Modesty & the Heart {on laying it "all" out there}

{This post has been featured at the Raising Homemakers blog!  Find more comments and community surrounding this topic over there.}

As we walked from our car to the pool, our first time visiting this summer, she was walking out.

Young, fresh, beautiful, perky and scantily clad. Her suit was so revealing that my young son, just five, couldn't take his eyes off of her. He had never seen something like this before and in his innocent, precious little voice he whispered to me, "Mama! She's naked! You can see her privates! Tell her Mama!"

It took me a minute or two to figure out that he was actually concerned for her. He thought she didn't realize her "privates" were hanging out and wanted to protect her.

In about a 20 second exchange, a mother's work to protect her son's eyes from this exact thing went right out the window...and I was deflated. This issue, the immodesty of girl's bathing suits (or clothing in general), and protecting my son's mind never crossed my mind as we decided whether or not to join. And part of me regrets it.

Since that time, I have been repulsed and shocked by the images of women in barely there bikinis that flaunt around the pool. There's no age limit to the madness. Young girls just beginning to blossom are wearing bathing suits that attract the eyes of grown men. Mature women are leaving nothing (and I mean nothing) to the imagination. And even women who have no business whatsoever wearing a teeny bikini are cramming themselves into something that shows off parts of their body that make you wonder, "do they own a mirror?"

This is how I know it's a matter of the heart.

I've always been a fairly modest dresser... (ok, yes, there was that one skirt...but honestly, by today's standards it was quite long!)...partly because I was raised by a dad who wanted to protect me from men's eyes, and partly because I have some areas on my body that force me to. Well...come to think of it, "they" don't really force me to dress modestly, but for a woman who likes to feel covered I have learned that some things that look beautiful and perfectly modest on one woman look perfectly scandelous on me.

Yes...I've always been a modest dresser...but I'm not niave. We've been to the beach recently and I see the bathing suits hanging on the racks at local department stores. I know what's popular and I understand the desire to fit in and look good.

Even some professing Christians, mothers themselves and their daughters, have caved in to the pressure to be pleasing to man rather than pleasing to God.

But I just don't feel like there can really be a valid argument, based on scripture, that it's ok for women to dress this way in public.

"...likewise also that women should adorm themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, but with what is proper for women who profess godliness - with good works." ~1 Timothy 2:9-10

Most of the commentaries I've read on this subject indicate that Paul was not forbidding women to dress nicely, fix their hair or wear jewelry. Rather, he was setting a standard for reverence, godliness, protection for the men AND the women.

Why in the world would we want to tell little girl's they're sexy and dress them to catch the eyes of men who might hurt them?

Why in the world would we want to dress in such a way that we turn the eyes of men who aren't our husbands...don't belong to us?

Why in the world would we feel that we have to cave to the pressure to "bare it all" even when our bodies are past their prime?

Because the "abundance of our hearts" are coming out.

  • Secretly, we want our daughters to be beautiful and turn heads. There's status that comes with having "a looker." Or maybe we just want to make life easier on them by allowing them to fit in.
  • Secretly we enjoy the stares of men who aren't our husbands because it makes us feel like we've "still got it" and can still turn heads...even if those eyes and heads and hearts belong to someone else.
  • Secretly we hope that wearing what everyone else is will make us feel better about a body we're already a bit ashamed of.

I pooled a group of women recently on twitter and facebook asking them to share their best reason that women SHOULD dress modestly. Here are their answers:

Lindsey "out of respect for their husbands, vows & themselves"

Nish "I have two reasons: My husband and my son." "My body is a temple to the Spirit. I need to treat it & protect it as such."

Tammy "If you're not selling, don't advertise!"

Erin "To not be a stumbling block for our brothers in Christ."

Alyssa (My personal favorite!) "For the Bible tells me so..."

Jeff "Because it's attractive, duh."

"TheMamaZine" "because hubs is good to me & some things should just be for him."

Joanna "Self-respect. You can't expect anyone else to respect you if you don't respect yourself."

Jess "a woman who professes godliness should be modest"

Jennifer "To give the 15yo girls something better to imitate!"

Matt "because God doesn't want people to look at you in a lustful/sinful manner."

Heather "the hubs said that he would like a little left to the imagination...."

Patricia "We represent our families and God everywhere we go. That's what I tell our girls!"

Danielle "because we don't need to broadcast our assets.. God told us to be modest"

Sweetie "because real power comes from the mind not body"

Jamie "we want others to see Jesus in the things we do and say. Dressing modestly is a reflection of that."

Ward " ‎2 Corinthians 5:10; 1 Peter 3:1-7; 1 Timothy 2:9-10" (a.k.a For the Bible tells me so...)

Natalie "because it glorifies God."

Christy "What you wear greatly affects your behavior. If you dress like a tease you'll probably find yourself acting like one too."

Beth "why would we as women/girls want to make men/boys stumble and sin(they struggle enough when women are dressed modestly)."

Veronica "With the exception of the context of marriage, whenever nakedness is mentioned in the Bible, it is always associated with shame."

Lizzy "It's an outward expression of one's inner character."

And my personal reason? For the sake of my little boy's heart and mind. Please ladies. I know he will struggle to make a covenant with his eyes even if you are dressed modestly. Please don't make it easier for him to sin and harder for him to choose to look away.