What Every Guy Needs to Know About Modesty

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.

Conclusion

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 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.

Sources Used

  1.       “Modest.” Dictionary.com – The World’s Favorite Online English Dictionary! Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 6 June 2016.
  2.       The Holy Bible, English Standard Version. Wheaton: Crossway, 2001, 2007, 2011.

11 thoughts on “What Every Guy Needs to Know About Modesty

  1. Ranita, thanks for the practical advice for us guys! I do have a lot of questions that I would like some imput on. If someone can give me some advice on even one of these questions I will be grateful.
    1. There is a biblical precedent for dressing distinctively. Many Jewish people dress distinctively even today. Would it help the ladies if we men intentionally dressed distinctively? Would that be biblical or just silly?
    2. I find it difficult to know how to communicate my support for modesty. I find it fairly easy to talk about it with my biological my sisters but it is hard to talk with any other ladies about it or even to bring it up in many mixed settings. Do you have any suggestions for me?
    3. I have several Muslim coworkers and classmates the topic of modesty comes up sometimes when talking with my Muslim friends. How can I talk about biblical modesty with them?
    4. I have many non-christian friends. What are some ways that I can talk about modesty with them?
    5. Many of my christian friends equate standards of modesty with legalism. How do I talk about biblical modesty with them?

    Thanks for any advice you can give!

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  2. Thanks for your comment, Jeremy. Those are some good questions! I won’t claim to have all the answers, but I do have a few thoughts…

    1. If a man dresses distinctively, it should be out of obedience to God and His Word – not just to make dressing modestly easier for the ladies. I think that the motive would make the difference between it being Biblical vs. silly.

    2. Keep encouraging your biological sisters! As far as encouraging other ladies, are you saying that you have a hard time knowing when and how to bring it up in mixed settings or that that conversation doesn’t go anywhere when you do? One suggestion I have for those conversations would be to be careful to not make it sound like modesty is all about girls dressing modestly to fix the guys’ problem with lust. In my conversations with girls on this subject, that one thing is probably what makes most girls frustrated with the modesty conversation. To talk about the more foundational reasons for dressing modestly or to talk about modesty beyond just how we dress would be better things to talk about in a conversation with ladies that is actually encouraging for them. Does that make any sense?

    3. I don’t have much experience relating to Muslim friends or knowledge of their views on modesty, so I don’t have much to say on that…

    4. I’ll answer with another question: is modesty the most important topic to bring up in a conversation with non-Christian friends? The most important reasons for a believer to act and dress modestly do not apply in the same way to those who do not have a relationship with Christ. Explaining the biblical reasons for modesty when they ask about it can be an opportunity to point people towards Christ, but modesty should be an act of obedience, not something done to earn a right standing with God. Therefore, in my mind modesty seems to be a somewhat futile topic until someone knows Christ.

    5. Maybe the discussion of biblical modesty should be on the deeper reasons for why modest dress and behavior are important rather than on the specifics of how that should look. I’ve been realizing how many different things influence our view on this subject (including gender, culture, experiences, what we have been taught, etc.). Different people have different ideas of what modesty looks like and the truth is that we will not all come out at the exact same place on practical application – even when we are all attempting to be modest. I’m not saying that it is wrong to have specific standards or to talk to others about our standards. But I do think that those discussions can quickly turn into pointless arguments, so perhaps that should not be the main focus of our conversations on modesty.

    Thoughts?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for your reply to my questions Ranita. I agree that modesty is not about guys issue with lust. Guys who are believers have the Holy Spirit who enables us to live in victory. Besides if we are in the world as we are expected to be (John 17:14-16) we cannot avoid exposure to immodesty.

      The reason that I ask about how to talk with people about modesty is that people ask me about it. I am the only Anabaptist that many of my friends know. I appreciate their questions as a opportunity to talk about Jesus. Yet people often ask me questions that I don’t know how to answer.

      Here are a few examples:
      Why do Anabaptist women were dresses and skirts? Dresses and skirts are not considered modest outside of our circles and most of the dresses and skirts in secular settings aren’t modest. (My reply is that Anabaptists ware dresses and skirts to avoid supporting feminism and the maintain clear differences between men’s and women’s clothing.)

      If modesty is so important why do most Christians not talk about it? (My reply is that there is a lot of important things that most Christians don’t talk about.)

      Are Anabaptists radicals like the Muslems who ware the hijab? (My reply is that we dress modestly to point to the glory of Jesus not to earn our salvation.)

      Any thoughts or comments?

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      1. Thanks for clarifying – I was understanding you to mean “how do I begin conversations with these kinds of people?” 🙂

        Those are challenging questions. I especially like your response to the last question! Honoring and glorifying Christ should be the ultimate reason for the way we dress (just as it should also be the basis for how we live every other area of our lives). We can’t necessarily answer the “why” questions for every other Anabaptist, but if our personal goal in the way we dress is to honor Christ and point others to Him, it will come out as we explain why we do what we do.

        Another thought I had was that I think that modest clothing is a topic that is talked about in other Christian circles, but that the practical application looks different than it does in Anabaptist circles. I follow a blog for Christian young women (not specifically Anabaptist) and they have posted multiple articles this summer about modesty. I don’t agree with all their applications of the principles that they write about, but I do agree with most of their basic principles for dressing modestly. The truth is, even in Anabaptist circles, the practical application of the principles of modesty end up looking different (for example, some believe that cape dresses are modest attire for women, while others believe that shirts and skirts are OK). The Bible definitely gives the principle for dressing modestly – but are there any black and white instructions in the New Testament for how we should dress? It seems that there is room for different applications and that those applications can all be based on a desire to obey God and His Word. I’ve been realizing that we so often think that everyone should apply those principles just the way that we do – and how quick we are to have a judgmental attitude towards those who apply things differently.

        So I guess all of that to say, we may have other reasons for dressing the way we do, but I think the most important thing is to be expressing our desire to honor Jesus in all that we do and to be pointing others to Him when we talk about these things.

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  3. First i wanted to say how much i appreciate Radi-Call, it is awesome to see young Anabaptist people stepping out and leading the way for others. We have a tough road ahead of us. Keep up the good work!

    as to the comment above, while i wont dive into my thoughts on all the questions, it is my opinion as and English turned Anabaptist that distinctiveness in dress is something that has been lost and we are losing fast and is something extremely important in my opinion. Yet there is alot of wounds around dress within our people that need healing!

    As a side note, i find the recent Sword and Trumpet article by Brother Melvin Lehman regarding “The New Conservative” to be well worth the read and hits me pretty much spot on!

    May God have patience and forgiveness with us as we continue to Follow Him!

    Doug Ladd
    Buckingham, Va

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  4. Thank you Ranita for your article! I appreciate your emphasis throughout.

    Can someone help me out? Distinctiveness of dress keeps coming up as a biblical calling and yet I can’t find it mentioned anywhere in the new covenant. Can someone point me in the right direction? Thanks

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    1. Hi, as one of those that keeps bringing up the idea of distinctiveness I will give my answer. There is NO instruction to dress distinctively in the new covenant. In fact the concept of being distinctive doses not show up anywhere that I can find in the new covenant. Therefore, I find that it is counter productive and unbiblical to come up with any rules about distinctiveness. That said the old covenant has a lot to say about intentional distinctiveness. We can learn form the laws and rules in the old covenant. In my opinion we learn from the old covenant but we don’t make rules from the old covenant. Let me know if you disagree or want to talk more about it. Hope this helps.

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  5. This is a good conversation. Thanks to all those who have contributed!
    Adisciple brings up a good question: Where in Scripture are we called to dress with the goal of being distinct? Nowhere is that a direct command. However, we are commanded to “not be conformed…but transformed…” (Rom. 12:1-2). This command should impact EVERY aspect of our lives, including dress.
    What does that look like today? Our men and women will be allowing the Holy Spirit to transform us from the inside-out. We will be distinct, not as the end goal, but as a result of the transformation and the intentional rejection of conforming to the sinfulness around us.
    Transformation will result in distinctiveness in many spheres of our lives. Modest dress will be distinct in our Western culture, but it may not be in the Middle East. However, our inner transformation WILL result in non-conformity, whether it be dress or other aspects of life.
    Blessings!

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  6. >>One suggestion I have for those conversations would be to be careful to not
    >>make it sound like modesty is all about girls dressing modestly to fix the guys’ problem
    >>with lust. In my conversations with girls on this subject, that one thing is probably
    >>what makes most girls frustrated with the modesty conversation. To talk about the more >>foundational reasons for dressing modestly or to talk about modesty beyond just how we dress >>would be better things to talk about in a conversation with ladies that is actually encouraging for >>them. Does that make any sense?

    Hi Ranita. Actually, I don’t think it does make sense.

    This is a subject that is fraught with difficulties from beginning to end. It focuses upon the most sensitive differences between men and women in general. Because of these sensitivities it is very hard to discuss honestly what the Bible has to say on these matters. One feels that he must cross a minefield of explosives in conducting this discussion, and certainty abounds that his life will be shredded by shrapnel in the process.

    This is so because of the immense problem of the zeitgeist, the spirit of the modern age, the way the wind is blowing in the cultural at large. Feminism has achieved a tremendous victory in the Western world; the victory is so pervasive that one might call it a “total victory.” I say that because its doctrines permeate even “Christian thinking” to a enormous extent. So we are dealing with foreign and damaging doctrines that have sneaked into the churches unawares and which have profoundly distorted God’s definition of us as men and women.

    I’m not going to pursue this any further right now. Have to move slowly and carefully on account of those mines! I’d rather not lose a leg in this exercise, but even if I do it will have been worth it. There is nothing more fundamental to life in this world than the relationship between men and women. If we don’t get this right in the church then nothing else really matters. The object of the Gospel is not mere individual conversions; it is the development of the new humanity in Jesus Christ. Unless we get men and women right, the church will continue to be a gross distortion of what her Head intended her to be.

    I’ll be back, Lord willing.

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  7. Hey, I’d just like to “amen” what was said about men encouraging the ladies in their life on the modesty subject.
    My brother just graduated from a super liberal college…at one point he told me, “I would love to be seen at my college with you!” My brother is a cute guy, and as was mentioned, men don’t have such distinctive dress…nobody would have had to know “who he is.” His comment meant so much to me! It showed me how much he loves and respects me, but also the fact that he is 100% supportive, and would joyfully be just as distinct had the Father commanded it for him!

    Like

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