Christian Parenting and Family Resources with Biblical Principles

Modesty is Important

Modesty is Important
I sat baking in the warmth of the Florida sunshine when she came my way. Her hot pink jeans were filled with model-thin legs and topped off by a matching tight cotton T-shirt. Her belt and shoes were white leather, pulling everything together in a baby-doll look that pretended to say innocent but whispered "sexy."

"I've got a problem," she admitted restlessly. "I, uh, well. Ya know when you were talking about purity? Well, like, God was telling me something about myself then."

She paused as tears welled up in her eyes and then she tried once again to verbalize what was causing her pain.

"Well, now, I know that if I wear the right thing, they'll look. I can feel them watching me and ... well," she hesitated.

"You can feel them watching and what?" I prodded matter-of-factly.

"I like it," she blurted out as another tear began making its way to the rim of her eyelid.

"Then why are you crying?" I asked.

"Because I also hate it," she started as a free-fall of tears streamed down her cheeks. "I hate it because of the way it makes me feel but I love it because ... I can't explain it. It's like. Well ..."

I waited for her to find her feelings. I wasn't prepared for her wise discernment.

"It's like I've found this power," she stated confidently and sadly.

Modesty. Most parents recognize the need to address it, but many are at a loss as to how to do this. They fear creating a rebellious spirit or robbing the innocence of their daughters. At the end of many arguments, complacency quietly announces in the back of their mind, "It'll be OK. It's just fashion."

Is it just fashion? The Indianapolis News once wrote, "Those who minimize the correlation between immodesty and sexual promiscuity deceive themselves and others..." Support for such a statement is found in studies that analyze the risk of teen sexual activity. A girl who looks older than she actually is has a greater risk of sexual activity. These girls are made to look older by fashion and make-up, most of which hints at or blatantly advertises her sexuality. There is a strong case to argue that the end result of today's immodest fashion is sexual promiscuity.

It's time for parents to enter into the battle with no reservation. But how? I've discovered some powerful ideas that might help you deal with the subject effectively in your own home.

  • 1. Help your daughter understand the power immodesty accesses. What happens when a person of any gender sees a woman walk by wearing a long, tight skirt with a slit all the way up the sides or a low-cut blouse? The viewer pauses or even does a double take because his or her brain wants to complete the picture. It's simple visual science. Imagine the powerful multiplication of this principle in the mind of a man who's been created to crave the beauty of a woman.

  • 2. Explain the special weakness of men for a woman's beauty. Proverbs 5:18-19 says, "Rejoice in the wife of your youth, a loving doe, a graceful deer - may her breasts satisfy you always, may you ever be intoxicated by her sex." I've changed the words in italics to better reflect the meaning of the text in Hebrew. The God of the universe looks down at woman and actually encourages man to be fully intoxicated by her sexuality. Wow!

    Let me explain to you a little bit of what happens when a guy is "intoxicated." Many of our bodies' responses are activated by the autonomic nervous system (ANS). This system is not controlled by the will, but by the environment. Ever been in a fender-bender? Remember that sick feeling in your stomach and the rapid pulse? You felt physically different because of the environmental change. You cannot control these reactions by choice. The ANS forces the body to respond to the environment.

    Sexual arousal works the same way. Things in the environment - what we see, what we hear, and what we smell - create a sexual response. This is particularly strong in a man since God created him to be visually stimulated. If he sees a woman walk by wearing revealing clothing, what happens in his body? He may notice the change in his pulse, his body temperature will rise and blood begins to pump rapidly through his body. For a man this is a very strong reaction and presents clear physical changes. Of course, this is beautiful and celebrated by the God of the universe when the woman who creates the arousal is the man's wife.

    Sadly, the arousal isn't always created within the marriage union, but can be caused by the simple naive fashion choices of a young woman. While a man can choose how to respond to this arousal, he cannot control that it has occurred.

    What does continual exposure to visual stimulants do to a godly man? You might as well hang a noose around the neck of his spiritual life. It's not "just" fashion, as our often-blatant casual attitude towards dress displays, but a constant source of spiritual failure for men.

  • 3. We must call immodesty what it really is. According to the Hebrew and Greek definitions, sin is missing God's intended purpose for our lives. Look back at that verse from Proverbs. God's purpose for a woman sexually is to "intoxicate" one man with her sensual beauty. A woman or young girl is absolutely worthy of the stares that may come her way, but God says that the unique characteristics of her sensual beauty are to be treasured secrets - secrets to keep for one man. When a girl dresses immodestly, she creates arousal in many men. That is missing the purpose of God's carefully crafted masterpiece. Is it just fashion? No. Immodesty is sin. And we must call it that.

  • 4. We must develop a righteous response to the crisis immodesty has created.
    As parents, we can't remain complacent anymore. Here are a few tips to address the issue in your home.

First, begin early. If you explain these simple principles to your daughter when she is eight, nine and ten - rather than after she's fully developed - she is more likely to embrace them. Talking to her before she develops also allows you to avoid making her feel like her new curves are "bad." The issue is not her body. God made it and it is beautiful. The issue is the clothes. When we wait until our daughters develop to address modesty, they often feel self-conscious and guilty about the beauty that's growing in them.

Second, be unashamed of dress standards that you may establish for your family. Following Christ is costly and we simply water down the relationship we can have with Him when we don't require those we disciple to pay the price. You should acknowledge that you know it hurts. It's a very real hurt to your daughter, but it's one worth embracing.

Finally, don't compromise. Remember, you have wisdom that your daughter does not have. While you may understand what men and young boys will think when she walks through the hall in an outfit, she does not. Don't be fooled into compromising because it's a little battle. I'm convinced it's not so little.

Adapted from Secret Keepers: The Delicate Power of Modesty, copyright 2002 by Dannah Gresh. Published by Moody Press, Chicago, Ill.,, 1-800-678-6928.

Dannah Gresh is the author of And the Bride Wore White, which is the basis for a retreat that's been used in more than 2000 churches in multiple countries, reaching more than 60,000 teen girls. She and her family are active members of the State College Christian and Missionary Alliance Church. Her husband, Bob, is the administrator of the church's Christian school and has authored Who Moved the Goal Post? Seven Winning Strategies in the Sexual Integrity Game Plan for teen boys. The couple has two children, Rob and Lexi.

Is it important to you to dress modestly? Why or why not? When you see someone who is dressed immodestly, how does that affect you? Visit Crosswalk's forums to discuss this topic by clicking on the link below.