You know how in conservative Christian circles, it’s (stereotypically speaking) considered immodest to wear spaghetti strap tops and strapless tops and dresses? I grew up with this standard, and was quite happy this way. I’m the sort of girl who will colour neatly inside the lines laid out for me and doesn’t question them. My sister, however, is definitely, 100%, an outside the lines artist. Not in the rebellious, get-a-tat-to-spite-my-parents kind of person, but a ‘hey, why not’, respectfully owning her own opinion kind of way. Over the years we’ve thought about, poked, and prodded our standards on modesty and what it’s really getting at. Recently I had one of those (insert minion voice here) light bulb moments…
As I was saying, according to the stereotypical conservative Christian circles, it’s innapropriate to wear strapless dresses or spaghetti strap tops. BUT…
On the biggest day of a girls’ life
When all the attention is on her
And she gets to buy the most expensive dress she’ll ever buy
And everyone is staring at her for at least an hour;
When hundreds of photos of her are professionally taken,
Then plastered all over the internet
And blown up and printed to hang on the wall all over the house
… why is a bride allowed to wear a strapless dress?!
I hope you’re laughing. 🙂
We could justify it by saying she’s dressing for her husband, but reality is everyone is going to see her and talk about her, too. Either we need to change our standards on single girls, or we need to change our standards on brides. That ultimatum makes me a little uncomfortable, to be honest, because I like that ‘good girl standard’ I’ve followed for so long but I don’t think it’s wrong for a bride to wear those dresses, either. That got me thinking about the why behind modesty.
I should probably say that I don’t really want to write a blog post about modesty, because even though we all know it’s not about rules but the heart, somehow, it ends up that way as soon as somebody writes a blog post on modesty. We all know ‘it’s all about the heart’, but what does that really mean, anyway?
Why is there such a big thrust on modesty?
Because guys lust. A Christian’s answer is as simple as that. Hate saying that and boxing guys, because guys aren’t always like that, and guys aren’t hungry mongrels, and it is definitely not only a guy’s issue, but that’s the main answer Christians give.
If God is a God with a reason behind everything, and he says ‘do not lust’, it poses the question…
Why is this wrong?
Why is it a sin? Why is it wrong to want what isn’t your body to have?
When God created us, male and female, he created something sacred, something special. My body, your body, it’s perfect in his eyes. When Adam and Eve sinned, the perfection was marred and vulnerable for exploitation. Being naked was shameful. Not nakedness in and of itself, but nakedness + sin = shameful.
Our bodies are sacred and special. My body. It’s not meant for everyone to see.
Really, modesty is not about helping guys out, though that is an outflowing of it. The bottom line is that every person’s body is special and valuable. It has worth. Because it’s special, I don’t need to show that off. Because I value myself, I will dress to respect myself.
What does that look like? I can’t really say, because it is different for every person in different situations. What’s considered indecent in Australia might be perfectly acceptable in Fiji. What is immodest in Africa might be totally okay in Australia. If it’s really about the heart, I’ll dress to respect myself by thinking about what will come across as suggestive to others in my culture and in that situation. I’ll want to help others respect me and do the right thing, so I need to use my head and think about what will be helpful and decent for that situation. However, if my heart is not in the right place and I want to show off, then I can flaunt myself no matter what I wear.
This really goes for guys and girls. Like I mentioned before, girls can struggle with lust just like guys do; however, a guys’ body is just as valuable as a girls’ and they are worth the self-respect and dignity. We talk about objectifying girls’ bodies, but girls can be just as guilty of objectifying guys’ bodies, too.
This isn’t to say it’s wrong to dress modestly out of a desire to help others out. But I think the whole modesty issue goes deeper than where we’ve taken it, and that it has to start with us seeing our bodies as something valuable and worth respecting.