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May 12, 2008

Food for Thought

There are a lot of myths concerning modesty. One of them is that modesty is Victorian. But, in fact, it dates back way before the Victorian era. It's in the Bible. As long as we've been human we've needed modesty, because as humans we don't just have sex; we also have emotions and vulnerability. Modesty prevented us from being vulnerable with the wrong people. It also protected deep, erotic connections between the right people. When you're young, modesty protects innocence, but when you're older it protects profound connections.

Also, modesty is not about prudery; it is about the opposite of prudery. When people are promiscuous, they can't be moved by anything. So, prudery and promiscuity actually have a lot in common: neither the promiscuous person nor the prude can be moved or touched by anything. The modest person can be moved by something and wants to be moved by something in the right circumstances.

Lastly, modesty is not, as the academy would have us believe, a social construct. Modesty is natural. Consider the behavior of the generation of twenty-somethings. We are taught that we aren't supposed to have meaningful, long-term relationships with one person that eventually culminate in marriage and sex, but that we are supposed to have casual hookups, where you meet a person at a party, have sex, and then never see the person again. That people get drunk before they do it is significant - it's a concession to modesty. In our sober, natural state, we can't do this. So we have to drug ourselves in order to pretend otherwise.

Excerpted from Why Modesty Matters, a new downloadable resource from Gifted for Leadership.

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This is excellent material. I have often struggled internally with what I should and should not wear, and this gives some good, common sense information that is applicable to any age group.

I always wonder about tribal cultures in warm areas where nudity is the norm, though. Does their lack of modesty over their physical bodies translate into promiscuity? Are there examples of tribal groups which have been evangelized, converted and still maintained their style of dress (or undress as the case may be)? I don't know how much these tribal customs about nudity inform us, but it does make me wonder if some of the concern over matters of dress or undress aren't kind of missing the point.

I generally think of modesty as a matter of intention and reception. Are we dressing in order to generate sexual attention? And is how we are dressing going to be perceived as an invitation to sexual oogling? Because, let's face it; even modestly dressed modern women wear things which would have made a prostitute blush 100 years ago. And walking around topless in a tribal society probably isn't seen as an invitation to oogling. So there are issues of culture, but I think the meaning of modesty is probably broader than it is sometimes portrayed.

Hi, I come from Kenya on the East coast of Africa. I heard a pastor share about how he and a missions team went into a remote area in north eastern Kenya, where a particular tribe had neither been evangelized or westernized. The challenge was that there was one lady in their mission outreach team, asked to be sent back to the city when she realized the men in the host tribe walked around completely naked. The Pastor prayed with the team and they felt the Lord ask of them to stay.
After 2 weeks of preaching and leading this tribe to Jesus, the team were shocked to learn the tribe had almost no record of rape, incest, under-age marriage or any form of abuse, prevalent in modern society! They have the lowest national record of these crimes. As a Church, listening to this testimony, dressed in modern clothes, living in the city, we felt put to task on this front.
I will never forget the lesson - modesty is taught from a young age. It is ingrained in our character and remains a standard that cannot be altered through our lives, as long as we get the foundation built right - on solid, fertile ground. Then it is up to us to build and maintain the structure.
Today, we fall prey to the media's dictation of what is modest - a lie straight from hell. We must guard our hearts (eyes, ears, heart, mind and mouth).
Thanks for the encouraging words!

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