Wednesday, April 2, 2008

The Power of (Im)modesty

It had never been a struggle until the past couple of years. It might be due to increased interactions with guys, or the fact that I’ve grown nearer adulthood than adolescence. It might be because of worldly influences. Whatever the reason, I just know…that the recent years have brought to me a growing consciousness of the power, and thus temptation, of immodesty.

I don’t have a 5’8” frame, and I don’t have the prettiest face around. I’m not known for striking appearances. Yet like most girls, I do have characteristics comparable with those beauty queens. Be it a matter of proportion, nice skin, mannerisms, or other physical features, there is always something to show off in every girl.

The problem is…is it supposed to be shown?

I’ve always observed two factors that affect girls most. One is admiration, the other jealousy. And I’m definitely not immune to both of them.

Over the years, those two factors have preyed on me and drawn me away from the formerly chubbier, purer me. The envious admiration of girls and magnetic admiration of guys have led me to greater and greater vanity; the knowledge that I could “pull off” even more immodest outfits than what some ladies wear propelled me with jealousy’s fuel.

I started to spend more time and efforts on appearances, yet I didn’t notice my heart’s wrong…until two days ago.

When I pulled on a clingy shirt in the mall fitting room, my mom exclaimed, “Wen, it’s gross! You look like a manikin!”

I didn’t expect that…”Mom, isn’t that the point?” I stammered, “Manikins are supposed to show what’s beautiful. If I have a figure that’s good, I’ll look like a manikin.”

My mom’s expression indicated disapproval still, “Wen, it looks artificial. It’s too tight, too pronounced.”

I retorted; she retorted. We dropped the issue and continued shopping, yet the idea haunted me.

True, I looked like a model on a runway, minus some inches. The color of the shirt brought out the whiteness of my skin. The fabric wrapped my figure perfectly. The right hair and pants would make me look fabulous…like a model, like a manikin.

Yes, I looked as good as a manikin on display. It was the world’s definition of beauty…but was it God’s?

My conscience weighed on me. At that point, I realized that I had crossed the line. There’s a difference between dressing attractively and dressing to attract, Shannon Harris says. I was trying to do the wrong one. As my eyes scanned the store, I was searching for clothes that would help me gain admiration or arouse jealousy, not for something that would glorify God.

God desires modesty. I had to submit.

Modesty means not trying to show off what should be concealed. Modesty means seeking His honor first. Modesty means guarding people’s hearts over exalting my own pride. And, modesty means seeking a quiet and gentle spirit more than the power of feminine physical appeal.

It’s not easy, especially when I can see the effects of immodesty upon others, including Christian male friends. It’s not easy to hand in a piece of clothing and ask for a larger size, when I would’ve looked “great” in a tighter one. It’s not easy to see attention going to those who succumb to the lure of immodesty. It’s not easy to subscribe to a values system opposite the world’s.

Yet I’ve heard enough times that modesty is the way to honor God and to help my brothers in Christ. It doesn’t seem logical, but it is what I must do.

So I handed in those pants for a looser pair; I replaced the shirt that was too transparent. There may be power in immodesty, but God’s favor rests with the obedient. It wasn’t easy, but I knew I had to do the right thing.

Ladies, let us trust God and encourage one another. Let us prioritize His approval over others’, and let us value His standards more than ours. Then guys…more than once has encouragement from a Christian brother strengthened me to pursue modesty. Please do continue. You have no idea how much your attentions influence us. Your compliment for a modest but pretty outfit does much good; your attraction to the immodest does much harm. Help us to help you, if I may say so.

As a girl, I can say that I find little pleasure in immodesty, yet much power in it. That power is what makes it desirable. Yet God help me. His standards, not mine, should be pursued. I was not nice to discover immodesty in my heart, yet it was also a test of my obedience. May God help prove me true.


charlsie said...

Reading your blog at work. :) Thank you for this honest post.

Anika Q said...

Yes...modesty is a constant and difficult battle within the heart that all too often becomes an external battle.

Britt said...

Well written! I'm in the on-going process of trying to teach my 5 year old daughter modesty when a few others around her are trying to teach her the exact opposite...