Modesty. Everyone thinks about it differently. Some people think of the dumb rules at camp. Some people just don’t want to think about it because it tends to be controversial. Some people think it’s just common sense, you do it to protect other people or yourself. In part, all of these are true. I know it’s viewed in a million different ways.
I’ve realized, however, that the many views of modesty are fundamentally broken.
How it’s viewed
There are many places that have dress codes and many parents set up ground rules for modesty. They have their reasons for doing so. It helps other people not get distracted, it’s especially handy when you play sports, and it commonly helps with a person’s confidence.
I know why modesty is good because I’ve seen the other side.
We are constantly bombarded with society’s ideals. Wear this, highlight this, do that, and you’ll be happy. Society is telling me modesty isn’t important while my family will say otherwise. The average person receives many conflicting messages on this topic. From the general media’s fixation on exposure, to the way people’s bodies and agency are discussed in our communities, to the messages we pick up from childhood, we have all been told various narratives of what is good and right in terms of how we do or don’t clothe ourselves.
So who’s right? I know people from all extremes. I know people who say you should never show your stomach and always wear long skirts if you’re a girl. Or should never be shirtless if you’re a guy. I know people who say it doesn’t matter. Who cares what other people think when they see you. That’s their problem. I know people who are trying to walk the fine line. Swim shirts, no tank tops, dresses go to the knees at least.
I understand where all these people are coming from. In specific areas, they are all correct. I just know they commonly have a fundamentally wrong reason for choosing to go in a specific direction.
Why they’re wrong
Have you ever pieced together a puzzle?
What would happen if you put the wrong piece in it? It would distort the rest of the puzzle. Trying to perfectly finish the puzzle would then be impossible. Isn’t that crazy? You put one piece in wrong and it changed the entire puzzle. Every other puzzle piece is trying to do its part but that one, fundamental piece corrupted the entire thing. That one piece is so important to the puzzle. Once you put it in the right place, then you can finally complete the rest of the puzzle.
A fundamental reason people dress modestly is for the opposite gender. They don’t want to cause other people to think things they shouldn’t.
There are two notable problems with that being your main reason.
- With that logic, when the opposite gender isn’t around, you can wear whatever you want. Why is this a problem? The same gender can get distracted, too.
- When someone thinks something they shouldn’t, it’s partly their choice to confide in those thoughts. They have the power to stop. Yes, you could help them out by being modest. But some people are just going to think those things. Even if you’re wearing a snowsuit.
Modesty has a lot to do with someone’s personality. In the same way that fashion says a lot about you. Shy people tend to wear clothes that don’t draw much attention. Where it can be the opposite for outgoing people.
I’ve been to a camp where they had a page of things you couldn’t wear. They required girls to wear a one-piece swimsuit. I had swim shorts and a rash guard. I believe that those would be more modest (and more comfortable). Even though it’s not a one-piece. I also know of some immodest one-pieces. What if someone showed up in something like that?
Technically, they are following the rules. Anywhere with a dress code has good intentions. The problem is that if a person acts immodest, there are no amount of rules that will cover up their personality. They’ll find ways around the rules. There are also people who are modest, but the rules actually make it harder for them to be.
How it should be viewed
I’ve never dressed the way I do to help guys. I’ve never done it because that’s what my mom made me do.
I dress out of respect for myself.
God made me and I’ve always made modest choices based on self-respect. That respect makes me want to honor God, my parents, myself, and others. When you respect yourself, that’s when you have a modest character, which goes far beyond the clothes you wear.
Respect is what puts that fundamental puzzle piece in the correct spot. Once you respect yourself and dress in a way that displays that respect, all the other things will happen as well. Respect for yourself goes a lot farther than just what you wear. It affects the choices you make. The people you spend your time around. If someone is treating you poorly, respect yourself and get out of that relationship. If you have self-respect, you’ll want to make decisions that will better yourself and others.
Self-respect is a piece of the puzzle that changes everything. Modesty is one of the things that it changes. Do you respect yourself? Do you give yourself healthy boundaries and think carefully about decisions that could affect your future? Do you have people you respect that respect you?