Laying Some Groundwork
In both men and women, God has placed desires for intimacy that He designed to be fully awakened and fulfilled within the covenant relationship of marriage. Because we live in fallen bodies on a sin-cursed earth, our natural tendency is to allow those desires to lead us into sin rather than to allow them to be satisfied in the way that God intended. It’s not hard to figure out that God has wired men and women to desire different things. God designed men to have stronger sexual desires, while ladies are more emotionally and relationally driven.
Okay, these things may seem pretty basic and obvious – so why should I mention them? Because from a girl’s perspective, sometimes modesty discussions can seem unbalanced, focusing on the ways that girls should dress in response to the struggle that men have with sexual lust, while women’s struggle with desiring relationship is somewhat forgotten or at least is seen as less important.
Another basic thing to consider is the definition of the word “modest.” Part of the definition does refer to appropriate dress. But the definition also includes having a humble attitude and “having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.”1 Modest dress is absolutely important! But if that is all we focus on, we miss a lot of what it means to be modest. This has been touched on several times throughout this series of articles, but I want to dwell on it a little more here because, in general, girls are more sensitive to immodest behavior rather than immodest dress.
One of my friends explained a woman’s struggle with modesty in this way: “The things [guys] say to us, how they touch us, and how they relate to us, are much more apt to cause temptation than how they dress. There’s a fine line sometimes between being a gentleman and being suggestive either in a sexual way, or in indicating more interest in a relationship than what they intend to follow through on.” Ladies long to be cherished, protected, and to know that we are truly loved and cared for – specifically by a man. This longing can quickly become lust. When a guy sees an immodestly dressed girl, he is tempted to desire something that is not rightfully his. In a similar way, when a girl encounters a guy who seems to be showing her special attention, she is tempted to share parts of her heart that should not rightfully be shared with a man who is not her husband. The truth is that even though it isn’t necessarily sexual lust, it is still lust because we are intensely longing for something that God only intends for us to find in a marriage relationship.
So does that mean you guys should avoid friendships with girls because it might be confusing to them? Absolutely not! That would be like girls wearing burkas all the time because a guy might lust after us! It is important for you gentlemen to be aware of our weakness in this area – just as we should be aware of your weakness. But in all of this, we should continue to recognize that each one of us is still responsible for how we handle any temptation we face.
Modest Vs. Immodest Behavior
Just as you gentlemen appreciate girls who dress modestly, so we greatly appreciate guys who relate to us modestly. One of the most important parts of relating modestly is endeavoring to treat all girls with equal respect.
Let me clarify and say that this does not mean that you cannot have some female friends who you know better than others. Clearly, as humans we just don’t connect with everyone in the same way, so our relationships with different people will obviously look different. However, when we observe you being respectful and gentlemanly to all the ladies around you, regardless of how well you know them, it becomes obvious that that is your pattern in relating to girls and that you are not singling us out when you treat us that way.
One specific thing that can be really confusing and difficult for girls is personal communication with a guy when he has not declared his intentions. Technology is great for keeping up with friends, but please be aware that to use it in personal contact with a girl sends messages to her that are not necessarily found in the words you write.
A friend of mine put it well when she said, “A guy can be immodest in the way that he constantly talks about himself and shows little concern for others.” A guy (or girl for that matter) with a cocky, self-centered attitude is not modest. Guys who act this way definitely do not attract the appreciation or respect of a mature, godly lady.
To the gentlemen who do treat the ladies around them with genuine respect: thank you. We seriously notice and appreciate the guys who are careful with our hearts. As Ian mentioned last week, modesty begins so much deeper than mere behavior, words, or dress. When your hearts are set on treating the girls around you with love and respect, it definitely shows.
Ways Guys Can Encourage Ladies in Dressing Modestly
One of my friends mentioned how rare it is to receive encouragement and affirmation from Christian men in our efforts to dress modestly. She said, “It has made me question whether or not the way I dress makes a difference to men, or even if it is appreciated.” But how are you supposed to do that without it being awkward? Here are a few practical suggestions:
Take responsibility for your part in the modesty equation – As I mentioned earlier, both guys and girls are responsible for the way that we handle temptation. I think many times girls become rather defensive on the subject of dressing modestly because the reasoning we hear makes it sound like our modest clothing is the solution to guys’ problem with lust. To be honest, it’s hard to want to dress modestly when it sounds like it’s our responsibility to make sure guys don’t lust after us. However, to hear men take responsibility for their own thoughts actually makes us want to help them out.
Dress modestly yourself – The guys who say they want girls to cover up while showing a flippant attitude about wearing modest clothing themselves do not provide any motivation for dressing modestly. The most important reasons for dressing modestly (like the ones we read in Brother Todd’s article) apply to both genders. Without laying out specific rules, I would like to share a principle for guys that a friend mentioned to me: if guys don’t want to see it on us, they shouldn’t show it themselves. To see a guy who is genuinely attempting to wear modest clothing is an encouragement to ladies making the same effort to dress modestly.
Do not be ashamed to be seen in public with a modestly dressed girl – In our culture, a modestly dressed girl stands out a whole lot more than a modestly dressed guy. In general, it’s hard to tell that a man is Anabaptist simply by looking at his clothing. For women on the other hand, it’s hard to miss! Guys who are unashamed of modestly dressed girls and who are even willing to step into a conversation about why she dresses modestly or wears a head covering if someone asks questions are a huge encouragement to girls who seek to dress modestly.
Encourage the women in your life who are dressing modestly – Dads and brothers, this one is mostly for you. Hearing affirmation from a dad or a brother is a huge encouragement in our efforts to dress modestly. Outside of family relationships, this one is admittedly pretty sticky. I wish I could give you black and white answers for when it’s OK to compliment a girl on her modesty and when it’s not OK, but unfortunately, it’s not that simple. Verbally expressing your appreciation must be done carefully because receiving a personal compliment can be either encouraging or confusing for a girl, depending on the situation and relationship. However, it’s always encouraging to hear guys express in a more general way that they do value and appreciate modest clothing. So please be discerning and careful, but don’t completely avoid verbally encouraging girls in dressing modestly.
There is much more that could be said on this topic. But this is the main challenge I want to leave with each of you:
“…Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Tim. 2:22).2
Modesty will flow from the heart of a person who takes this call to pursue righteousness seriously.
|Ranita Reitz is currently living in Elnora, Indiana while working on her certificate in Biblical Counseling with Elnora Bible Institute. Most of her time is spent either studying or tending the small store where she works part time. She has a burden for helping young women find freedom in Christ as they learn to trust in His promises and to apply the principles of God’s Word to everyday life. Some of the things she enjoys most are connecting with people, reading, baking, taking pictures of God’s beautiful creation, and traveling to new places.|
- “Modest.” Dictionary.com – The World’s Favorite Online English Dictionary! Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 6 June 2016.
- The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007, 2011.