The pressure women face to seem perpetually perfect is nothing new. Society is constantly breathing down our necks telling us to look good but to not “try too hard.” With confusion and chaos all around us, many young ladies are growing up with insecurity and self-esteem issues. To top it off, various church leaders and religious affiliates bash the female body and claim it is a distraction for men.
Long skirts, short skirts, jeans, saggy pants and baggy T-shirts could help define modesty, but I am a 20-year-old Christian female who enjoys dressing modernly, but with modesty in mind. Now, to truly understand what modesty is, we need to look at its definition.
According to the Merriam Webster dictionary, modest is defined as “not showing or feeling great or excessive pride” as well as “not showing too much of a person’s body.”
With that definition in mind, how can modesty be measured?
Last December, Erica Campbell, one-half of the “Mary Mary” gospel duo, received an unexpected amount of backlash from a promotional photo taken for her forthcoming solo debut album. Ministers, pastors and leaders slammed her controversial picture because she was wearing a white-and-tight fitted dress.
Apostle Stacey Woods of Impact Outreach Ministries wrote a Facebook status in response to Campbell’s attire stating: “THIS IS NOT OKAY. Yes, you are a beautiful, curvy woman…but NO MA’AM YOU ARE SINGING THE GOSPEL OF JESUS CHRIST. Saints…smh COME ON.”
If the “saints” criticize and accuse others, where do hope and love lie? Jesus commands us to “love thy neighbor as yourself, there is no other commandment greater than these” (Mark 12:31 NIV). Do these commandments exclude the “immodest?”
I am sure Campbell was not trying to look seductive or lustful. It’s not her fault she happens to be a woman with curves. If I were judged by my curves, then my Latina figure would probably end up in the pit of hell.
Jesus would not shame a woman for wearing too tight of a skirt or too short of a dress. He would love her unconditionally and tell her she was precious in the eyes of the Father, then teach her His perception of modesty. But this is Jesus’ divine tenets of modesty, not a flawed human interpretation.
There is no need to label the immodest. In the end, your thinking of modesty may be far different than my idea of modesty.
During a Bible study with the young adults at my church, I noted that the idea of modest wear ranges from female to female. While discussing appropriate and modest clothing, responses ranged from “bikinis are inappropriate” to “I like to show some skin.”
To some, such statements would raise red flags, but to me, I see this as a start of a dialogue that needs to take place in the lives of young women.
The media portray women unrealistically as flawless beings with ridiculous measurements. Clothing stores are filled with overpriced T-shirts and cheap mini-skirts. We are a generation consumed with sex, pornography and the objectification of the female body.
But somehow, in the midst of it all, the female gender needs to synthesize this information and translate it into individuality. An overload of beauty products and style trends just leads to erroneous ideologies of physical appearance and self-worth. I think it’s unfair to assume that an average woman would know what modesty really looks like.
In order to end the tendencies of society, believers ought to love and be examples through words and actions. When we condemn and punish girls for their proclaimed “immodesty,” we shouldn’t be confused when we are seen as the judgmental hypocrites.
However, women are smart, and we know what garners the attention of the lustful eye. Of course, wisdom and a look in the mirror help tremendously when it comes to decency.
Paul said, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:8-10 NIV).
So to answer the initial question, I don’t think modesty can be measured, but I know it can be attained. Being modest isn’t about how much I can cover up or what I cannot wear. It’s not even about looks or physical features. It is a behavior that highlights true freedom, not repression. But most importantly, modesty is about portraying yourself in a way that draws respect, love and admiration.