By Rachel Dahl
Below is my response to Ed Gungor’s article, “Does Modesty Really Matter?” on Relevant Magazine:
Ed, I very much agree that we should all examine our own hearts before taking out the plank in someone else’s eye. I am glad that you were honest about what you felt about colored tights and the way they related to the image of pornography. Men are wired to remember stimulating images, and you are no different.
That said, however, I think your article addressed the issue of judging more than the issue of modesty. Does modesty matter? Yes, it does. The passage you quoted and many others that are found in the Bible tell us so (e.g. 1 Tim 2:9-10, 1 Tim 3:1-6, 1 Peter 3:1-6, etc.). Modesty is primarily an issue of the heart that goes beyond clothing, but we must also not draw attention to ourselves in a way that causes men to stumble. It’s easier for a man to lust over a woman who is showing a lot of skin versus a woman who isn’t. The Bible makes it clear that a man who lusts in his mind is already committing adultery (Matt 5:27-28). Why would I want to contribute to that? I cannot totally eradicate the way men think about me, but I can help them not notice my sexual parts as much.
I am a big fan of C.S. Lewis, but when he wrote about cultural norms, he did not have the internet. The introduction of media such as TV and the internet led to globalization. Cultures collided and have become more centralized and Americanized. I grew up in the Pacific Islands, and I can vouch for the way media has significantly changed our cultural norms, including our fashion. The same group of people from the Pacific and everywhere else in the world are looking at American pornography. That said, the majority of people all over the world can come to a consensus as to what is sexually stimulating.
Yes, modesty values are subjective. Yet, what I do know is that regardless of the decade we’re living in or the geographical area we reside in, there are certain areas of a woman’s body that are always stimulating to men, especially when accentuated. America is especially obsessed with women’s breasts, so that is why showing cleavage through low-cut blouses and bikinis is sexually stimulating. Sadly, it seems like America has stripped down its standards to what is modest as being what is legally permitted (covering sexual organs) in public. That to me is the extreme. As to what is borderline for most, such as wearing skinny jeans, tank tops, or brightly colored tights, it seems that there can be debate even among Christians. The obvious is covering up or concealing at best the areas of the body that are predominantly sexually stimulating: the chest, the crotch area, the butt, the hips, the thighs.
I run a modest fashion site at alamodest.com. I do not judge or criticize people on specific borderline details of how they dress, because I know that it is not my right to do so. Only Christ can be the judge over our hearts and the reason behind our clothing lifestyle. What I do write about is based on my own personal experience, aiming to inspire other women with my fashion and help people understand my philosophy based on the Bible and the evidential psychology of the male and female mind.
To be honest, I think that it is honorable for a man to gather up the courage to tell another woman that she is causing him to lust. It is harder for a man to be this vulnerable and honest about his own weakness than for him to just ignore it or enjoy and indulge in the object of his lust. As with insanity, the first step to healing lust is admittance to or repentance from his own weakness. I believe it should be okay for a man to approach a woman with sincerity and admit that his weakness is being captive to the lust caused by the way she dresses. This to me is a cry for help from a brother we must embrace rather than a judgmental fool who needs to be slapped because of his pointing finger. It all depends on the way the man approaches the woman, be it with sincerity and humility or with accusation and a scolding tone. How else would I have started to dress modestly if not for my husband’s (then fiancee’s) telling me when my clothing tempted him and possibly others? I would not have learned this telepathically from anyone else in their silence. The men who used to gawk at me may have just been indulging in what they saw and not having the humility to tell me that what I was wearing, something too low-cut or short, was possibly seductive, as a loving brother would have.
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