Last week, swimsuit designer Jessica Rey lit up Facebook and the blogosphere with this video . The result was a lot of buzz on the topic of modesty...which seems to raise controversy and get people all fired up. People who are both "for" it and "against" it.
For the record, I am "for it." I am one of three sisters raised in a conservative Christian home. Let's just say modesty is something we heard about on a regular basis. I have vivid memories of wearing homemade "gauchos" (looooong before "gouchos" were en vogue) to church camp because shorts weren't allowed. I later attended a high school (and college) where women were required to wear dresses and a female staff member was tasked with measuring any skirt of questionable length. Yes, I am familiar with the concept of modesty.
While I'm thankful for the lessons in modesty I learned early on, it wasn't always easy (my apologies to my parents for the teen years). And although I didn't rush right out and buy a bikini as soon as I left home (you're welcome), I do live most of my life in a pair of Levi's and avoid dresses if at all possible.
The concept of modesty continues to be a hotly-debated, and somewhat subjective, issue even in "religious" circles. What one family (or church, or belief) deems modest does not meet the standards of another family (or church, or belief).
We would all agree that the standard of modesty has changed drastically in the last several decades. If it was wrong 100 years ago for a woman to bare her elbows, and now we think nothing of it, has modesty changed? If it was tactless and indecent 60 years ago for a woman to wear a bikini and now it is the norm, is modesty relative?
I've read the through Bible a time or two, and I've never come across a mention of how long your skirt (your shorts, or your gauchos) should be. And I've not seen anything about how many pieces your swimsuit should be or whether you should wear a t-shirt over it at the beach.
Here is what I have found in Scripture, and what I hope to teach my daughter about modesty:
"What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition." (1 Peter 3:3,4 The Message).
She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come. (Proverbs 31:25)
Your value comes from your Creator. God made you beautiful, inside and out. Dress, and carry yourself, in such a way that others will see your whole worth (not just your physical beauty) so you can bring glory to God.
Flee from sexual immorality. All other sins a person commits are outside the body, but whoever sins sexually, sins against their own body. Do you not know that your bodies are temples of the Holy Spirit, who is in you, whom you have received from God? You are not your own; (1 Corinthians 16:18, 19)
In our over sexualized society, everything is related to sex. Do your best to avoid any type of clothing that will draw attention only to your body, taking the focus off you as a person.
Let us therefore make every effort to do what leads to peace and to mutual edification. Do not destroy the work of God for the sake of [clothing]...it is wrong for a person to [wear] anything that causes someone else to stumble. It is better not to [wear questionable clothing] or to do anything else that will cause your brother or sister to fall. (Romans 4:19-21). [parentheticals mine]
Yes, each person is responsible for his own actions, and no girl "deserves" any unwanted advances (or worse). Still, as women, we need to make choices in our clothing and lifestyle that appropriately reflect who we are as Christians. We need to ask ourselves, "What does this shirt/skirt/outfit/swimsuit say about me as a Christian?"
"Modesty isn't about hiding ourselves. It's about revealing our dignity." ~Jessica Rey
Let's teach our daughters to live in modesty and teach our sons to value it. But let's also realize that it has less to do with whether our daughters wear pants or skirts and more to do with the condition of their hearts.
Let's set standards in our homes so our daughters learn to dress appropriately and our sons learn to recognize modesty. But let's also show grace to those whose standards might be different than ours. (For the record, "grace" does not mean changing your standards.)
Most of all, let's not confuse modesty with purity. While the two are often related and modesty can be relative, purity is not. There may not be any guidelines for hem length in the Bible, but God has laid out specific commands for sexual purity. Those have not changed over the years.
Let's teach our daughters that a life lived in modesty is the foundation for a life of purity.
So as all the hoopla dies down, this middle-aged mama is thankful for beautiful young women, like Jessica Rey, who recognize modesty as an attitude of dignity, not a yoke of oppression. Who don't feel the need to sacrifice modesty (and conviction) and for the sake of style. And as my daughter reaches the tweens and the weight of my voice begins to grow faint in her ears, I'm thankful Jessica, and others, are willing to stand up and be an example to my daughter and so many like her.
If you haven't seen it already, I encourage you to watch Jessica's video. It's only nine minutes, and it's time well spent:
How can we best approach this discussion of modesty with grace and truth?
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