Modesty. Can we stop using this word constantly?
My high school experience was at the height of the “Modest is Hottest” campaign and I suffered for it. I am grateful for the mother who had an incredibly balanced approach but walking into church was a struggle.
Let’s put a bit of perspective on this situation. I was homeschooled. I was incredibly involved in my church. I wanted to wait to date until I was old enough to actually consider marriage. I was a modest young lady. Nevertheless, I felt criticized walking into church.
The well-meaning ladies, they made glances. Comments were made while shopping with friends. We constantly focused on minimizing our feminine features. Youth leaders would meet with us before retreats and missions trips to remind us to dress appropriately. I struggled getting dressed and was constantly checking to see if my midriff would show or if something was fitting too tightly. It was constantly being drilled into my head that I needed to downplay our femininity and express “inner-beauty” in order to be good, Christian woman.
It is a fine line. I am not saying that you should not guide your daughter into classy clothing. I’m simply saying, we need to stop body shaming Christian girls for turning into women.
Middle school is awkward enough. Our bodies are changing and we don’t know exactly what to do. Limbs are growing longer, we are filling out in new places, and we have a lot more to worry about. Adding in an absurd amount of hormone changes doesn’t help either. The last thing you daughter needs is to think that something is sinful about what is happening to her body.
How can we fix this? I think it starts with our language. My mother always advocated for the precision of language because, as she always said, “Words have meanings.” We need to be more precise when we talk to our daughters about their bodies and the clothing they are choosing to adorn themselves with. Our focus needs to be on what is appropriate to present to the world, not on what we are trying to hide.
Measuring skirt length and tank top straps will not free girls from being objects of lust but it will make them self-conscious. Have open conversations with your daughter. Tell her body is beautiful. Remind her that her feminine features are God-given. He wants her body to be the way it is. Then talk to her about how she wants to present and respect her body.
One of the women I think of when I think of modesty never let that word pass her lips. In college, our dorm rooms were next to each other and we’d frequently borrow clothes and hop between rooms for fashion advise. She talked about looking professional, about conducting herself in all areas in a respectable manner, and about loving her clothes but never mentioned modesty. To her, her clothing choices were simply a part of decorum. She didn’t use rules, didn’t pass judgement, but she expressed modesty in her behavior as well as her style.
I’ve seen properly clothed girls cause young men to stumble. Young boys are going through the same hormonally charged changes as women. We do need to make sure we are not intentionally trying to cause them to stumble. But while we walk this path, we need to be equally careful that we are not causing young ladies to stumble as well. Causing them to want to hide their bodies and to blame themselves for another’s sin, that is not honoring the image of God in each and every woman.
So let’s stop talking about modesty and let’s start focusing on how each and every man and woman on this earth bears the image of an almighty God and was beautifully and wonderfully made. If your daughter understands this, she will walk with strength and dignity (Proverbs 31:17).
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