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Culture, Mentoring

What About Modesty?

A Note from Mary Margaret West: Rebecca offers a ton of wisdom in how to approach a topic that we all deal with. If I’m being honest, I’ve seen women make a ton of mistakes as they have these conversations with girls more often than having grace-filled conversations that teach and help. I love her encouragement to get to the heart of these girls and help them have a full understanding of why modesty is important. I know today’s post will be helpful!

I can’t say that I ever thought I’d write a post about modesty, but here we are. This topic either seems to be hammered too hard to drive an exceptionally strict point home or avoided at all costs and not talked about at all. I would argue that neither of these approaches are good ones. Modesty is a topic that is worth breeching with the girls we lead, but it is one that we must discuss with care, concern, and caution.

Turn on just about any television show, open any magazine, or scroll through a few Instagram pictures and you’ll see that modesty isn’t quite as highly valued as it used to be. Now, I do not—I repeat, I do not—condone wearing only turtlenecks and ankle length skirts. It’s for reasons such as this, among others, that I am grateful not to be living in the seventeenth century. But I went to a concert recently and saw more skin than I’d have preferred. To be perfectly honest, I just don’t want to see all that.

I wonder, though, if the girls we lead even know what modesty is.

I wonder this because I had a conversation with a (now) eleventh-grade girl who, after I mentioned the word “modesty” in a conversation asked what it meant.

If our girls don’t know what modesty is, they certainly don’t know why it’s to be valued. As these girls’ leaders, we can’t put perimeters around their wardrobe, but we can step in and guide them through their lives as we are able and where we are welcome.

As far as the line of modesty goes, you won’t see me dressing like a pilgrim, yet I’m also not donning a bodysuit to the mall. (But also, yes, you’ll see me in a bikini at the beach.) I think we can probably learn a lot about this from Paul’s words in Romans chapter 14 when he says, “If anyone regards something as unclean, then for that person it is unclean” (v. 14b). If we feel uneasy about something, it’s probably best not to wear it. When in doubt, don’t check out.

But beware: this is a subject on which we must tread lightly. If we speak too strongly against modern-day style, quote ninety Bible verses about modesty, and take this topic to the extreme, we’ll have lost our audience. (Personally, I’m a fan of modern-day style. Petticoats aren’t really my thing.) But this kind of approach will most assuredly defeat any good that can be done with our girls. And why is this? Well first, it’s because these girls are in the thick of this world. Practically everything they read, see, and do is infiltrated with messages and images telling girls to be bold and wear less. When we come along and tell them something that seems uncool, weird, and outdated, it could make them tune us out. And second, an in-your-face approach puts a barrier between us and our girls.

The girls we lead want us not only to sympathize with them, but they also want us to empathize. They aren’t looking for us to feel sorry for them or belittle them by talking down to them. They want us to link arms with them and carry them through the throes of some of the most difficult times on the journey to becoming the women they will become.

So how can we do this? I think modesty can be taught a few different ways, and I don’t think it necessarily has to be taught as a separate lesson or Bible study. In just talking with the girls you lead, you can bring up the topic of modesty—without even mentioning the word. Talk about how much you like this or that actress and admired her dress at this or that event. Comment on a particular outfit one of your girls is wearing that you like. And set a great example for them as well.

Then when you build more trust with these girls, they’ll start to open up about more situations they’re dealing with and questions they have. It is in these circumstances that you can truly speak into their lives because they’ve come to ask for your guidance. The saying that the teacher cannot be the teacher until the student wants to be the student is oh so true!

Bible verses like Romans chapter 12 verses 1 and 2 really speak to this: “Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.” And 1 Corinthians chapter 10 verse 13 tells us to do everything for the glory of God.

Maybe this is a subject you still wrestle with yourself or perhaps you never have. Regardless, the more we try to put ourselves in the shoes of the girls we’re leading, the more easily we’ll be able to relate to their plight and the better teachers, guiders, and leaders we’ll be as we encourage them to press on in their young lives.

Rebecca Lee Currys is a born and raised Tennessean and lives just outside Nashville. She is a Curriculum Product Specialist, an English Ph.D. student, and an indoor cycling class instructor. A lover of creativity, she happily enjoys crafting the written word and believes in the encouragement words can provide. Rebecca has a lot of energy and loves to spend it reading, music[ing], camping, running, baking, dancing, cheering on the Vols, and being with her family.

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