Tuesday, October 28, 2014

The Immodesty Problem


I am immensely pleased to present our second guest article. As I mentioned in The Modesty Question, Phoebe was the one who launched my initial investigation into modesty. Shortly before I published my article, I asked Phoebe of she would be interested in writing a follow-up from the feminine perspective. The article she cooked up was much different than what I had expected. She took a refreshingly original approach to modesty. You can learn more about Phoebe on the Guest Contributors page. Without further adieu, please enjoy The Immodesty Problem. 

The Immodesty Problem – where it comes from, where it goes


                  A decent while ago (because I’m an expert in the art of procrastination) my good friend, James Ware, asked if I’d be interested in writing a response to his intriguing blog post, “The Modesty Question.” Being that I was on the other end of the conversation which inspired said post--and that I am hopelessly opinionated--I eagerly agreed… and then put off the task for nearly three months. However, the sparkly fairy of anti-procrastination remedies has smacked me soundly and here I sit, ready to shock and amaze you all with my oh-so-impressive perspective.If you’re reading this then I hope you’ve already read James Ware’s “The ModestyQuestion.”
Have you?
No?
Okay, well do that first.
I’ll wait…
Finished?
                  Splendid! Since James already defined “modesty” quite well, I’m going to zoom into one part of his post and give my own opinion as to where immodesty comes from and why it is less valuable than modesty.
                  Let’s think back to James’ analysis where he broke down the different facets of the definition of “modesty.” The part which caught my attention the most was the strong connection between these two phrases:
                  “Modesty… [is] assuming less unto oneself than others are willing to yield and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.” (emphasis added)
                  Now, it is no secret that these two go hand-in-hand. As James aptly pointed out, “modesty means humble.” The greatest definition of humility I’ve ever heard came from the well-known British author, C.S. Lewis:
                  “Humility is not thinking less of yourself but thinking of yourself less.”
                  This matches up with Webster’s definition of modesty very well. To emphasize this, I will quickly give my own interpretation of the excerpt provided above.
                  “…assuming less unto oneself than others are willing to yield…”
                  As a girl, I know what it is like to crave credit, attention and appreciation. I’m sure guys feel this way as well but, let me tell you, girls will go to ridiculous lengths to get it. I won’t humiliate my fellow-females with specifics but suffice it to say that the crazy things we do for attention (no, I’m not just talking about how we sometimes dress) are the opposite of what this excerpt encourages. We ought not to seek out attention and appreciation, even where it is due. The Bible says, in Proverbs 27:2
                  “Let another man raise thee, and not thine own mouth; a stranger, and not thine own lips." (KJV)
                  We desire praise and acceptance and that isn’t necessarily a bad thing. However, it can only be given to us by God and by other people. The kind most worth having is the acceptance we are given by God. It is only genuine when it is given freely, not when it is hinted for exhaustively and eventually relinquished. Make sense?
                  Now the second part: “and conceding to others all due honor and respect, or even more than they expect or require.”
                  So, now that we’re thinking of ourselves less, we have to point all the excess energy elsewhere. The first, most obvious and most important place to point it is at God. He deserves all honor and glory! The second place is to give honor and respect to our fellow man, which we know from Jesus’ teachings is part of “loving our neighbors as ourselves.” The best name I’ve found for this is the “good fairy” mentality—a behind-the-scenes player who makes things better without seeking compensation. We should desire to build others up, encourage them and be a joy to them while, at the same time, asking no credit or appreciation in return. Sound like a thankless job? Whether it is or it isn’t shouldn’t be our reason for doing it. Our reason should be to glorify God by honoring His creation.
                  Are you seeing, from James’ analysis and mine, how modesty pretty much always points back to “thinking of yourself less”? So where does immodesty come from? In looking it up I was too comfortably situated in my favorite armchair to go any further than the thesaurus on my Word Document. The first synonym listed for “immodesty” is, and I quote, “bigheaded.” How this one managed to make the list makes a fair bit of sense when you consider the mental image. After all, if modesty is synonymous with humility, then immodesty would be the opposite. An immodest person would have an inflated perception of themselves, their own worth, their own abilities, their own entitlements. This entitled attitude would, naturally, lead one to seek out attention.
By whatever.
Means.
Necessary.
                  I’ve been studying “cause and effect” in English class and I can tell you, speaking from personal experience, that every cause was once an effect. I believe the most likely cause for a skewed self-perception is disbelief in God and disregard for your own fallen human nature. This, in turn, acts as a cause. The cause of an inflated ego brings about the effect of an immodest attitude.
                  I’m sure you’ve known some immodest people in your life and, if you’re honest, one of those people has been watching you shave, brush your teeth and check the lane beside you your whole life. But how does a Christian sell someone on the idea of modesty? If you aren’t a Christian, why should you bother with modesty? After all, the idea of humility, while nice in the secular world, is based in Biblical principles. If you don’t believe those principles, what’s the point? Now, I’m not going to get into how God is real and the Bible is true whether you believe it or not. That’s a huge topic for a couple hundred posts (and you thought this one took awhile to crank out of my brain!). However, I think there’s a golden nugget at the heart of modesty which even Christians overlook which not only “sells” modesty as a concept, but shows it as the treasure it is.
                  Modest people are real people.
…….what?
                  *ahem* okay, let me explain. Modesty is inwardly developed and outwardly oriented. Inwardly, modesty is a heart matter. It is brought about by a combination of different fruits of the spirit. Outwardly, a modest person projects their modest spirit on the world. They aren’t the star of their own show; rather they operate behind the scenes and try to make everyone else look as good as possible while, simultaneously, being above reproach themselves. When you are faithfully modest, people see who you actually are. Immodesty is putting on a character that seems exciting and interesting enough to get you the attention and affirmation from mankind which you think will fulfill and sustain you. After awhile, though, of trying to chase down the ever-changing trends, you’ve been more characters than you can count, and no one, save God, knows who you really are. Not even you. A modest person doesn’t feel the need to pretend because they just aren’t giving themselves that degree of thought. They don’t spend enough time centered on themselves to construct a persona and so, instead, they simply go about life as they are. They are real people.
                  In closing, I think of an acronym I saw on the very forum where James and I started talking about modesty. The acronym was “J.O.Y.” The way it goes:
Jesus first.
Others second.
Yourself last.
I firmly believe that this is the heart of modesty and it truly does bring unequivocal joy.

3 comments:

  1. Well said, succinct and thoughtful. The J.O.Y acronym is one I've also come across and I was happy to see it used here. Good job on this one Phe.

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  2. Good article! I appreciate you taking the time to write this. I have a couple of thoughts:
    People aren't necessarily immodest because of too high self-esteem (though that can certainly be the case). An immodest person is often that way because they think their worth comes from how others label them. They are insecure. As you mentioned, us ladies will go to incredible lengths to be excepted. But it always hinges on OUR performance, so we can't help but sense that we are feeding off of a false value, and we feel worse about ourselves. in either case, true modesty will only come when we realize that we are loved and valued by our Creator, we are made in His image, so we have worth that does not depend on us. We also realize that all Glory belongs to God, and this will reflect in our lives, weather insecurity or pride was the problem. Basically, as you said, modesty comes when we think of ourselves less, and God and others more! Also...as far as being fake...ouch. So true. And something I need to work on. I tend to be insecure, and try to remedy that with the world's way...fake-ness. As Princes and daughter of THE KING, I will work on that. Again, thanks so much for this! And...I am purposely commenting anonymously...like I said, I have issues with insecurity! So...sorry James and Phebe! :) Aaaand....that was a really long comment:)

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  3. Dear Anonymous,
    First of all, I’m sorry it’s taken me so long to reply to your message! As I said in my post, I am, unfortunately, an Olympic gold medalist when it comes to procrastination or just plain forgetfulness. You have the owner of this blog, James Ware, to thank for my eventually getting back to it!
    I want to thank you for your thoughtful response to my article. You make an excellent point in that many people can be immodest due to insecurity just as much as they can due to pride. A favorite pastor of mine, who actually borrowed the same Lewis quote that I did, pointed to both pride and insecurity in his sermon on humility. Much of what I wrote in my article was inspired by this sermon. This pastor, a Reverend Forsyth, placed both pride and insecurity on the same plane in that they are two ways of focusing on oneself. Whether we place more value on ourselves and lean toward pride or undervalue ourselves and lean toward insecurity, the focus is still on us. I appreciate what you said about feeding off a false value. The value system of our world is constantly changing and is based in the shallowest of standards. The only true value system is based in God’s standards for us and He LOVES us!
    As for being fake, I also know what it’s like to try and overcome insecurity by becoming some artificial substitute of myself. But you’re very right; you are a Princess, a daughter of The King. Always remember that God would not have sent His only Son to die for anything, or anyone, worthless. God made the ultimate sacrifice because He yearned for you. As you daily choose to live for Him, the One who loves you enough to have died for you, and as you grow closer to Him, you move farther away from the grasp of our world’s twisted idea of what is valuable.
    I pray that as you seek God, you will grow in confidence! God is with you!

    -Phoebe

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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