During my teen years, I really swung the full pendulum on modesty. I went from wearing crew-neck t-shirts and baggy pants, and judging my friends for their tanktops and shorts, to wearing low-cut stylized shirts, short skirts, and knee-high socks to my very-conservative relatives’ houses for holidays.
Somewhere in the exodus of all that nonsense, thank goodness, God was able to reach out and gently turn my heart, opening my eyes to a reality I never would’ve understood on my own in the throes of my teenaged angst and drama: both my judgy crew-neck and edgy sleeveless phases were exactly the same hurt manifesting in different ways: a desperate need to be different and get noticed for it.
I’ve written an entire article tackling this subject, but to sum up in short: society and the Church often take the issue of modesty too lightly. We look at it as a clothes-only situation, which will be mended once we convince people to pull up their pants and raise their necklines. But the truth as God revealed it in me, I believe, is much more of a heart-issue than it is an apparel issue.
Immodesty is a manifestation of a need, quite often even of a hurt that causes deep insecurity; if the hurt is not healed, no amount of wardrobe adjustment will have a lasting impact. The Church has a unique and important opportunity to treat not just the symptom, but the wound…to look deeper, see clearer, and address what lies behind the physical choice of how a person dresses or behaves.
Our world does not just have a “modesty problem”; it has a string of broken homes, wounded children, boys and girls desperate for notice of any kind—and this world is all too eager to feed them what seems like positive attention, if they’re willing to behave a certain way for it.
We have the power to step into the gap, to minister, to solve not only the problem of immodest behavior, but the pain that so often lurks at its root. Are we ready to take that step?
What is Modesty?
Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines modesty as “propriety in dress, speech, or conduct.”
There’s also an element of modesty in not thinking too highly of one’s talents or abilities, but for the sake of this blog and the general terminology of Scripture, we’re going to explore the former definition.
While modesty often refers to dress, I propose it’s overall about conduct, including attire, attitude, behavior and speech; and that those who are most immodest are often those with the most hurt in their hearts…the ones most desperately in need of Jesus’s redeeming love.
What Does the Bible Say About Modesty?
1 Corinthians 6:19-20 – Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
1 Peter 3:3-4 – Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.
How Can I Become More Modest?
Modesty is not just a matter of apparel; it’s a matter of heart. People in modest attire can be immodest in word and deed. The goal of immodesty, whether it’s in behavior or dress, is always about one thing: drawing attention to oneself, usually by shock-value. That’s why immodesty can exist in places where a dress code is required; people are still perfectly capable of being shocking through crude, crass, or unexpected speech or action. And we can be immodest without fully meaning to if we are focused on snagging attention.
The best way to become modest is to not focus on ourselves; to not become desperate for attention, especially the kind that glorifies our outer appearance or ungodly traits. So often, hurt hearts are eager to draw seeking eyes, because we want to feel accepted, included, loved, paid attention to. But where propriety draws a proper reaction, impropriety will always draw an improper reaction; sure, we may catch eyes, ears, and attention with immodest dress or behavior, but in the long run, will that really feed our souls? Or is that kind of attention from those people going to perpetuate a cycle that leaves us empty, unfulfilled, and seeking MORE attention?
Brothers and sisters, we are already enough. We need to lay aside the desperate need for certain individuals, groups, or even the world at large to pay attention to us. If you’re attracting those people by immodesty, it’s not because they want the true you…it’s that you’re a novelty to them. You won’t always be able to keep up that appearance; eventually, the novelty wears off, and because the attraction was shallow, the relationship is shallow. It won’t last.
If instead we lead with a pure and honest heart, and accept that not everyone will appreciate that about us, but God appreciates it, and that’s enough—we will begin to surround ourselves with deep friendship. Deep relationships. These will have roots and ideals grounded in love and will endure where relationships prompted by immodesty will have run out of steam.
Modesty serves as a gateway to help protect us from the pieces of this world that just want to use us up until we’re empty. By choosing to conduct ourselves in apparel, word, and deed the way God instructs us, we protect our soft parts and make ourselves more readily available for stronger, safer, and better interactions.
In what areas of life do you struggle with immodesty—either in speech, presentation, or conduct? Take time to surrender these areas to God and begin the conscious work of dethroning those places so they are in propriety to God’s will.