The Issue of Modesty

Now that I have read and understand a lot more about how men think and how their minds and eyes work- I have a whole new understanding of the blessing of modesty both for the women who embrace the concept and for the men who benefit from women who choose to dress modestly.

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.  I Timothy 2:9-10

MEN ARE MORE “VISUAL”

What this means for many men, in real life, is that seeing provocatively dressed women can create huge temptation for them – this is quite a problem in our sex-saturated culture today.  Temptations bombard our men from every angle.  Some men struggle more with this than others – just like some women struggle more with having a chocolate cake on the counter in the kitchen more than others do (great illustration by Shaunti Feldhahn in “For Women Only.”)  But – from my understanding – it is practically a universal struggle among men to keep their thoughts pure when seeing beautiful women who are immodestly dressed whether in real life, in a magazine or on a screen.

One young Christian single man commented that the visual temptation he experiences is more like having a chocolate cake on every flat surface in the house – meaning, everywhere he looks, there is visual temptation to lust because many women are dressed provocatively, even in the church.

As women, we are mostly not wired to be visual the way they are, we are more about words and romance (so we are much more tempted by romantic novels, chick flicks and love songs, although an increasing number of women are struggling with porn addiction, too).

WHAT?  ME?  IMMODEST?

A lot of us think we are just being fashionable with our clothing and don’t have any idea of the impact our clothes have on the men around us.  Many of us have never studied the subject of modesty – and it can be quite a surprise that visual temptations are such a huge issue for many men.  Let me clarify – there seems to be a continuum of level of temptation.  Teenage boys and men in their 20s may have a much greater struggle with visual  temptation than men in their 60s and 70s.  Testosterone levels can play a role here, too.   Your husband may not struggle much visually.  But there may be other men around you at work, in the store and at church who do struggle and battle all day every day and who long for a reprieve from being constantly bombarded visually from every angle.

It is not that men are “cads” because they are visual – or that they are “worse sinners” than women. We have our own temptations and sinful tendencies that are just as offensive to God – our difficulty with forgiveness many times, our tendency to want to control our men or God, our own idols (things we put above Christ in our hearts), gossip, self-righteousness, contentiousness or clinging to bitterness (these are the kinds of sins I struggle with, at least!).   All men and women are sinful – no one is good but God alone (according to Jesus).  We have no room to look down on our husbands or brothers in Christ if we are not affected by visual temptation – we each have plenty of sin in our own lives to deal with.

I would like us as wives to be a place of safety and a haven where our husbands can share their struggles and temptations and where we can support them in prayer – just like we want them to support and pray for us in our struggles and temptations.

OUR GIFT TO OUR CHRISTIAN BROTHERS

I want to see God’s women do something about the visual temptations that are impacting our men!  They need our help. We are in a powerful position to either cause them to drown deeper in this snare or to give them the gift of our own modesty and our daughters’ modesty to give them some respite from this constant temptation and assault on their eyes.  They need our prayers first, our compassion and mercy, our understanding, and our obedience to God’s commands for us as women.

We are not responsible for other people’s sin – but we are responsible for not purposely presenting a stumbling block to others.  It is possible that some men could still lust after me even if I dress modestly – I am not responsible for that.  But I am responsible to God for respecting Him with my attitudes, actions, words and clothing.  I seek to show that I respect God, myself, my own sexuality, my husband and other men by the way I dress in public.

When the Bible talks about women dressing modestly- there are no specific “rules” given about what can and can’t be worn. (We are not to dress like prostitutes or have lavish hairstyles or expensive clothing.)  This is something that each woman must pray about and decide about between herself, her husband and God.

Modesty is an attitude of the heart that a woman wants her clothing to point to God and glorify Him instead of drawing the attention of men to her body.   Modesty is “humility in clothing.”

ASSIGNMENT

I would like to encourage you to go through your own closet and also your daughters’ closets and prayerfully consider each article of clothing.

  • Does it glorify and honor God?
  • Does it glorify my body or my daughter’s body?
  • Is this something to only wear for my husband?
  • Am I (or is my daughter) going to cause a brother to stumble if I (she) wear (s) this outfit?

Some of the Christian college  guys in Shaunti Feldhahn’s book, For Women Only,  were so thankful when the girls around them would take the time and effort and care to dress modestly.  They described how a woman’s covering of her body made her more beautiful to them and also made it possible for the guys to focus on her face and her heart instead of focusing on her body and curves.

Yes – it is a pain to find modest clothing today.  But it is not impossible.   I believe our brothers in Christ are worth the trouble.

OTHER RESOURCES

What Christian Men Think about Modesty

Men, Testosterone and Temptation, Part 1

Men, Testosterone and Temptation, Part 2

My Youtube video about Modesty (15 minutes)

Do Men Really Objectify Scantily Clad Women?

A Wife Sees Some of Her Idols – People Pleasing and Beauty

Why I Wear Skirts Every Day

Avoiding Legalism

 

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21 Comments on “The Issue of Modesty”

  1. Robyn
    March 25, 2013 at 5:23 pm #

    Great article! And I liked your comments Joseph, thanks for sharing. We have two daughters and sometimes it’s hard – but for the most part they are coming along great in this area.

    April – I like your reference to the plate of cookies – bang on! Joseph – I also happened to believe that God has endowed women with an enormous amount of power (over men, if I can put an even finer point on it) – and it truly is a gross mis-use of our power when we dress immodestly.

    My hubby learned (I believe it was from a book he read, but the title is escaping me at the moment) to starve his eyes so that he could feast on me. He is retraining his eyes to look “above the shoulders.”

    My heart goes out to men because of womens ignorance (or just plain selfishness) in this area. I feel that if a ‘born again’ woman (a sister in the Lord) is going to tempt a man to feast on her with his eyes (b/c he’s predisposed visually) then she’s asking for a correction.

    • peacefulwife
      March 25, 2013 at 10:07 pm #

      Robyn,

      Thank you for sharing! Is that from Every Man’s Battle?

      It is my desire that church be a place where men can focus on God, and where we as Christian women might decide to show the greatest possible honor and respect to God with our thoughts, words, attitudes, actions and dress and where we might also take care to respect our brothers and our own bodies and our husbands.

      It is a matter of the heart. I pray we might seek to glorify God in every way.

      • Robyn
        March 26, 2013 at 9:44 am #

        Hey April,

        I asked him if it was from this book and he said no. He reminded me of a marriage conference we were at last year, and said that’s where he remembered it from.

        Your desire for church to be such a place is also my desire. Also a place that our daughters might see examples of how godly modest women should dress and conduct themselves.

  2. Robyn
    March 25, 2013 at 8:17 pm #

    Hi Joseph, nice to meet you.

    “Most women I find dress the way they do because they want to use their sexuality to influence others. It goes back to an unholy use of power.”

    I’m sorry, I guess I misread your above quoted comment. However, I do believe that women have more power over men because of our sexuality. That’s awesome that you have studies in this, and perhaps one day I just might take you up on it. But for now I’ve got more than enough documentation on my plate to keep me busy.

    Yes I also believe that women have potential to respond visually, I just think it’s different for us than it is for men; it’s more of an …. ‘appreciation’ of strength. But as with any generalization there are those that don’t fit the profile – due to “conditioning.”

    My heart DOES go out to men because of womens ignorance (or selfishness) and I do believe that God will hold each of us accountable for our own part in how we cause each other to stumble. It’s not just about a lack of sacrificial love but also it’s mimickry of the world and it’s ways rather than climbing to a higher standard, which is what Christ calls us to do.

    • Joseph Riani
      March 25, 2013 at 8:30 pm #

      You didn’t misread my comment at all. I think the only reason it rings true though is because of societal conditioning. If men were taught better it wouldn’t be an issue. It certainly isn’t much of an issue for me anymore after I changed my thinking. If women had more power over men overall I don’t think men would have dominated throughout history nor would women have been treated poorly. Clearly, that power is not as absolute as you think.

      There are certainly guys out there that struggle with this and I am sure they appreciate you sympathize with them. We should however remind them that all is not hopeless and that immodest women don’t have to have power over them unless they give it to them.

  3. Annie
    March 25, 2013 at 8:48 pm #

    Great post again :) thank you very much. Annie

  4. Robyn
    March 25, 2013 at 9:11 pm #

    Hey Joseph, I definitely believe there have been societal influences in this regard, but as far as women having power over men, it comes from the power that was taken out of man at woman’s creation. Adam was created complete, but God said that it wasn’t good for him to be alone so He took an intrinsic part out of him in the form of a rib – the tsala (rib) – the power to support or the power to cripple. It was taken ‘out of’ him and became … her. Man still has all the authority but lacks the power. The abuse of woman over the years is the result of men trying to get that power back by mis-use of what he has left … his authority.

    Men dominated by mis-use of authority and women are now dominating by mis-use of power.

    I’m sure God is pleased with your change in thinking, kudos to you brother!

  5. Annie
    March 25, 2013 at 10:24 pm #

    Oh no. Hope and pray you will find another job soon. Big bummer :(

    Take care and much luv
    Annie

  6. Alison Joy
    March 28, 2013 at 7:29 am #

    April,

    I appreciate your post once again and your blog. I started to grapple with these issues only a few years ago when getting married in my early forties (a blessing and surprise from God). In the UK, these issues are not so commonly talked about among women in the church and it can be a lonely road but they are needed more than ever to be discussed where feminism and the world has infiltrated our hearts and where we are not really living according to God’s pattern and design.
    God bless you for speaking and sharing the truth. And God’s protection over you and your family.

    Alison Joy

    • peacefulwife
      March 28, 2013 at 7:52 am #

      Allison Joy,

      These issues weren’t talked about much when I was in the youth group either. But back then, even if I had heard these concepts, I don’t know if I would have thought they applied to me. I remember just seeing the “flaws” of my figure and assuming I was not a “temptation” to men. Not that I tried to be immodest. I definitely tried to be fairly modest – but I wore jeans every day just about. This is a really important topic – and the more we understand how different men are from us – the more we realize how crucial modesty is for believing women. Thank you for your story and for sharing your heart!

      It can be a bit tricky to find modest clothing. My post “Why I Wear Skirts Daily – Part 2″ talks about some websites I have found where it is easier to find modest clothes. And what works for my body type may not work for another shape. Each woman must determine what she believes God wants her to do and what might honor Him for her body type, budget and sense of style. :)

  7. peacefulwife
    March 25, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    Joseph,

    I am very glad that God can and does give men power over visual temptation. THANK YOU, LORD!!!!!

    My primary aim here is to focus on the responsibilities of women for their own motives and for their own dress. Women are not responsible for men’s sin. But we are accountable to God for our motives, our dress, our selfless love for our brothers and our willingness to be thoughtful and deliberate about not purposely causing our brothers, whom The Lord loves, to fall.

    I thank you for sharing your masculine perspective and for the exhortation to other men to be responsible for their own thoughts and sin.

    But I don’t want women to think that means we have no responsibilities of our own before our holy God.

    I appreciate all the discussion!

    Thank you all very much for the comments. :)

    I just found out today that I am essentially losing my job as a pharmacist in 2 weeks. So I apologize for not being more attentive to the conversation today.

    Please pray that God might be greatly glorified in my work situation and that He might empower me to honor Him, to wait on Him, to hear and obey His voice. And please pray for wisdom for my husband, as well.

    Thank you so much!

  8. Erica
    March 31, 2013 at 5:15 pm #

    Joseph,

    I really appreciate your comments and your perspective on this issue. Modesty is a hot issue, and when overemphasized it can become become destructive to both men and women. In so many of the Christian circles that I grew up in when stories were shared about a women being sexually abused the first questions asked were “how was she dressed?” A woman’s immodest dress was blamed for her rape or sexual abuse. The blame was put on the victim instead of on the abuser. Focusing on modest dress for women can easily lead to this mindset where women are blamed for the sexual failures of men.

    Your comment on the Middle East also speaks volumes. Having lived in the Middle East for over 4 years now I have seen that modest dress isn’t the issue, but rather men objectifying women as sexual objects is the far deeper issue. In this country, it often doesn’t matter if a woman is wearing pants, a skirt, or even a head covering. If she is a woman with pretty eyes and pale skin, even when covered head to toe with loose clothing, she may still get hit on in the market place or bus station. Modest clothing doesn’t help or solve the issue. The far deeper issue is how people have been conditioned to think about women in general. If women are indeed a sexual object, then it stands true that they must carefully and fully cover themselves. However, if we believe that women are made in the image of God to reflect His glory and His beauty, then a woman’s clothes should tastefully reflect how He made her. Dressing as a woman to honor God’s design doesn’t mean showing every part of her body, but it also doesn’t mean covering up the fact the she is a woman with a womanly shape. A woman’s shape is different than a man’s and her dress can reflect this.

    For many years I dressed hiding my figure and hiding my femininity because I was taught that it was sin and immodest to show my figure or my shape. What freedom came when I realized the truth that my womanhood isn’t dangerous, instead it is beautiful. It is a joy to finally (after over 30 years) be able to dress in a way that reflects God’s glory and beauty.

    Thanks for sharing your perspective!

  9. peacefulwife
    March 26, 2013 at 7:21 pm #

    Thanks for the prayers!

    And Thank you for the encouragement for the men in this culture where visual temptations bombard them practically every waking moment.

  10. peacefulwife
    March 31, 2013 at 8:24 pm #

    Erica,
    I’m so glad you commented!

    It is DEFINITELY possible to take the concept of modesty and make it into something oppressive or legalistic or to make women feel shame about themselves. That is not AT ALL what I want to promote!

    That is why I try not to give any kind of list of rules but talk about each women praying and seeking to honor God with each outfit she wears – examining her motives and desiring to honor and respect God, her body, her sexuality and men.

    Thank you for your fascinating history and perspective.

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