Modesty: Gods Call to Purity

Modesty in dress is a challenge for women. With the fashions of today pushing for us girls to expose as much as we are legally allowed to, we find ourselves unsure of what to do. The real issue is that society tells us that a modest girl is conservative, unattainable, and usually the one that is always in the background. The women we see on magazines dress provocatively, so as to reflect the false ideal of feminine beauty and how ‘showing skin is in’. Truth is, showing too much skin is also sinful.

Purity is threatened when modesty is ignored. Scandal is brought about when people dress immodestly.  Dressing inappropriately can lead to lust of the flesh and lust of the eyes. Even causing people to think lustful thoughts (though sometimes out of our control) is wrong.Immodest dress lures our brothers to sin within their hearts. Christ says in Matthew 5  “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’  But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.”  The Catechism states:

“Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet” (CCC 2522).

The Media wants to make us think that beautiful is showing more. They want us to believe that men will be more attracted to you if you let them chase you, that men will only be attracted to you if you make your body more available to the eye. This is a false statement meant to lure us to sin. This is a statement that pushes the sins of the flesh and of the heart in order to gain temporary pleasure.  Modesty goes beyond the flesh, too. The Catechism states that:

“There is a modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.“ (CCC 2523)

Society wants to corrupt love and our created purpose from God as much as possible. It tries to make what is good bad and bad good. In pursuing modesty, though,  so many things come our way that will not only help us with our neighbors, but also help us in our relationship with God.

Respect: The way people will approach you and communicate with you will change. You’ll be seen as a daughter of God, deserving of true love. You’ll also be seen as confident and focused

Saving Souls: In truth, by trying to prevent people from sinning, you will be doing them a great help. Whether they know it or not, you will be doing your part in keeping the hearts and minds of your brothers in Christ pure.

Love of Self: You will really feel your own worth.  You will care more about yourself and how people see you as a woman.

Love of God: You will love God for making you YOU. We will be focusing our lives on God and not on the matters of the world.

Modesty is beautiful. Women are beautiful. A woman that glows with a love of God is beautiful, who treats her body like a Temple worthy and open to the love of God.   In conclusion, I leave you with a quite from Pope Pius XII: “The good of our soul is more important than that of our body; and we have to prefer the spiritual welfare of our neighbor to our bodily comforts. . . If a certain kind of dress constitutes a grave and proximate occasion of sin, and endangers the salvation of your soul and others, it is your duty to give it up.”

Please check the resources that provided me with awesome information on this topic.

Love,
Catholic Ruki

Resources:
The Church Militant on Modesty: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sWKipaNH83E

Catechism on Modesty: http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a9.htm

Check out Orthojulie’s Blog on Femininity! =D

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About catholicruki

Married. Mother. Catholic.

Posted on February 20, 2012, in chastity, Confession, Love, lust, modesty, sex, Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. 6 Comments.

  1. I’m all for critiquing the media’s use and abuse of women’s bodies…..but this theology is intensely problematic and dangerous.

    I’d like to start by saying that I really do believe that your piece comes out of a desire for all people to live in God’s love, I just can’t get on board with some of the consequences or this theology.

    Although it is written by a woman for a women, it should be noted that modesty is not a women’s issue, so much as it is a person’s issue. However, I’m sure we all agree there, even if it wasn’t obviously stated.

    Second, the concept of modesty as it is used here is a little superficial. We have the chance to go deeply and explore modesty…but instead we stay on the surface and make it about the clothes that women wear. Instead of focusing on the real reasons that modesty is important (a lack of respect and appreciation for another of God’s creatures and their well being) we keep it on the level of clothes and lust.

    Off the top of my head, I can give you two reasons why this theology is problematic (though there are more). The first is that the bandaid solution of burkas does nothing to help cure our actual sickness, it just isolates us further from one another (not what we are called to do…at least among the Orthodox). While the immediate and temporary benefits might be reassuring, we fail to reach our full potential when we don’t strive to appreciate other human beings the way God intended us too. It also stops us from actually dealing constructively with immature desires. In short, we stop being in communion with other people and we stop being in communion with ourselves. Why cover the gangrene when we have a chance to cure the sickness? In this case, the sickness is being inhibited from seeing other human beings as full creatures of God. Given that God created us (biblical example of Adam and Eve and the lived experience of being born) without clothing, modesty can’t simply be left at the level of clothes.

    Second, the linking of lust/sin with the exposure of women’s bodies has historically been a gateway to victim blaming (and again, an inability to deal with the underlying issues) for sexual harassment and assault. Its a myth that covering up protects us from being violated. Its a myth that people are violated because of how they dress. Women are assaulted because of a fundamental disrespect for their status as God’s creation. If anything, the linking of women’s clothing/”modesty” with lust/action has served to legitimate the idea that some women are rapeable. The idea that women can save souls by being covered up alternately places them equally responsible for men who get out of line. Even if this is not the way that these seemingly simple and straight forward theologies, sprinkled with words like “respect” and “dignity” and “love”, are meant to be used, these /are/ the ways they HAVE historically been used. These are some of the consequences of this kind of theology and for that…I really can’t get on board.

    If you want a biblical reference, lets look at the wording of Mathew, which you quoted: “You have heard that it was said, ‘Do not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that whoever looks at a woman to desire her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” The wording here is “…look at her TO desire her…”. The problem here is not that the woman being seen, but instead the intentionality/psychology of the observer. The responsibility here is on the observer. Men are not animals helpless from controlling themselves…unless that is the standard we set for each other, unless we are taught that we are animals.

    I think we need to delve deeper. Band-aid solutions might even seem to maintain the status quo…but really, its a distraction while the infection festers. The solution to modesty is not to tell women to cover up…the modest person is the one who is able to see their fellow humans as God’s creatures and full members of the Body of Christ. This is difficult because it places the responsibility on a person’s active actions, rather than on the passive (being seen/observed). I am now responsible for my own thoughts and actions. No one else bears that kind of responsibility. This is tough, but to grow closer to God, we need to convert our own minds to God, not place blame on the bodies of others.

    Pax
    Jessi

    • As I stated on facebook:

      I strongly disagree with the way you’ve characterized the theology of Brooke’s post, and I have to speak up in her defence.

      The one point which I agree on is the targeting of the issue – it could have been clearer in the title that this blog is focused primarily on modesty of dress for women. What I absolutely cannot accept – because it flies in the face of Catholic teaching – is that there is no issue of modesty of dress for women, or that it shouldn’t be addressed for fear of someone abusing the teaching.

      Read your Catechism, number 2522. Modesty informs the way we dress. As a Catholic we are to be our brother’s keeper. Then look at what Jesus says on the topic:

      Luke 17: “And he said to his disciples, “Temptations to sin are sure to come; but woe to him by whom they come!

      It would be better for him if a millstone were hung round his neck and he were cast into the sea, than that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.”

      Can you really read that passage and then say that women should be able to wear whatever they want without regard for leading men into lust?

      I’m not saying that only women have this issue. I’m just saying it is an issue, and I think that to believe it’s not a problem is simply believing secular, relativist, societal influences, rather than the love of Jesus.

      God bless you 🙂

    • Just to be even clearer, I’ll add this. The Church clearly teaches that scandal – which is leading someone else into sin through action or inaction – is gravely sinful. This doesn’t in any way excuse the person who is lead into sin. They are fully responsible for their own failing. So, while your psychology has some merit, in that it correctly points out that men are responsible for their own lust, this is not an issue of psychology, but an issue of sin. Nothing here stops scandal from being a grave sin.

      Hopefully this helps make things clearer.

  2. This is brooke. It has been rather interesting watching the comments fly, especially on facebook. Here is what I posted in response:
    This is written by me, therefore, it contains some of my own observations on the topic of modesty. I can see that many women here are taking offence to a call of modesty ( or so it seems). Men AND women sin. However, my blog was written as an attempt to communicate to women how to be Holy and promote purity. Modesty is there to protect us and others from sin.
    the post is not to put blame on women. Each individual person is at fault for their own sins. Do we like sin? No. Do we want people to sin? no. So, by dressing modestly, of course we can’t stop people from the sin of lust (because they have their own free will), but if we do out best to try and prevent sin from occurring, then we are doing our part in loving our neighbours.
    All I am saying is that us ladies have a call to be Holy.We also have a call to help our neighbours be Holy.
    I also posted resources on the post for further reading. I encourage you to go and check them out.
    I hope this makes sense.
    =)

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