There it is again – the word that makes most teen girls’ eyes roll so far into the back of their heads that they can CLEARLY see the person standing directly behind them. Modesty.
Honestly, I don’t blame the girls that do. If you don’t really understand what Christian modesty is, if you only see it as guidelines meant to strip your individuality, then it is definitely and eye-roll-worthy topic. But, gosh, that’s where the problem lies. The problem lies in the lies that modern-day society tells us day-in and day-out.
Modesty isn’t about what you can and can’t do, what you can and can’t wear. Modesty is about love.
Huh? You mean to tell me that I’m told I shouldn’t wear clothes that I want to wear for love’s sake?
YES. YES YES YES A MILLION TIMES YES.
Modesty is an expression of self-love, love of neighbor, and love of the Lord. Oftentimes, though, us gals develop the wrong idea about Christian modesty. Society tells us if we feel beautiful, hot, or sexy wearing something, then we should flaunt what we have, that we should be able to do whatever makes us feel good.
The Catholic Church takes a bit of a different perspective:
“Modesty protects the intimate center of the person… Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love.” (CCC 2521 & 2522)
It’s kinda crazy to think about, but if you’re called to the married life, you’re going to be able to share all of yourself with the person you are called to love faithfully for the rest of your life, and practicing modesty now and everyday for the rest of your life is going to help protect that most intimate part of yourself, your most intimate ability and desire to love, that you will only share with your heavenly Father and your future spouse. That kinda put a new spin on things for me.
While modesty protects our own hearts and souls, it also works to protect the purity of our brothers and sisters all around us. If we are trying to love as perfectly as God does, the last thing we want to do is lead the people around us into temptation and sin. If we don’t practice modesty, that temptation can take a few different shapes:
- For a lot of women, seeing other women dressed immodestly creates a temptation for comparison, when in reality, we are called to recognize and accept the love God has poured out for us by creating us in His own image. I know, for me, seeing the more physically intimate parts of my neighbors makes it harder for me to love my own body as the masterpiece that God has gifted to me.
- For a lot of men, a lack of modesty in the people around them produces temptations more lustful in nature. Because men are wired differently, they tend to be more visually stimulated, while women are more audibly stimulated. Coming from the mouths of my guy friends, it’s pretty difficult to focus on the beauty of the heart and soul of a young woman when other parts of their physical body are acting as distractors.
It’s not only a courtesy, but a responsibility of every person to dress and act modestly. I know, that’s a lot of pressure, especially on us girls who seem to take the brunt of the criticism for doing the opposite. But if I’m choosing between wearing a dress that covers me up and a dress that is more revealing, it’s a lot more encouraging to positively think, “I’m going to try to help my neighbor love themselves and others more perfectly today,” rather than, “I guess I can give up wearing this dress if the Catholic Church says I have to”.
In fact, acting and dressing modestly can be our own little love letters to the people we really care about and even the strangers we pass on the street. You cannot choose to love without choosing to sacrifice. AND TRUST ME, I know choosing to dress modestly can be a tough sacrifice of our own desires, but when it’s for the ultimate good of another, it is so worth it. So maybe you choose to wear a one-piece to the pool instead of a two-piece bikini – that’s a little love letter to the people you’ll encounter there. Maybe you’re going on a date with your boyfriend and you choose to wear a shirt with a higher neckline than this really cute tank top that is a bit more revealing – wow, what a great act of love from you to him.
One of the most important things to keep in mind with the difficult task of dressing modestly is that YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You have crazy amounts of brothers and sisters that are struggling with you, but more importantly, rooting for you. I asked several of our peers for their input on the topic of modesty, and this is what they had to say:
“It’s important to realize that you can be confident and beautiful while dressing modestly.” -Allie, 17
“It is frustrating because some beautiful women have the wrong idea of what makes them beautiful.” -Hank, 17
“Dressing immodestly does not just affect guys, girls often find themselves comparing themselves to others and feeling as if they need to do the same in order to be pretty.” -Anonymous (Female), 16
“It would help so much if some could try to understand how weak we as men are when presented with something visual that leads us to lust. I understand that part of that problem is men and our choices to pursue lustful thoughts, but it’s also something ingrained in us through original sin and our culture and society. Please help us help you feel more like the daughters of the King that you are, and I promise we will do our best to ensure you feel loved for your whole being, not just desired for your body.” -Anonymous (Male), 17
“I know that my worth is not based on my appearances.” -Anonymous (Female), 17
“At the end of our life, when we are face to face with our Creator, there is only one thing that will matter: Did you live your life for Christ or for yourself? … With this end goal in mind, every task, whether big or small, seems less like a burden and more like a blessing.” -Johnathan, 17
“By dressing modestly, we are showing that we believe that we are valuable” -Stacia, 16
“When girls dress immodestly I struggle with my eyes and my mind.” -Daniel, 16
“I think the Catholic Church encourages modesty because it shows that we are more than just bodies! It shows that we are defined by our dignity which lies in God. We are women and by dressing modestly we are showing the men that we have dignity and encouraging the other women to recognize their dignity as well.” -Abbey, 17
Remember, sisters – modesty is about love, not about rules.
You are created for love, and my goodness, your Father knows how hard it is to love in this way in the society we live in. He will give you the graces you need to practice modesty; you need only to ask.
Always in love,