Modest is Not Hottest – How I Woke Up About Modesty Standards

Sorry everyone, long post!

As a Christian, modesty has always been a hot topic. I used to be on the modesty standards bandwagon until I realized my views on modesty was more personal opinion than biblical! I wanted to do workshops on how to dress and teach the preteen/teen girls I mentored what I grew up hearing… and you know what? I’m glad my workshops never happened. It was God’s way of sparing them from bad information from me!

I started thinking and wondered…

1. Why do we use a sexualized term to promote modesty?
2. Why do we define modesty with rules based on visual opinion?
3. Why do we focus on women more than men?
4. Why do we judge people as prude or “holier than thou” when they define things differently?
5. Why does men’s opinion mean more than God’s opinion?

I posted an article a few years ago that called out the phrase “Modest is hottest.” In fact, it was titled, “Modest is Not Hottest” and that title alone was enough for someone to attack my character. I had someone reply on my facebook post with just a verse reference:  “matthew 23:25.” They didn’t bother to ask me to explain…they didn’t question anything. They just went straight to accusing. That’s when I realized that a lot of modesty issues are just ways people unjustly judge others.

This is what Matt 23:25 says:

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.”

Ouch, right? What are we telling the world when a fellow Christian is that quick to judge? I’ll admit I was hurt.

So, here’s what I think about modesty:

1. “Hottest” is a sexual term and I don’t like the association.
Using it to teach children/youth about modesty is counterproductive. It also associates a term a person uses while checking someone out. It’s catching someone’s attention in a sexual manner. It tells them indirectly that guys will find you more sexually attractive if you’re modest. But is that really true modesty?

2. Modesty is as simple as Romans 12:1-3.
Romans 12:1-3 says, “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God–this is your true and proper worship.” Modesty is something personal, between you and God. It is Him whom one should please, NOT OTHERS. This was my wake up call. Who was I to please? Who was I accountable to for my actions, how I dress, and what I do with my body? God!

3. Modesty is a personal decision to please God, not your parents, not your friends, not your pastor.
I believe modesty is a personal choice – not a social obligation. Be careful whom you are pleasing! This also applies for parents raising up boys and girls. I loved gaining my parents praise and approval growing up. If I am told that I cannot do x, y, z growing up because it is a rule, that does not mean as an adult I’ll feel the same when I’m outside of my parents’ instruction. Modesty is not about rules, really. And I honor that each family has different standards for dress, and do not judge, but I personally don’t think they should enforce it as a modesty issue. I think it’s better to enforce it as a family rule. For example: “The Smith family rules is no shirtless boys and no mid-drifts for girls.” I think when teaching modesty, it should be taught as PERSONAL obedience from the start. I would like to be open with children in their dress and attitudes and have them decide what they find is personally immodest and what is pleasing to God. I want to nurture an outlook that will last them a lifetime, not a rule that only lasts in my household.

Which brings me to my next point…

4. Modesty is a heart issue rooted in obedience.
This is why I don’t like rules and regulations regarding modesty. Suggestions and tips are great, but the real matter is their heart. Why should I judge a fellow Christian in a 2 piece bathing suit when she is in charge of her modesty and that is between her and God? Her accountability is not to me. Is barking at that teen girl for showing 2 more inches of thigh really going to pay off? Shouldn’t I be more concerned about her walk in general and focus on more important issues, like how her week went and what I can pray for in her life? I think we nitpick and focus on little things rather than the bigger picture at times. What message am I truly conveying if I feel I can tell someone to cover up but have never gotten to know them? Surely, if I am to disciple them, there are more important things I could spend my time with them about. How about that Christian gym trainer guy who keeps winking at ladies and gets really flirtatious? Can I rule him off as a “bad Christian” just to find out this is an area he struggles with and is personally working on? I also have no idea if that random person is a new growing believer and if my words would hurt them more than grow them. I am also certain that in the lifetime process of sanctification, God will reveal to them if their dress or attitude need work. They may not be quite there yet. That’s okay.

5. Head coverings, skirts, covered collarbones etc. does not mean people live under a rock or oppression.
Guys, I am so guilty here. I have judged in the past the ladies and gentlemen who have personally decided that modesty for them includes a few more personal standards. I’ve mocked head coverings. Shaken my head at guys who only wear slacks and suits. I’ve complained that it’s ridiculous that collarbones need to be covered and that some ladies never wear pants.

You know what? That’s just as bad as judging those short shorts on a gal or shirtless guys. I have no right to call one outdated, prude, or extreme for having a view that does not look like mine. I have no right to say they have gone overboard. It is between them and God. I also need to see them as people and understand that there are more important things than dress in their sake too. Am I prejudging them based on what they wear? If so, I’m at fault.

6. But wait, there’s more!
I’m not going to neglect that there is more to modesty than what I’ve addressed. While modesty is personal, there are ways it affects more than me. The Bible does instruct certain things to consider as one outlines what obedience is with God in regards to modesty. 1 Corinthians 8 talks about being mindful in consideration to prevent causing others to stumble and using our freedoms wisely. 1 Timothy chapter 2 goes into some details based on Paul’s feelings but again, I want people to read this and draw from it what the Holy Spirit reveals to them, not my opinion. 1 Cor 6:19-20. Matt 6:28-30. Titus 2:11-12. So yes, if someone’s thinking, but wait, there’s more! There is! But that is between you and God, as my modesty is between me and God. My only advice would be to pray for discernment for the details.

In a nutshell, what I’ve learned is that modesty is an inward heartfelt decision of obedience to God and that it translates differently outwardly for each believer. It’s not as complicated as people make it out to be!

Weight Discrimination…from Both Sides.

Opinions from outside:

A lovely lady whom I look up to for her natural health knowledge wrote a beautiful article about weight discrimination happening to someone they love. It was really dear to my heart because it is written so thoroughly and from an outside perspective.

Opinions from Inside:

Yesterday I was at a bachelorette party and realized that while I’ve worked very hard at accepting myself and having body peace, I was still being critical of self. The rest of the girls at the party were typical sizes and I was the only plus size girl. I wore black slacks and a fun top and ruched jacket over it while everyone else had modest mid thigh black dresses and showed a little leg. First, I felt bad that I might have been underdressed, and two, I didn’t have the fancy heels and club-type apparel like the rest of them. I even spent an unnecessary 10 minutes debating what covered my arms best and realized I shouldn’t have felt ashamed to hide them.

We all carpooled, 5 of us total, in one car. And that’s where my self-discrimination started setting in. I panicked for a second wondering if they’d make me sit up front because I’m biggest or if people would complain if I was sitting in the back.

“Bride to be in the front!” The driver called out. She deserved the front passenger seat and they didn’t even think twice about her being up front.

I took a deep breath and slid in the back and tried to pretend I could take up less space. Nobody complained on the ride to our destination or on the way back home. Nobody called out my black slacks instead of dress. Nobody questioned my kitten heels when everyone else had stilettos. They treated me kindly. I was my worst offender.

Sometimes we are the worst discriminator. We make our weight a big deal when it’s not. I know this is something I need to work on. Yes, I am conscious that I take up more space, but I shouldn’t make it a bigger deal than it is. I rob my own joy when I self-consciously think about myself as being fat when I should be enjoying my time around others.

When the night ended, I was grateful that nobody made my size a big deal, and that I needed to worry about it less. I should reinvest those thoughts into encouraging reasons to exercise and eat right, if anything. And in hindsight, I wore kitten heels because I knew they’d be cute but comfortable with my top, and WE DID do a lot of walking and standing. I would have hated myself if I wore anything taller. And, I wanted to wear pants because I wasn’t in the mood to wear a dress. So, lesson learned. Be content of self. Have a good time. Don’t fret the details. Be grateful for people who see you as a person, not a large person, and treat you like everyone else. 🙂

Stress Eating Happened

This last week was a detrimental one. It was full of stress and difficult dealings and I let it get the best of me. Not only was I a grump at times, I let my feelings get a grasp on my meal choices. A burger one night, pizza the other, a night of chocolate overloading…and my body definitely felt it. I’m surprised and motivated by that fact, even though it sounds horrible. My body let me know it did not like the compulsive unwholesome choices I made and for the first time in a long time, I had gastric distress, tossing and turning, and even horrible dreams! I honestly thought I was coming down with the flu one day.

I may not have much control of what goes on around me, but I do have control of my feelings and actions. While I let myself down, I know that it’s not the end of the world, and that I can change my outlook again on food choices. In fact, in retrospect, I am proud of myself for remaining rather collected in other aspects and not resorting to anger and attitude issues. If I have moved over that hump, I can hone in better on food choices next time life gives me a heaping load of crazy.

I spent more of my weekend at my parents than my own place to try to resolve some things. Two sale site ads and two trips later, one truck borrow, hauling, bringing chairs in while it rained cats and dogs, and some higher decibel dealings and we have a couch and dining set and basic moving plan for my aunt and uncle and a solidified wedding guest list for our side of the family for my brother’s wedding. PHEW!

I’m hoping this week will bring some TLC for me. I’ve decided to hold off on Bible study until after my brother’s wedding and reunion are done for sanity. Instead I’ll be focusing on personal devotions and reading through Systematic Theology. This means I won’t have three nights back to back of rushing to events and getting home around 9pm. Yes, you read that right! This Friday and Saturday I have a ladies conference that I hope will be encouraging and motivational. And tonight, I try my hand at a wine and painting event.

Communicating Hurt

I recently had a spat with a lifetime friend and we both were very wounded over what would seem petty to the world.

As an introvert and grand internalizer, I had over thought and over burdened myself with something that became a sore spot. Afraid to hurt her, I repressed previous hurts and tried to deter the course of some teasing with half-hearted blocks like “Don’t be mean…” “Oh, bug off.”

Long story short, we hashed through it and were both wrong in different areas. What I needed to learn was to be direct. Instead of fending off my wounded self, I should of told her plainly, “Stop. This bothers me.”

She expected me to see her teasing as lighthearted but the constant mockery took its toll. I had been indirect and let myself blow up after not handling her words well. Since she felt her words were innocent she was also confused and hurt. Truly, it was a simple misunderstanding.

The beauty of direct communication is not having to read between the lines. We’ve agreed upon a few things to help our relationship grow and to get past this little rut.

Me:
– I am more sensitive than she made me out to be
– I do not speak up about things when I need to so I need to work on it
– I need to watch what is done when I reach a point of anger so there is no regret
– I need to be direct and state how I feel before things go sour

Her:
– She needs to understand I’m sensitive to teasing
– She needs to understand we have very different personalities
– She needs to understand more limited forms of communication like written or typed words do not always reflect tone

I’m hoping this event has helped us prune off some dead leaves so we can flourish again. I’m thankful we’ve worked through it.

Creatures of the Night

Sky reflects the ebony
Of the asphalt under foot
Grab one cart and stroll
Through a grocery store
There’s no list
Just listlessness
As I’ve often brought before.

Creatures of the night
Weighing apples
Reading labels
Checking cartons full of eggs
Chucking in a loaf of bread
Hoarding sections to themselves
Walking in the dust
Of where others have tread.

Where were you
When the warm light
Was on your shoulders
Basking in the
Golden glow
Or earning pennies
For your keep
Why walk these vacant aisles
When most others are asleep?

And I wander
Alongside them
Past the yogurts
Past granola
Scanning red tags and
Sales signs
Tallying what’s
In hand

If I gave away my secret
They would scurry
On their way
If I admitted
Too many people
Would be here
In the day

Too many to wonder
Who they are
To see them as
Individuals
When I’m
Dodging my cart out of the way

But at night
We all are people
And as I pass
I wish them well
Though they only do their shopping
And have nothing to tell

Room for Improvement

Back when Borders Book Stores (RIP 😥 ) were around I couldn’t understand why the self help and improvement area stretched so far. What kind of people need business help and personal improvement and are so desperate they need to buy other people’s advice?

Well, tack on a decade of maturity and some humble pie and that person now includes me! I WANT to consider others’ advice, and I WANT to better myself. I recently started reading Lysa Terkeurst’s book “The Best Yes” because one of my resolutions this year is to be more purposeful with my time and commitments.

Book review coming soon!

Have you delved into the world of self-improvement books? I’d love recommendations.

Millennials…are we lazy?

Guy with Question Mark

You’ve probably heard it out of someone’s mouth (if not your parent’s or grandparent’s.) We’re a “lazy” and “entitled” bunch. We’re slow to establish ourselves as adults and in our careers. We are bombarded with complaints and comparisons of “back in my day…” Continue reading