While considering this topic of modesty over several months (and I’m still learning and working on it), I began to wonder, and this was a stronger motivation for me than the above arguments, whether in not taking modesty seriously or not wearing a veil, am I partially making excuses to ultimately feed vanity? If I choose not to cover my hair in church, is it because I don’t want to ruin my hair that I spent an hour straightening or curling and thus am I not, in a way, showing it off? This brings the topic to modesty at heart, ie your intentions. I think it is very important to bring the seriousness of sin and our examination, into our intentions because as much as actions are important, our ultimate goal is to be perfect in our love for the Lord and love for our fellow peeps and love begins in the heart.
So even if I am modest in my clothing, what are my intentions? Am I still trying to find a way to look seductive even though I’m covered from head to toe? Am I still throwing myself at every guy I meet or presenting myself in an untrue light in order to be attractive to guys, despite my clothing being modest? This was so evident to me, in my community, where modesty is the norm in clothing, and then your heart’s place becomes visible. I have met girls who dress modestly but flirt incessantly or throw themselves at guys etc. I mean just look at people like Rekha (a bollywood actress), who dresses fairly modestly in saris etc but there is something inherently seductive about her isn’t there? I often wonder at how intentions that play out through our bodies, regardless of how physically covered we are.
|Rekha dude, wow. Seriously, its got to be voodoo, right?|
This is why I believe it is important to look into our hearts and come to terms with our desires and wants and needs and find a way to live in balance with our God-given beauty and sexuality with dignity and not chain ourselves down with the cage of looking a certain way or acting a certain way or presenting ourselves in a manner that induces only lust. By the way, we can also cage ourselves in a prudeness jail as well, but that’s for another time. What you don’t want most of all though, is lust.
Lust means, that guy will never see you as a whole being, or see the truth and beauty revealed by God through your body and you and he will thus never respect you fully. Do you really want that? If not, you’ve got to live your beauty and sexuality with truth and purpose and grace so that God’s love and beauty will shine through you and no-one who looks at you will be led away from God who is all truth and all beauty.
I say no-one and not no man, because you can lead girls away from God if you dress lust -desiringly, and I don’t mean lesbians. For instance, when you see someone who is dressed seductively and the amount of attention she may be getting from others, a girl might look at her and say, ‘I want that’, not realizing fully the consequences it involves or what it means for her self-respect or the differences between lust and love. So don’t do it! Treat yourself with respect, woman! Maybe if we begin from our heart and then work outwards, we’ll find a way.
Additionally, and this should go without saying, modesty is not covering up due to shame of our body. If a person doesn’t wear sleeveless tops or dresses because they don’t want ‘their jiggling arms to show’, they are not being modest, they’re being ashamed of their body. There’s a difference. Modesty is the opposite of being ashamed, its being truthful about every part of you and reveling in the beauty and design of God and his revelation through you, without adding any adornments to the truth of who you are. Modesty is therefore being who we are, in our truest form.
We are not modest because we are ashamed of our bodies, we are modest because we realize how beautiful they are and want to safe guard it, ie the truth and reality of ourselves, from being distorted by those who have been primed to see only the body and to use it to satisfy their lust and subsequently throw it out once it has been experienced. We live in a society where pornography has chopped up and reduced the whole beauty of human body to mere parts that are neither true, nor whole, nor beautiful as opposed to a whole being whom we can admire for the truth and beauty they reveal.
Pornography has made this usage of parts so much the norm that we don’t see people as whole anymore, and hence, we cannot even begin to understand what loving a whole person is anymore. We have been led so far away from the original concept of body and love that we, in fact, don’t even desire a whole being, and consider it a burden to deal with – we see it as complications and strings. It has reached the point that a relationship with a blow up doll is all we want – a caricature of a human body with no words, ‘no drama’, no emotions, nothing to ‘put up with’ because well, it has no life – just something to use for sex and throw aside till the next time. John Paul II said once, ‘The problem with pornography is not that it shows too much, it’s that it doesn’t show enough’. Pornography debases beautiful and whole beings to chopped up parts and doesn’t show enough of the being that we can recognize their wholeness and value the beauty in them.
The Catholic church doesn’t like pornography not because, ‘Oh no! naked people!’. I mean have you seen the paintings at the Vatican? No, the Catholic church recognizes the beauty within the body and recognizes that pornography does not respect the human body in the manner it was intended to be revealed by God. Pornography shows not just parts of a whole body, in terms of a physical body, but also in terms of the dignity and wholeness of a person.
As a human being, I am not just about sex, my thoughts do not always dwell on sex, and my body was not meant for sex alone. I was meant for more than just this one part that pornography depicts women as being good for. Pornography portrays women as beings who desire sex beneath it all – the nymphomaniac. She desires sex while at work, while ordering a pizza or in any moment where she encounters another man, for however benign a reason. That is the most disrespectful and degrading definition of a woman’s beauty, dignity, rights and purpose as a woman, even simply as a human being! If you think that women are how porn (and even movies now) depicts them, you need to close your laptop, turn off the TV and go talk to some real women in the world. The Catholic church treats a woman with infinitely more respect, dignity and love than pornography, and if you don’t believe that, you need to google/find documents of the Catholic church regarding womanhood and read it.
We, as Christians, look at the debasing ideas the world throws at us, objectively examine them, see their ridiculousness and say, “No! I refuse to be treated as parts (feet, eyes, lips, reproductive organs) when I know I am a whole person. I am not just body parts to be used as per convenience and then discarded. I am a person – beautiful and whole, with emotions, feelings, dreams, desires, quirks, talents, ideas, laughter, tears, thoughts, abilities, strengths and weaknesses – just like you, remember? Yes, I will cover myself so you will remember to look me in the eyes, look at me as a person; real, with a face and a soul. I refuse to use my body as bait for you to draw near and use to make you ‘love’ me, because I realize I don’t need to fool myself with such charades. I desire a love that comes with understanding, not one that is dragged to me, kicking and screaming, and thus may not even last 3 months, because lets face it, it never was love anyway”.
Let me end this by saying, again, by no means do I believe that modesty is hiding your body. It is embracing your beauty, your body and your sexuality and dressing in a way that embraces it. That, to me, means NOT wearing a garbage bag that turns you into a blob, sans any human features or curves etc. I mean, we were meant to be sexually attractive, if not, sex as it exists amidst humans, would never happen. So I don’t think the goal is to be ‘asexual’ in appearance. We’ve got to find the middle ground, a way that you can embrace your body and sexuality without having to lay a sheet over the whole thang.
So ladies (and gents), get a hold of yourselves, and learn to love yourself. Not just like the world tells you to, by taking a spa day, but by digging deeper, working on seeing yourself through the eyes of God- as dignified, beautiful, sexual and all the while, worthy of being called good, in every sense of that word. How do we do that? I would guess with lots of personal prayer, lots of reading, and lots of tearful goodbyes to some favorites in the flirting department. When you respect yourself, you show others how they should treat you.
PS; Here’s another great resource to utilize and learn from. He writes much better than I do, and knows so much more so check his blog out, it may help consolidate ideas and thoughts!