***I recently was presented this list of 14 Marks of a Wise Woman and I instantly felt overwhelmed. I want to be all these things! To glorify God by being wise and discerning. To honor God in my attitude, the way I speak, and how I react in difficult situations. In this series, I will be exploring each of these 14 Biblical virtues (please also see proverbs14verse1.blogspot.com, which is the source of this list), in order to find ways to apply these principles to my life in practical ways. I hope you will join me!***
If you’re just joining us, here are the previous virtues:
6. Is Modestly Attired
likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel,
with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire,
1 Timothy 2:9
What does this mean?
Overall, I believe that because we (Christians) ‘preach’ a lifestyle of purity and moderate living to others, we are being hypocrites if we don’t seek to be modest in all areas of our lives, as well. The way we dress can be a powerful nonverbal communication to those around us.
Respectable apparel. Let’s start with what respect means. “A feeling of deep admiration for someone or something elicited by their abilities, qualities, or achievements.” Huh. What about the word respectable, specifically? “Regarded by society to be good, proper, or correct.” When you look at the dress you’re going to wear to church, or the exercise pants you put on to go to the gym, do you think to yourself, “this outfit will make others focus on my abilities, qualities, and achievements, and it is good, proper, and correct?” Or do you wonder if it shows off your curves just right or if it will be ‘good enough’ for the people you come in contact with that day? Or maybe I just spend too much time in front of the mirror period. I feel like I always end up walking away deflated anyway, thinking, “as always, this is as good as it’s going to get – bleh.” Particularly in going to church, where we go to meet God and it is so easy to be rejuvenated by fellow believers, I find it sad that I’m more concerned about whether people are going to think I’m physically acceptable or not. Personally, I’d rather be around someone who dresses outdated with a kind and caring attitude than someone who has the latest fashions and makes small talk. So why am I am trying to be that fashionable person when I could be focusing my attention on being kind and a good conversationalist? (not that I want to TRY to dress outdated, but I suppose with my lack of fashion sense, this is inevitable anyway ;)).
Self control. Here is one that ties into last week’s discussion on outward adornment. It’s part of our sinful nature to love ourselves. This is just one of the ways that shows, by indulging in our desires for things simply because we want them. Do we really need to buy all new clothes every year, or season? Or even do we need to buy that brand or from that store, even if it’s on sale? Remember, an idol is something that takes your attention away from God, so even my favorite method of shopping is subject to idolity. I love looking for bargains at thrift stores, but the amount of money we spend per article of clothing isn’t being argued here. It’s the pursuit of finding the things that will make us ‘fit in’ or be acceptable to society. If you enjoy fashion, I get it. I’m not knocking folks who have a knack for it. But if I spend a lot of time and money trying to also achieve this when it by no means come naturally to me, have I made it an idol?
I know I quote/reference him a lot, but I find he states things so eloquently. R.C. Sproul writes on this verse, in his article How Godly Women Dress, “Secular therapists often try to boost self-esteem by telling us not to care what other people think. While there is no doubt some truth in this principle, Scripture would never have us be wholly unconcerned with how others view us. Our manner of dress says much about our values, and modesty is one way that we say “no” to the idols of physical perfection and sex worshiped in our culture. What does your clothing say about you?”
How can I be modestly attired as a Christian?
It’s tempting to hide behind the guise of ‘this is culturally acceptable now, I’m just blending in.’ Ah, we’ve hit a key point. Fitting in. Really? Is that our main purpose with clothing? To be like the world? Paul says, more or less, that we should be in the world, but not of the world (Romans 12:12). Or as most translations say, ‘do not conform to this world.’ If we’re dressing like non-believers, are we conforming? In general, I don’t think so. But if we’re using the current cultural norms as a means to justify our choices, than we’re on dangerous ground and should reevaluate. I get that your favorite store might be stocked up on cute, short, summery dresses this season, but if it’s too short, too see-through, or too just ‘not there’, then use the wisdom God has given you. Or maybe buy it but then only wear it for your husband at home – I’m sure he won’t mind ;).
Modesty goes beyond our own choices too. If you have a Christian friend who is dressing in a way that you know would draw the attention of men, you have a duty to bring this to their attention. Because they may honestly not know what a particular outfit ‘does to them.’ They may need your loving guidance to point out that they may be causing others to stumble. As a parent, this probably means being unpopular with your kids and not allowing them to wear certainly ‘in style’ outfits. As a friend, it may put you in the position of ‘judgemental’ or ‘legalistic’ or ‘a prude’. But honestly, if your friends think that of you because you’re genuinely concerned about them and those around them, maybe it’s time to look for new friends. I hate to say it, but even in Christian circles, talking about sin is so very taboo. But iron sharpens iron. And that is a painful, but necessary, process.
All in all, be wise about what you’re wearing. I believe we all know in our hearts if we didn’t choose the right outfit or if we are spending way too much time in the mirror making ourselves look like we have it all together, when really we’re completely falling apart. But that’s okay, everyone is falling apart. It’s human nature. That’s why we need a Savior. So why are we trying to hide the one thing we can truly boast about? AKA, are your clothes preaching a ‘false gospel’?
How can I be modestly attired as a wife?
I have a very jealous husband. In this, I think he rightly represents God. When we got married, we made a covenant before God that our bodies were now one. Aka, what’s mine is his and what’s his is mine. And so if I think that a specific outfit is okay, and he doesn’t, that means he gets a say! And it’s just as important than my own opinion (or if he’s on the prudent side like my Hubs, more so). So whenever we go out, I try to make it a point for him to ‘approve’ my outfit. A simple ‘you look nice’ will suffice. If I don’t get that, I ask him directly, “do you think this outfit is okay?” When it comes to leaving the house, remember that your body is your husbands’ just as much as it is yours. And in this case, his jealousy is a good thing. Your body is meant for him and him alone.
While I typically talk about how you can serve your own husband in this series, I’d also like to touch on how you can serve other ladies’ husbands. AKA, how would (or do) you feel if your husband looks at other women? You are in a position to keep this from happening to other ladies. You can make choices in your dress that do not attract the eyes of other men. That doesn’t mean sacrificing your style, but if your style is low cut shirts and short skirts… then it is. In trying to look good (for whatever reason – innocent or not), you may be enticing others into sin.
I’ll be honest. I’ve always thought that this wasn’t an issue for me because ‘why would any man want to look at THIS body? Bleh.” Now that I’m married, I still don’t pretend to understand what goes through a man’s head, but I sure have a better idea. And it’s shocking (HA). Because I was so naive. Thankfully I have a husband who actively practices keeping his eyes from noticing other women. He actually rarely notices anything at all about other women that I have a hard time describing what person I’m talking about because he doesn’t remember what they look like! (or their names ;)). But the point here is that a man is visual. No, I’m clearly not model material, but I have all the right parts, if you will. While I can’t be directly responsible for the sin of another person, I can help them by not causing temptation to even look my direction.
How can I be modestly attired as a mother & keeper of the home?
I am afraid to say this, but hey, this is my blog so I have a right to be true to myself. I believe it, and I know that many people disagree with me. Right now it’s trendy to say the exact opposite of what I’m going to say. So here I go.
I do not think it’s appropriate to breastfeed your child in public without being properly covered, i.e. either with your choice of discrete clothing or a nursing cover. I’ve heard it all before. “Baby’s gotta eat”, “if they look at my breast it is their problem”, or “my baby is what’s most important and I deserve to feed them however I want.” Okay, I get the main point here. No one wants to be chastised for their choices and it’s HARD to breastfeed a baby (at least for some of us) – so having an added ‘rule’ about what you can and can’t do is challenging. But please hear this. A breast is a breast. And if you are wanting to follow in God’s calling for you, please consider that you whipping one out when a man other than your husband can see it, may be causing him to sin. And that is ON YOU. God has entrusted you with the people you interact with. Are you responsible for another person’s sin? No. But yes. You may be acting in a way that makes them fall. It’s really no different than a teen girl wearing a skirt that practically shows her rear-end and her reasoning to her parents is that people who look are sick and that’s not her problem. PEOPLE LOOK. And not even on purpose! I’ve been caught off guard many times where suddenly a breast is in my line of vision. If it’s a stranger, I’m filled with guilt and shame, because it wasn’t ‘mine-to-see’. Among lady friends I see no issue, but I think you see my point. So as a mom who has experienced breastfeeding, I’m asking you to consider the other people you might be affecting. Your husband will probably thank you too. If he’s not jealous for your body, maybe there are other things you should be talking about together.
Although I do not have a daughter (yet, here’s hoping :)), I try to think about how I would feel if she were wearing any particular outfit I try on. Would I be proud, would I be indifferent, or would be I horrified? It’s a silly little trick, but it helps me. I’m sort of at an age where I still sometimes feel more like a kid than an adult (eh, this will probably be going on when I’m 70 too… ;)). But I’ve noticed that I’m starting to look at the way teenagers dress as ‘would I let my daughter leave the house in that’, not ‘I wish I could look that good if I bought that outfit.’ So that’s good at least. There is nothing wrong with looking youthful either, but if you’re old enough to buy your own clothes, you’re old enough to be responsible with them.
What about you? Do you think I’m wrong? Do you have a different view on what modesty means?