Saturday, December 1, 2007

Modesty: true beauty uncovered

As I start another post about modesty, I can almost see in the eyes of my mind a young girl or woman out there, giving a little sigh and saying to herself: 'Yes, I know modesty is good and right; I know it's important. But I'm just getting a little tired of reading about how I should only wear skirts, how tight is too tight, and how I shouldn't draw attention to myself. No fun!'

Well, actually, the message I would like to give today is quite different. Certainly there's nothing wrong with being valued, cherished, and appreciated – and yes, getting attention. Only we need to make sure it's the right kind of attention. If you put on immodest clothes and inappropriate, flirty attitude, you will not be seen as yourself – a precious and important human being – but as a lightheaded, flirtatious woman. Maybe you will even give the impression of superficial cuteness. But it will not give you long-lasting and solid attention and affection.

When I was in high school, the girls who received a lot of attention from the cutest guys were inevitably the most flirtatious ones, dressed in the shortest skirts and wearing the most makeup. Sometimes I would sigh and wish I was like them: pretty and popular.

Now my former classmates are all between 21-23 years old, and more than a few girls got married already. Want to know which girls? The meek and quiet ones, the ones we didn't think would ever find anyone. What about the giggly queen bees in their flashy dresses? They had so many boyfriends, so why aren't they married?

I'm not saying getting married as quickly as possible is the ultimate way to bliss. My point is that getting a lot of attention from men doesn't mean anything about our long-term happiness. We should ask ourselves: what type of attention do we want to get from men? Do we want fun and a few laughs? Or do we want men to see us as potential wives and mothers of their children?

Not long ago, I flipped through some photo albums from my high school days. I used to dress very inappropriately back then. Looking through those photos, I slowly came to realizing how there was virtually no chance to resist the obvious appeal of that young woman. Her bare shoulders, legs, chest, midriff screamed for attention. The wrong kind of attention.

Modesty isn't about hiding forever in the shadow of plainness. On the contrary: modesty allows to uncover the real you, with your special, unique beauty. You aren't your body. You aren't giggles and flirting. You are a sweet woman, cherished woman, with a beautiful heart, mind and soul.

You are also an individual; yes, modesty has nothing to do with cookie-cutter living. We are all called to some basic standards by God, but other than that, there's plenty of room for creativity and expressing your true self. It cannot be seen, however, if you let it be overshadowed by immodesty.

38 comments:

Adlyn said...

I agree, in middle school I used to dress immodesty, I now dress more modest. I don't wear dresses and skirts all the time like you anna but I learning how to sew so I can! (I finished a 1950's skirt and will move on to a baby blue/plaid dress). I have to learn how to sew if I want to wear modest clothes (skirts, dresses, tops) because everytime I go into a store I find very immodest clothing (50%) or very masculint clothes (other 50%). I wish the stores would put in more feminine and modest clothes but I don't think that every going to happen anytime soon. anyway great post Anna looking forward for the next part of the dedicated daughters series!

xoxoxo,
Adlyn

Asia said...

Wow, I love this post. I remember when I was in high school and I saw so many girls being aggressive and I didn't know why. I was like "do I have to be aggressive to get attention"? But I knew in my heart that being aggressive was not me, and God would not want me to act like that at all.

Emily (Unfurling Flower) said...

What a beautiful post Anna - such a great fresh perspective on dressing modesty. Excellent job :)
P.S. Thank you so much for your support and encouragement and prayers these past few days. I appreciate it more than you know.

andrea said...

I wasn't one of the flashy girls in high school, or college for that matter! People don't think I have a sense of humor, but actually, I do, I just don't flaunt it crazily! I'm happy with the way I am. People complement me on my clothing. It's nothing special, it doesn't always come from the 'hip' stores, but people always recognize the beauty of the modesty they exude! : )

Kelly said...

Bravo, Anna, well said. Modesty, I think, is also the very heart of being a lady and not just a woman.

Mrs. G said...

Good post, once again, Anna. You bring up some things that I have observed, too. I have (mostly) always been a modest dresser and quiet/meek. I was one of the first of my high school classmates to marry, despite the lack of boyfriends. Now, 10 years later, very few of the "popular" girls are married, while most of us "nerds" have started families. I don't mean that in a negative way, but it's an interesting observation.

I look back at the times I wasn't dressed modestly and now I regret them. It's hard to explain this to young girls, but you will never regret being modest, while you *will* regret being immodest.

Green Eyes said...

Lovely post, Anna. While I can't claim my style in high school was exactly modest, even I was in sharp contrast with most of the "popular" girls. Most of my friends, who were, like me, comparatively modest (though not based on any principle, I assure you), are married now. And where are most of the "popular" girls now? Going from one relationship (are they really even relationships?) to another, wearing less and less and crying into their hard drinks because they were "left." Again.

This is a right-on post, excellently expressing the practicalities of modesty, even for those without a spiritual mandate.

Terry said...

I dressed fairly modestly in high school, at least compared to other girls because my dad wouldn't let me leave the house "looking like a floosie". (I think that's how he put it.:)) When I left home I more than made up for it for a couple of years until I married. Since I married young, that phase didn't last long, thank goodness. Good post.

Sammybunny said...

well put anna! I think there isn't a real cookie-cutter approach outlined for modesty even in the bible but rather very clear guidelines in which there is a LOT of freedom for individual expression! Modesty can be very very attractive but GOOD attractive! :o)

AnneK said...

Unfortunately it just doesn't end in high school. I recently realized it all too well at a corporate get together outside the corporate environment. What is expressed in dressing in high school carries over to various other things in later life. I come from a different culture, and so I feel modesty is very much a personal standard and issue of the heart. What Godly ladies here might think is very modest is considered immodest in my culture. Which is why I do not consider "skirts-and dresses only" people as the biblical standard in modesty. I am sure some of you will be shocked if I say that if I walk around in a skirt and top, it is considered forward in my hometown. Only "hip" girls do that, and no lady will ever consider such a thing. Which is why statements like "skirts are God's modesty standard for women" make me laugh out loud.

Anonymous said...

What if one's personality is giggly and enthusiastic? Isnt that who she is an individual? While some may consider that behavior fliratious-I believe that some girls/women are simply louder, more gregarious and outgoing than others. Is that somehow less Biblically correct? These outgoing girls are typically more popular. However, just being popular does not make one unmodest. Sometimes I get the feeling that quieter woman are viewed as somehow more modest and better Christians than louder more outgoing women. I personally dont agree with that. What are your thoughts?

Anna S said...

Personality is one thing. Pretending to be something you're not in order to draw attention to yourself is another thing.

Maggie said...

I would agree with Annek, "skirts and dresses only" does not equate modesty. I see some of the skirts that women, old and young alike, wear around here during the summer and there is NOTHING modest about it. Wearing something so short that it barely covers your derrière is not appropriate, especially while in Church!

Don't even get me started on what women will wear to Baptisms, at the most recent service my friends I and sat there dumbfounded at this women (who turned out to be the God-Mother!) was wearing: bright red patten pumps, a short black skirt, tight black lace shirt with tight red suit jacket. (complete with ample bosom) If that is distracting to the women in the Church, I can only begin to imagine how distracting that was for the males in the congregation. But hey, probably in her eyes she was wearing a 'Church appropriate attire".

Secondly, that's an interesting observation that you've made Anna with regards to the quiet and meek students from your high school are the ones who are married vs. the flirty brash girls who are still single. I would have to say that several of the popular girls from my graduating class are married now, though to be honest I can't remember being overly shocked by their outfits at school. I was too busy worrying about my grades than coveting fashions.

http://creativeportal.spaces.live.com

Sue said...

Maggie's baptism story reminds me about a news story a couple of years ago where a Roman Catholic priest refused to serve the Eucharist to girls/women with bare midriffs or skimpy shorts or boys/men with pants or shorts that looked like they were about to fall down to their ankles, among other things.

I think this priest has the right idea, though as has already been noted, modesty really flows from your heart and not a strict dress code.

My .02,

Sue

Rebekah S. said...

So true, modesty is so very very important!! When we dress immodestly, we receive the wrong kind of attention from the wrong kind of young man. When we dress immodestly, we will not be attracting the wonderful Christian young men that we should desire to marry, but rather we will receive attention from young men who most likely aren't following the Bible. For, godly young men will not be attracted to immodestly dressed young women. But rather, they will be attracted to those ladies who are feminine, modest, meek and quiet, etc. Also, another thing that my mother has often told me is that even those guys who may seem interested in or date those immodest females do not truly see that person as marriage material. For, even they themselves would deep down desire someone who is modest.

Great post, Anna!!


Blessings,
Rebekah

P.S. Could you please pray for me? I have laryngitis and a cold right now. Thanks for your prayers!

Tammy said...

Modest dress does, indeed, reveal true beauty. But covering the body from "here" to "there" is not all there is to modesty. There is another dimension, to which you alluded, Anna, and that is the meek and quiet spirit. For some women, this comes naturally. For others, ones raised to be boisterous and loud, this "ornament of a meek and quiet spirit" requires work. No matter how a woman's natural personality is, it is not modest to be loud and stubborn.
BTW, the "popular" girls I went to school with did marry, but were generally divorced at least once by the time our tenth reunion rolled around. Sad!

Tracy said...

What a wonderfully true post! I Couldn't agree more. Oh, if only I could re-do my teenage years!

Miss Julianne said...

About the comment above about personality: God says a lot about a woman's spirit. Modesty should be a spirit of not drawing undue attention to ourselves, whether that be by revealing clothing or brash behavior. We should have a spirit of "shamefacedness and sobriety" and have a "meek and quiet spirit, which is in the sight of God of great price."

What if, as you say, a loud, brash, giggly demeanor is a girl's natural personality?

Well, we are born sinners. There are many things that we are born with that are not right, such as a tendency to throw tantrums, talk back to our parents, steal, lie, hit, etc. Nobody is going to say, "You say I shouldn't steal, lie, hit, or throw tantrums? I am 30 years old, and that is just my personality and I don't see anything wrong with it." No, it is a sin that you need to ask God for victory over.

I am pretty quiet by nature, but sometimes I have a tendency to draw attention to myself, and certain people draw out that side of me more than others do. I have had to learn to pray (especially if I know I am going to be in a tempting situation) "Lord, please help me to have a quiet spirit at this lunch today. Help me to keep my mouth shut and not dominate the conversation. Let the glory be put on You, Lord, not on me."

It is all a part of maturing and becoming more selfless: the attention does NOT need to be drawn to me. That is not a modest spirit.

Maggie said...

Tammy,

How would you describe 'stubborn'? Do you mean stubborn as in being rebellious and not listening to good common sense? Disobeying parents and rules? Or do you mean stubborn as in believing in your convictions even if the rest of the crowd disagrees?

Or is there are a distinction between the two types of 'stubbornness'


Sue,
I get so distracted at times by what the teenagers in my congregation wear, baggy jeans and sneakers. But I remind myself that many churches are struggling to fill the pews with young people, teenagers and children alike, that at least here the kids come back faithfully week after week and participate in the service as altar boys etc...

Does anyone else get distracted by the fashions at church?

http://creativeportal.spaces.live.com

Ahuva said...

I really liked this post. In my community, modest dress means skirts/dresses only and collar bones, elbows, and knees must be covered at all times. Sometimes keeping my collar bone and elbows covered gets frustrating (or at least really tricky to do comfortably in the summer), but I always liked wearing skirts.

Sue said...

Maggie:

I have the mixed emotions about the clothes that some of our middle and high schoolers wear to church (and some adults, too!) But very few teens really dress off the charts that often, and even if they do, we are a parish who believes in welcoming everyone who wishes to worship with us, become involved with our church, and ultimately fall in love with Jesus if they don't already know him in a personal way.

Our young people assist at the altar, bear the crucifix and torches in the processional and recessional, help out with Sunday School and VBS, and serve in other ways. So while I agreed with the priest I read about in one way, I definitely see your point that attending church, hearing the word of God, sharing in the Eucharist and making Christian friendships is much more important for teens than it is for young men to show up in shirt and tie and young women to show up in a long-sleeved blouse and long skirt. I've even gone to church in blue jeans and a casual top if I've overslept!

Point well taken, Maggie.

--Sue

Rebekah S. said...

It's absolutely horrible the ways some people dress in church! The church is the body of believers, and we must dress as such! Visitors to our congregation must be able to look at us and know that we are Christ's! God commands modesty over and over in His Word, and it is therefore something we must obey. But modesty goes much farther than just clothing. It also carries over into how you act. Flirtativeness, being loud and boisterous, being overly goofy and silly, etc., is not only unladylike and immature, but it's also immodest! And, on the subject of being flirty, not only is that immodest, but it's impure as well!

Oh, Anna(and the rest of you as well), have you read the book entitled, "Christian modesty and the public undressing of America" by Jeff Pollard? It's not that long of a book, but it talks on modesty and it shows how today's swimwear is just absolutely horrible, and it gives the history of the decline of swimwear, etc.. Mr. Pollard is just so smart and I can't even begin to do the book justice just be tring to describe it to you. If you, Anna, or any of the rest of you haven't read it, I highly encourage you to! It's available through Vision Forum. One thing that's amazing that he pointed out, was that in the Garden of Eden when God made the cloaks(or tunics) of skin to be coverings for Adam and Eve, they reached the knee. Mr. Pollard uses his knowledge of Hebrew to show that God requires that our clothing reach our knees, and he shows that clothing that is any shorter than that is immodest in God's sight. It's really a thought provoking book! Of course, I like to wear skirts and dresses that are even longer than that! I love really long skirts and dresses(ones that are ankle length) because I just love the way they look. They're very modest, feminine and they make me feel like I'm old-fashioned when I wear them, because in the 1800s, that's the length of the clothing that they wore! Here I am rambling now.....lol :)

Abigail said...

Girls who feel that they have to show off every inch of thier body to every boy that looks their way are most likely very shallow girls and empty. They propably do not get enought attention from their father, so they are looking elsewhere for that attention, they look to boys around them, flirting and being loud and silly, they are trying to fill that empty void that only a father can fill in his daughter's life. In most cases, girls who feel like they have to show off their whole body are very shallow and empty. The only thing they feel that they have to offer is thier body. Sad.

Anna S said...

"One thing that's amazing that he pointed out, was that in the Garden of Eden when God made the cloaks(or tunics) of skin to be coverings for Adam and Eve, they reached the knee."

Very curious. I just went through Genesis 3 and can't find any such thing. What's his reasoning?

Anonymous said...

Anna,

I really enjoy your post! Thank you for always having such encouraging words to say!

I just wanted to point out, in addition to all of the wise things you said about modesty, how interesting it is that modest clothing is often much more flattering than immodest clothing. A beautifully flowing, feminine skirt will flatter any figure, while short shorts and tube tops uncover a multitude of faults! :)

On a serious note, it is so important for young women to realize that the attention they receive by wearing immodest clothing is very dangerous, defrauding attention that is best reserved for young women who are not daughters of the living God.

Faithfully His,
A Daughter

Anonymous said...

In response to the personality comment:

I, too, am a naturally talkative, and gregarious person, but as I've grown older, I've had to learn that there is a time and a place for such behavior. For me, that time and place is at home with my family, not in mixed company, where I am liable to attract too much attention from the opposite sex. Such is the burden that we more charming young women have to bear for our brothers in Christ. :)

Faithfully His
A Daughter

Mandy said...

Thank you for sharing your thoughts in this post.

"Do we want fun and a few laughs? Or do we want men to see us as potential wives and mothers of their children?"

This is truly something to keep in mind.

Karen said...

Just wanted to add another bit about modesty that I don't think anyone mentioned yet...there are a lot of really creepy guys out there. I personally live in a city with a very high crime rate when it comes to victimizing young women, and it's best not to draw attention for any creepy guys! I like to dress so that I'll feel comfortable no matter who looks at me!

Rebekah S. said...

So true, Abigail! It definitely shows the vast importance of a loving, affectionate father in a daughter's life.


Anna,

Hi! I haven't read the book in a few months, so I can't remember exactly what he said, but I will be sure to check it out today and explain it to you! It was really interesting and thought-provoking!

Anonymous said...

From PENDRAGON:

I was one of those outgoing girls who had a lot of male attention in high school. Some of this male attention was surely the "wrong" kind, although I enjoyed it hugely. It never occurred to me to worry that I might not be wife material. Since I became a wife quite young, apparently there is at least one man out there who thinks that a girl who is fun and good for a few laughs can also be a great wife and mother. So I am seeing a false dichotomy here:

what type of attention do we want to get from men? Do we want fun and a few laughs? Or do we want men to see us as potential wives and mothers of their children?

This is a false dichotomy for a couple of reasons. First, I don't buy for an instant that boys and men are incapable of respecting a fun, outgoing girl even if she is flirtatious and sexual. There is no reason to assume that a young woman who likes to flirt (or even one who is promiscuous) won't make a good partner, friend, mother, businesswoman, the whole nine yards. I have no patience for people who think that a girl or woman who enjoys the opposite sex is somehow less bright or has less integrity than other girls or women.

Second, this idea that you can either be a flirt or wife-material seems to buy into the ancient classification whereby all women are "nice girls" or "whores." But I refuse to allow others to classify my worth based on whether I reach some arbitrary standard of "nice girl." Sure there are plenty of boys and men still around who view women through that simplistic lens, but those are not the sort of boys or men I would want to marry.

Which brings me to my third issue. A lot of this seems to be about shaping our behavior to get a man to marry us. But maybe those men should be the ones worrying about whether we want to marry them. They should be worrying about not classifying the girls they knew in highschool according to simplistic stereotypes based on how much skin they show or how sexual they were, etc. If a man is shallow enough to hold it against me for flirting when he himself was just as flirtatious, then I have no use for him.

I don't have a problem with women I know who prefer modest dress or even a meek demeanor. But I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that we can somehow "earn" good treatment from men by depriving ourselves of pleasure and acting subservient. In my experience, men react well to confidence and self-assertion. They tend not to respect self-denial and humility as much. The question is not so much will he marry you, but how will he treat you after the trip to the alter?

Rebekah S. said...

Pendragon, you said:

"First, I don't buy for an instant that boys and men are incapable of respecting a fun, outgoing girl even if she is flirtatious and sexual. There is no reason to assume that a young woman who likes to flirt (or even one who is promiscuous) won't make a good partner, friend, mother, businesswoman, the whole nine yards........They tend not to respect self-denial and humility as much. "

With all due respect, I must disagree. Oftentimes, if a girl is very immodest and if she flirts a lot, etc., ungodly males see her as an object, and no, they do not respect her. That's a fact. And, Godly young men do indeed have a huge deal of respect for humble, submissive, modest, meek and quiet young women. That also is a fact. And, godly young men are looking for young women who are godly, and who would be good examples of godly femininity to their future children. The kind of woman that you mentioned above would not be the kind of mother that a godly man would want to marry.

Another thing you said was this: "But I think we are kidding ourselves if we think that we can somehow "earn" good treatment from men." We should not be dressing modestly, be acting modestly, and living with a meek and quiet spirit for the sole purpose of "receiving good treatment from men". We should act like this because God's Word commands it, and because as Christians, we are to obey His commands out of a heart of love for Him. Our reason for living like this should be to glorify, praise and honor Him. That should be what drives us to act and dress this way.

Here's omething else that you said:"The question is not so much will he marry you, but how will he treat you after the trip to the alter?" If a man married you because he was attracted to the immodest way that you(I don't mean you specifically, I mean someone in general) dressed, rest assured that more than likely he won't be sticking around-he will probably leave and go off following the next "promiscuous" looking body that he sees. That's another reason why it's so wrong and bad to dress immodestly. Because you will be attracting the attention of those who are ungodly, immoral, etc.

Rebekah S. said...

So true, Karen!



"Do we want fun and a few laughs? Or do we want men to see us as potential wives and mothers of their children?"

We all must keep this in mind for sure!

Anonymous said...

The purpose of modest dress -the purpose of everything we do in this life -is not to please men (male or female), but to glorify God. Frankly, I don't think having a husband is proof of having accomplished this, nor do I think that being single is proof of the opposite. Our goal in life is not to be married -our goal in life is to glorify God in the sphere in which He's placed us. For most of us here, that sphere includes -or will someday include -the calling of a wife. Proverbs 31 makes it clear that a wife is to do good, not evil to her husband "ALL the days of her life." All.

I would say that a woman who enjoys acting immodest is in direct violation of scriptural commands (Proverbs 11:22) Women are commanded to dress and behave modestly (1 Timothy 2:9), and a woman who lacks discretion might receive respect from certain, young men, but she does not receive it from the Word of God (Proverbs 9:13). The Bible tells us exactly which behavior is pleasing to the Lord (1 Peter 3:1-6).

Women and men are going to be attraced to each other, but we have a responsiblity toward our brothers in Christ not to take advantage of that attraction for our own selfish enjoyment and pleasure. (i.e, 1 Corinthians 8:12)

Andrea said...

Anna, another lovely post, as always! Very insightful, and thought provoking. I've been dealing with some delightful winter weather up my way (nearly 40cm of snow! Finally!) and all associated trips to the shops, weather proofing, etc., so I've fallen a little behind on my blog reading, but I'm having fun catching up now.

It's so interesting to see how different ladies meet the need for modesty in their dress. Many of course choose to wear long skirts all the time, and can "pull this off" admirably. (I do have to disagree that this is a flattering style for all ladies; I am quite petite, and invariably look very square and dumpy in a full-length skirt! Longer skirts always emphasise how short I am. Something that falls just below my knee always suits my figure much better).

Personally, I enjoy a mix of skirts and slacks/jeans. Skirts are fun for summer and early autumn weather, but when you live somewhere as windy as I do . . . believe me, they are not a modest choice for winter weather! When I am wearing slacks or jeans I usually pair them with an especially feminine top, and I love the balance this achieves; my mother and I both love eyelet patterns and I have several shirts with eyelet detail on them. I also like things with a small ruffle along the collar or cuffs; I have a few blazers and blouses with a ruffle, and some with embroidery detail that balances what would otherwise have been a more masculine style. For me, it's all in the details; I love the more subtle touches in clothing, such as a ruffle or an embroidered detail, and often focus on these when I'm shopping.

Incidentally, regarding some of the comments you've received concerning comportment, I have to say that I happen to be a giggly girl ;) I smile a lot, laugh a lot, and think very hard. Of course, people tend to see the first two long before they are aware of the third, and yet their lack of awareness of it doesn't mean I cease to think when I laugh, smile or talk.

I do believe that a young lady can be vivacious and friendly in spirit without compromising her modesty. I am particularly concerned that some comments you've received seem to indicate a belief no worthy young man would ever consider a girl who was not wholly quiet and reserved in her entire manner; personally, I can't see much of God in an attitude like that (that is, the attitude of such a young man). I certainly plan to teach my daughters that any young man without the depth of spirit and presence of mind to take the time to get to know them and acquaint himself with their hearts, rather than just their smiles or solemn faces, is a young man with much growing up to do!

Maggie said...

karen,

A man will attack a woman regardless of what she is wearing. In fact some men may prefer to attack a women who is modestly dressed and acting demurely because she appears to be 'weaker' than women who are dressed more immodestly and yet are carrying themselves well. Does that make sense?

Additionally, it has been noticed that after a woman has been attacked, she will begin to dress more modestly and withdraw herself in attempt to not draw attention to herself, when in actuality this will draw more attention to herself. Especially if she was a gregarious outgoing young woman.


http://creativeportal.spaces.live.com

Rebekah S. said...

Amen, Anonymous! You stated that so beautifully, and made some points which I had forgotten to make! :) Thank you for that wonderful comment.

Rebekah S. said...

Andrea, you mentioned "a girl who was not wholly quiet and reserved in her entire manner". I can't speak for the rest of the ladies here, but I don't think a young lady must be completely quiet and reserved in her entire manner. That's not what I'm talking about at all, nor is it what other ladies are talking about, I'm sure. A young lady needs to be friendly, happy, kind, and it's always great to smile and laugh! But she needs to ensure that she's not being silly, boisterous, obnoxious, etc. And she needs to remember to work on having a meek and quiet spirit.
There is a nice, perfect balance that can be acquired if we're only willing to work for it!

domestic_hippie said...

I love your blog. I write but I cannot do what you do...you speak out without anger...I get passionate and lose my vision and it comes out poorly.

I'm a recently married, to my Husband who led me to God and with the exception of a few women at church have trouble finding homemaking helps. I look forward to you posts.