Do you find it increasingly difficult to go anywhere and not be confronted with females in various stages of undress in film, TV, print ads, mall advertisements, banks, grocery stores, church groups, etc.? Have you noticed how hard it is to get any traction in discussing the subject of modesty these days? The prevailing “cop-out” opinion appears to be that modesty is a word that cannot be defined. Webster’s 1828 Dictionary has much to offer in its definition of modesty; however, the fourth definition is the one that pertains to this discussion.
In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.
I like that definition because it cuts through the argument that what is modest today would be scandalous hundreds of years ago. By applying the spirit of Webster’s definition, it is much easier to determine how to put modesty into practice.
For years, I have heard mothers lament about the level of dress (or undress) in churches. Some have expressed concern that their husbands or sons might be tempted by the way some females dress for worship services. But my question is why is this just a woman’s issue? Why does it often reduce to one woman being offended by another’s dress? The answer is simply that we have lost the sense of modesty being a character trait rather than an assigned length of hemline, blouse, neckline etc.
In an effort for families to begin a discussion on this subject, I am including a questionnaire that I prepared when I was asked to address this issue with young ladies of junior high and high school age. I hope you will find it a springboard for discussion and a way to examine your own ideas on the subject. Contact me with your feedback @ [email protected]
Choose the answer that MOST reflects your understanding and perspective.
1. Modesty is
a. not something that can be precisely defined, but depends on the culture in which you live
b. a vague concept, at best, and its definition changes over time
c. an unchanging principle that can be applied to different cultures and times
2. Modesty mostly pertains to
3. Modesty has its greatest application to
d. all of the above
4. Modesty is a personal, private matter.
5. Standards for modesty change depending on one’s circumstances and location.
6. The biggest factor in deciding if one is being modest is
a. personal taste
b. adult standards
c. fashion trends
d. Biblical guidelines
7. Dressing and acting in a modest fashion is sure to
a. make you unpopular
b. prove that you are uninteresting
c. win favor with God
d. make people know that you are not loose
8. Current fashion trends make it impossible not to be a little immodest.
9. People should get more modest as they get older because
a. they don’t look as good as when they were young
b. it becomes a more serious matter then
c. they should have matured more by that time
10. Dress codes only have to do with modesty.
11. Modesty is mostly a “girl” issue and guys don’t need to
personally concern themselves with the subject.
12. The Bible is explicit about modesty.
- Andrea G. Schwartz
Andrea Schwartz is Chalcedon’s family and Christian education advocate, and the author of eight books including: A House for God: Building a Kingdom-Driven Family, The Biblical Trustee Family: Understanding God’s Purpose for Your Household, Empowered: Developing Strong Women for Kingdom Service, Woman of the House: A Mother’s Role in Building a Christian Culture, and The Homeschool Life: Discovering God’s Way to Family-Based Education. She’s also the co-host of the Out of the Question podcast, and Homeschooling Helps (weekly live Facebook event). She can be reached at [email protected].