Modesty Conversations

I know that modesty is subjective, and therefore one person's definition of what is modest and what isn't will be different than other people's definitions.   That being said, what do you think is the best way to approach a sister in Christ regarding their immodesty, or the immodesty of their teenage daughters without giving offense?  

When I go to church it is to worship God, fellowship with other believers, and encourage/edify each other.  There are temptations I face every day "out in the world" that I would rather not fight while I'm at church.   Some of the immodesty I see is either borderline or not alluring to me personally, but likely would be to someone else.  

The problem lies in the fact that if I approach my friend and inform him that his daughter's clothing might be considered immodest to some people, the danger is that he will view me as some kind of pervert for even thinking about his daughter "that way".   I'm concerned for my teenage son, the other boys in the youth group, and the other men in the church since I know how the male mind works. 

Thoughts? 

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sjdan's picture

I am more and more of the mindset that girls/women need to understand how men's minds work. And simultaneously, they need to understand how we are freed to serve. One of the most important areas I see where we need to give up our liberty for the sake of loving another is in this area of modesty. I have a 9 year old very innocent son who struggles with his eyes...in church. It absolutely crushes him. He is extremely conscientious and he thinks he's sinning because the images keep popping into his head. We've tried to help him learn to redirect his thinking and, of course, to initially turn his eyes away. I appreciate that he has brought this struggle to me, but I hate that he struggles in church!

Goodellsboy's picture

I am amazed at how much of a problem modesty has become, and how little it has been discussed.  Is it all under the banner of Christian Liberty?

Dan Miller's picture

One problem is that the sin of the immodest doesn't seem to have the same sin for doing and skandalon. In other words, "immodest dressing" seems like a different sin from "lust."

Another problem is that there is an aspect of relativity in immodesty. Immodesty, to some extent, is defined by being more immodest than most others in a particular setting. 

Another problem is that there is a sense in which modesty is related to beauty. In this way, think of immodesty as showing off. And a very beautiful girl will find herself more immodest than her friends, even though she is dressing just like them. This can feel unfair to her - and taught wrongly, it could communicate to her that her beauty is bad.

Another problem is that our society has confused "pretty" with "sexy." It can be confusing to a girl to feel like she can't wear what is pretty. Am I really expected to make myself ugly? - My wife and I were asked that by girls we talked to about this. 

Another problem (I think) is the parents, who might have very different reasons for allowing or encouraging immodesty. 

  • I believe that moms sometimes remember looking just like that when they were girls. And since their pride is hurt by no longer looking like their skinny identity, they puff up their pride by living through their beautiful daughter.
  • Some fathers just can't imagine their little girl as "sexy." So they naively don't address her immodesty. (Some moms would fit in this category, also.)
  • Other fathers who are into porn might feel so ashamed of being attracted to their daughter that they run away from the whole topic (and maybe their daughter). For fathers like that the topic of beauty and modesty is just not something they can talk with their daughter about. So she gets no guidance from him.

Another problem is that we as beholders need to understand that it's not right to blame our sin on their immodesty. We must teach "sister" status for non-wives. 

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Goodellsboy asked: "I am amazed at how much of a problem modesty has become, and how little it has been discussed.  Is it all under the banner of Christian Liberty?"

I've been writing a lot about Christian Liberty lately. So let me begin this by saying that the phrasing of this question makes it look like you think that once something is "under the banner of Christian Liberty," it becomes untouchable in terms of our ability to use God's Word to confront one another. Even - no especially - on Christian Liberty issues we need God's Word for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.  

Joeb's picture

I worked for the US Govt and Have dealt with people in private industry and now drive a parts truck Parttime at a Nissan Dealership.  In the Govt and main Corprations sexual harassment is a big deal and the govt and Companies have strict rules about. Basically if a women is sexually harassed and the company does nothing about and she sues and wins she just hit a home run.  This matter has already went all the way to the Supreme Court and was decided in favor of the individual not the institution.  That being said I had instances in the US Treasury where groups male employees complained about a particular women the way she dressed. The particular women was very attractive. They felt just as the starter of this thread that it was not fair to them to be put under that temptation and then risk being accused of sexual harassment for looking at her.  The men found it very destracting  to the point they could not do business with her.  I'm sure in other professional large companies certain women could be addressed by management if they are dressing inappropriately. The companies want to do business.  They don't want to be destracted with s sexual harrassment problems.  So the men being men even applies in the business world and the ladies are required to dress appropriately there so why not church.  Same reasoning applies.  Maybe if explained in that context it might be received without offending someone.  

Steve Picray's picture

Dan, I know what you mean about pretty vs sexy. There was a girl in my church who was a pastor's daughter.  She was classically beautiful, sweet, kind, caring, and patient. I don't ever remember witnessing her do anything wrong in the six years I knew her (from about age 12 to when she left for BJU).  She was beautiful, but not "sexy."  She did not dress to reveal or incite to lust.    And then there are other women who wear short skirts, tops that reveal their bra straps, etc.    

Modesty is such a hard and divisive issue because there's no solid line that separates modesty and immodesty.  A woman wearing a t-shirt and knee-length shorts in a Midwestern town would probably be viewed as modest.  That same girl in that same outfit would be seen as immodest in some societies (such as Muslims, Amish, etc).  And if she wore a halter top and short-shorts, her dress would be seen as immodest in the Midwest, but in California she may be viewed as modest.