-Expressing yourself with fashion, and dressing intentionally. -Rejecting the idea that the sexualized parts of women’s bodies should ever be the source of frustration or shame. -The superpower that is femininity. -Rejecting the notion that women are responsible for the thoughts and behaviors of men, and rejecting that “modesty” is somehow a tool to protect ourselves from degradation. -The difference between attention and respect.
I suspect that this chapter might find itself a little bit controversial, but I stand by what’s in there, and I think it’s important.
That said –
It would be a serious oversight, not to mention offensive, to end the conversation there. Because modesty is not a "feminine virtue." And for crying out loud, it's not about clothing. The catchphrases coined by the uber-conservatives hoping not to be viewed as misogynistic are way off, too. "It's not about hiding," they say, "it's about revealing dignity."
Except, no. It's not. We have to stop insisting that modesty is about "revealing dignity" and "having self-worth," as if people who feel comfortable in clothing we wouldn't personally wear simply don't value themselves enough. Real modesty isn't about "revealing dignity" because it isn't about revealing anything.
Here is what modesty is:
Modesty is humility applied. It's humility in a tank top, wisdom in jeans. It's a healthy dose of it's-not-about-me as you go throughout your day. Real modesty is meekness, which is a human virtue that begins on the inside, and, as we mature, is unstoppably, unavoidably reflected in every area of our lives.
Modesty is about killing that thing inside of us that wants to steal glory, revel in attention, and to see ourselves hoisted onto a pedestal. The pedestal of “hottest” or “wealthiest” or “most hipster” or “most fit” or “most chic” or “most anything.”
Modesty is about stepping out of the way so that The Thing You’re Living For gets to stand in the spotlight.
Dressing provocatively is certainly one way of drawing attention to yourself, which is how the word “modesty” initially got attached to the idea of COVERING EVERYTHING UP. But that’s not what it means. That is one possible implication.
It is possible, and frankly a lot more common, for a PERSON (not just a woman) to have all their assests covered, and still be shouting "NOTICE ME! NOTICE ME!" with their clothes and their lives.
Notice my bank account. Notice my trophy spouse. Notice my business success. Notice how cute I am. Notice how cultured I am. Notice how MORAL, and RIGHTEOUS I am.
There's nothing wrong with being noticed, but it works better when we notice each other instead of noticing ourselves. There's less competition, more connection. There's less looking in the mirror, and more looking up and out and forward. There's more appreciation of the beauty and gifts and skills around us - because when we aren't preoccupied with our own hooting and hollering, we can finally, finally see it.
Real modesty happens when we side-step out of the spotlight, making space for the things that we're passionate about to shine. The stuff that's bigger than us. The stuff that matters more.
For me, that's the gospel of Jesus.
Here is the question I'm asking myself this week:
What would it look like if I made one small, practical change to live more modestly? To stop trying to draw attention to myself for whatever reason?
I'm a little tender about it, because it's forcing me to examine all the places I try to be the center of the story. It's so ugly, glory-hogging. But it's tender because it matters. Humility, modesty, selflessness - these are holy, sacred things. They matter, and I've decided that pursuing them is worth the discomfort it costs. I've got to look my own ugly in the face.
Will you join me in considering?
How might it look to live more modestly on social media? How might it look to speak more modestly? To spend money more modestly? Not just necessarily less, just different. How might it look to "church" more modestly? Oh, snap. And, yes, to dress more modestly. Not frumpily, not puritanically, not to hide, or to shame, or to protect boys. But to draw less undue, self-indulgent, and, often, not-the-healthiest attention to ourselves.
Comment and share with the hashtag #realmodesty.