There is a lot to be said of modesty. It’s a favorite topic of those who produce Bible studies and Christian literature. While I am definitely for living a modest life, to me there is a problem with the way we are presenting this topic. No one talks to men about modesty.
I’ve often thought about why men get skipped in the conversation. It’s not like we get a free pass on this. When God tells us to be modest and humble it’s not followed with a “…but don’t worry, guys, you’re good.” So why does it seem like the American church has done that? We get stuck on clothes. Most people who talk about modesty refuse to move past clothing. This is the most visible element of modesty, yes, but it’s more of a symptom than a cause. Dressing immodestly is a result of having your heart in the wrong place, not vice versa.
But, clothing is seen and, therefore, it’s what the focus is on. It’s also an easy conversation to have with men: Wear a belt, put on a shirt. For women…I’ll just say there is much more of a conversation to be created. The focus of these talks has been teenagers. In my experience, young adults and older ones are left out of the dialogue as much as men.
For the record, talking about how to dress in a way that is pleasing to the Lord is a good thing to talk about. (My heart truly goes out to any female student taking summer classes at most Christian universities in the South. Be sure to drink lots of water.) But one can go further than necessary in that direction. It’s not all of it.
Modesty is a behavior. Boastfulness is a behavior. The origin of behavior is in the heart and the mind. To be brutally honest: I think most who have decided to champion modesty are fighting the right fight in the wrong place. Talking skin deep won’t fix something deep in the heart. A person has to decide that being obedient to God is more important than behaving a certain way—this is where progress is made. By making it clear that living a modest and humble life isn’t about possession or antiquated social norms, but through living a life of obedience and moving yourself out of the way.
A funny thing happens to me when I forget this. It always happens at a time when God is doing something great in my life. I’ll slip. I start telling people how I am doing this, and I am doing that, and this good thing happened because of my skill. I completely ignore the one fact consistently obvious in these situations: it had nothing to do with me. Inevitably something changes and the bloom is off the rose. Whatever good that was happening starts to go wrong. I can just hear God telling me that if I’m so sure I can do it, then I should go ahead and try, but I never can.
That’s why God and obedience have to be central to the conversation. Because this isn’t something to only talk about in clothing stores or to high school girls, this applies to everyone across every life stage. However, we mustn’t focus only on what not to do, but on good that we can do. But what good can men do? After all, most of us don’t show too much skin or dress provocatively. We’re expected to be strong and confident leaders.
So, how can we behave modestly? Well, how about we try to do some of the following:
1. Remember that it is not about us. Others are always the focus.
2. Don’t boast. If we do, boast about someone else. Some of the greatest men in my life hesitate to talk about their own achievements, but won’t hesitate to brag about what someone else is doing.
3. Lead boldly and build towards whatever our goal may be, but remember that a good building starts with a strong foundation. Whether you’re leading a family or a company, those being lead are more important than the person in the leadership position.
4. Guard our sisters’ hearts. Guys, our sisters in Christ are wonderfully made creatures. If only we put the effort into protecting them from us as the World Wildlife Fund does into protecting polar bears. Be mindful of your relationships with women. Save flirting for a romantic relationship. Date when there is a possibility of a future marriage, not because you’re bored. Do this and you’ll be surprised of the feedback you’ll get. I always am.
5. You can be romantic with your lady, but until she becomes your wife hands off. Seriously, act like your sweet little grandmother is in the room. Need I say more?
Think carefully about the Christ-like men in your life, the ones that inspire you to live a better life. My guess is that they fit the above list. There is so much more to it than that, but this is a start. So, let’s start.
Guys, time to speak up. I want to hear about experiences you’ve had dealing with modesty, or what else we can do to be modest men. What do you say?
Photo credit: Sohail