Modesty: A Guy’s Opinion (Part 3)
(Part 3 of 3) Part 1, Part 2
Part 3: Modesty: Bringing Heaven to Earth
In part one of this three-part series on the topic of modesty, I explored several different arguments against modesty and showed how none of them stood up under scrutiny.
In part 2, I focused on the positives of dressing modestly and the negatives of dressing immodestly, while describing how immodesty hurts men as well as women. I also explained why women, even for purely selfish reasons, should want to dress modestly.
To conclude the series, part three will explore the nature of modesty as, fundamentally, a matter of the heart. Throughout the series, my purpose has been to provide a view on the particular problem of immodestly dressed women from the perspective of a young man. We will return to focus on this particular problem, but first we must take a brief detour in an attempt to go deeper to the nature and source of the problem.
When turning our thoughts toward the nature of modesty, it doesn’t take long before it becomes evident that immodesty isn’t just a problem for girls. It’s a universal issue for both genders that typically manifests itself differently in males and females and extends far deeper than external clothing. The particular problem of immodesty among males is beyond the scope of this article, but suffice it to say, with regard to males, immodesty of dress tends toward an egotistic expression and attempt to garner admiration. Now, when it comes to immodesty of dress in general, the most common and immediate defense comes as a particular application of the undeniable truth that, “…man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart. See 1 Samuel 16. Many who get defensive about the topic of dressing modestly will espouse that it is not what is on the outside that matters, but rather, it is the heart that counts. This is completely true, yet how we dress is a major factor in how we represent ourselves to one another. Failure to acknowledge this reality will cause difficulty in making sense of other passages of Scripture that draw attention to specific details concerning external adornment. What is on the outside will, in a very important sense, reflect the inside. You can’t change the inside by changing the outside, but in many cases, the outside is a picture of the inside. So, if we agree that what really matters is the condition of the heart, why is there a problem?
At this point, we must take the next step toward understanding the inner condition of the heart that, among other things, produces an external….
Modesty is just one facet of the virtue of humility.
Humility is an attitude that acknowledges the importance of others in opposition to self-promotion. Dressing modestly is just another way of being humble, of acknowledging the importance of others instead of elevating yourself.
Humility is a heart condition. While it’s true that wearing different articles of clothing can make us feel a certain way, humility isn’t a feeling. Humility, like so many other virtues, is not something we can attain by merely trying harder. Force of will isn’t good enough.
You can’t be a good writer simply by willing yourself to be one. You have to practice often, and employ different strategies. Then, after a time, you will be a good writer, and good writing will simply flow out of you, though that’s not to say that it won’t be hard, or that you won’t have to keep practicing. Learning a virtue is like learning any skill.
When we are humble, humility will flow out of us. We will talk with humility we will act with humility, and we will dress with humility. If we are humble, everything we do will be done with humility. It won’t be a burden, we won’t even have to try very hard. We’ll just do it because it’s who we are and we love to do it. That’s what a transformed heart looks like.
However, the truth is, many of us are not at the point where humility, just flows out of us. Why? Because our hearts are corrupted and not correctly calibrated to Christ. So to become humble, we need to practice. We may not like it at first, we may even hate it at first, but it all comes down to whether or not we want it.
Maybe you don’t want it, but do you want to want it? You have to start somewhere.
But we can become humble if we practice. What does that look like? Maybe we intentionally try to talk about others instead of ourselves. Maybe we sacrifice doing something that would bring attention to ourselves instead of God. Maybe we start wearing clothing that doesn’t display so much of our bodies in order to catch the eye of others. We may not like it. We may not like the new style of dress, or the new style of talking, but with continued practice, and the work of the Holy Spirit, we can change, and grow to love the things that God loves.
Once our hearts have been transformed into the image of Christ, then humility will flow out of us. We wouldn’t even think of wearing something immodest that isn’t humble; it’s just who we are. Those who have not reached the same level of transformation, immodesty will show. It’s true the outside itself doesn’t make one modest, but the outside is what displays the inner condition of the heart. Just as we can’t see the wind, we can know it’s there because we see its effects: the leaves rustling in the trees. This means that often one who dresses immodestly, has a heart that is not humble: an immodest heart.
What does this mean? Should we shun and condemn those whom we see are dressed immodestly? Absolutely not. On some occasions, people do not even realize their mistake by dressing immodestly, and really are humble at heart. This is rare, though. Usually it is the case that immodest dress follows after a prideful heart. However, even if that immodestly-dressed person really is arrogant and prideful, they should still not be condemned. They just need more practice. Their hearts are in need of transformation, just as everyone’s heart is in need.
Humility is a matter of the heart, solely a matter of the heart, yet the external still matters because the internal and the external are not separate. The heart bleeds through to the surface. We are led by our heart. That doesn’t necessarily mean emotions; it means our character. Who we are inside. What we do and experience will shape who we are, and who we are will shape and influence what we do. What we choose to wear, whether we consciously realize it or not, is often a reflection of who we are. If we choose to dress immodestly, it probably is because our heart–our character–is leading us to choose that style of dress. Our preferences are off.
God allows us to have freedom in taste. God will let us decide on whether we should wear a red shirt or a blue shirt. That being said, when our tastes conflict with God’s will, that is when our tastes become wrong. If I had a taste for cursing, or for watching bad movies, or for dressing immodestly, those would be tastes I would have to forfeit. I would have to get new tastes and preferences. Yes, many preferences are good or neutral, but what we prefer isn’t always innocent or good. Having a preference for immodest clothing is not a good taste to have, and should be discarded for a better taste. Some may say that’s impossible, but just as we can acquire a taste for vegetables, we can acquire a taste for modest clothing.
The same thing goes for everything else we do. When people do bad things, we often like to make excuses for them. We say things like, “Oh that’s not really Bob. He just had a bad night,” or “Bob didn’t mean to beat his wife. He just made a mistake.” Yet, if Bob really wasn’t the kind of person who would beat his wife, then why did he do it? Because he obviously IS the kind of person who would beat is wife. He did it, so therefore, he is the kind of person who would do such a thing. It wasn’t just that he had an off night, it was that fundamentally there is something wrong with Bob’s heart. He needs that area of his heart to be transformed into the image of Christ so that he can become the kind of person who doesn’t beat his wife.
Everything we do flows from our heat, from who we are. Our actions, and how we walk, talk, act, and dress, all flow from our heart, whether we realize it or not. That’s why the external matters. Not because the external itself is important, but because the internal heart makes it so.
We can’t dichotomize. We can’t separate the inside from the outside any more than we can separate our spiritual life from our home life, our social life, or our career life. We have one life. We are one person.
But let’s not forget that clothing is only one aspect of humility. Humility includes respecting others, sacrificing for others, selflessness, freedom from vanity, and meekness (the harnessing of strength.) However, all of these aspects boil down to one thing: love. If you love others, you will be a humble (modest) person. If you worship yourself, consideration of others will be of little importance to you.
Now what do I mean by “love”? I’m talking about the love Jesus spoke of, the unconditional “agape” sense of the word “love.” An action, not an emotion. That means you don’t have to feel warm fuzzy feelings toward other people, but you seek out their good. Their good comes before your good. If you care about the good and well-being of other people, you will be humble, and dress modestly. That’s what love is. Sacrificing for the good of others.
If you love someone, you will put their needs above your own. If something you do hurts another person, then you will cease to do that action. If you care more about your own desires over the needs of others, then it will not matter to you if they are hurt or not. You do not love them as Christ loves them. Instead, you say, “that’s your problem.”
Therefore, if we’re dressing just to please ourselves, regardless of the people we trip up, then we don’t love them. We are not loving them as God commanded us. We are doing quite the opposite.
Again, it’s not the outside that really matters, it’s the inside. Love comes from the inside, but how we are on the inside will dictate what we do on the outside. The Bible tells how inner beauty far outshines any supposed outward brilliance that stems from an ugly heart.
Proverbs 11:22: “Like a gold ring in a pig’s snout is a beautiful woman without discretion.”
It is not the outside that really matters. It is the heart. All of the immodesty we see around us it’s not so much a problem of the clothing, but the heart. Sure, I bet there are a lot of people who have no idea that they are being immodest, or why it is important, but there are a good deal who do, even if it’s for as “innocent” a reason as not wanting to be unfashionable. I find it rather pathetic when individuals would rather hurt another person than be “out,” and as the Bible says, that is “like a gold ring in a pig’s snout.”
It’s the heart. The heart will express itself outwardly whether we want it to or not. It’s the heart that needs to change, not the clothing. If you change the heart, the clothing will change with it.
What are our hearts expressing in us? Are they displaying humility in speech, action, and dress? Or are they displaying arrogance and self-indulgence?
At this point, even if modesty still sounds like a bad thing, that’s too bad, because the Bible explicitly supports and demands modesty.
1 Timothy 2:9-10: “Likewise, I want women to adorn themselves with proper clothing, modestly and discreetly, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly garments, but rather by means of good works, as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”
It doesn’t get any clearer than this. The Bible comes right out and tells women to dress modestly. It seems that even back then female immodesty was an issue. It’s not about how much attention you can bring to yourself, but rather, doing good works, “as is proper for women making a claim to godliness.”
Still, some may be concerned that dressing modestly will cause them to feel bad about themselves; however, our bodies are not us. They do not give us our worth. At best, they can only reflect the state of the treasure inside of us, if we have decided to store up any treasure there at all. The creator of the universe sent His only son to die for you. You must be pretty special. To demean yourself by attaining self-worth from how you look, or from how others perceive you, is a sad and gross underestimation. (see What Are You Worth for more.)
Proverbs 30:31 says, “Charm is deceitful, and beauty is vain, but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”
This verse makes the important point that fear of the Lord is the most important quality we should be nurturing and growing. Why waste time on charm or beauty which can be deceitful and vain? That doesn’t mean anything is wrong with beauty or charm. Our bodies are temples after all, so we shouldn’t let them fall into disrepair. Yes, it’s better to be charming than uninviting, but charm and beauty misused can be very harmful, and even at their best, they are external, and not as important as internal strength of character.
1 Peter 3:1-4: “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
Again, here the focus is internal, and not external. Don’t focus on your environment. Don’t worry about attracting the opposite gender, or what other people will think. Adorn the hidden person in your heart which will never fade away. How do you do that? By having a gentle and quiet spirit (a.k.a. modesty). And this is very precious to God!
1 Peter 5:5-6: “Likewise, you who are younger, be subject to the elders. Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” Humble yourselves, therefore, under the mighty hand of God so that at the proper time he may exalt you.”
Humility is a very beautiful thing. It’s not about putting yourself down, quite the opposite. It’s about seeing yourself as Christ sees you, which is with a tremendous amount of worth. Then it’s taking that and realizing how important others are too. It’s not elevating yourself above others, but it’s not lowering yourself either. It’s not about you at all. It’s about other people. It’s about seeing how important others are that you don’t even think about trying to promote yourself.
In fact, you have to be very confident in yourself to be humble. You have to be sure enough of your worth in Christ to be able to see the magnificent value and importance of others.
Humility lifts everyone up. Modesty lifts everyone up.
If you dress immodestly, then you will become an object. A tool to be used by others. People will not respect you. You are not being considerate. You will be tempting your brothers to sin. You will be sinning against your brother and against Christ. Your brothers in Christ will feel betrayed and frustrated, even enraged. And by dressing immodestly you are listening to the culture and aligning yourself with the world, which is leading you towards the edge of a cliff.
By contrast, if you dress modestly, you will be seen as an intelligent human being that deserves respect. You are respecting others and being considerate of them. You’re not tempting your brothers to sin, and you will not be sinning against them and God. Your brothers in Christ will be very appreciative and thankful toward you for your decision to be modest. They will think more highly of you because you are not trying to manipulate them and, because you are following the ways of the LORD instead of the world.
Modesty is important; it is of the kingdom of God. It is what God calls us to as humans. We are to be spreading God’s kingdom on earth; being modest is one way to do that. Have you ever thought of that? By living a modest life and wearing modest clothing you are fighting for God here on earth.
In other words…Be MODEST! It’s bringing Heaven to earth.