A man is responsible for his eyes and how he looks at a woman—as an object or a person. A woman has the same responsibility, especially as she comments on other women’s modesty.
The heart of a critical woman may be far more selfish than the “immodest” woman being commented upon.
I don’t believe modesty is about strict wardrobe rules. Why?
- Everybody’s bodies aren’t the same.
Some women have cleavage up to their neck. Others don’t have any at all. Neither is better. Both are beautiful. Dress according to what you may advertise. (It’s hard to pay attention to someone talking when their breasts are over-exposed.) Legs are different, so “fingertip length” will look very different from one gal to the next. Consider where you want others to look.
- Everybody’s living circumstances aren’t the same.
Some live at the beach. It’s hot there. Swimsuits are the norm. The sun feels good. “Modest bikinis” can be practical—but they don’t cover any more than underwear does, and it would be wise not to forget the fact. Consider the appropriateness of wearing them at the beach vs. walking into Walmart.
- All occasions aren’t the same.
Obviously, going to the beach calls for different apparel than going to a funeral. And working in the garden calls for leaning over that isn’t necessary at a nice dinner function. Elegant apparel calls for more elegant manners.
A group of women who had breasts removed due to cancer did a photo shoot to make a statement about what was “beautiful” for them. Some viewers called the women courageous; others called them immodest. Can we decide for woman in such a position, fighting for such a cause? Just a question.
- All cultures aren’t the same.
Some African women don’t cover their breasts at all, and that is acceptable in their society. Muslim women cover themselves from head to toe. Between those extremes, there are many levels of modesty and many perspectives on what is appropriate. Often overseas missions efforts require T-shirt coverage and long skirts, which is respectful to the local culture. The key seems to be how we respect others and how we value ourselves, not a crazy-strict set of standards.
- All attitudes aren’t the same.
The same person can wear the same clothes and look modest or immodest, just because of his/her eyes. A geisha who is completely covered can capture a man’s glance with a turn of her wrist as she serves tea.
Carriage speaks loudly, too. We often forget the value of poise, which is good for the body as well as the reputation. We were made to stand straight up. If we sit with our legs open in a short skirt, we are inviting stares. If we slouch, our necklines gape. It’s just good manners to plan and practice poise accordingly.
None of these aspects of modesty fit within a strict wardrobe plan. Even what I share here has limits and exceptions. Modesty is not black and white.
We are more than bodies. We have brains. We need less blaming and shaming and more common sense. We deserve respect, no matter our clothing choices.
Dressing appropriately, being reasonably modest, and having grace towards each other keeps our hearts in order and keeps us from unhealthy comparisons.
Look beyond the clothes to the person. What does the person need? How can we build a bridge to “see” them instead of avoiding them because of their wrapping or lack thereof?
If purity is about the heart first, let’s start there. Are we prepared to walk with others no matter their choices in clothing? That is the key question that reveals the purity of our hearts.