Here I am writing about modesty again. I feel like my last essay on the topic could be easily misconstrued, and I tend to use ApricotPie as a place to practice articulating what and why I believe, so, here we go again.
In my experience (and I’m speaking with the experience of a 22-yr-old girl, so feel free to take ‘my experience’ with a grain of salt), there are two major ways girls go wrong in designing their wardrobe. Both have to do with the heart. Incidentally, this is one of the reasons why modesty and clothing is still such a big topic in the church: the way a girl dresses very often reflects the state of her heart.
The two heart-states are this: pride and insecurity (or shame). Girls can dress modestly or immodestly based on both of these heart-states. Shall we?
The girl with a prideful heart may lean towards dressing immodestly as a means of showing off what God gave her in a self-absorbed way. Honestly, I think this is one of the rarest dressing types. A lot of girls seem to try to convince themselves that they dress immodestly because they want to “flaunt what they’ve got,” while in reality they are vacillating back and forth between prideful confidence and crippling self-doubt. Nevertheless, this is a very real possibility, and a sinful heart-state that needs to be addressed (1 Peter 5:5).
Other girls do dress modestly, but they still have a heart-state of pride. It can be very easy, when dressing modestly, to look down one’s nose at the what the modesty girl sees as silly, vain girls who dress so immodestly nowadays. It can also be easy, when a girl is striving to dress modestly, but ends up wearing an outfit that touches her conscience, to simply glance around and find someone to compare herself to – ‘at least I’m not dressed like that!’ Anyway, in this scenario the girl is dressing modestly. That’s great! But when we encourage our daughters to honor God this way, we should be careful not to cultivate in them a heart of pride. We are Christians, to be clothed in humility (again, 1 Pet. 5:5).
Then there are the girls who struggle with insecurity, shame, and body-image issues. Her response to this heart-state can send her reeling towards immodesty or modesty. If immodesty, she is likely dressing to get the attention an insecure heart craves. She has bought the lie that attention, no matter what kind, defines her worth. Or perhaps she knows that’s a lie, but still likes the rush she gets after receiving attention (even disrespectful kinds). On social media for example, many girls can quickly get the impression that they're more likely to be told they’re beautiful when they post sensual photos of themselves rather than innocent ones.
Allow me to digress a moment, if I may appeal to the strong, modern, confident woman in you. May I gently point out that it's very typical for men identify this heart-state instantly? I've commonly heard complaints of how ignorant men are at identifying and understanding women’s emotions. But at this particular one, they can be quite uncanny. And many of those men, upon identifying it, use it to their advantage because a girl who’s insecure and tries to fix it with immodesty is likely vulnerable to flattery from a man with dishonorable intentions. It is because of this that modesty (and some confidence along with it) can be very empowering.
Then there is the insecure girl who responds by hiding behind her clothes. So she dresses modestly – and again, that’s great! – but we should be fostering a spirit of confidence, not timidity, in our daughters (2 Timothy 1:7), right along with modest dressing habits. Our daughters should not be dressing from a sense of pride or a sense of shame. They should be dressing from a heartfelt desire to honor Jesus in everything they do (1 Corinthians 10:31).
So then, the Solution. . . ?
Dress modestly. It’s honoring to the Lord (1 Timothy 2:9). Dress from a heart-state of humility (James 4:6, 1 Peter 5:5, 1 Peter 3:4), grounded in a God-given sense of worth (Romans 8:39, Romans 5:8, Genesis 1:27). Easier said than done? Perhaps. But God is faithful, and we can rejoice in that (Mark 10:27, Philippians 1:6).
Now, if you're looking for a list of rules concerning what's modest and what's not, I'm still too cautious to come up with a set-in-stone standard. Certainly, I know what works for me. I have rules that I hold myself to (or try to). But I'm not willing to put them on someone else. Or judge other women's choices based on those rules (even if, I confess, the temptation is still there). So instead, I'll just encourage you: create your own modesty manifesto and stick to it. From there, we can shift our focus to more important matters of the faith.