My three year old daughter was playing happily in the living room with a box of old Barbie dolls I had recently discovered from my childhood. The last time we had these Barbies out, I had taken special care to make sure they were all properly dressed, so imagine my shock when I walked into a room full of naked plastic dolls. I casually sat down and began to redress everyone only to have my preschooler undress them all again. Apparently these frilly dresses were getting in the way of “ballet practice”.
I tried to let it go, but the sight of those dolls without clothes was making me very uncomfortable. So, I decided to try a little experiment. Why not give the dolls bathing suits? Behold, I give you “Nail Polish Swimsuit Barbie”!
Once the nail polish dried, I felt much better about these toys being strewn all over the living room floor. Of course, the Barbies didn’t care either way. As I continued painting on little swimsuits, I got to thinking about modesty and what it’s all about. Naturally, we’ve always tried to teach the girls at church the importance of modesty (check out one lesson here), but perhaps I have been teaching from the wrong angle. I’ve always taken the self-respect angle. The “do the right thing” angle.
But modesty isn’t really about you. It’s really about how the people around you feel. I wanted those Barbies covered up because I was uncomfortable. And thankfully, Barbie respected me enough to put on that nail polish bathing suit.
We teach the girls around us that modesty is a reflection of their character, and that IS true, but modesty is more than that. It’s like manners. Having good manners IS a reflection of your character, but manners are really about making other people feel respected. Being modest says, “I care enough about the people around me to not make them uncomfortable or cause them to sin because of how I’m dressed.”
I remember my days at Geneva College, when the days would get warmer, the skirts would get shorter, and every year, someone would start an argument in the Geneva Cabinet newspaper about modesty. Women would insist it was their right to dress however they wanted and the men would beg the women to cover up. I always sided with the “Be More Modest” camp, mainly because I thought dressing immodestly kind of made you look like a tramp. Though this may be true, there’s a bigger issue at work here. At its heart, I think the modesty issue is about putting others first . It’s about looking out for the interest of others (Philippians 2:4) and not being so self-focused that you insist on dressing how you want no matter who it affects or how it affects them.
What do you think?
What is modesty REALLY about?
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