So, What IS Modesty Anyway?

Image via Shutterstock

Image via Shutterstock

Fellow Patheosi, Rebecca Bratten-Weiss posted a terrific article that cuts through a lot of the nonsense people say about what modesty is and what it isn’t.  You should read the whole thing, but here is a sample.

If modesty is a virtue, it should be for everyone, but in the usual account, if one is not young and hot, or if one lives in a culture which accepts nudity, is there no need for modesty? Some might respond that to be comfortable with nudity is itself immodest, but such a view is very Euro-centric, as well as ignorant, since even our own trends are fluid, so today’s “modest is hottest” poster girl is yesterday’s vile temptress. Cultural codes of fashion have to do with creating sartorial texts, languages, even, that enables wearers to project messages about themselves, but every “language” is different, and within each language there are shifts and miscommunications, so a woman wearing a short skirt is not necessarily broadcasting to you “I’m sexually available.” She might be wearing a short skirt because emphasizing legs means emphasizing freedom and mobility (which is why men flaunted their sexy legs, in many cultures, while women kept covered all the way down to the ankles). If a man feels sexual desire for her (and he may not, if he isn’t into legs or women’s legs, or if he is sexually mature enough not to go around with a hair-trigger sexual response system) – this is his own act, for which he himself must take responsibility.  READ THE REST

She develops these themes well and her thoughts are well-worth your time.  The only thing I would add is that the the term for the false belief that I am somehow responsible for someone else’s emotional reactions is “internal control fallacy.” It’s a recognized cognitive distortion (i.e., what psychologists call a logical fallacy or disordered thinking process) that sets people up for anxiety as they try to “make” others feel a certain thing–and inevitably fail.

I’ll also note that this is exactly the approach Lisa and I take on modesty in our book, Beyond the Birds and the Bees, which takes a developmental approach to raising sexually and morally whole and holy kids from toddlerhood through young adulthood.  If you’re looking for resources to help you raise kids who have their heads on straight about sex and morality (never an easy task and getting harder every day) I hope you’ll give it a look.

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