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We’ve all heard it said. You should show some modesty. Or, is that really modest? Today, I will address what modesty is and how to achieve it. No, I’m not going to discuss clothing only. How we dress is only a part of modesty.
Let’s jump in.
What is Modesty?
The dictionary definitions of modesty are all a little bit different, but I think they mean the same thing.
Modesty is when a person possesses or uses behaviors, manners, or appearances that are intended to avoid impropriety or indecency. (Note: Impropriety is a failure to observe the standards of honesty and modesty.)
Another definition says that modesty is an attitude of decency and humility in dressing, grooming, language, and behavior. A person doesn’t draw unnecessary attention to himself/herself.
To me, modesty means that a person isn’t trying to bring too much attention to himself/herself. I believe that modesty should be observed by both men and women, as well as children. However, much of society pins the need for modesty on women only. (That is a topic for a different day.)
What Does the Bible Say about Modesty?
There are several scriptures that refer to how we should treat ourselves, our bodies in particular. Some of these verses specifically mention modesty while others allude to it.
1 Corinthians 6: 19-20
In these two verses, we are told that our bodies are the “temple of the Holy Ghost” and that we should “glorify God” in our bodies.
If the Spirit of God lives in us, we should honor our bodies and give Him an honorable place in our lives.
1 Peter 3: 3-4
This tells us not to adorn ourselves with gold and jewelry and braiding of our hair. Verse 4 says that we should have a “meek and quiet spirit.”
Some people take the Bible very literally. There are some places that I do as well. However, I also know that the culture of the Bible was different from our culture today. When the verse says that we shouldn’t wear silver and gold or braid our hair, I don’t think that means that we can’t wear any jewelry or that our hair should always hang loosely on our backs.
I think we are to interpret these verses in a way that shows that we aren’t supposed to do things just for attention. We can wear jewelry, but it doesn’t have to be huge, showy, and expensive. It can be simple pieces.
We can braid our hair, but again, we don’t have to do it for a show. We do it just for function and practicality.
Proverbs 31: 30
This verse, in a chapter we often reference when speaking of a virtuous woman, says that “beauty is vain” and that a “woman that feareth the Lord, she shall be praised.”
Does that mean that we are supposed to be “ugly” on the outside? No. It means, again, that we aren’t supposed to try to draw unnecessary attention to ourselves.
We should walk in fear and admonition of the Lord and allow our inner beauty to shine outwards.
Ephesians 4: 29
In this verse, we learn that we should not let any corrupt thing come out of our mouths. What are corrupt things? Lying, cursing, gossiping, and speaking badly of others are some examples. We should keep our speech modest and not allow any of these things to pass our lips.
Am I guilty of these things? Yes, and I have to repent for them every time I do them. However, I am trying to do better, and God is helping me.
1 Corinthians 10: 31
The Bible addresses modest behavior as well. According to this verse, everything we do should be done to the “glory of God.” In everything, we should give praise and glorify God in our lives.
1 Peter 5: 5-6
In 1 Peter 5:5-6, we are told to submit ourselves to one another. We are also told to “humble yourselves” before God. Submission doesn’t make us servants to others. It shows respect for their opinions and positions.
The Bible gives us many ways that we should be modest. Modesty begins in our hearts. Unlike what society wants us to think, it doesn’t begin with our clothing.
Yes, our clothing should be modest, and I have a short section on that. However, there are so many other ways to show modesty without addressing your wardrobe.
Modesty that Doesn’t Involve Clothing
We should show humility in our lives. Even if we really are the absolute best at something, we should not act as if others are below us.
Sometimes, I struggle with this, especially when it comes to educational things. I have a lot of knowledge in specific areas, and when someone tries to tell me I’m wrong, it’s hard for me to stay humble. All I really want to say is, “In my classes for my TWO master’s degrees, I learned that….” and then begin a list.
Unfortunately, I have only begun stopping myself (well, allowing God to stop me) in the past year. I used to be really bad about letting people know how educated I am. It only made me sound uneducated and childish.
This is where 1 Peter 5:5 comes into play, and I have to submit myself, and my thoughts to others. Sometimes, I have to allow people to continue believing something that is incorrect in order to remain humble and modest before God.
Vanity is what we want others to think of us. Many times people interchange pride and vanity. Pride is how we see ourselves, though. A person could be proud of themselves without being vain.
For example, I am proud of some of my accomplishments, but I do not flaunt them. Not everyone knows about them. I don’t expect the people who know about them see or treat me any differently now.
Keep your behavior in check. Do not do anything that will misrepresent yourself, your family, or God. Stay within the laws of God and society.
Be Slow to Speak
You don’t have to get the last word. Don’t argue, even when you want to. Resist proving a point, if it is going to cause an argument.
Allow the Spirit to lead your words. Avoid allowing feelings and emotions to guide what you will say.
Don’t be a know-it-all. We all know that one person who thinks he/she knows everything.
It’s horrible to have a conversation with that person. I was once told that if you don’t know a person like that, it’s probably you.
Always be willing to listen and learn. The Spirit will guide you to what you need to know in situations.
Modesty in Clothing
This is the part of the discussion of modesty that no one wants to discuss. However, I’m not staying on it for long. I just want to give the points that I found in my research, quickly.
First, modesty is not only for women and girls. I will say that as many times as needed. Society is wrong to push it only on women and girls.
Second, the biggest point I found for modesty in clothing was not to reveal too much skin. This means that clothing should have wider straps on tank tops, longer sleeves (in general), higher necklines, and lower hemlines (shirts, pants, and skirts).
As I write all of that, it really sounds like I, too, am directing it to women. I’m not. I don’t want to see men in short shorts and shirts unbuttoned to their waists. Do you?
Third, sometimes guidelines are prescribed by a person’s family, faith, or personal preferences.
Fourth, you do not have to give up being fashionable in order to dress modestly.
Fifth, the guidelines I found seemed simple.
Men should cover their upper bodies. They should also be covered from the waist to the knees.
Women should cover the same parts.
Looser and longer clothing helps with modesty. If someone wants to wear modest clothes, he/she should not wear skin-tight clothing that is extremely short or low-cut.
Again, modesty is for both men and women. If we teach our children as they grow up to respect their bodies as a dwelling place of the Holy Spirit, we can show them how to be fashionable and modest at the same time.
I know that with today’s fashion standards, it is not always easy to find modest clothing. However, we may have to modify things or layer them, so that we can show modesty in our clothes.
Always remember that modesty doesn’t only include clothing. That is only a small part. Our lifestyles, words, actions, and more go into how we display modesty to the world.