Facebook Debate: Modesty & Clothing

A post on our Facebook page asking for clothing guidelines stemmed a debate on whether guys even have any business saying what’s modest for girls to wear or not (which is great, keep the posts and comments coming). Some people said God, not man is the determiner of what’s modest, so girls don’t need to ask men, and others said men should weigh since modesty is only for their sake anyway. I think there are elements in truth in both statements, but that they’re each incomplete. Guys-On-Modesty, wants to make it clear that our goal is to encourage and help girls see that there IS guys here in our world that DO appreciate Modesty. We appreciate woman that are modest is all areas of their lives, both physically and emotionally.Here in Guys-On-Modesty Blog, we are strong believers that Modesty is NOT just about clothing it’s a life style that reflects in the way you speak, act, and think!

To begin with, I’ve never liked the idea that guys should dictate what girls wear, I think it degrades the girl and paints all guys as uncontrollably lustful. Modesty is its own virtue, not just something girls do for men. That being said, girls should be mindful of how guys will see what they wear, both out of courtesy to men trying to live chastely, and to protect themselves from men who aren’t. To this end, guys are the perfect resource to inform a girl how she’ll be looked at if she wears this or that, but their opinion isn’t law.

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You Don’t Know You’re Beautiful

“He walked by instinct along one white road, on which early birds hopped and sang, and found himself outside a fenced garden. There he saw the sister of Gregory, the girl with the gold-red hair, cutting lilac before breakfast, with the great unconscious gravity of a girl. “
– G.K Chesterton

That last phrase of this quote struck me because its something I’ve often observed—that the moments in which girls are most beautiful are usually those in which they have no thought for their looks or anyone observing them, which is somewhat of a paradox given how much time girls often put into their appearance. That other great source of British wisdom, One Direction, points out in his song, What Makes You Beautiful, “You don’t know you’re beautiful, that’s what makes you beautiful.” So why is “the great unconscious gravity of a girl” so attractive? I think because in those rare moments, some external action—cutting lilacs, smiling, etc., suddenly makes some internal truth about the person visible on the outside. It’s more or less what I talked about in my last post, about people’s appearance changing as you get to know them, except it all happens in sudden brief flash. Once again, it’s disconnected from the objective attractiveness (if there is such a thing) of the person. In fact, I suspect that had the girls been thinking of their looks at all, they would have thought they looked terrible at the moment. One guy I talked to mentioned how lovely a girl looked walking by carrying a trash bag. Not exactly the moment when you’d expect to be your most glamorous.

So what does any of this have to do with modesty? I’ve been saying modesty is a state of mind, or a disposition; what I would like to add here is that it isn’t necessarily a conscious one. The same way that an immodest girl isn’t actively thinking that she needs affirmation at any cost when she decides to wear something too revealing, so too do modest women not actively need to consider how valuable they are all the time—I imagine they’d become insufferable if they did. I think modesty ties greatly into humility, and humility isn’t about thinking lowly of yourself as much as it’s about not thinking of yourself at all. So the key is to know how valuable you are, act accordingly, and not think too much about it after that.

– GOM

Redefining Modesty

The modesty debate runs sternly through any Christian circle, from the “modesty-means-dressing-fashionably-as-long-as-you-don’t-show-too-much” camp, which I more or less ascribe to, to the “if-it’s-not-a-denim-sack-you’re-going-to-hell” camp, which I find more repugnant and opposed to the human person than its total secular opposite. But in all cases, I think the debate is being argued from the wrong direction, or to be more precise, the opposite direction. Modesty, like chastity, has become a negative virtue, much more full of “thou shalt nots” than “thou shalts.” This is sad, because I feel looking at modesty or chastity from this perspective is a poverty of understanding, which, while it might avoid sin, leads to no great virtue.

As Lewis notes in The Great Divorce, the passion of lust is but a weakly substitute for the true, good and pure sexual passion which may be born when lust is killed. What is wrong with secularism is that it never gets past lust. What is wrong with Christians’ response is that they never get past condemning the lust and moving on to ponder what the virtue actually is. If this is true of chastity, it is doubly true of modesty, which has most faithful Christians, many better than myself, tied in knots over trivialities that don’t begin to approach the real virtue. One hears long debates as to whether a skirt may fall above or below the knee (I don’t know who thinks knees are so alluring anyway), whether pants are quite feminine enough, and I don’t even want to touch the issue of leggings. I even knew one fervent Christian group that forbade its young ladies to show their collar-bones. I don’t know what they expect will happen to their young men when they greet the world at large with vague ideas of sexualized collar-bones. These measures, while they may avoid sin, also avoid any real comprehension of modesty, which I hold to be an internal virtue much more than an external. The same with chastity.

Both virtues have to do with seeing value of the human person; modesty with recognizing your own value, and chastity with recognizing everybody else’s. This recognition is reflected in exterior actions—how we dress, how we interact sexually, etc. But such actions, or lack of action, are merely a reflection of the actual virtue, not the virtue itself. You can exercise abstinence without any appreciation for the multitude of people you aren’t sleeping with. But merely not dressing badly or not being promiscuous has about as much to do with virtue as not shooting your wife has to do with love. The purpose of this blog will be to explore the actual internal form of the virtue of modesty, and also chastity insofar as it relates to modesty. One last note, I don’t ascribe to any hard and fast rules on what is acceptable dress, although certainly some things are right out. Certain things, such as two piece swim-suits I see more as possibly unwise, but not necessarily wrong. I’ve seen bikinis worn with more perfect modesty than the most dour one-pieces. Denim sacks fail to realize the beauty of the human person just as much as thongs, possibly more so, for the one at least acknowledges its beauty even if it mistreats it, while the other would present the body’s beauty as something intrinsically evil, which is in my opinion the greater error.

– GOM