What is Modesty?

“Whether therefore ye eat, or drink, or whatsoever ye do, do all to the glory of God.” – 1 Corinthians 10:31

This has been a question I’ve been thinking about for a long time: how do you define modesty? Can there be one definition of modesty? 

So, I decided to look at a few sources to get an idea of what different people think modesty is.

According to Wikipedia, modesty is “a mode of dress and deportment intended to avoid encouraging sexual attraction in others…”

Although I guess that if you dress modestly, this can be a side effect, I don’t think this definition covers even a fraction of what modesty really is.

Saint John Paul II said that the problem with pornography wasn’t that it showed too much, but that it showed too little. What does he mean by this? Pornography shows not only the human body, but the person, as a sexual object with a sole purpose of sexual pleasure and instant gratification. Humanity is worth so much more than that, so much more than only being used for pleasure. In this Lifeteen post, the author says that this is the problem with immodesty.

So, with that in mind, we can say that immodesty is an objectification of the human body, and modesty is seeing the body as a vessel of the person within.

I once said that I wasn’t modest. I’m still not sure if I am. Sure, I cover what needs to be covered, but in all honesty, it’s not to reflect the dignity of my personhood, but to cover what I think is ugly.

So, I’m going to define modesty: Modesty is a way of dress which glorifies the Lord and reflects the dignity of the person.

We are called to glorify God in all that we do, not man. That includes modest dress and immodest dress. If we are dressing modestly simply to make sure that no one is sexually aroused by us, we are putting man before God. We are trying to please those around us.

Similarly, if we wear what is “cool” with the knowledge that it is not pleasing to God. We are putting man before God.

When you put something on, don’t think what your grandmother or brother or father or best friend would think: think about what God would think.


The Modesty Problem


Before I begin this post… I should probably start by defining modesty.

Yes, I know. Modesty varies person to person, etc. etc. But can we all agree that it is dressing with the intention of glorifying your body to God?

Yes? Good. we can continue.

All my life, I’ve dressed in a modest fashion. I’m not trying to brag or be ‘holier-than-thou’, but it’s true. I’ve never been allowed to show cleavage, wear strapless dresses (until much recently), show my midriff, wear short shorts, spaghetti straps or bikinis. (NOTE: I AM NOT SAYING WOMEN WHO DRESS THIS WAY ARE IMMODEST. THIS WILL BECOME CLEAR)

However, I never knew why I did this, besides the fact that my mom told me to. I’m plus sized, so if I wore a bikini or short shorts, it would be borderline obscene. Recently, I’ve been wondering WHY I dress the way I do. Is it because I am treating my body as a temple of God worthy of love and respect, or because I’m ashamed of it and covering it up?

Of course, I want to say that it’s because I do it out of love for God, myself, my future husband, and all those around me.

But it would be a lie.

If one day I woke up and all of my excess weight had just melted away… I’d probably dress the same way I do now. Not out of love or respect… but because I’d probably still be uncomfortable in my body.

It’s a scary revelation, but here it is:

I don’t dress modestly.

I dress appropriately, covering up what needs to be covered. But, I don’t do it out of love or respect for God, others, or myself. I do it out of self-consciousness. That’s not modesty. Maybe it is from the outside, and maybe I’m not leading others to sin, and maybe I’m “accidentally modest”, but it’s not being done purposefully. And that bothers me.

I pray that one day, I will be able to love myself enough to be able to treat my body as the temple it is.