There’s division on the topic of modesty, and I’d love to see more open-minded, respectful discussion on it. Here’s my perspective.
My eyes were opened recently on male sexuality. Let me tell ya, I was pretty darn clueless. Learning and accepting has been a rough but good process.
I invite women to read this article that really opened my eyes:
These are the kinds of things that families and the church need to openly face and discuss, including with children (especially age 8 + up). Let’s be clear that ALL men struggle with visual purity, but specifics of what and how can vary. No guy is exempt from this (not your dad, your brother, your friend, your boyfriend, your husband, your pastor, etc.). If they tell you otherwise, they’re lying, and from experience, you’re better off in the light.
But before us ladies start to feel any superiority, we need to check ourselves. Now I know some women also struggle with visual purity; pornography and the way men dress/act can and do affect some women as well, but there are major differences in thinking and effect. Still, both men and women can think about how we present ourselves to others. I don’t want to be sexist in my writing, and ignore how these roles can to some degree be present in both sexes, but for simplicity’s sake, I’m going to write emphasizing the general struggle, which is men struggling with lust and women struggling with the desire to be appealing.
This is a great thing to read:
“But we should dress how we want! It’s their problem! If I want to show skin, men just need to learn to respect my body!” I see where you’re coming from. We don’t want to be dictated, no one does. And the sins that men commit are not justified by how women look, from lust to sexual violence. Everyone is ultimately responsible for their own sin. I also know that even in cultures where women are dressed head to toe, sexual violence is still present. So you can try to emphasize the truth that sexual immorality would exist no matter how women dress, so why bother worrying about modesty?
For one, I want to offer my body as a living sacrifice to God every day and in every way. Let’s remember that we can try to be sexy by more than just how we dress. It can also be how we walk, how we pose for a picture, how we dance, our attitude, our words, etc. I try to keep all of these in check. Let’s be honest, sometimes I’m feeling sassy and I let my hips sway when I walk. Even something as simple as that, I know in that moment I’m more concerned with getting attention than honoring God.
Here’s some questions I ask myself:
Am I dressing, walking, and behaving in a way that reflects that I’m a living sacrifice or more concerned with being appealing?
Would I be uncomfortable or embarrassed if my pastor, family member, boss, etc saw how I was dressed or what I was doing?
What if Jesus came back today, and saw this outfit or what I was doing? Would he look at me and be proud of his servant?
If we get real honest with ourselves, we’re more concerned with keeping up with society and finding our worth in things like attraction than truly standing apart for Christ and finding our worth in him.
Men are responsible for their lust, but it is a struggle for them. Sexual thoughts and urges are present in every man, and for men seeking purity it is a battle, not just a simple choice to “respect” women or not.
Guys who don’t care and objectify women are just going to encourage and enjoy when I rebel and wear sexier clothes. I’m just another sex object to ogle, and this kind of attention holds no emotional draw. To guys who do care, I’m just contributing to their struggle in a negative way.
The “it’s their problem, not mine” mentality is honestly a selfish one; but likely one based mostly on misunderstanding. If a friend was on a diet, would you flaunt a brownie in their face? Perhaps jokingly. But you would truly desire for them to succeed and wouldn’t do anything that actually might deter them in their battle for success. Without understanding, we don’t realize how easily the things we do and wear may be making it difficult for men around us. I used to wear short shorts, bikinis, short skirts/dresses, exercise shirtless…I was clueless. I was talking to a respected, married Christian man the other week, and he said “I wish women KNEW what things like short shorts and cleavage do to a man.” I used to get defensive when my family or ex had an issue with my outfit. Now I realize it’s because they actually KNEW what men were thinking. It’s not just lingerie that entices men’s minds and gives off a sexy vibe. I think most of us women just don’t know that a lot of the socially acceptable clothing these days can be very sexually enticing. Now I go to my brothers and dad for advice on my outfits. It sucks that all guys fighting for purity have to deal with this all the time, not to mention the shame associated with the battle of lust. Skin and seduction are everywhere: tv, billboards, internet, magazines by the checkout, women walking down the street, and even in church! I want to be one less struggle for a guy.
Some of the things I’ve heard Christian men confess struggling with are short-shorts (especially when cheeks stick out – that is way more major than I realized), tank tops, skin-tight clothes, short dresses and skirts, high heels in some cases, cleavage definitely (I realized most clothes even show cleavage when I bend forward, so I have invested in a variety of camis), cutouts or tears in the clothing, strapless tops, showing a lot of back, showing any tummy, sleeves slipping off the shoulder…
I have worn every one of these! I had no idea! Please share if there are more things you know of or struggle with, because I know I still have plenty to learn.
I want to help my brothers in Christ. As Christians we’re called to live differently than the rest of society, which requires sacrifice. I want to be appealing, but I’m focusing on saving having those desires met until I’m married. I’m sure it will be extra hard when I’m dating and especially engaged to fight my desire to be appealing to my man! It’s hard, because you compare yourself to society, and especially when you have a partner you worry about the fact that other women are looking more sexy than you! But a true man does his best to control his eyes, and does not need his partner to act or look sexy in order to control himself or be committed to her. I kinda viewed sex appeal as part of the process with getting a guy, but now I’ve been learning that sexual attention is not meaningful or good from any guy outside of marriage. Most importantly, I need to keep in check my flesh desires by keeping my mind on things above!
It is so difficult to be modest today. I went through a rough break-up from a guy who had pushed modesty onto me without ever explaining any of the facts to me. Don’t you think I wanted to “show him” afterwards by wearing whatever the heck I wanted?! Heck yes. And I had plenty of people around me pushing me to do so. And I had some moments of weakness (and still do). But thank God for bringing knowledge into my life so that I was able to begin making my own wise decisions about how I present my body. And it is hard these days to find cute and modest clothes (especially mid-thigh shorts and tankinis)! But it’s so worth it, because I can still enjoy fashion and beauty to a healthy extent, lessen the burden on the wonderful brothers in Christ around me, and please God in my efforts.
It’s a struggle and I don’t have all the answers; no perfect dress code or code of conduct exists, and each person varies on what they struggle with seeing. I think we need to continually assess our motives for what we do, be in conversation with others of varying viewpoints to grow in our understanding, put others before ourselves, and of course above all, honor God. Much easier said than done, but I know I want to try. These men deserve it (their wives/future wives, too) and God definitely deserves it.
Here’s some scripture that helps me when I struggle with this issue:
Philippians 2:3-4 Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit. Rather, in humility value others above yourselves, not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.
Romans 12:1 I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship.
1 Timothy 2:9 Likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control…
Proverbs 31:30 Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.
1 John 2:16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world.
Matthew 18:7 …“Woe to the world for temptations to sin! For it is necessary that temptations come, but woe to the one by whom the temptation comes!”
1 Corinthians 6:19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own
Romans 14:13 Therefore let us…decide never to put a stumbling block or hindrance in the way of a brother