My daughter is working on her “My Style” badge for American Heritage Girls and she asked my phone, “Siri, what is the definition of modesty?”
Confession: I’m glad she asked my phone before she asked me. I wasn’t quite sure how to explain it. It’s a term that gets tossed around a lot, more to girls than to boys, and definitely in religious circles. But whenever it was brought up to me, it was always used to bring me shame and condemnation no matter how hard I tried to do what is right.
Last thing I want is to butcher this with her, she’s so sweet and innocent!
So we walked through it step by step. She’s an auditory learner (a fact I’d be wise to remember when I’m dumb enough give her multiplication flash cards… Duh.), so conversation helps her to learn and process information. Here’s what we discussed:
- It starts with being “unassuming”, or in other words, not drawing attention to ourselves as more special or hyped up than we really are. So it has a quality of humility to it. It’s like the ranks on a soldier’s uniform; it’s totally appropriate for the captain to wear captain’s uniform, but it’s a disgrace for someone of low rank (or worse, as has been seen before, someone who is not enlisted) to wear the captain’s rank. It’s appropriate to dress for the job or rank we have earned – or in her case, wear her American Heritage Girls uniform with all her badges. That would not be considered immodest.
- It means we are showing a limited, moderate, or small amounts of ourselves. I told her that just because we may have the money or the good looks to wear certain things doesn’t mean we necessarily should. We even brought up Victoria’s Secret Models (we were surprised with their New Year’s Fashion show on the television of a Dairy Queen dinner date once) and we talked about how even though these women looked great, it wasn’t exactly modest to show so much of their nakedness on national TV. We give people limited amounts of ourselves not just physically, but also to some degree emotionally and financially too.
- It means we behave and dress as is appropriate for the occassion, using these as a way to honor others above ourselves. We talked about different outfits she wears during the week for different things. Although a one piece bathing suit is perfectly modest for swimming, it’s entirely inappropriate for church on Sunday mornings! So being proper and decent also has to do with discerning the occassion. It’s why people don’t wear flashy colors at funerals, but flowery and bright colors are appropriate for weddings. It’s why tight capris and a tank top are perfectly fine for yoga or running in the summer heat, but she really doesn’t need to wear form fitting clothes like that to co-op or Kid’s World at church.
I think this is all withing the realm of possibility for her – not legalistic, which kills your spirit, but not rebellious either (which kills your soul). It was imperative with me, in this conversation with my 9 year old girl, that we addressed modesty without at all addressing sex.
It’s nauseating to me how hyper-sexualized everything is to a younger and younger audience. And while the feminist in me says, “I’m not going to repress my daughter because some perv might be oogling her!” The maternal instinct in me says, “I don’t want to give a perv anything to look at!” We don’t need to bring sex up to talk about the length of her skirt because modesty is so much more than the avoidance of sexual temptation in the first place.
I always try to approach every subject with my kids through the heart of God’s Word, as best I understand it. I don’t want to restrict them in frustration; I want them to willingly make God-honoring choices.
How would you describe modesty to a young girl?