I’d like to share a few musings about modest dress. First of all, let me share a definition of the word modesty. The first meaning of the word, according to Merriam-Webster, is “the quality of not being too proud or confident about yourself or your abilities.” I am writing mostly about the second meaning: “the quality of behaving and especially dressing in ways that do not attract sexual attention.”
Modest dress, by the way, applies to both men and women, though this post is addressed to women. I am not, as some might think, “putting something on women.” Try as I may, though, you do influence me, but if that influence comes across to me as negative, I’m not blaming you for it, or for my choices. I need to learn to act independent of the influence of others.
I want to start out by saying you can wear or not wear whatever you want. Your choices are your own. You’re free to choose. God has given you that right. And what you choose does not cause another to make a choice. Our choices influence others, but they don’t force them to make good or bad choices. In other words, I cannot blame my good or bad choices on another, nor can you.
You’re certainly not accountable to me, but you are accountable, to someone. And I am not judging you or blaming you. Seriously, I am not writing this to judge or condemn anyone.
The human body, both female and male, is truly amazing. It’s beautiful, miraculous, complex, and divine—a gift from God. So when I see a woman who is dressed immodestly—and I mean immodestly as in wearing intentionally revealing clothes—I often feel a little sad and sick inside, though I’m not entirely sure why.
You might say, “You don’t have to look at me then.” You’re right. I don’t. And I’ll do my best not to. But sometimes it’s difficult to not get a glimpse of what I don’t want to see. That’s probably my issue, but I don’t know where the balance is between my agency and your agency. Yes, I am responsible for my own thoughts and feelings and actions. You don’t cause them. You do have some influence, however.
Maybe you are dressing this way because you feel more comfortable wearing less clothes in the warmer months. Maybe you want to look and feel cute or in style. Maybe you are making clothes choices innocently, maybe not. I don’t know and I am not judging you. All I know is that, intentional or not, your choice has an influence on me that I must consciously consider. That’s not your fault but it is my reality. I feel sad and somewhat repulsed when you show me way too much of your body. And I don’t think I am alone in my feelings.
Jesus warned men not to look at women to lust after them. It is not always easy for men to obey that counsel. We are visually oriented and have microwavable hormones. It takes determination and practice to live this commandment. Let me ask this, then: is it okay with you to intentionally and knowingly dress in a way that makes it more difficult for someone else to follow Jesus, or is it all just someone else’s problem? Where is the line between you and me? I don’t know. I am asking this question because I don’t have the answer.
Is it your intention that I notice you and give you my attention? Well, maybe not my attention, but the attention of men who you find attractive. I can understand that. We humans not only want attention: it’s essential for our survival. Maybe you’re seeking validation. We all need that too. But there is a better way to get attention and validation than by intentionally exposing your body to others.
I don’t know your real motives. How can I? But I feel a need to explore my own feelings so I can understand them.
I think I feel sad because I feel you’ve forgotten or set aside who you really are and where and to Whom you belong. Maybe you think your body only belongs to you. Of course it belongs to you, but I think it’s more on loan to you, to see what you’ll do with it. You did not create it and you cannot stop it from dying. Someone greater than all of us has ultimate power over it.
What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own? For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s. (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; emphasis added.)
Let’s say you have a boyfriend or a husband. Do you think he feels good about you showing so much of your body to anyone that happens to see you? Does that create trust for you in him, the only real cement that glues people together?
Would you like it if your husband or future husband stared at women who dressed immodestly? That would probably make you feel sad and a little sick. Why would you do the same thing to someone else’s husband or future husband?
Young women, please understand that if you dress immodestly, you are magnifying this problem by becoming pornography to some of the men who see you. —Dallin H. Oaks
I’m not trying to judge you or condemn you or hurt you. I’d just like to understand you, your motives, and your intentions because it will help me understand myself.
I can’t really tell, but you seem proud of your body. I think it’s important that we feel good about our bodies and take care of them, but, honestly, I wonder if you are trying to make other women feel jealous of you, like there is some sort of secret competition for attention going on.
I don’t know that for sure. How can I? That’s why I am asking. But you won’t tell me, so I have to guess. But that’s a form of judging. That’s why I’m confused. Those feelings are all I’m left with, though I don’t know why entirely.
Where envying . . . is, there is confusion and every evil work. (James 3:16.)
I would like to make a confession. I do notice when women and girls consciously dress modestly. I admire them for it, especially in this day and age. And I know I am joined by other like-minded women and men in this appreciation.
I am impressed by what feels like self-respect. Sometimes you are persecuted for making this choice, so I feel your intention and strength. I also feel more confident and safe in your presence, less on guard and less vulnerable. I feel like you are not asking me for my eyes: you are asking me for my trust and respect. You’ve got it.
And thank you for not asking me for something that I can’t give you. You have found what you need for yourself, independent of any other person. And you are sending out the message that you know who you are.
I am grateful for you, more than I can say.
P.S. I hope I have made my intention clear. It has been an exploration of unanswered questions. Once again, whatever we choose does not cause another to choose. But our intentions and choices do influence others, for good or ill, and for those intentions and choices, we are accountable to God. I believe that the tender influence of genuine and good women, other than the influence of God Himself, is the greatest force for good in the universe.