Updated: Oct 16
“She is clothed with strength and dignity…” – Proverbs 31:25, NIV
It’s summer time, and when the heat rises, we can only remove so many layers of clothing before getting arrested in public venues. Here in South Texas, it. is. hot.
It’s also the season when we see articles and blog posts about modesty thrown out there, and lately they’re running along one theme: modesty is a means of body shaming teen girls.
Maybe there was a time in Christian culture when the outward appearance was the central focus rather than the heart when it came to teaching modesty principles. I wouldn’t know; I wasn’t a part of that culture. But my 34-year-old-self would love to go back and talk to my 16-year-old self, look straight into her eyes, and tell her what she’s worth.
I grew up in a beach town. Modesty was never discussed. Short shorts and swimsuit tops were acceptable attire pretty much anywhere, and my peers were hyper-focused and distracted by looking good where it was summer almost all year round. Christian modesty principles didn’t make me feel ashamed of my body—the world did. I would have welcomed a kind word that took the focus off how I looked in a swimsuit and shifted it to my heart.
The articles and blogs I’m referring to discuss the damage done to young girls when the purpose of modesty is to protect young men’s eyes. But modesty is an inward heart issue that flows to the outward appearance; not the other way around. It isn’t an encapsulation of a temptingly luscious body that must be hidden away in shame.
Read that verse again: “She is clothed with strength and dignity.” What part of that sounds shameful? Let me tell you what it doesn’t say: “She is buttoned up from the neck down to her toes in layers of thick, shapeless fabric so no one is tempted by her lovely lady lumps.”
Dignity. Modesty demands that others treat her with dignity.
When I was in college, I served on a youth ministry team and was mentored by a mom of teen girls. Her girls were absolutely beautiful, and tastefully clothed. They were dressed stylish and classy, but not extravagantly. Other students treated them like ladies. They were neither ashamed nor self-conscious. I remembered being their age, always tugging and pulling at my uncomfortable outfits that were selected to attract the attention of cute boys.
I asked her about it one day. Whatever she was teaching her girls, I wanted that for my future children. I wanted that for myself as a college student still in formation trying to navigate life on my own.
She told me that it’s about strength and dignity. She taught her girls that it’s not just the cute boys attracted to their adorable figures—there are lurkers and predators that your teenage tunnel vision blocks from view because you're so focused on making someone you like notice you. It’s about vigilance. Modesty is about demanding respect from others who would treat you as if you were less than your worth.
That scantily clad outer layer puts a worldly price tag on something infinitely precious. What are we worth? Dying for.
I don’t have any special modesty guidelines for what is appropriate and what is not. That’s very much a heart-issue as your daughters’ relationships with Christ unfold, but here’s one thing to keep in mind: men are called to love their wives as Christ loved the Church and gave Himself up for her (Ephesians 5:25). Know your worth.
Your fellow Able Mom,
Loving Father, we pray that we can teach our daughters by your example of sacrificial love and our response as women to open ourselves to that love by an outward reflection of our hearts. Help us to redirect shame and to know the value and dignity that you’ve bestowed on us with your amazing Love. Amen.
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