One thing I love about the combination of summer and social media is the plethora of pictures featuring birds, vibrant flower beds, lush vegetable gardens and family vacation photos. But this time of year also brings some worry, because many of the vacation photos I’ll see this summer will include your family at the beach, the poolside or by some body of water. I trust that you’ve put thought into your swimsuit and deemed it “modest,” because, as a sister in Christ, you want to protect the men in both our lives. I appreciate your effort. But I’d like to point something out that you might have never thought of. You see, I don’t just worry that your photos will be a stumbling block to the men in our lives, I also worry for the women in our lives - not because they enjoy seeing you in swimwear, but because they enjoy seeing pictures of your shirtless husband.
Studies show that one out of every six women (this includes Christian women) admit to struggling with an addiction to pornography. Am I calling a family photo by the pool with your shirtless husband pornography? Absolutely not. What I am saying is that lust isn’t just a man’s problem. Think of all your female friends on social media, then think about the fact that one out of every six of them has an addiction to pornography. Does that make you feel differently about posting shirtless pictures of your husband or teen-aged sons? It should.
Women can certainly struggle with lust and never be addicted to pornography, and since this isn’t a topic most women talk about, I’m willing to bet that more than one out of every six of your female friends have had inappropriate thoughts about your shirtless husband.
For some of you this is new news, and you might be asking, “Really? Other women lust after my husband?” To you I say, “You find your husband attractive, right? Do you really think you’re the only one?”
Others of you aren’t surprised at all, but you’re still asking, “Is it really our responsibility to keep other women’s minds out of the gutter?” To you I say, “You’re missing the point.”
We all like to ask questions like, “What does the Bible really say about modesty?” and “Am I to blame if someone has inappropriate thoughts about me?”
But, the questions we really ought to be asking are: “How can I best love my brothers and sisters in Christ?” and “ Am I willing to sacrifice my comfort and style to serve those around me?”
A biblical view of modesty must focus on the heart, because true modesty is about motivation and discernment.
In 1 Timothy 2:9, Paul says “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety.” I quoted the King James Version here because I love the word “shamefacedness,” which could be described as bashful. Yes, Paul is talking to women, but the heart of the matter applies to both men and women. What does it mean to have shamefacedness or to be bashful when it comes to your apparel?
I see shamefacedness as showing reverence - to God, to myself and to those around me. I see it as being aware of and sensitive to sin and to being motivated by love, not fashion or comfort.
I can hear Tina Turner singing, “What’s love got to do… got to do with it?” Love has everything to do with it. Our love for the Father should motivate us to turn from our own sin and to do our best to not be a stumbling block to others. Our love for our brothers and sisters should motivate us to help them avoid sin - even if it means that we’re inconvenienced or uncomfortable (Consider 1 Corinthians chapters 8 & 9).
What makes this particularly difficult is that, in our culture, men going shirtless is socially acceptable. Most men were raised to swim shirtless, mow shirtless, run shirtless… you get my point. Men being shirtless in public is normal. So, am I asking you to be something other than normal? No. (Although I’d like to remind all of us that as Christ-followers we should automatically look different from what our society deems normal.) What I am proposing is that you be aware - that you be mindful - that you think of the one out of every six of your female friends before you post shirtless pictures of your husband.
I know what some of you are thinking, “You could lust after someone in a snowsuit! We simply are not responsible for how others think when they look at us.” It’s true - your friends might (and very well may) lust after your husband while he’s fully dressed. But I ask you to think about the pornography industry. Pornography is not complied of men and women in snowsuits. Those who struggle with lust can attest that they want to see skin. And pictures of your shirtless husband is an easy way for some women to get “a skin fix.”
There are some of you reading this (at least one out of every six of you) who know how real this struggle can be, and you desperately wish to avoid having inappropriate thoughts about your friend’s husband. You may be asking, “How can I avoid these stumbling blocks this summer?” To you I say, if the struggle is so great that you can’t bounce your eyes and keep scrolling, then take a break from social media this summer. Or, for the summer months, block your friends that frequently post pictures that cause you temptation. Another option (and this is a scary one) would be to have an honest conversation with your girlfriends about your struggles. The conversation doesn’t have to be specifically about their husbands, but it could be a conversation that opens their eyes to the struggle many women face - a struggle that is escalated this time of year. I challenge you to be among the few women who are honest about this struggle and help others learn how they can help you live a more Godly life.
For those of you who don’t struggle with lust, praise God and then remember what we are told in Galatians 5:14, “For the whole law is fulfilled in one word: 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself.'"
What does love have to do with our apparel and the pictures we post on social media? Everything!
Beth Ann Baus is a wife and homeschooling mom of two boys. She is a writer and blogger who pulls from her own experiences of abuse, anxiety, depression and Tourettic OCD. Beth is an advocate for women struggling with sexual sin and strives to encourage young wives and mothers by pointing them to the grace offered only by our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. You can read more about her at www.bethannbaus.com.
Publication date: June 7, 2016