Modesty: A Letter to Myself, 10 Years Later

Dear Joel,

I read your article about modesty, entitled “What Should I Wear?” I want to commend you for your passion and desire to serve the Lord.

However, I want to share with you some things that God has been teaching me about modesty. I was once just like you (okay, okay, I was once you), and I was passionate about modesty. I had made a commitment not to look at immodestly dressed women, and I wanted to reduce the number of women that I couldn’t look at. In the summertime, especially, there were many women who revealed too much skin for me to look at: tank tops, shorts, low-cut tops, sun dresses, swimsuits, etc.

Jesus says that a man who looks at a woman to lust after her has already committed adultery in his heart. I don’t want to be guilty of mental adultery. I believed that if I looked too long at a woman who was wearing something like what I mentioned above (immodest clothing), I would lust, and I needed to look quickly away if I saw a woman dressed that way. Sometimes I would have to talk to one of these women, so I would either focus in on the woman’s face or look somewhere else to avoid my eyes shifting to any forbidden areas, because that would be lust or the next thing to it.

In recent years, God has taught me more about modesty. I have realized that I was wrong. I took down that article that you wrote, because it was teaching things that God didn’t want me to teach. In His grace, God has been showing me that the things you wrote do not work, and are false.

So I’d like to share what I wish someone would have told me when I was your age.

The Concept of Modesty is a Farce

Teaching about “Biblical modesty” centers around one word in the entire Bible:  “modest”, in 1 Timothy 2:9: “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array…” From that one word, I made all sorts of conclusions about what a woman should or shouldn’t wear.

But when I investigated it in Strong’s Dictionary, I discovered that the Greek word doesn’t mean “modest” as we think of it in relation to clothing, but “orderly” or “decorous”. It is not referring to how much of the body is exposed.

This is the only verse in the Bible that uses the word “modest”. And, as I just mentioned, that word “modest” is a mistranslation, at least in modern-day English. (It could, after all, have meant exactly the right thing 400 years ago.) The farthest you can take it is that women should be modest-minded (“shamefaced and sober”), and wear orderly clothing that is appropriate to the situation they are in. There is no basis for saying “This is modest” and “This is not”. Nor does this verse give a basis for condemning certain styles of clothing.

In other words, there is actually no Biblical command to dress modestly.

God Has Not Said that We Must Cover Certain Parts of the Body

It took me a long time to come to grips with this fact: God has not commanded that any part of the body must be kept covered!

Of course this doesn’t mean that God wants us to walk around naked. What it means is that there is no Biblical basis for commanding women to cover certain parts of their body. I have not found any Scripture, for example, that says that women must never show their shoulders or upper arms. Biblically, then, we can’t tell women who wear sleeveless shirts that they are sinning.

I know that you will react in disgust to this, Joel, but God never even commanded women to cover their breasts. Now, I don’t recommend that women go around topless. However, we cannot say that every woman who has a little cleavage showing is a sinner, because there is no specific command that she is breaking.

God Does Not Want Us to Judge Others by the Outside

When I was your age, I judged women by their clothing. Those who wore modest dresses and skirts were Godly women or at least better than the society around them. Those who wore tight, revealing clothing were wicked mental prostitutes. I knew that they were dressing that way because they wanted me to lust after them, which was disgusting.

In John 7:24, Jesus said, “Don’t judge according to appearance, but judge righteous judgment.” He does not want us to judge someone based on how they look. He was speaking to people who were rejecting Him because they didn’t like the looks of His ministry, but failed to grasp His divine heart.

Recently, God has been pounding into me that I must not use someone’s external appearance to judge their spirituality. He has not commanded that we must cover any specific part of the body; therefore, I cannot condemn anyone for revealing anything. I know that some women probably do dress to get men to lust after them. But I also know that not every woman in tank top and shorts is a slut. Furthermore, God has not commanded me to stay away from immodest women. It’s my job to preach the Gospel to every creature, regardless of what they are or are not wearing.

God Has Not Said that Women Cause Men to Lust after Them

One misconception is that an immodest woman will cause men to lust after her. Joel, you perpetuated this kind of mindset when you wrote, “I would submit that since it is adultery for a man to lust after a woman, any woman who wears revealing or suggestive attire is a mental prostitute, whether she intends it or not.” This is so wrong. This puts false blame and guilt upon the woman who just wanted to stay cool in 95 degree heat.

Women do not cause men to lust after them by revealing skin. They may tempt men to lust, but God never said that women can cause men to lust by their clothing. This is huge. If a woman can cause (force) a man to lust after her, it means two things:

  1. The man is not responsible for lusting—he couldn’t possibly help himself.
  2. It is possible for a woman, by the way she dresses, to force a man to commit adultery with her, even if she is a Godly woman who would never commit adultery.

I am disgusted, now, by the guilt trips that people place upon Godly, pure-hearted women, telling them that if they dress a certain way, they will cause men to lust after them. God never said that. He only told the men that if they look upon a woman to lust after her, they have already committed adultery in their hearts. He said nothing at all about what that woman might be wearing.

Many people (including myself) have stated confidently that certain styles of dress “tempt men to lust” or “stumble”. But that’s based on opinion, not fact. In the last ten years, I have seen a couple modesty surveys. The only thing you can say with confidence is that different men are different. Some men struggle more than others. Some men have no problem with styles of dress that you would find highly immodest. I do not find “immodest” women nearly as tempting to the eye as I did at your age.

You might say that a woman should dress to keep her weaker brothers from lusting after her. But how far should she go? Must she wear a sheet hanging down to the ground, ghost-style, so that no one can see her form and lust after her? You would never promote such a thing, yet some men will lust after women who are dressed very conservatively.

Oh, that God’s people would stop condemning guiltless women who have no evil intentions in their dress!

God’s Point is that Women Need to Adorn the Inside

In both 1 Timothy 2:9-10 and 1 Peter 3:1-6, God’s real point to the women is not to give them a list of do’s and don’ts about the way they dress. His real point is this: “Your true beauty comes from the inside and results in changed behavior. Adorn the inside instead of the outside.”

If a woman truly is dressing to tempt men to lust after her, she needs a heart change, not a clothing change. Then she will stop trying to seduce men. At that point, what she wears is between her and God. He is the One who will guide her in what to wear. If, as a daughter of God, she is led by the Holy Spirit, He will guide her in how to dress to glorify Him and advance His kingdom. It may not be the way that some people think she should dress, but if God is pleased with her, that is all that matters.

This really needs to be the bottom line for both men and women, in everything they do: “Is God pleased with me?” Nothing else matters.

Modesty Isn’t Working

Joel, your dad, who taught you modesty for years, is now working on a book that greatly expands on what I’m sharing with you here. It’s currently over 500 pages of evidence that shows that, if anything, modesty rules increase sexual sin, instead of decreasing it. He’s been working on it for five years, and he hopes to publish it soon. We still have some work to do on it, including recording a music CD to go with the book. It’s called The Failure of the Great Amish and Conservative Mennonite Dress Experiment.

I can’t summarize the book in this article, but rest assured, if you want more evidence that what I’m saying is true, it will be there.

 

Joel, I wish that someone had written this letter to me when I was your age. Unfortunately, I can’t rewind ten years and deliver this to my 17-year-old self. So I’m sharing it on my blog in hopes that I can help others like you who believe in modesty.

You might be concerned that if women don’t dress modestly, you’re going to have problems with lust. I understand. God showed me some myths about lust—maybe I’ll share them another time. In the meantime, I’ll leave you with this verse:

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you won’t fulfill the lust of the flesh. (Galatians 5:16)

With love,

Joel

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12 Replies to “Modesty: A Letter to Myself, 10 Years Later”

  1. Joel, I commend your bravery and honesty. Thanks for this post. It lifts a huge burden off of women. I know some people may take it wrong but seriously, we’ve been blamed for men’s sin soooo long. I agree with you that a woman who has a heart after God and is led by the Holy Spirit will show that outwardly. But it will look different for different women. And different in different cultures too. I think it’s ok for us to dress beautifully because God made us in a way that we love beauty and we love to be beautiful, and I think that is one way we can show that we are joyously God’s bride. Honestly, when I dress for God, I feel so loved and happy and like I am bringing joy to his heart. That might sound weird. But sometimes I think God wants me to wear certain clothes or jewelry to honor him. Just something that has blessed me a lot. I would love the thought that Christian men aren’t just to stay away from women they think may be dressed inappropriately, but share the Gospel with all. If you think of what the prostitute did to Jesus, it was outrageously scandalous but Jesus showed such love and grace. I love that story and I love how Jesus showed that to me when I was overwhelmed with my life of sin before I got saved. Blessings on you Joel. Thanks for tackling a difficult subject with such honesty and beauty and grace!

    1. Victoria, you brought out something that God has been teaching me that I didn’t mention in this post. God made women beautiful. He made their bodies beautiful. Modesty doctrine says that women’s bodies are shameful and must be mostly hidden.

      No, I don’t mean that women should take off their clothes and show everyone their bodies. I’m just pointing out how modesty doctrine disgraces what God has made beautiful, and makes women feel ashamed of what God has given them.

  2. That’s so true. I wonder what it would have been like if all the mothers and fathers who spent hours teaching their girls modesty, would have spent that much time teaching them to have a relationship with Christ and inviting them to experience him.

  3. Let’s see what the early church fathers had to say about modesty, but first, let’s look at where makeup, jewelry and fashion come from …

    And Azazel taught men to make swords, and knives, and shields, and breastplates, and made known to them the metals of the earth and the art of working them, and bracelets, and ornaments, and the use of antimony, and the beautifying of the eyelids, and all kinds of costly stones, and all 2 colouring tinctures. And there arose much godlessness, and they committed fornication, and they 3 were led astray, and became corrupt in all their ways. Semjaza taught enchantments, and root-cuttings, ‘Armaros the resolving of enchantments, Baraqijal (taught) astrology, Kokabel the constellations, Ezeqeel the knowledge of the clouds, Araqiel the signs of the earth, Shamsiel the signs of the sun, and Sariel the course of the moon. And as men perished, they cried, and their cry went up to heaven . . . Book of Enoch 8.

    A not-so-in-depth study of the fashion industry will certainly open one’s eyes as to the satanic death and porn culture of the modern fashion industry that many women relate to and emulate. http://vigilantcitizen.com/latestnews/to-die-for-skull-style-and-corpse-chic-in-fashion-design-imagery-and-branding/ For Christian women, where will the line be drawn: piercings, tattoos (Christian, of course), pink and purple hair, black fingernails, removal of body parts, replacement of other body parts with inorganic parts, all in order to be more acceptable to who? Certainly looking at oneself in the mirror for hours on end and taking selfies belies the narcissistic, self-indulgent, entitled inner being that likely doesn’t have much time in their life for Christ, elderly, sick, hungry or much of anyone else.

    A beautiful woman, strong in Christ, is striking in a simple garment with no adornment or makeup. Striving for that narrow gate isn’t a do-as-thou-wilt free for all. Guidelines are okay, even in dress.

    Now, for what the early church fathers had to say about the subject of dress, both men and women.

    He [God] takes away anxious care for clothes, food, and all luxuries as being unnecessary. What are we to imagine, then, should be said about love of embellishments, the dyeing of wool, and the variety of colors? What should be said about the love of gems, exquisite working of gold, and still more, of artificial hair and wreathed curls? Furthermore, what should be said about staining the eyes, plucking out hairs, painting with rouge and white lead, dyeing of the hair, and the wicked arts that are employed in such deceptions? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.264.

    Those women who wear gold imitate the Egyptians. They occupy themselves with curling their locks. They are busy anointing their cheeks, painting their eyes, dyeing their hair, and practicing the other pernicious arts of luxury. The truth is that they deck the covering of their flesh in order to attract their infatuated lovers. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.272.

    What does God think of spurious beauty, rejecting utterly as He does all falsehood? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.274.

    But there are circumstances in which this strictness may be relaxed. For allowance must sometimes be made in favor of those women who have not been fortunate in falling in with chaste husbands, and so they adorn themselves in order to please their husbands. But let desire for the admiration of their husbands alone be proposed as their objective. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.285.

    Nor are the women to smear their faces with the ensnaring devices of wily cunning. But let us show to them the decoration of sobriety. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.

    No wife is ugly to her own husband. She pleased him enough when she was selected [to be his wife]. Let none of you think that, if she abstains from beautifying herself, she will incur the hatred and aversion of her husband. Every husband is the exacter of chastity. But a believing husband does not require beauty. For we are not captivated by the same graces that the Gentiles think are graces. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.

    These suggestions [against cosmetics] are not made to you, of course, to be developed into an entire crudity and wildness of appearance. Nor am I seeking to persuade you that squalor and slovenliness are good. Rather, I am seeking to persuade you of the limit, norm, and just measure of cultivation of the person. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.

    For those women sin against God when they rub their skin with ointments, stain their cheeks with rouge, and make their eyes prominent with antimony. To them, I suppose, the artistic skill of God is displeasing! Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.20.

    Whatever is born is the work of God. So whatever is plastered on, is the devil’s work . . .. How unworthy of the Christian name it is to wear a fictitious face—you on whom simplicity in every form is enjoined! You, to whom lying with the tongue is not lawful, are lying in appearance. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.21.

    What purpose, again, does all the labor spent in arranging the hair render to salvation? Why is no rest allowed to your hair? First, it must be bound, then loosed, then cultivated, then thinned out? Some are anxious to force their hair into curls. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.21.

    I will then see whether you will rise [at the resurrection] with your ceruse and rouge and saffron—and in all that parade of headgear. I will then see whether it will be women thus decked out whom the angels carry up to meet Christ in the air! If these things are now good, and of God, they will then also present themselves to the rising bodies. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.

    By no means are women to be allowed to uncover and exhibit any part of their bodies, lest both fall—the men by being incited to look, and the women by attracting to themselves the eyes of the men. Clement of Alexandria (circa. 195 AD), 2.246.

    Neither are we to provide for ourselves costly clothing. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.263.

    I say, then, that man requires clothes for nothing else than the covering of the body, for defense against excess of cold and intensity, lest the inclemency of the air injure us. And if this is the purpose of clothing, see that one kind is not assigned to men and another to women. For it is common to both to be covered, as it is to eat and drink. . . . And if some accommodation is to be made, women may be permitted to use softer clothes, provided they avoid fabrics that are foolishly thin and of curious texture in weaving. They should also bid farewell to embroidery of gold and Indian silks. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.265.

    Luxurious clothing that cannot conceal the shape of the body is no more a covering. For such clothing, falling close to the body, takes its form more easily. Clinging to the body as though it were the flesh, it receives its shape and outlines the woman’s figure. As a result, the whole make of the body is visible to spectators, although they cannot see the body itself. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.265.

    Neither is it seemly for the clothes to be above the knee. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.266.

    Buying, as they do, a single dress at the price of ten thousand talents, they prove themselves to be of less use and less value than cloth. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.267.

    Those who glory in their looks—not in their hearts—dress to please others. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.273.

    Let a woman wear a plain and becoming dress, but softer than what is suitable for a man. “Yet, it should not be immodest or entirely steeped in luxury. And let the garments be suited to age, person, figure, nature, and pursuits. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.285.

    Woman and man are to go to church decently attired, with natural step, embracing silence. . . . Let the woman observe this, further: Let her be entirely covered, unless she happens to be at home. For that style of dress is serious and protects from being gazed at. And she will never fall, who puts before her eyes modesty and her veil. Nor will she invite another to fall into sin by uncovering her face. For this is the wish of the Word, since it is becoming for her to pray veiled. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.290.

    What reason is there in the Law’s prohibition against a man wearing woman’s clothing? Is it not that it would have us to be masculine and not to be effeminate in either person or actions? Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.365.

    Concerning modesty of dress and embellishments, indeed, the commandment of Peter is likewise plain, restraining as he does with the same mouth . . . the glory of garments, the pride of gold, and the showy elaboration of the hair. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 3.687.

    First, then, blessed sisters, take heed that you do not admit to your use flashy and sluttish garbs and clothing. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.

    The dress of a modest woman should be modest. Novatian (circa 235 AD), 5.591, formerly attributed to Cyprian.

    But self-control and modesty do not consist only in purity of the flesh, but also in seemliness and in modesty of dress and adornment. Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.431; extended discussion: 5.430-5.436.

    Let the head of men be clipped, unless they have curly hair. But let the chin have the hair. . . . Cutting is to be used, not for the sake of elegance, but on account of the necessity of the case . . . so that it may not grow so long as to come down and interfere with the eyes. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.

    It is enough for women to protect their locks, and bind up their hair simply along the neck with a plain hair-pin, nourishing chaste locks with simple care to true beauty. Clement of Alexandria (circa 195 AD), 2.286.

    This [male] sex of ours acknowledges to itself deceptive trickeries of form peculiarly its own. I am referring to things such as . . . arranging the hair, and disguising its hoariness by dyes. Tertullian (circa 198 AD), 4.22.

    A woman should not be adorned in a worldly fashion. . . . “Let your women be such as adorn themselves with shamefacedness and modesty, not with twisted hair, nor with gold, nor with pearls, or precious garments.” Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.544.

    [Instructions to Christian Servants of Caesar:] All of you should also be elegant and tidy in person and dress. At the same time, your dress should not in any way attract attention because of extravagance or artificiality. Otherwise, Christian modesty may be scandalized. Theonas of Alexandria (circa 300 AD ), 6.160.

    Though in the form of men, they . . . curl their hair with curling pins, make the skin of the body smooth, and they walk with bare knees. In every other type of wantonness, they lay aside the strength of their masculinity and grow effeminate in women’s habits and luxury. Arnobius (circa 305 AD), 6.450.

    [To the men . . ..] Do not adorn yourself in such a manner that you might entice another woman to you . . .. Do not further enhance the beauty that God and nature has bestowed on you. Rather, modestly diminish it before others. Therefore, do not permit the hair of your head to grow too long. Rather, cut it short . . .. Do not wear overly fine garments, either . . .. Nor should you put a gold ring on your fingers. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled circa 390 AD), 7.392.

    If you desire to be one of the faithful and to please the Lord, O wife, do not add adornments to your beauty, in order to please other men. Do not wear fine embroidery, garments, or shoes, to entice those who are allured by such things. It may be that you do not do these wicked things for the purpose of sinning yourself—but only for the sake of adornment and beauty. Nevertheless, you still will not escape future punishment for having compelled another to look so close at you as to lust after you. Apostolic Constitutions (compiled circa. 390, AD), 7.395.

    It was the fact that Tamar had painted out and adorned herself that led Judah to regard her as harlot. Tertuttian (circa 198 AD), 4.24.

    Draw your whiteness from simplicity, your ruddy hue from modesty. Paint your eyes with bashfulness, and your mouth with silence. Implant in your ears the words of God and place around your necks the yoke of Christ. Tertulliann (circa 198 AD), 4.25.

    What will I say of the fact that these [young women] of ours confess their change of age even by their garb! As soon as they have understood themselves to be women, . . . they lay aside their former selves. They change their hair and fasten their hair with more wanton pins, professing obvious womanhood with their hair parted from the front. The next thing, they consult the mirror to aid their beauty. They thin down their over-exacting face with washing. Perhaps they even dress it up with cosmetics. They toss their mantle about them with an air, fit tightly into the multiform shoe, and carry down more ample appliances to the baths. Tertullian (circa 207 AD), 4.35.

    “Now Susannah was a very delicate woman.” This does not mean that she had flashy adornments on herself or eyes painted with various colors—as Jezebel had. Rather, it means she had the adornment of faith, chastity, and sanctity. Hippolytus (circa 205 AD), 5.193.

    She is not a modest woman who strives to stir up the fancy of another—even though her physical chastity is preserved. Away with those who do not really adorn their beauty, but prostitute it instead. For anxiety about beauty is not only the wisdom of an evil mind, but belongs to deformity . . .. Why is the color of hair changed? Why are the edges of the eyes darkened? Why is the face molded by art into a different form? Novatian (circa 235 AD), 5.591, formerly attributed to Cyprian.

    You wish, O Christian woman, that the matrons should be as the ladies of the world. You surround yourself with gold, or with the modest silken garment. . . . You affect vanity with all the pomp of the devil. You are adorned at the mirror, with your curled hair turned back from your brow. Moreover, with evil purpose, you put on false cosmetics. You put antimony on your pure eyes, with painted beauty. Or you dye your hair, so that it will always be black. . . . But these things are not necessary for modest women. Commodianus (circa 240 AD), 4.214.

    To a wife approved by her husband, let it suffice that she is so, not by her dress, but by her good disposition. . . . O good matrons, flee from the adornment of vanity. Such attire is fitting for women who haunt the brothels. Overcome the evil one, O modest women of Christ! Commodianus (circa. 240 AD), 4.214.

    It is not right before God that a faithful Christian woman should be adorned . . .. God’s heralds . . . condemn as being unrighteous those women who adorn themselves in such a manner. You stain your hair. You paint the opening of your eyes with black. You lift up your hair, one by one, on your painted brow. You anoint your cheeks with some sort of reddish color laid on. . . . You are rejecting the law when you wish to please the world. Commodianus (circa 240 AD), 4.215.

    Both sexes alike should be admonished that the work of God and His fashioning and formation should in no manner be adulterated—either with the application of yellow color, black dust, rouge, or with any kind of cosmetic . . .. God says, “Let us make man in our image and likeness.” Does anyone dare to alter and change what God has made? Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.434.

    In their manners, there was no discipline. . . . In women, their complexion was dyed. Their eyes were falsified from what God’s hand had made them. Their hair was stained with a falsehood. Cyprian (circa 250 AD), 5.438.

    Do not paint your face, which is God’s workmanship. For there is no part of you that lacks beauty. For God has made all things very good. But the wanton extra adorning of what is already good is an affront to the Creator’s work. Apostolic Consitutions (compiled circa 390 AD), 7.395; extended discussion 5.432-5.436

    1. Thanks for the reply, Sheila. I think you have more quotes than David Bercot’s “Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs”!

      Just a couple points in reply. All of these quotes from the early Christians are not based on Scripture. Some of them, especially, concern me, such as this: “For those women sin against God when they rub their skin with ointments, stain their cheeks with rouge, and make their eyes prominent with antimony. To them, I suppose, the artistic skill of God is displeasing!… Whatever is born is the work of God. So whatever is plastered on, is the devil’s work…” (Tertullian)

      Tertullian is making up a man-made sin. God has not said that makeup is sin. Furthermore, if adding anything to God’s work is the devil’s work, then what about wearing clothes or cutting one’s hair, or shaving?

      Our Christian walk is not guided by 2000-year-old commands from the early Christians. We are to be led by Jesus. Should women wear expensive clothing? No. But let’s not legislate what God has not. Man-made guidelines are not okay.

      “If you died with Christ from the elements of the world, why, as though living in the world, do you subject yourselves to ordinances, “Don’t handle, nor taste, nor touch” (all of which perish with use), according to the precepts and doctrines of men? Which things indeed appear like wisdom in self-imposed worship, and humility, and severity to the body; but aren’t of any value against the indulgence of the flesh.” (Colossians 2:20-23)

  4. I have enjoyed reading your blog and can appreciate your honesty in sharing the growth you have experienced in the last 10 years. Looking deeply into the word for “modesty” in the scriptures…. I have always felt that I had to dress for my husband. Although I have never been one to be overly concerned with my appearance, my husband has made it clear to me that he doesn’t want me looking like a grunge either. It is sometimes hard for woman to find the balance in situations, and we must continually take it to the Lord.

    One thing that I have always been struck with is the scriptures concerning Queen Esther, and how she and the rest of the young women that prepped to see the king, all spent twelve months doing beauty treatments! I cant even imagine spending twelve months preparing for one visit, but they spent this time with beauty treatments, oils, perfumes and cosmetics. We see that Esther also had a heart to serve God, and her spirit seems to be one of compassion and gentleness. Yet she was beautiful. I don’t think as woman we have to hide our beauty, but the exhortation is certainly to let our inner beauty of our love for the Lord and his people, to shine forth from us. I have seen many “ugly ” people become beautiful as the Love of the Lord transforms them.

  5. I know it is hard to evaluate what you’ve been raised to believe, but I am so glad you have. I’ve never seen the topic addressed from your point of view, so this was very interesting for me.

    When I was young, the homeschool leaders in my group wanted the girls to swim in long sleeves and jeans (you can imagine that was difficult) and at one point I was told I could not longer wear sandals because someone’s father had a foot fetish. *cringe*

    I’m still working through the topic (I actually just recently released a podcast episode on it), but I find it helpful to just let go of not knowing exactly what I believe about it for the time being.

    I’m curious, did any of your female peers develop eating disorders? Many of mine did, and the modesty rules made it very easy to hide.

    1. Swimming in long sleeves and jeans–ugh. I can only imagine.

      I don’t know anyone that developed an eating disorder, that I’m aware of, but I can believe it happens. I also remember reading one lady’s comments about how, as I recall, she felt less noticeable when she was overweight, and when she lost some weight, she felt like she had to watch what she wore more than before–or something along those lines.

      1. It wasn’t the most pleasant experience. 😉 Later on I wore swim dresses with thick straps that came down to my knees. They weren’t as bulky but still allowed me to hide my protruding ribs in the name of “modesty.”

        That is also true. I know some women who are very busty and naturally show more cleavage no matter what they wear. I truly believed they were just showing off until I had my son and started breastfeeding –
        engorgement is the worst!

        None of my clothes fit the same and unless I wore t-shirts (which are hard to breastfeed in), there was a bit more skin than I was used to showing. Those early days of breastfeeding presented a lot of internal conflict for me because I basically felt like I couldn’t leave the house since none of my shirts were “modest” anymore.

        I’m still working through it all. The modesty rules I was around made me terrified of men. I thought I was finally over that, but I went to the pool in a one piece with shorts the other day. I saw one guy in there and turned back around and went home while fighting off a panic attack. 🙁

        1. Thank you Joel for opening up this discussion and I love what your friends have commented as well. Rebecca K Lemke I appreciate that I am not the only one who has felt things like this. I also felt unable to participate in life with others outside the four walls of my home while nursing- because of all the body changes and the teaching that makes women responsible for what men think. When you have leaking being a possibility and an infant sometimes grabbing at you or giving other cues that they want to nurse, when the fact of nursing is taboo, or when people think you should go to another room instead of covering, or the baby tries to throw the cover off… all that teaching from the past can be shaming at best and at worst paralyzing. There is nothing absolutely harmful about having a personal practice of certain clothing standards and for a time, I thought having an accepted community standard of modesty would protect women and men and help them have relationships focused less on externals. Well, I found comfort in it for a time because I thought it was “safe”. But when facing within our home and church an issue of violence….those beliefs have done nothing but attack and shame and blame me and my daughters within our own hearts and minds for something that had nothing to do with clothes. The beliefs that we once held made us responsible for the thoughts of men- and thus by implication their actions as well. Two of us have worked through our issues by fighting back- taking a self defense course and throwing off all external restraints on modesty. These things have helped us stop being afraid or allowing others to shame us for the actions of the Godless. Two of us have sought to hide our pain and cover our raw feelings with more clothing. One of my girls will only wear jeans to church- because they make her feel more covered no matter what she does on the playground afterwards AND, this is key, they are durable and very hard to take off. I am a mixed bag, some days boldly confronting the lies of our sub-culture, and many days hiding in layers of clothing or even within the four walls of my home. I am trying to stop hyper managing my children’s attire, since that is much better for their recovery. Yet, I feel I have to protect them from other’s eyes and others judgement all the more for what has happened. Thank you for fighting this battle.

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