. M has commented to me that a passing woman’s dress was pretty.

They like pretty things and they like when we wear them.

Because of this, we have a great power. We have the power to draw their eyes toward us for one of two reasons:

  1. For the appeal of their desire based on revealing enough of our bodies to entice them; or
  2. To appear attractive in personality as reflected in how we dress.

This leads me to my next point.

#4 Myth of Modesty: Lust is HIS problem.

Lust is a rampant problem in the church and in our culture. Most often lust is addressed with men, but it is also a major issue in the lives of women. It simply looks different for women than it does for men.

In Myth #3, I listed two ways we can turn a man’s head:

  1. For the appeal of his desire based on revealing enough of our bodies to entice him; or
  2. To appear attractive in personality as reflected in how we dress.

Don’t think I can’t relate with a desire for attention. I am acutely aware that there are certain items I could wear that would draw Mr. M’s attention to my body, and I would be flattered by it. In fact, I would relish the attention and be affirmed that he found me desirable.

Note: Appreciating beauty is not the same as lust. A man can find a woman attractive, beautiful and lovely without her body being the sole focus of that attention. Lust is a desire for that which is not ours to have: the body of a person who does not belong to us.

Manipulating a man’s attention for the purpose of affirmation is how women are tempted to lust.

#5 Myth of Modesty: Modesty is just something I do.

Would you like to reward passing men with a glimpse of your body?

Men who couldn’t care less about who you are?

Modesty affects us, ladies. It affects us greatly. It affects how we are perceived, how we are respected, how we advance in our careers, and even whether we get asked on a date by a God-fearing, decent man.

Our choices in how we dress—how short our skirt is, how low our shirt is, how tight our pants are—is the clearest reflection of our personal priorities and our openness to letting God’s Word alter our lives. I realize that is a bold statement, but it is very, very true. When I am not walking in God’s Spirit and seeking to do what I read in His Word, I will wear whatever I want at the expense of the men around me and my own self-respect. In those moments, I would rather be trendy, Pinterest-y and provocative than prove to the world that I worship God.

Ladies, I am right here with you, dealing with this issue, struggling with it, fighting with my closet over it! I am asking you to join me in this endeavor. I want to trust Mr. M. around you. I want you to trust your husbands around me.

On a final note, here is some encouragement. 1 Peter 2:12 says:

“Having your way of life honest among the Gentiles, that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

When we keep ourselves hidden, those who see us glorify God because they see a different woman than they are used to. Anyone can join the trends; anyone can be status quo. But the woman who chooses to change in order to obey God will be blessed in her doing.

 

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