Monthly Archives: June 2012

Got Modesty?

Standard

Today my daughter attended VBS (Vacation Bible School) and was leered at by high school boys. One even commented how he wanted a girlfriend like her because she was so pretty. She is eight years old and still has a slim boyish figure with no breast development. There is no mistaking my daughter for a child in middle school or high school.

When I commented to other moms about this incident, not one agreed with my disgust because they thought it was “cute” and my daughter should feel “lucky to get such attention from older Christian brothers.” One even asked, “How was your daughter dressed? Was she wearing a short skirt to make guys stare at her? It is a reflex for males to do this.”

The behavior of the boys and the comments from moms was upsetting, but I believe it reflects the acceptance of this type of behavior in society and in the church. Boys or men who act in a flirtatious manner are harmless. They are not inappropriate. If anything, we should accept that men are visually oriented and tell our daughters to dress modestly, so she does not cause Christian brothers to stumble. For males struggle with sexual thoughts, and females need to do all they can to help them fight off this sin. Sharon Hodde Miller writes about this in her Her.meneutics article, “How ‘Modest is Hottest’ is Hurting Christian Women.” She believes this type of teaching and acceptance in the church makes the female body be “perceived as both a temptation and a distraction to the Christian community. The female body is beautiful, but in a dangerous way.”

When I first heard about the female modesty issue, I was a young high school student and I remember feeling confused and ashamed because the conversation was full of judgment toward women. Girls were being approached by boys in my church and being rebuked about their style of dress. My youth pastor felt proud about men being honest and believed this type of conversation was helpful and affirming to both genders. Unfortunately, what eventually happened were judgmental attitudes among young women and men about clothing. Modesty was the rubric used to measure a female’s spirituality. I was confused because there was so much tension about being attractive, feminine, and gentle but not sexual. Also, I believed that modesty was about female clothing.

This approach to modesty and the body can be destructive to young women for several reasons:

1. It tends to place the origin of sin in the female body.

In this way of thinking, the sin is not where an individual’s mind goes or the action they choose to take; the sin is the woman’s body. Even if that is not explicitly stated, this concept is conveyed through the continual placing of responsibility on women to “protect” fellow Christians from seeing too much of their bodies—lust happens because women’s bodies are sexual and men cannot easily overcome the temptation. In the end, it comes down to the physical characteristics of the female body and no amount of clothing is ever enough. The women cause the men to stumble. Her body contributes to male lust.

2. This understanding of modesty encourages a sense of shame about the female body.

It is the origin of sexual sin; I have to cover my body so that my friends will not lust after me—if my body did not look the way it does, my friends would not struggle as much with lusting. As a young woman, I became ashamed of my body. The way modesty was discussed in our youth group, it seemed that no matter what I tried to do to cover my body it was never enough—I was causing others to sin completely against my will and I felt that my body was the cause of sin in fellow  Christians.

Modesty can be defined too narrowly to only include the way women dress, rather than encompassing how Christians, both men and women, live. When we define modesty so narrowly, it places unfair burden on women that can lead to shame for being female.

3. The way modesty is taught disempowers women.

In this definition of modesty, the women become responsible for the men’s sin. There is little conversation about how dressing immodestly or marketing one’s body affects the psyche of young women. Rather, the conversation is focused on the effect on the young men and their spiritual standing before God. The standard for “modesty” is always up to the men in the community to decide. How women view their own bodies or a woman’s own standards of modesty become a secondary concern.

Unfortunately, when I was a young woman in the Church, almost all conversation about modesty was centered on female clothing. There was some conversation about how the media objectifies women, but either way, I felt a huge sense of shame because of my body and gender.

I remember how my youth group, made it seem like men were sexual animals. Their lusts could not be controlled. The Bible verse of God asking Adam, “What have you done?” and Adam saying, “It was the woman you gave me” was used when teaching about sexual attraction. I know the topic of sexual attraction is hard, but when discussing modesty with young ladies and men, clothing can be discussed, but not because they are causing others to stumble.

The bodies of young women are developing and changing drastically. They need to feel empowered to deal with bodies and sexuality in a healthy way. Instead of conversations about modesty focusing on the biology of men and women—aspects that cannot be changed. It should also be affirming the value of the female body. A woman’s body is not something distracting or tempting, but as Sharon Hodde Miller writes, “Women’s bodies glorify God. A woman’s breasts, hips, bottom, and lips all proclaim the glory of the Lord. Each womanly part honors Him.”

Intentional Encourager

Standard

 

When God appears to Solomon one night and tells him that he can have anything that he wants, it is so surprising that Solomon asks for wisdom. He could have asked for health, wealth, women, or prestige, but he didn’t.

What is even more amazing is that he was only twenty -years old when this happened. I believe he turned out so well because of his father, King David, who was the most respected man in Israel. King David was imperfect and made personal mistakes, but he obviously did something right since Solomon turned out so nicely.

David believed in his son. He was also an intentional encourager.

A mom who is an intentional encourager is honest with her kids. She tells them what they need to hear, even when it is not what they want to hear. She does not overlook their immaturity, mistakes, and mishaps; but when she brings up these points, there is not a general air of disapproval and low expectation. She chooses rather to temper her honesty with the grace of edification and encouragement. She goes the great lengths to protect her children’s spirits by making sure the overarching tone of their relationship is one of approval. She does not try to force her children to be like someone else—especially other siblings or her friend’s kids. She rather seeks to focus on their unique gifts, talents, and skills God is perfecting in that child.

She knows God has purposes “prepared” for her children to “walk in” (Ephesians 2:10), and He has consecrated each child by setting them apart to accomplish those God-given purposes.

And so she fights not to become discouraged during those periods of immaturity and inexperience in her kids. Even when she sees their failures, she continues to apply appropriate guidance and correction to get her children back on track.

She is an intentional encourager—who expresses love to her children by not allowing them to settle for immaturity or succumb to mediocrity. She inspires excellence not be demanding they meet arbitrary standards of others but they rise to the achievable challenge of God given purpose and potential. She speaks highly of her children to others and is not bashful about seeking prayerful help.

Like David, she believes in her children.

And who knows? This kind of intentional encouragement might cause a twenty-year old to turn his face toward heaven and say, “Lord, give me wisdom.” When they do, you can believe that God will grant them what they ask and more.