Monday, August 2, 2010

Modesty and Virtue

I have really enjoyed listening to the thoughts and dialogue occurring at Mysfit Cygnet in regards to being modest in our society.  I have been think a lot about these new ideas and trying to organize my thoughts.  What is modesty?  How can I be more modest?  How can I be feminine and godly?  What can I wear then? Here is my attempt to work through these ideas. 

The first thing I did was define modesty.  The online dictionary defines modesty as:

1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.

2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.

3. simplicity; moderation.
Some thoughts.  Modesty includes not only our dress but also our speech and actions.  Modesty also seeks to avoid pride.

In For the Strength of Youth some of the key points under the "Dress and Appearance" section are:
"Your body is God's sacred creation.  Respect it as a gift from God, and do not defile it in any way.  Through your dress and appearance, you can show the Lord that you know how precious your body is.  You can show that you are a disciple of Jesus Christ....The way you dress is a reflection of what you are inside.  Your dress and grooming send messages about you to others and influence the way you and others act....{Dressing immodestly} sends the message that you are using your body to get attention and approval...."
Thoughts.  A reason to dress modestly is to show that I respect my body, God's sacred creation.  When I dress immodestly I may be trying to get attention and approval from others.

For the Strength of Youth identifies some basic ways that we can be modest.  They are broad but include:
"Immodest  clothing including short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach and other revealing attire....All should avoid extremes in clothing, appearance and hairstyle.  Always be neat and clean and avoid being sloppy or inappropriately casual in dress, grooming and manners...Show respect for the Lord and for yourself by dressing appropriately for Church meetings and activities, whether on Sunday or during the week."
More thoughts.  I need to avoid being extreme. Dress appropriately, avoid being sloppy not only in dress but also in grooming or manners.

Now I need to make a list to gather my ideas.  I love lists.  It is how I think.  I wanted to make a list first of the principles.  With these principles I can ask myself if certain clothing is appropriate.

  1. How do I feel when I wear this outfit? (empowered, frustrated, lazy, tired, fat, mad, constricted, ambitions, worldly, sexy, woman power, happy, etc) Are those feelings appropriate for this situation?
  2. What are my thoughts in this outfit? Are those thoughts appropriate for this situation?
  3. Who was the maker of this outfit? What were their intentions with this outfit? Who were they targeting?
  4. Do I attract attention to myself? What are my accessories saying about me?  What type of attention are my accessories drawing to me?
  5. Do I feel feminine or masculine?
  6. Do I radiate light? Do I bring honor and glory to God? Do I feel wholesome?
  7. Am I bringing honor to my body with this outfit by remembering that my body is God's greatest creation?
  8. Is this outfit appropriate for this activity?  Am I too sloppy? Frumpy? Too casual? Over dressed?
  9. Will this outfit draw others to my as a source of light that they feel comfortable approaching me as a fellow sister or brother? Or do I appear trendy, stuck up, superior to them? Thus making them not want to approach me.
  10. What does this outfit say about my thoughts and inner feelings?
  11. Am I wearing this outfit because I want to fit it and have others like me and look at me?
  12. Does this outfit help me to remember to have proper speech and actions?
That list of questions ended up being bigger than I thought it would.  I think that everyone would come to different conclusions.  I think that body type, color choices and daily activities would cause us to choose different things.  I believe though that God wants us to be beautiful.  If our bodies are temples, we can look to the temple as a pattern for us.  Time for another list.  Temples:
  1. Beautiful
  2. Simply adorned
  3. Elegant
  4. Contain high quality materials
  5. Basic, non-shocking colors
  6. Draw others to Christ and God
  7. Radiate the Spirit
I have been thinking perhaps modesty is our outward actions, behaviors and words while our inner thoughts and behavior are identified as virtuous. Virtue, as defined in Preach My Gospel, is "a pattern of thought and behavior based on high moral standards."  

I think in order to become wholly pure and clean we need to include both modesty and virtue in what we choose to wear, think, say and behave.  Perhaps this will be a life time pursuit.  The thing that has been striking to me is that I don't want to wear masculine things any more.  Here are some thoughts I've had today.
  • I want to wear less denim. Unless I working outside (for now) or hiking.
  • I want to wear less t-shirts and more blouses or nicer shirts.
  • I want to wear tennis shoes less unless I'm outside working or hiking.
  • Stop buying my clothes in the Junior Miss section of the store. (Targeted to teenagers)
  • I am going to stop uses slang words and speak more godly.
  • I am going to sit up more, stop slouching and lounging so regularly.
  • Stop judging others whether they are modest or not based on my definations.  As I do so the Spirit will radiate from me and I can have appropriate patterns of thought and behavior.
And finally:
  • I want to pray about each item of clothing I have and be totally honest with myself and ask the hard questions.
I have been grateful for the opportunity to reflect on what it means to me to be modest and virtuous.  How does this look for you?


Mrs.Smith said...

I love the part about not judging others. It was thoughtful of you to recognize that and list it among your thoughts on dressing modestly.

I think it's ironic now, but it used to drive me nuts that my little girl hates wearing pants. After a few years of me wearing her down, she'll wear them... but she'd still rather be in a dress or a skirt.

Most of what I've learned about the love of being feminine has come from my six year old daughter. She loves looking beautiful. When did I lose that? I think often of the line from the Relief Society proclamation thingy --
Joy in womanhood and nobility in motherhood.

That attitude is mostly (if not completely) lost in the world today, and fits right in with the feel of your post.

Thanks for some wonderful thoughts!

Free 'n Equal said...

I really appreciate being able to read your thoughts about this. You've come up with some really great questions.

I am in the process of trying to figure out if there are keys to help me quickly know whether or not an article of clothing is worth considering.

In studying modesty and what it means for me as a woman, I've come to better understand that I really do need to embrace femininity. Since gender is an essential characteristic of individual premortal, mortal, and eternal identity and purpose, it seems logical that I should embrace being feminine.

I think I often felt I had to "de-feminize" myself in order to be modest. I feel I was very wrong with that way of thinking! For those that are defiled in mind, no matter what I wear I will be 'defiled' in their mind. I need to stop thinking of what other people (in fact, any people) think of what I wear. The only Being that matters will let me know if it is pleasing.

And, as a wise young woman mentioned to me, "A woman’s heart should be so lost in God that a man needs to seek Him in order to find her."

I think this could be said of anyone with whom we would like to become true friends (I'm thinking of David and Jonathan). When our focus is to come closer to our Heavenly Father, we will most certainly be drawn closer to others who are also drawing near to Him.

My Heart Squared said...

What I like about what you have posted is that it allows us to take a personal inventory and then seek the Lord's guidance in helping us make the right decision for us. Isn't that what we do when we are teaching the young women? Isn't that what we expect of them when we come to lesson such as modesty or music or choice of movies?

Your thoughts have empowered me to think more deeply about my choices of clothing, as well as my thoughts and actions in regard to what I wear.

Being A Mother Who Knows said...

Thank you Free N' Equal for pointing out the part in the Proclamation about gender being an essential characteristic. That also helps me think about my clothing choices.

Thank you Mrs. Smith and Heart Squared also.

Celeste B. said...

I have been thinking a lot about modesty lately too. It is funny that so many of us seem to come across the same subjects around the same time. I was also thinking about how modesty is more than just the clothes we wear - behavior is a key to modesty.

I'm going to link to your post because you wrote it so well.

One little book I picked up is called "Secret Keeper: The Power of Modesty". It is a Christian book and I love the 10 "Truth or Bare?" fashion tests. I implemented these little tests for my teen girls a few years ago. What really surprised me was that I threw out 4 shirts based on this little book alone.