Modesty

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I have struggled with modesty issues since high school. The fight that goes on in my brain follows thusly (I just wanted to use the word “thusly”): “It isn’t right to be skanky, I don’t want to be indecent or look like I’m offering up goods I’m not offering.” “It’s ok to be pretty, dang it, and if I have nice legs than why can’t I wear a short skirt? My butt isn’t hanging out or anything…” Variations on the theme include (you can sort out which side of the argument they belong to):

 “All the important parts are covered, and I’m wearing much more than most girls my age.”

“If people think I’m immodest then they have judgment issues.”

“I shouldn’t have to dress like a Puritan to be considered modest. I’m modern day modest.”

“Guys just notice me because I’m blonde, it has nothing to do with what I wear.”

“I want to impress a good Christian guy, so I should dress like a good Christian girl.”(now moot since I’m married)

“I don’t want to attract any unwanted attention because I want my body to be just for my hubby.”

“I don’t think being married should mean I have to wear ugly, baggy clothing.”

 You get the point. Here are some contributing factors that developed along the way. I was raised in a good Christian home and went to a good Christian Southern Baptist church. I mean “good” non-sarcastically, I am very grateful for my upbringing, but once I hit the “Teen Youth Group” bye-bye Bible studies and how to live right, and hello “DON’T HAVE PREMARITAL SEX OR DRESS LIKE A WHORE!” and that was it. Every youth group. Or at least that’s what it seemed like. And to make matters more confusing “Modesty” was never really explained and it seemed to break down along the following lines: If you looked pretty/attractive-you were an immodest slut tempting your poor brothers in Christ (I STILL hate that argument for modesty). If you dressed like you were 8 years old, 50 years out of date, or looked ugly- praise to the virtuous young lady!

 I hit puberty late. So, up until I was 15 I was teased and bullied for pretty much everything, including my glasses, and braces, and flat chest, and bony build, and height….you get the picture. Modesty wasn’t an issue, I was firmly in the “ugly” category. I turned 15 and I lost braces, got contacts, and finally could turn in the trainer bra for a real one. The first time a sleazy construction worker whistled at me I blushed bright red and was on an emotional high for the rest of the day. To have people think I was attractive after years of being ridiculed was, well, wonderful. BUT it quickly landed me in the “immodest” category. Some of what I wore was immodest, not horribly so, but definitely not something I would wear now, at least not in public. But mostly I was a teenage girl struggling with her identity and after being picked on for years for being ugly was not so quick to jump on the modesty bandwagon being touted by her church.

 College was a different story. I vacillated between still liking the whistles, and wanting to be more than “Fresh Meat” as the fraternities so nicely called the freshman girls. Then several incidents happened, some of which I never reported, and one where the police kindly told me there was nothing they could do. They weren’t super serious issues by today’s standards-although I’m not comfortable sharing on cyberspace-but they were enough to make me hate being attractive on some level. And for a year I threw the modesty book out the window and showed how ever much or little I wanted because I was so angry at being misused that I used my appearance as a weapon. Kind of along the lines of “If they’re going to treat me like a commodity than I’m going to make them wish they owned me.” I’m not proud of that, but it’s the truth. I came around slowly, thanks to a God who continued to show me in all sorts of ways that I was not only beautiful inside and out, but valuable-even coveted, to Him. I wish THAT is what I had been taught in Youth Group.

 Now, I’m married to a wonderful man who thinks I’m beautiful no matter what I’m wearing, but there is still part of me that wants to look pretty. For years I thought it was wrong to look pretty (attractive=immodest) and although I appreciate someone telling me I look nice who isn’t my husband or close family- I still get a little tinge of guilt along with it. I’m rediscovering the modesty line. And I’m learning that it’s ok to be attractive. I go back and forth, some days I march out of the house in heels and a skirt going “Watch out world!” and then other days I agonize over whether or not my jeans are too tight. I’m slowly learning to dress for myself, not just for how others view me. I think it is important to be modest, I don’t want to be intentionally provocative, but if someone who isn’t my husband thinks I’m attractive when I dress up that doesn’t automatically make me a skank. And if I want to wear four inch heels because they’re super cute shoes, then I’m going to wear 4 inch heels! And so what if my favorite lipstick shade is red, I’m white and I have blue eyes, red lips just make me patriotic. My skimpy little tube tops are no longer going to be worn in public, and I keep a closer eye on my hem lines-but a skirt at mid thigh just because I have long legs does not make me indecent. I don’t have to worry much about cleavage (got to have some to worry about it) but I do keep an eye on shirts that fall open when I bend forward and how tight I wear things.

 I initially thought using Brian as a guideline would work; the ol’ “Do you want other guys seeing me in this?” argument. But Brian just shrugs with this look in his eye like “If they try something they won’t last long…” and tells me he thinks I look amazing so I should wear it. So here is my conclusion-I don’t have one yet. I’m still drawing and re-drawing the modesty line everyday-with much prayer and tossing about of clothing. I don’t have any rigid rules, but I do believe that it’s ok for Christian women to dress attractively and I am not sinning by looking pretty. This also holds true for wearing makeup and liking all sorts of jewelry and if every once in awhile I want to dye my naturally blonde hair almost platinum white I do not automatically turn into a playboy bunny.Bikini’s are an issue I still go back and forth on and could probably take up another post entirely and this one is already long enough.

 Ok, I know it’s a weighty issue for blog material, especially following a post all about chairs, but I warned you when I switched over to WordPress that my blog bounces all over the place so deal with it.

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11 responses »

  1. I wish I would’ve figured some of this out sooner so I could at least pass on whatever I managed to learn. I appreciate the honesty – definitely not an easy issue to sort out. I know I only count in the “close family” category, but I really do think you are quite BEAUTIFUL! And, I don’t just mean in the “I know you’r a beautiful person inside (which you are)”; I mean in the Barbie meets Rambo sort of way 🙂 Love you! (I’m not sure how much gush is allowed in these comments so I promise it won’t happen again…for a while…at least not on your posts about chairs 🙂

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    • Haha, thank you, I still consider you quite beautiful. And you passed on more than you realized, I always wanted to be like my big sister when I grew up, with the long dark hair and sky blue eyes, and that included keeping an eye on what you wore. I probably would’ve dressed a lot skankier in highschool if I didn’t have a big sister to emulate 🙂 Thanks for not getting gushy over the chairs, I wouldn’t know how to respond to that. I love you!

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  2. I had a huge response written and I accidentally Xed out of the page so hopefully I can remember all I had to say as a response! First of all…
    “I’m white and I have blue eyes, red lips just make me patriotic” – HA!
    “Brian just shrugs with this look in his eye like “If they try something they won’t last long…” – double HA!
    Very well said my sweet and BEAUTIFUL cousin! I’ve definitely traveled along a similar path in regards to modesty and I TOO was the awkward gangly girl that struggled with finding a balance between society’s standards and that of my holier than though Teen Youth Group. I struggled with fitting in while not looking like a total hoe-bag and while I can look back on photos and not think I looked all that immodest, my take on what is and isn’t appropriate for a woman of God to wear has definitely evolved.
    I definitely think God bestows beauty not to be hidden but embraced. We shouldn’t feel like we have to dress like puritains in order to show the world we are Christian, but we should have enough respect for our faith and all that God has given us not to abuse beauty and turn feeling attractive into vanity or narcissism.
    I generally try not to over-think the issue as a whole, especially when considering what OTHER PEOPLE may think about me because of the clothes I wear, because if I did I would probably never leave the house without making sure every last inch of skin was covered. I’ve always reminded myself that other people’s opinions/judgements of me shouldn’t matter and I have definitely renewed that belief since being pregnant. Thankfully I was able to keep my wedding rings on during my whole pregnancy but I could still feel people looking at me in judgement because they assumed I was too young to be married. But I was (am) and therefore their judgements were simply that… judgements.
    All in all I am proud of the way I look (not to promote narcissism I just shunned, but humor me) because I take care of my body. God gave me this body and I want to keep it healthy and beautiful as long as I can to show appreciation for His gift. I don’t think Christian women should feel guilty about being pretty, as long as their intentions are to glorify God and not attract whistling construction workers. As for those women that claim to be GCB’s but skank it up every time they walk out the door so they’ll get noticed by ALL THE WRONG PEOPLE… they obviously aren’t presenting themselves the way GOd intended.
    You are such a beautiful woman, whether your fashion choice consists of a nuns habit or a bikini.

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    • “but I could still feel people looking at me in judgement because they assumed I was too young to be married” Some people-especially patients on the ambulance-think I’m still in high school. I understand the “getting judged for being “too” young and married” thing, and I’m not even pregnant!

      Thanks so much for the comment, I am right there with you on being proud of keeping my body healthy, and I am working on the not letting what other people think deter my fashion sense-but it’s a slow process haha

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  3. I love this and I love YOU! I had to laugh at your description of our Southern Baptist youth groups… they tried… but you’re right – if we were taught confidence in CHRIST not confidence in abstinence, what a difference that would have made!

    I had similar arguments running through my mind while John and I went to a runners store to buy some new running clothes (i.e one new pair of shorts for each of us – those things are darn expensive!) After trying on countless pairs of shorts, several while thinking, “Are you serious? Are you SUPPOSED to feel the wind on your buttcheeks when you run? Did I miss something?” I finally found a pair that I was comfortable with (bright pink and green of course!) that didn’t give me a built in breeze but enough breathability that they were great!

    Anytime I came slinking out of the dressing room and furtively glancing around to make sure no one could see me John was like, “Um Rachel. If you don’t want other people seeing you in it, you probably shouldn’t get it.” haha!

    Modesty is a blurred line indeed in today’s world. But it’s not a synonym for “Out of date, dumpy, or mom jeans” (though those are comfortable..lets be honest). 😉

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    • Yeah, the funny thing about running clothing is other people WILL eventually see you in it, so John probably has a pretty good point, haha. I’m glad you liked the post, I love you too :). So when you get your women’s ministry together you should host a modesty intervention for Youth Groups in your area. Modesty Intervention would also be a great name for a book, you could be the next Beth Moore! 😛

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      • Excellent idea! I’ll call the intervention “Breezy buttcheeks and the Bible belt burka – Where’s the happy medium?: 21st Century take on Modesty in the Church” For marketing purposes I think I’ll just shorten it to: Breezy buttcheeks: Modesty in the Church” — I think I’d have a full house! haha! 🙂

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  4. I’ve always dressed fairly modestly I guess. I was in the same boat as you, with everyone thinking I was ugly. Then college hit :P. I was walking up some stairs one day and a male friend of mine was behind me. He grabbed my butt! I was so stunned! I turned around and shoved him down the stairs. Never spoke to him again :). And no one ever tried that on me again (I think word got around fairly quickly 🙂 ).

    I’ve been thinking about this again recently though as I have been nursing my child. It really bothers me how there’s this belief that women must completely cover up when nursing in this country. I think if fewer women used a cover-up to nurse, then boobs would become less sexual in the context of feeding a child (as is in the case of most other Western countries). So, something to think about when/if that time comes for you!

    (I’m a friend of your sister’s btw!).

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    • Thank you so much for the comment! I think a lot of girls go through an incredibly awkward phase through middle-high school age ranges. It is reaffirming to know I’m not the only late beauty bloomer, hahaha.

      The breast feeding issue is an interesting one I hadn’t thought about before. But it does seem evident that our society’s fixation on all that is sexual in women has considerably warped our view of the female body. Maybe if I ever have children I can add a personal viewpoint on the public breastfeeding issue, thanks for bringing it up!

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