Modesty. It was a term I grew up with my whole life. It was drilled into me as far back as I can remember. As the oldest of four daughters in a conservative Christian home, it was always impressed upon me that I was to set the example of how a Godly young woman should behave, talk, and dress. Along with my natural inclination to being a rule follower, I was comfortable with that and never questioned any of it. It’s what I was taught in church, at home and at my Christian school. I was comfortable with “dressing appropriately.” I was a good judge of modesty for myself and others. In fact, I was downright judgmental! I never stopped to question what modesty meant. The context it was used in, in my mind, it always meant dressing appropriately. It wasn’t until my husband and I became naturists that we began diving into Scriptures like 1 Timothy 2:9, “I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes…” In reading other versions of this text I came across Eugene Peterson’s Message paraphrase of this verse and I love it!
“And I want women to get in there with the men in humility before God, not primping before a mirror or chasing the latest fashions but doing something beautiful for God and becoming beautiful doing it.”
So is modesty more about how we dress or more about how we act? A year ago I would have said it was absolutely about how we dress. Today, I’ve changed my mind about this and so many other things! Modesty is an attitude of the heart and includes thinking of yourself and others rightly. A holy humility. What are your thoughts when you see the heavy girl wearing a bathing suit that’s two sizes too small? What are your thoughts when you see the man who looks differently than you? Do you play the judge? It devastates me to say I did, for years!
1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV), “Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear – but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious.”
To avoid attention-getting behavior, whether in a boastful tongue or in a gaudy style of clothing, is the modesty meant in Scripture.
David Hatton says, “For centuries, modesty was understood in those same terms, until the Victorian era gave the word a new meaning to match its prudish view of the body. In spite of this altered definition, the older meaning was retained as late as 1828, when Webster’s Dictionary continued to define modesty with no mention of clothing’s ability to produce a modest condition in the way it hid the body: “MODESTY, n. [L. modestia.] That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one’s own worth and importance. This temper when natural, springs in some measure from timidity, and in young and inexperienced persons, is allied to bashfulness and diffidence. In persons who have seen the world, and lost their natural timidity, modesty springs no less from principle than from feeling, and is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require. \ 2. Modesty, as an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence. Thus we say, the petitioner urged his claims with modesty; the speaker addressed the audience with modesty. \ 3. Moderation; decency. \ 4. In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.”
I love this! I love that historically, modesty was never about what we wear (or don’t wear). I’ve seen first hand how one can be completely nude and still completely modest! In the same way, I’ve seen how one can be completely covered and very immodest! As a naturist, I dress appropriately for the situation. I wear clothes to church because that’s what is appropriate for that situation. A few weeks ago we had naturist church with some friends. To that, I wore nothing. That was appropriate for that situation. Did I sit in the textile church and judge people based on what they were wearing? The old me would have, but the new me doesn’t even really notice what people are wearing anymore!
Even the great Mark Twain wrote, “Modesty antedates clothes and will be resumed when clothes are no more. Modesty died when clothes were born. Modesty died when false modesty was born.”
Some may ask, what about when what you are wearing causes men to stumble? Well, I believe that if a man is going to lust, it isn’t really going to matter what I am wearing. I have heard from multiple men that when they were struggling with lust, it didn’t matter that the woman was wearing jeans and a hoodie, the lust was still there. Meaning that lust is more an issue of the heart and mind than an issue of clothing or lack of it. How could it be that my husband used to struggle greatly with the issue of lust in a fully clothed world before we entered this lifestyle, and now with a renewed way of thinking we can visit a naturist resort and he has no sin issues? He has changed his way of thinking. Romans 12:2, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” We have tested what we believe to be true by going to a naturist park. Several times I’ve asked Phil if being there caused him to sin. The answer has always been the same, “Not at all!” I know he feels more alive when we spend time at that park. We love it there and we are making lots of friends! We feel like God is pleased with our new way of thinking.
Our true modesty comes when we can look beyond what someone is or isn’t wearing and see the person that God created. When we can look beyond what the world sees as flaws and see the unique beauty that our Creator put in each and every one of us. We are all the same and we are all different and we each have amazing things to offer the world if we can get over ourselves and look past the outer facades and into the hearts of the people all around us!