A young woman wrote to ask me why she shouldn't "dress sexy" if she felt like it. "Why not?" she said. "We're not living in the time of the Puritans. I should be able to dress in whatever way makes me feel good."
The appropriate way to dress while out in the world can
be a very real concern for Christians -- especially for female young adult
Christians, who perhaps feel especially the pressures of accepting as their own the standards of fashion and looks so aggressively and relentlessly target-marketed directly at them
by a pervasive, corporate-driven media venally obsessed with the
exploitation of human sexuality.
Not that that's exclusively a Christian concern, of course. Anyone raising a daughter today worries about how regularly and heartily they know she is encouraged by the media to equate having fun and feeling good about herself with being, or even pretending to be, someone for whom there is no apparent reason to feel any particular respect. "Tick-Tock," anyone?
There's certainly nothing inherently wrong with a woman wanting to look pretty; that's only natural. And part of being pretty -- in fact, the very definition of being pretty -- is having the way you look be appealing to others.
Again: nothing wrong with that.
What too easily does go wrong, though, with a young woman wanting to look pretty -- as in appealing, as in admirable, as in manifestly worthy of respect -- is that these days a young woman is likely to equate the idea of looking pretty with the idea of looking sexy. And as a look (and, alas, too often as an attitude) it's almost impossible anymore for "sexy" not to get immediately translated into "is available for sex." And that sure is how a lot of young men out there today are going to interpret a woman's "sexy" look -- because boys and men, just like girls and women, have also been deeply affected by the radical sexualizing of our culture.
With the way things are today -- with how comfortable so much of our society is considering women as essentially sex chattel -- no woman in her right mind would want to go out in today's world signaling with her clothes or attitude that, essentially, she's ready for sex. It's just too dangerous out there. As every female sooner or later discovers, dressing "sexy" is only fun for as long as it takes some creepy guy to start insistently insinuating himself between her and the whole idea of fun. And that usually takes … oh, about as long as it takes any woman to smile and flip her hair a bit.
But beyond the physical danger, and the Creep Attraction Factor, there's an even better reason for a woman to make sure that whenever she goes out she's dressed attractively, but not "sexy." And that reason is that it's most definitely not pleasing to God when, by virtue of her dress or attitude, any woman makes plain to the world that, first and foremost, she prefers to be considered not as someone of any spiritual or intellectual substance at all, but as nothing more substantial than a body.
If you're a young woman -- or anyone at all, come to that -- don't ever do that to yourself. Don't ever broadcast to the world that you think the most interesting thing about you is your body. That's dehumanizing yourself. And the devil's primary delight and work lies in dehumanizing people. Don't make his work infinitely easier by volunteering to do to yourself what he's forever lying in wait, itching to do to you.
Make it so that all people (especially men, girls) either have to
deal with all of you, or with none of you. Don't allow your spirit -- the
real you, the eternal you, the Holy Spirit within you -- to be in any way
separated from the body God blessed you with as a temporary housing for
that spirit. Don't let anyone treat you, in other words, as if you are
primarily a body. It's wrong for anyone to treat you that way; and its no less wrong for you to treat yourself that way.
It's up to every woman to decide for herself what she's most comfortable wearing. If ever you're having trouble, though, discerning between what's "right" to wear, and what might be going too far, don't try to make that decision by looking in the mirror.
Make it by imagining that
you are Jesus, looking down at you from heaven. You'll then know what to do.
Romans 12:2 Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God's will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
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