Seeing the best in life's challenges

Is Modesty a Virtue???

on April 13, 2013

Is Modesty a virtue in the eyes of God?  I’m thinking that’s a No.

I’m thinking about Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, before the serpent came on the scene.  From what we are told, the people were all walking around naked and didn’t give that a second thought.  When I say “the people” I am referring to those God made, male and female, in Genesis 1:27.   It’s not so clear in the Bible that Adam and Eve were the only people there in the Garden.  But even if they were, we know that Adam and Eve had no idea about being “Modest” until AFTER the incident with the apple.  (For a related discussion of the creation story, see Adam’s First Wife.)

In the Garden of Eden, a person would stand naked and exposed in front of God and everyone else, and this would be totally natural.  JUST THINK about putting yourself in that situation and see how it feels.  It should feel wonderful (this is what it is like in paradise, right?), yet it probably doesn’t.  That feeling indicates how far we have separated ourselves from the state of grace that is the unconditional love of God.

So, what’s the “right” and Godly way to be?  The way people were before they “sinned” (immodest) or the way they were after that (modest)?

When babies are born into the world, they are not born with a sense of modesty.  They are born INNOCENT, trusting, knowing no other way.  They are comfortable with their little bodies.  As they get older, they naturally explore by mouthing their fingers, touching things and touching themselves.  They take off their clothes and pull their dresses up above their heads.  They have no sense of embarrassment until we TEACH it to them.  We teach them not to touch, we teach them to cover up, we teach them to be private.

Now, in our world, there is good reason to teach these things, because there are plenty of other people out there who are not comfortable with their own bodies, who have dysfunctional ways of interacting with others’ bodies, sometimes in very destructive ways.  We do as we have been taught, immersed in a dysfunctional system, that teaches various degrees of thinking that there is something wrong with our bodies and their natural functions, and that we should be ashamed of and in denial of what our bodies are and what our bodies do.

ALL of this is a reflection of the unnatural state of being in SIN, or being in a state of consciousness that is SEPARATE from God.

If we are going to work ourselves back to a state of grace, back to a “right” relationship of ONENESS with God, how do we “give up” this dysfunctional thinking about our bodies?  How do we do this, when we are immersed in a culture that is set up to keep that dysfunction alive?

Are we aware of what we are teaching our children?  On one hand, we want our children to honor and love the gift from God that is their physical body.  In a very pure sense, we want them to accept their bodies as they are.  But then we go and get very emotional and judgmental about when they expose certain parts of their bodies.  We are very vocal about those who expose too much, and we are clear that this is “wrong” behavior.  Think about it – this is contradictory and confusing.

When boys wear their pants low, and expose their underwear, why is this such a big deal to adults?  Does this behavior make these boys unlovable?  Why?  Is it because we assume they have certain intent?  I have seen the explanation of how this “trend” started in prisons, as a sexual invitation.  Really, honestly, do you think teenage boys are embracing this fashion trend with a conscious intention like that?  OF COURSE NOT.  But if we are afraid and embarrassed enough about this association, we get very judgmental and uncomfortable when we see a kid’s underwear.

It makes me wonder this:  we all know that children test us all the time.  If I do this, will my mom still love me anyway?  The answer we send to our kids is not one of unconditional love, rather the message is this:  You are bad and unlovable if you show your body in an inappropriate way.  Kids know, deep inside, that they are lovable NO MATTER WHAT, but they test the world about this, and Guess What?  What they learn is that our love is really conditional.  Kids know inside that our natural state of grace is to be accepted by God (and each other) exactly how we are, no matter what.  It’s the adult people that are unable to love this way.

How about girls showing too much skin?  Every school dress code attempts to eliminate the ability to see shoulders, belly, thighs and cleavage.  We ASSUME the worst, that kids are automatically distracted by seeing too much. But are they?  Have humans changed from the days where it was a scandal if a woman exposed her ankles?  Are teenage boys distracted because they are inherently sinners, or because we have taught them to see themselves this way? What if young people are actually REJECTING this dysfunctional state of being embarrassed by God’s creation (their bodies) and they are just being comfortable with who they are?  Have you noticed that “showing more skin” and tighter clothing has become more common, even for bodies that are not model-thin?  MAYBE this is really an indication that young people are becoming more comfortable with their bodies as they are, and rejecting automatic shame.  That seems like a healthy step, doesn’t it?  Also, by looking at other cultures which do not have the same societal “norms,” it is obvious that human beings do not automatically have this dysfunctional behavior related to seeing too much skin.  Our behavior and assumptions are cultural and taught.

The central principle here, to me, is that you can’t ASSUME INTENT by level of Modesty.  You can’t assume a girl is just “asking for it” or looking for attention because she is wearing a revealing or flattering outfit.  This way of thinking IS sinful.  Being immodest was the status quo BEFORE sin existed.  As was the absence of any dysfunctional reactions to seeing a show of skin.

With our attempts to enforce Modesty, are we unwittingly forcing kids back into the mindset of Separation?

Don’t we want to return to a state of Grace, a place where every single human being would honor not only their own body, but the bodies of others?  Where there would be no embarrassment, no threat of physical harm because each and every person would have a respect for all physical manifestations?  Isn’t this the place we want to get back to?

So, how do we get there?

First, we take an unemotional look at our own attitudes.  Are you comfortable with your body?  Why or why not?  What were you taught?  What are you afraid of?  Are you afraid that your child will be harmed by someone with no self-control?  Are you afraid of being judged by others, who will condemn your child (and you) for how they look?  Do you believe the human body is “bad”?  Do you believe God created the human body as flawed, or as a beautiful, amazing vessel for us to enjoy?

How do your views keep you separated from the Garden and the unconditional love and acceptance of God?  A state of grace like what existed in the Garden is a place where one loved and accepted themselves completely without any doubt or second thoughts.

We do live in the REAL WORLD.  Not everyone has an idealistic and respectful view of the human body.  I understand that.

And that is why we teach our kids to be aware of these issues.  We teach them to be careful where they go and what they do.  We teach them to say “No.”  We teach them to look out for each other.  We can teach them to honor their bodies.  We can teach them that not all people have a healthy attitude about the human body, and that they need to use their own discernment around others.  They need to trust their instincts and know their own boundaries.

To me, expressing distaste and horror at “how kids dress these days” and making assumptions about behavior based on dress, is counterproductive to our culture developing a healthy attitude toward the physical body.  And it’s sinful.

And it’s not just about kids and how they dress.  It’s about how we judge people who are overweight, people who don’t work out, and people who don’t “dress up” or dress appropriately.  It’s about women breastfeeding in public, one of the most natural, loving and beautiful functions of the human body.  We need to be conscious of our own attitudes, examine them, and make our best efforts to act and think from a place of respect.  To move beyond our societal dysfunction and get closer to a right relationship with each other and with God, we need to work to regain that innocence and that sense of wonder.

Think about it.  In the absence of shame, guilt, and modesty, don’t you think Adam was truly able to appreciate, love and admire Eve and her body?  Don’t you think he was totally aware of and able to enjoy her physical beauty?  And don’t you think Eve was able to be completely natural and comfortable in her nakedness, without fear or judgment?  Of course they were, and furthermore THIS IS THE WAY IT’S SUPPOSED TO BE.

If a person today has a totally comfortable attitude toward his/her body, why are we compelled to disbelieve that this is possible?  What are we so afraid of?  Do we realize how entrenched our attitudes are, and do we realize that we have a choice regarding the attitude we take?

In the wake of the Steubenville rape case, the following video was made as a response.  We can assume that all teen boys are up to no good because we have all fallen into sin, OR we can notice that there are those who have risen above and are working themselves back into that immodest, shameless, wonderful state of grace.

Check out this blog post:  Naked Children … At School?


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