My Love-Hate Relationship With Modesty

Image showing b/w polka dot skirt

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Modesty. It’s a subject that I’ve been aware of ever since I can remember.

When I was just eight years old, I knew exactly why I wore a one piece to the beach while most girls dressed in bikinis. At ten, my friends and I decided that mini-skirts were grossly innappropriate and looked down on those who wore them. And by the time I turned twelve, I was fretting over the fact that my tank tops were now too revealing. I knew that being modest was important.

I’ll never forget the feeling, oh, that feeling, of realizing that I was immodestly dressed. I walked into the room where some of my friends were gathered. I remember exactly what I was wearing that day for I had taken pains to make myself look nice and decent–I wore a dark blue sweater and light blue flare jeans. It wasn’t anything fancy but I had thought it looked presentable–that is, until I saw them all, dressed in their long, draping skirts. They stared at my form-fitting jeans and I felt certain that they judged me. I felt uncomfortable, ugly, and immodest. And thus began my love-hate relationship with modesty.

Its really been an uphill battle ever since then. “Is this appropriate?” “Does that show too much skin?” “How will they view me in this?” “Does it really matter anyway?” Even to this day, I continue to ask myself these questions, loving and hating every moment of it.

I’ve gone through so many phases with it all. There have been times of rebellion in which I totally dissed modesty and wore what I wanted. On the other hand, I’ve had many of my own periods of self-righteousness in which I check my clothing choices carefully and judge those who “apparently don’t.” There have been the few, very few times in which I have actually just minded my own business, clothed myself in what I felt comfortable and right in, and gone on with my life. But generally, it’s just a mess of loving and hating this thing called modesty.

Some people–maybe you’re one of them–can button their shirts to their collor bones and wear skirts well past their knees and proclaim modesty without a second thought. It doesn’t effect them and they wonder how it could ever be painful to anyone else. But there are others, who have been affected, deeply wounded in fact, by the careless self-righteousness of others. We have been hurt so badly that it can be hard for us to dress modestly and enjoy doing so, and much harder to proclaim modesty. Because sometimes, modesty just hurts.

Today, I mostly live the “love” part of my relationship towards modesty–or at least I try to. I’ve grown to have standards and even enjoy obeying them. Thankfully, God has cleared much of my pain associated with being the immodest outcast and I can wear things that I never thought I could wear. Unfortunately, I can’t say that the temptation to judge others is always far from my mind. It’s still a mess of love and hate, but I’m picking up the pieces.

So if I say something about modesty that sounds a little weird, this is where I’m coming from. I have a love-hate relationship with dressing modestly and I’m working through it, step by step. I’m not trying to judge, condemn, or rebel–just lay down my burdens, provoke some thought, and uncover the truth.

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19 thoughts on “My Love-Hate Relationship With Modesty

  1. I totally understand your struggle with modesty. I went through a phase when I was hanging out with…well, the wrong crowd, that’s for sure–and I didn’t feel like I was really “one of them”, so I sacrificed my morals and, well, in blunt terms: I dressed like a skank because I thought it would make me feel better. It didn’t. All it did was hurt me. Looking back on that time, I severely regret sacrificing my standards like that.

    Today, though, I don’t think that I am in any way the picture of perfect modesty. I do, however, strive to be more modest than I used to be. I don’t sacrifice my morals, but I also don’t sacrifice my wardrobe. I have a policy of looking well-done, classy, and ‘taken care of.’ I also think of what comes to mind when I see girls walking around with everything hanging out. . .I always wonder if they feel like they’re not pretty enough, so they have to show skin. So I don’t want people looking at ME like that. God has given me a heck of a lot more than a body to show off, and I don’t want to go down in history as someone who was uncomfortable enough with their body to ‘show skin’ to make up for whatever they think they’re missing.

    So, in my opinion: modesty is a good, personal choice and I think it’s perfectly healthy to exercise good judgment when picking out your outfit for the day. 😛

  2. I get what you’re saying about modesty, however I don’t agree with looking down on people who do not have modesty in their clothing: friends aren’t supposed to judge their friends, no matter what they wear.

    • Nice to hear from you, Anne! 🙂

      I think you misunderstood my point — I don’t agree with looking down on those who are “immodest” at all! On the contrary, I was hurt by those sort of people. I think I talked about looking down on them when I was younger but that is part of the reason why I don’t like to talk about why you should dress modestly. Judging is definitely NOT a good thing!!! And I’ve been realizing that the length of your skirt or the height of your shirt don’t just make you modest…it comes from the heart and if you judge others for what they wear, that certainly does not display modesty. I’m really sorry for the misunderstanding.

      I hope to see you soon!

      • Thanks for clearing that up! When you were talking about your friends and wearing jeans and a sweater with them wearing skirts, I don’t think that you should’ve felt extremely bad and immodest; a true friend wouldn’t judge someone because their not modest, and they’d be sinning as well to judge you.

        We should hang out soon!

        • Yes, I guess that didn’t make a whole lot of sense — it kind of looks as though I felt wrong for wearing jeans. I suppose I don’t really know what they were thinking but there were other issues going on in that group which made me feel uncomfortable about who I was, what kind of Christian I was etc. It was just something that stuck with me for a long time and shaped my view on modesty. Anyway, I’m glad to have true friends who don’t judge me for what I do or wear…like you! 🙂

  3. You always blow me out of the water with your writing. I’m impressed that such a beautiful, young lady would have a problem with modesty. You are so awesome in the way you display yourself and I hope and pray that more girls (or guys) find this. It is a huge encouragement. I love hearing about your journey with modesty. It’s hard but I am so blessed to hear how important it is to you. Thank you for posting this 🙂

  4. Running a site, Is This Modest, where we started out by helping people figure out whether something was modest or not, I quickly found that the conversation can easily go from objective (this is too short) to motive (she is trying to get attention).

    Who are we to judge another person?!

    In any case, I’ve endeavored to make our site all about helping people find solutions, rather than getting stuck in judging people– and this post was a great reminder of that. Thanks.

    • Thanks so much for dropping by! Making sure that we aren’t judging others is something that every Christian has to do and I am glad to see that you are making an effort to do so on your site. I think it is wonderful when we can display our personal convictions (such as modesty) with love. I’ll be sure to check out your site sometime. 🙂

  5. Oh yes yes yes! As one who wears both jeans-and-t-shirt combos, as well as button-up-and-ankle-length outfits, I find this a daily battle and concern. To this day there is that lingering feeling of wanting to ‘fit in’, whether it’s with the super cool crowd, or the stay-at-home daughter crowd. I find myself thinking on who I will be spending the day with, and dressing accordingly. My problem, too, is that my tastes vary so widely. I truly equally enjoy Regency dresses and skinny (not bum-fitting, but the leg shape) jeans! And so I come back to simply surrendering it to Jesus. Please Lord, give me wisdom!

    Great post, keep it up,
    Sheila

    PS. Found you through Buzz with Sarah, Hannah, and Kaleigh… 🙂

    • Hi Sheila,

      Thanks for stopping by! Yes, I’ve seen your name come up on buzz. Nice to ‘meet’ you. 🙂

      Wow, yes, ‘fitting in’ is a major part of modesty for me too. I also have friends in both types of crowds and I find that my clothing can reflect that. But is wanting to impress others modest? Nope. Just like you said, we need to surrender to Jesus and ask for His wisdom.

      Oh, and as a random side note, I love beautiful dresses (wish I had a regency one!) as well as jeans. My style is pretty varied too. 🙂

      Thank you for your insight and encouragement!
      Elizabeth

  6. I was encouraged to find another person who is at this point in dealing with the modesty question. I came out of a conservative patriarchal background–modesty seems to be one of the beliefs from that time that still affects me. Your story of feeling immodest in clothes that are perfectly modest was familiar to me–I have often felt immodest in things that most people (including most Christians) would deem acceptable. And to me modesty is painful because it keeps me from wearing clothes that I think are pretty (I think every modesty-trained girl has been through that), because it leads me to condemn other girls (much as I don’t want to), and because of the shame it places on me when I don’t quite measure up.
    Thankfully, I am moving away from that–it has been a difficult process, but freeing! Also, it is remarkable how little the Bible (much less Jesus’ direct teaching) has to say about modesty–it is never advocated to protect men, as is popular in some circles, but to guard against showy, extravagant dressing.
    I was really encouraged to find this post by a Christian blogger who has dealt with the same issues–I think you might find it helpful. http://darcysheartstirrings.blogspot.com/2011/08/i-was-you-once.html
    Interesting to find your blog–I’ll plan to read more!

    • Wow…

      Thank you, Bethany. Your comment totally caught me off guard in the best way. It is so encouraging to know that I am not alone.

      I totally agree with you as I find those three things that you mentioned part of my pain with modesty. I get what you mean about pretty clothes and modesty. Condemnation of others is a huge thing. I constantly have to stop myself from doing that, even though I hate it when others judge me. The shame is the worst of all, in my opinion. I could really write a whole post on that sometime.

      It is amazing how little the bible actually talks about modesty considering how much emphasis some churches and individuals place on it. You’d think that covering up saved you instead of the Saviour’s blood in some situations. I like your point about the purpose of modesty–to be humble and place the focus on Jesus instead of ourselves. Wow, if only that were what we strove for everyday. I think that would be a lot better.

      I’m truly sorry for the pain that you have experienced in the past. Thankfully, I was not in a terrible situation, but I have experienced some of the pain of patriarchy and I know a lot about those who have. I really want to do something about it with all of my heart. I’m glad that you are moving away from that — keep moving! Jesus will free you completely one day when you see Him face to face. 🙂

      Thank you for the link — I have visited her blog before, but it’s always good to read again. That post is one of my favourites. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words, Bethany. You have truly been a blessing. God bless you!! 🙂

  7. Oh, I understand you So much. Not because I felt judged like you, but because I tend to change my mind continually on this issue.

    Now I’m sure I will no longer aim to wear ancle-length flowing skirts all the time. I’m going to stick to a sort of ‘something-in-between’ version of modesty.

    And I think it would be wise first of all to be modest in my BEHAVIOR (i like THIS article http://www.ehow.com/how_2121386_be-modest.html)

    I’ve come to realize being TOO focused on modesty is actually a BAD THING. So I personally need to stick to some BASIC principles and RELAX.

    It’s better to pray more (for others, for example) than to be CONSTANTLY preoccupied with the way I look.

    • Hello there!

      Thank you for your comment!

      Don’t let me turn you away from long skirts; if that is what you like to wear then there is nothing wrong with them. Just don’t let your ”outward modesty” be a sort of bondage for how you feel inside. I believe that true modesty is much greater than what we wear, but an attitude found on the inside (as you have mentioned in your comment).

      Don’t beat yourself up about how you may have viewed modesty in the past or how you think now. You are right though…we do need to relax. 🙂 And pray. That is a big one! Thank you for your insights.

      I’m planning to do another post on this issue soon so if you’re interested, please come back! There are also a few other posts on this in the archive…

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