I live in a land of perpetual spandex. Everywhere you go women seem to be on their way to or from a workout wearing yoga pants or something of the like. On top of this we seem to be bent on resurrecting the 80’s as leggings and tights have made their way back on top once more. We’ve modernized this look by placing pockets in the back, coloring them a shade of denim and calling them “jeggings.” At least in that decade we coupled these with long sweaters and shirts every time. Not anymore. A friend of mine posted a very funny infograph a couple of months ago along these lines entitled, “How To Know If You’re Wearing Pants.”
While I consider all of the above ridiculous and even at times inappropriate I never realized they were an issue of immodesty. That is until I came across a blog post that spoke on the topic. As a matter of fact it has seemed like these “modesty” posts have been really quite the rage for the last several months. There have been many Moms who have asked girls to watch themselves for their sons. Young women have spoken out on how it is their responsibility to keep “pure” for the guys in their lives.
Now don’t get me wrong. I have two daughters at home in that teen range. Sometimes we walk through the mall, and I will point out the “never” outfits. You know, those items this parent will never allow them to don on their bodies.
It begs the real question about what modesty is and what it is not. In the 18th century it was considered terribly immodest for a woman to show their ankles. In some cultures it is considered risque for a woman to show her face to anyone other than her husband. There was a time when men wore tights and this was simply considered the “style.”
So what are the constants in this issue?
It’s Not Just A Girl Issue
We have the tendency to keep telling our young ladies to help protect the purity of guys. At the same time, we allow our girls to drool over a shirtless guy. The idea that “only boys” are visual is a terrible misnomer. We women can easily take a second glance at something that causes us to to “stumble.” We need to be teaching our boys and girls to be sensitive to what might cause someone to “lust” after you.
When I first moved to Florida I was shocked at what the “good Christian” teens wore. Tank tops, strapless shirts and bikinis were all regular attire for the girls. Guys found excuses on a regular basis to remove their shirts and wear low slung board shorts. It didn’t take me long to realize why. It’s hot there. Most of the year it’s over 80 with 70% or higher humidity. It was less about modesty and more about the ability to not feel like you are on fire. Styles change and they sometimes expose more or less skin. We need to find ways to teach our students how to deal with the ever-morphing culture.
It’s A “Heart Issue.”
A young woman asked me once if I thought her shorts were too short. I asked her why she wore them. If she wore them so that boys would look twice and decide she was “sexy” well then yes they were. If she genuinely thought they were “just the style,” then it was for her to decide with God. Anytime, a girl or guy starts dressing so that someone will drool a little over them, then they are dressing immodestly in my opinion. It isn’t always about what someone wears, sometimes it’s about why they wear it. Now that does not mean that we have an excuse to join a nudest colony because our “heart is in the right place.” This is a constant navigation. We are held responsible when we follow the Lord to be in the world but not get sucked into it. We must be very careful about why we wear what we wear. It’s a constant assessment.
It’s Not Just For “Them”
This is not merely an issue for the young. I wonder if there are times we point fingers because we wish we had the “body to wear that?” We can think this “modesty” thing is just for the young because they are the ones “struggling.” If in our deepest soul we wish we could wear it, that’s immodesty too.
Modesty is a much more complicated topic than we give it credit for. I think we would like it to simply be about a list of rules of “what not to wear” and then it’s dealt with. The reality is that it is much deeper than that. When we are totally head over heels in love with Jesus, then we have a deep desire to live differently. We fight a little less about what we should and shouldn’t wear and navigate this track with Him in mind. I think that is what we need to be teaching the next generation and ourselves. I also think us Moms need to write some posts to sons about how to dress so my daughter isn’t “crushing” on you. We’re all responsible.
What do you think about this topic?
How are you dealing with it yourself and then teaching your students?
Leneita / @leneitafix
13 thoughts on “What’s Up With Modesty?”
Awesome post! Thanks for sharing your thoughts and revelations. I need guidance as I prepare my 8 and 9 year old to keep themselves “pure” both physically and spiritually. Thank you. I really liked your thoughts and ideas.
Brenna, The modesty issue is such a complicated one as a parent. The purity one is even more complicated. It’s a constant conversation that lasts a lifetime.
I think this article is great!!! You didn’t only address the girls but boys like you said have a part to play as well. Great article. I enjoyed reading it!
Thanks Sandra! Having 3 girls and a boy-I can tell you that my son can “strut” and show himself off just as much as the girls. It just seems to be more socially acceptable.
I’ve been watching a conversation among some of the girls in Youth over the last week discussing this very same thing. Are yoga pants modest/immodest, etc. I love that you included that it isn’t just the girls who are being immodest. This is such a relevant message for our youth out there. We ALL have a role in this:) Great post; thank you!
Thanks Angie! Thanks so much for paying attention to the conversation!
There’s also a very high level of responsibility with the lookers. Let’s say we *could* make a list of what not to wear, and we got all the Christian girls to follow it. That doesn’t eliminate the fact that Christian guys are going to see other girls wearing immodest things. If we don’t teach people to see those of the opposite gender as more than objects, and to have self-control so they don’t give the person a second look, they WILL lust and it doesn’t matter how much we as Christians cover ourselves up.
And realistically, until Christian guys stop seeing girls as objects, they’re not going to be dating the now-covered-up Christian girls. They’re going to be interested in the people who are dressing the way that draws their attention.
Ali- LOVE this! I love the way you point out that if boys are not paying attention to where their heart is (and as a result their eyes) it doesn’t matter if we “cover” ourselves. Just had a conversation with a boy about the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit issue about this very topic. Both the styles and the objectification is in our faces all the time- it’s in magazines and the “red carpet.” The problem is that the moment we brought sin into the world the first thing we realized was that we are naked- and it all started there. When we know Christ it’s our responsibility to get back to the place of seeing each other as God’s creation and in this world it’s a constant challenge.
Good article, Leneita. Las year I took Emma to an event (the name is eluding me now). Part of the presentation was about modesty… for the moms and the girls. They gave us 3 tests to see if we are “baring too much”: First: put your right thumb on the bottom of your neck and lay your hand flat on your chest. If there is ches space showing, then it’s probably too low cut. Next: Bend over. If your lower back or panties show, then your pants are probably too lowa also. Last: raise your hands up above your head… you guessed it- if your belly is hanging out then your shirt is probably too short. Also, they taught us the greatest tip about wearing tank tops… they told us to shop in the boys/mens section for them because they are cut higher in the front… so we can still wear them without our boobs hanging out. Emma, being only 9 at the time, LOVED the tips because they were practical for her. We have always addressed modesty in our home, especially because we have a very tall, long legged, daughter and almost everything she tries to wear is too short. I agree that it is a heart issue. I also think that it is an exposure issue… what are our kids watching? Who are they trying to emulate? How are we, as moms, modeling modesty to them? The key, in my opinion, is to help our girls WANT to be modest as a way to glorify God with their bodies. So far my girls have not given me a fuss about not wearing bikinis, short shorts, short skirts, etc…. I am praying that I can still say the same in a few years.
I think you are right when you mention our culture is sucking young people in. In our church, I notice more and more girls wearing skin tight leggings and yoga pants. I notice more and more guys going shirtless on instagram and facebook, especially after a work out. I started looking around in other places and I noticed that the teens in our youth group were simply mirroring what they see on influential people they listen to and watch in films. Take a look at all the pop stars and top trending people on instagram, twitter and facebook. They dress like our youth group, or is it the other way around? The culture is saying how to dress and how “not to dress” (show skin). I think we can take culture and tweak it to be modest and we should. I think leggings can be worn but with a shirt that covers the butt, which thankfully, that style is in right now!! I think guys can wear tank tops at the gym or just stop posting their workout “gainz.” Male and female must be mindful to point their brother and sister’s to purity and Christlike wholeness. Youth leaders and parents should partner up and discuss what modesty looks like.
This is a great article. Being a 21 year old male, and having seen several styles from high school or college, modesty has gone into limited supply. Teens and young adults don’t realize you can look attractive, yet modest at the same time. Wear clothes at fit properly, and match your body style, and something more business casual. But there are reasonable times to show more skin or wear lighter clothing, such as the summer where the heat can be almost unbearable.
i am a pre-teenand this really helped me thank you for sharing.
Wow! This really touched me god has been working in my life and i have been around church my whole life but i haven’t been apostolic my whole life. I am wanting to know how i could share my story on here? Thank you