Modesty: to Celebrate or to Conceal?

Lately I’ve been considering what to do with myself when I get dressed.


For those of you who were raised in the church or are still Christians, you know how crazy the modesty issue can be. For those of you who aren’t Christians, you’re probably wondering what it’s like.

Here’s the dilemma. How do you keep the love and banish the shame?


Love. I have guy friends who are abstaining from sex until marriage. The crux of Christianity is unselfish love. I want to be gracious—because how else can I claim to love and support them?


And shame. This morning I put on a skirt that comes three inches above my knee and was racked with guilt for fifteen minutes. I want to rejoice in my body. I want to dress in a way that celebrates it. But I was so ashamed. The anxiety, the fear of what people will think, the labels that float around in your head—inappropriate, slut, immodest, sinful, selfish—


The whole shame-mindset—he lusted because you were wearing that—does that sound familiar? That’s the rape mentality. It was her fault. It’s Adam pointing the finger at Eve. It’s not my sin. I’m not responsible for my heart and mind. It’s her fault. All of the responsibility gets shoved onto us, we are to blame. If a man lusts, we’re the sinner. Without even meaning to, it’s our fault. Hence the shame.


As a feminist, I strongly believe in dressing only with self-respect. I am not a sex object. I want to dress like I know my worth doesn’t come from sexual attention. When a guy sees me, I want his brain to label me as “she”, not as “it.” I want him to see me as a woman with power, not an object to be grabbed.


But I want to rejoice.


Oh, I want to rejoice. I love my legs. In a world that struggles so much with not being beautiful enough, I want to celebrate the body that God gave me. I want to love it. I want to dress like I know it’s wonderfully made. My body is God’s gift to me. Celebrating its beauty is worship.


So how do I find what God wants? Where is the balance between graciousness and celebration?


I feel my Jesus pulling me… Come away from the fear. Come away from the shame. Rejoice. Rejoice. Rejoice. Respect them, Love yourself, and Rejoice. If there is shame, you’re doing it wrong.


Modesty is a state of heart, not a dress code. If I am not sacrificing my self-respect than I am not betraying my male friends or dishonoring my Jesus. By feeling shame, by worrying about how much skin I’m showing, I’m enslaving myself to the finger-pointing.  I am not responsible for a man’s lust. I am responsible for properly respecting myself.  And in the respect, in the celebration, is where love lies.




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