Friday, April 8, 2011

In Search of Real Modesty: True Beauty Conversations

My friend Melissa and I are continuing our conversation about Beauty this morning. We've been talking about True Beauty through a series of letters on Fridays: What is Beauty? What will we tell our daughters about Beauty? We're so glad you're joining us. We would love to hear from you!


Dearest Julia,


It's such a buzz word in the Christian community.  Yet the word means such different things to each person.  Some think modesty means flowing dresses and head coverings. Others believe modesty means women should only wear skirts and dresses.  There a new movement for modesty coupled with modern dress.  Finally, there are those who feel that bikinis can be modest because they cover all the important bits.

But I'm going to consult and go back to the definition of the word itself.

  1. The quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness
  2. Regard for decency of behavior, dress, speech
  3. Simplicity; Moderation
  1. Having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness or great pretensions.
  2. Free from ostentation or showy extravagance
  3. Having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
  4. Limited or moderate in amount, extent, etc
It seems to me that the quality of modesty might just go a bit deeper than convictions on what clothing we should or should not wear.

I love applying knowledge to the act of everyday living so I'm going to break down these definitions into an evaluative tool.

Having a Moderate or Humble Estimate of One's Merits, Importance, etc
  • When things do not go according to my plan,  (like when your 18-month-old pukes on the porch of the house you were walking into for a birthday party, or no matter how hard you coupon, you're unable to drop the grocery budget below the number you believe it should be at... not that these life-altering events have ever happened to me :-p) do I lash out in anger at those who didn't do things my way or ask God why he wasn't following my day planner?
  • When I speak with my friends, do I truly listen to them or am I thinking of the next thing that I'm going to say?
  • When my husband or friend compliments my beauty or something I have done,  do I argue against their compliment (false modesty) or do I humbly say "Thank you" (true modesty)
Free from Vanity, Boastfulness, or Great Pretensions
  •  When I dress in the morning am I thinking, "I look smokin' in this!" or am I making sure that the way I dress is flattering in a way the glorifies the Living Christ?
  • Am I constantly talking about my latest accomplishment? Do I grow weary or resentful if I feel that my role in a group is not acknowledged with gratitude and compliments?
Regard for Decency of Behavior, Dress, and Speech
  • When I let compliments ooze over my male friends (or even my wealthy popular female friends), is my motivation to build them up in Christ or to garner their attention?
  • When things aren't going as I planned, do I blame others, throw frustrated or angry fits, pout, or withdraw from an activity/relationship?  And when I do these things (after all, no one is perfect), do I admit and apologize for my inappropriate response/behavior?
  • When I put on a shirt/dress/pants/bathing suit, am I tastefully covered or am I drawing eyes and minds to parts that should remain a private mystery?
  • When I speak, do I bring to light whatever is lovely, or do I complain or waste words on meaningless conversation or, worse yet, gossip?
  • When I speak in a relationship with a man (who is not my husband whether I am married or not), do I reveal parts of my heart that should be reserved for my God and my (future) husband?
Free from Ostentation or Showy Extravagance
  • Am I dressing to gain attention? 
  • Am I paying large amounts of money for designer clothing label status rather than investing in an equally flattering and equally stylish item that is priced appropriately with regards to my budget?
Simplicity; Moderation
  • Am I exercising in moderation to keep my body healthy and strong, or am I working-out excessively in pursuit of an ideal body?
  • Am I eating a piece of chocolate cake as a sweet indulgence or do I binge because I've had a bad day and the cake brings me comfort?
I suddenly feel as if this little definition breakdown/questionnaire is quite heavy and maybe even legalistic sounding.  I'll be the first to say that I don't measure up to this standard of modesty, particularly in the "Moderate Estimate of my Own Merits" and "Decency of Speech" categories.  But reading through lists like these (and even lists like the Ten Commandments), makes us aware of where our hearts need the loving care of our Lord to produce fruit.  Sometimes feeling a little wounded is good for growth.


Julia, when we first started this series, I was immediately struck by the following verses on beauty.  I feel like these verses pretty much nail both outward beauty and the heart filled with modesty.  Just for an interesting little tidbit, the Greek word for beauty used here is the word "KosmeĊ".  It's where we derive our word "cosmetics".
Wives, in the same way (context: as Jesus endured insults and the cross without bitterness or retaliation) submit yourselves to your own husbands so that, if any of them do not believe the word, they may be won over without words by the behavior of their wives, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives.  Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God's sight. 1 Peter 3:1-4

May we live pure and reverent lives; lives filled with the modesty that comes from knowing the glory of a God who is above all things.  May we seek the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.


Cyndi said...

I need to read this to myself every morning before I get the day started. I can do so much better!

Liz said...

Julia, these a great observations and truths about modesty. When it comes to "moderation" I struggle with that... an area I definitely need to submit to God.

Twinside Out said...

There are several areas here that I would do well to focus on...I *may* have a bit of an anger problem when things don't go my way. And I'm not going to even touch the emotional eating thing! :) Moderation is so difficult in these areas, probably because I'm trying to do it on my own. As Liz said above, I need to submit to God in these things.

Great post as always!