Friday, September 26, 2008

Modesty - an Act of Love

Modesty is not a simple term to define. Like the word "love", we use it to explain many levels of passion. All these concepts, love, passion, and modesty, came into play in a simple blog post by Heather Paulsen Patenaude, author of "Emotional Purity - an Affair of the Heart," a post which began with a wedding...

The bride wore a flouncy white strapless wedding dress with a filigree bodice displaying her midriff all the way around. Her choice of clothing sparked quite a controversy amongst the congregation, both male and female.Heather wrote:

Modest Formal Wear
I have to say that one of my pet peeves is when modesty is thrown out the window for weddings, school dances, Proms, and other events that require formal wear.
Tonight I came across Beautifully Modest and was so encouraged to see gorgeous dresses that actually were modest! May God bless them greatly!
Posted by Heather Paulsen, 08/22/08
Excited opinions spilled over into Heather's blog. You can see some of the comments here, including thoughts on whether modesty = sleeves. (There are more comments here following the piece, republished below, that inspired this BN post.)

I think eruptions like this are healthy in that they reveal wood-eating bugs in the woodwork. In so many churches and Christian circles today immodesty is accepted and even welcomed -- no one gives it a second thought -- so when it is questioned, many women, being protective of their 'right' to exhibit themselves as they please, allow their indignation to overwhelm their conscience.

A few days later, Heather came up with the best short definition of modesty that I have yet encountered.

Modesty - An Act of Love
What is modesty?

I don't believe there is a "what to wear/what not to wear" list of what is modest. I believe that modesty is a condition of the heart and attitude.

Recently I was chatting with a friend (via e-mail) about modesty. She said, " I love the modesty survey that took place on the Rebelution site and I'd like to see a sweeping movement of its kind, one able to reveal modesty for the act of love that it really is, without impressing young Christian girls as judgmental or old fashioned."

The act of love, yes this is's an act of love.

I tend to think of everything in an emotional sense (hey, I wrote a book on emotional purity, right!?) We women tend to be emotionally charged. Guys, well, they are physically charged.

What do I mean by that? Well, a new handsome, single, solid Christian guy starts to visit your church. Before long the single girls have gotten the lowdown, are inviting him to events in hopes to get to know him better, and maybe even dreaming about being ask out on a date by him.

Or maybe you are friends with a guy and your mind is always in the "what-if" future. You're pondering what you name sounds like with his, your planning your kids names, your dreaming of vacations with him, you long for private time alone, and you just desire to get to know him better.

This is being emotionally charged. We desire emotional closeness with guys (and other women, for that matter).

So guys are more physically charged. They don't think of what a girls name would sound like with theirs, but they tend to struggle more with being physically pure in their mind.

With this knowledge it's an act of love to treat each other with honor and not cause each other to stumble in our respective areas.

Guys need to be "emotionally modest", not leading a girl on, toying with her emotions, flirting, being vague, and overall causing her to being emotionally turned on!

If you take my post from three days ago about Formal Wear and think about it in this way: when a bride is immodest in her wedding dress, it could be compared to her new husband flirting with the bridesmaids at the reception. It would be appalling. But if her dress is causing any man to stumble, what's the difference?

What is modesty? It's an act of love for our fellow brothers and sisters in the Lord. Whether we're being emotionally modest or physically modest, we're thinking and caring about other people more than ourselves and that, my friend, is selfless love!
Posted by Heather Paulsen, 08/27/08

The Modesty Survey mentioned by Heather's email friend is run by The Rebelution, who describe themselves as a teenage rebellion against low expectations. Have a look see at what the guys have to say by clicking on the image above.

For a balanced perspective, I highly recommend this book,
"Christian Modesty and the Public Undressing of America" by Jeff Pollard.

Genevieve Smith introduced me to it -- Kiwis, she sells it from her bookstore here -- and I've been very, very grateful. I thought it was going to be heavy theology and require wading, but instead I found it riveting.

It does examine what the Bible means by being covered, but it also takes an historical journey through the evolution of the swimsuit and is loaded with illustrations of what various fashion designers and others in the fashion industry have said or done. I also found the book amusing -- the guy has a talent for sharing ludicrous information with a straight face. The cover blurb comments that most importantly, he accomplishes what few authors on this subject have achieved: a treatise that avoids both license and legalism.

Vision Forum sells it here.

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