Friday, August 1, 2014

The Modesty Question




“What is modesty and how can we strive for it in out day to day lives?” This is the modesty question. It’s a complicated and multifaceted issue and applies to both genders (NOT just girls). Modesty is commonly applied to clothing (primarily women’s clothing.) I won’t be addressing that part of modesty for two reasons. Firstly, I know nothing about women’s clothing whatsoever. I do not want to dictate what girls should and should not wear nor do I think my sisters in Christ want me to do so. Secondly, if we limit modesty only to clothing we forget a very important part of modesty, attitude. Attitude has as much to do with modesty as dress. I am going to examine the issue of modesty from this angle.

 

The Beginning of he Modesty Question


This discussion is largely based on a conversation my friend Phoebe and I had over private messaging on a forum, which we are both involved with. She asked me a very interesting question, “So what are some major things that you notice as particularly modest or immodest as far as a girl’s dress or behavior goes?” I did some study into the issue of modesty and wrote a lengthy reply. The bulk of this post is based off of that message.  

Biblical Modesty


When I first started examining the modesty question I went to scripture. Sadly, the Bible only mentions modesty once (both in the original Greek and the English translations.) 1st Timothy 2:9-10 says “In like manner also, that women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with shamefacedness and sobriety; not with broided hair, or gold, or pearls, or costly array; But (which becometh women professing godliness) with good works.” The majority of this verse deals not with clothing, but with behavior. “Shamefacedness and sobriety” reflect an attitude of modest self-control in the original Greek. Once again, attitude is key to true modesty. As I told Phoebe, “A girl [or guy] can dress in cement blocks and still have an immodest demeanor.”

Modesty According to Webster


Next I went to my favorite Dictionary, Webster’s 1828 American Dictionary of the English Language. Webster provided an extensive definition that expressed modesty much better than I could. Allow me to quote Webster’s definition. I’ll then break it down.

“That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance…modesty…is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners, assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield, and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require…an act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment, as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence…In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners. In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy [humiliation] fortified by education and principle. Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.”

The Breakdown


“That lowly temper which accompanies a moderate estimate of one's own worth and importance” Modesty is ultimately related to humility. This idea is indicated in the Greek word for modesty, aidós. Aidós is closely related to the Greek word for eyes, eidó. It expresses the idea of downcast eyes in reverence or shame. A truly humble person who relies on God for their confidence will never be forward or inappropriate. Modest means humble.

“Modesty…is manifested by retiring, unobtrusive manners” In Webster’s time retire meant to withdraw. The mannerisms of a modest person are withdrawn so as not to be obtrusive. They behave in such away that they does not stand out from their group. This is not to say that they are not unique or outgoing. Instead, they seek to make everyone around her feel unique and special. Modest means respectful.

“Assuming less to itself than others are willing to yield” A modest person will not take more than is relinquished. A modest individual will allow another to keep what they are not yet ready to part with. Modest means considerate. 

“And conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require” A modest person gives everyone honor whether they deserve it or not. In turn, they will receive honor and respect. Modest means honoring.

“An act or series of acts, consists in humble, unobtrusive deportment [mannerisms], as opposed to extreme boldness, forwardness, arrogance, presumption, audacity or impudence.” A modest person’s mannerisms are humble and unobtrusive. They are not seeking attention for themselves. They do not seek to be bold or forward. They shun arrogance, presumption, audacity, and impudence. They are not conceited, they give everyone the benefit of the doubt, and they are not brazen or impudent. Modest means meek.    

Modesty in Women 


In this next portion Webster address modesty as it applies to woman. However, the character traits he mentions are applicable to both sexes. “In females, modesty has the like character as in males; but the word is used also as synonymous with chastity, or purity of manners.” A modest woman beams with purity and chastity. Her entire demeanor expresses her desire to remain pure before all mankind. This purity extends far beyond physical purity. One of Webster’s definitions for purity reads “Free from moral defilement; without spot; not sullied or tarnished; incorrupt; undebased by moral turpitude; holy.” Modest means pure.   

“In this sense, modesty results from purity of mind, or from the fear of disgrace and ignominy [humiliation] fortified by education and principle.” Here is the main point. Modesty is a mindset brought about by the fear of God. A godly man or woman seeks to be modest so that he or she does not disgrace or humiliate the name of her Lord, Jesus Christ. Their Christian principles and education serve to enforce their modesty. Modesty is the wish to avoid disgrace of He who bought us with His blood. Modest means God Honoring.   

“Unaffected modesty is the sweetest charm of female excellence, the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.” I could not agree more! True God given modesty is the most attractive attribute in men and women! It is a character trait to be sought after as if it were “the richest gem in the diadem of their honor.”

Wrapping up the Modesty Question


Modesty is a far-reaching concept. It addresses all aspects of our behavior as well as our dress. As we have seen, modesty means humble, respectful, considerate, honoring, meek, pure, and God honoring. It’s one of the greatest character traits we can strive for. Webster says that modest means “Properly, restrained by a sense of propriety; hence, not forward or bold; not presumptuous or arrogant; not boastful.” Modesty comes from a sense of propriety. It comes from “a sense of property; peculiar or exclusive right of possession; ownership.” Our sense of modesty comes from the knowledge that God owns us because of His death of the cross. Why should we seek to be modest? We seek to be modest to bring honor and glory to the name of Jesus Christ. That is the answer to the modesty question.          

8 comments:

  1. Good job, James. Well written. I do have to make one technical engineering correction. They are not cement blocks, even though they are commonly referred to as such. They are concrete blocks. Have a good day and keep up the good work. You are doing well. Jerry Asal

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    1. Mr. Asal,

      Thanks for the correction! I won't make that mistake again! I'm glad you enjoyed the article!

      Signed,

      James W. Ware

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  2. That is an awesome answer James!!

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  3. James,
    I had this problem at the beginning of the summer. Like, Well, yeah. Anyway. It's really cool (Someone already said awesome) that you covered this in this post!!

    RJ Schaus

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    Replies
    1. RJ,

      Thanks! I'm glad you enjoyed the post! I believe the modesty is a subject that should be talked about more often. It should also not just be limited to girls!

      Signed,

      James W. Ware

      Delete
  4. Are you ever going to post again?

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I do plan to post more here! Sadly, other activities have been monopolizing my time, as of late. I will be writing and posting more, hopefully soon! I'm also always open to guest articles!

      Signed,

      James W. Ware

      Delete

Feel free to comment! One of the reasons I blog is to interact with my readers. Don't hesitate to leave your thoughts or contact me with any comments, questions, or concerns. - James