Is dressing modestly just an outdated cultural standard from the 50s? Turn on the television, go to the movies, or flip through the pages of just about any magazine and it appears that our society has lost the value of modesty. People dress in clothing and styles that are designed to reveal and to bring considerable attention to their bodies.
To suggest that we need to dress with modesty is often looked on as “restraining” or “limiting our freedom.” This argument, however, overlooks the personal rewards of living and dressing modestly.
Modesty in dress sends a message of purity and honor. It puts an emphasis on and values the inner person over outward attractiveness. It says that a person is worth far more than what meets the eye. There is a depth of character that rises above beauty or charm. When we dress modestly, we are saying that we posses inner qualities for which we should gain appropriate attention and value from others.
When we choose to dress in a provocative way, we send a message that we believe our value comes from our looks rather than from our heart. Skimpy clothing says that our worth is in our sex appeal. This is a weak foundation to build self-esteem or self-worth. What happens when we age and the wrinkles start showing? Where will the sense of value and worth come from then? For various reasons (e.g. past sexual abuse, low self-esteem) some believe that their worth comes from how good they look and how many heads they can turn. But that can leave a person feeling empty and alone. All of us, ultimately, want to be pursued and loved deeply because of our hearts and minds, not for our bodies. Dressing in a showy fashion puts the focus on our outward appearance, not on our heart.
The Bible places a high priority on modesty. In 1 Timothy 2:9 , for example, it teaches that Christian women are to dress modestly. They are to focus on their inner attractiveness rather than being overly concerned about outward appearance. This does not mean that they shouldn’t take care of themselves, look their best, and enjoy their beauty. It means that they should not use their God-given beauty for selfish, self-centered reasons, like competing with other women or gaining the lustful attention of men.
Modesty demonstrates self-control, which is a fruit of the Holy Spirit ( Galatians 5:22-23 ). Those who understand the principles of modesty acknowledge human sexuality and the tendency toward self-promotion. But they control those inclinations by choosing to express themselves with humility. Immodesty, on the other hand, can create a false sense of security and self-esteem because it puts too much emphasis on outward appearance.
It can be difficult to maintain modesty when we think of it in terms of it being “limiting.” But if we consider the personal rewards of modesty — self-respect, honor, and self-control — the price is too high not to be modest.