Saturday, March 31, 2012

Modesty: A Pursuit of Holiness

Over the course of my short life so far, modesty is an issue that has gone from being something I could care less about as a 15-year-old, to something I hated at 18 because of how it negatively affected my "stylish" wardrobe, and then on to being something that as a young married woman at 25, I am deeply passionate about. I have wrestled through nearly every stage with this issue.

I believe so deeply in growing as a disciple of Christ and bringing other women along with me. And because of that passion, I can't put off addressing this issue of modesty any longer. We are right in the middle of spring break season and my facebook feed is continuously filling up with photos of my really tan, scantily clad facebook girlfriends living it up on some beach. Guess who else's facebook is filling up with the same images? 

My husband's.

Please don't think this blog is coming from a defensive wife who thinks that a little smack down blog post is gonna convict every female on facebook to not post swimsuit pictures. :) It's so much deeper than that. Over the years as I have been convicted to take a deep hard look at this issue within myself, I am forced to challenge those women in my life who claim to be followers of Christ but fail to conceal what is only meant for the eyes of their current or future husbands.

I have had a lifelong battle with caring way too much what others think of me. So naturally in high school I gave in when the culture I was living in told me that a two-piece bikini that leaves almost nothing to the imagination is completely okay if you're laying out in the sun or swimming. I believed it when it told me that tight shorts and small shirts were okay if you're working out. Less clothes the better really.

And as I've gotten older and attend weddings as my job, I've seen that some of the most radiant and strong Christian women I know believe the lie that it's okay to show a little cleavage on your wedding day if that's how the dress is supposed to look. The guy staring at you up front is about to be your husband anyway, so it's okay. Nevermind all the other men in the room. 

I have a wonderful father, a close relationship with my brother, I'm married now, and I love nothing more than asking these wonderful men in my life a million questions and picking their brain apart about this modesty issue. Nevermind those celebrity magazines and their "What are guys really thinking?" crap...I have the real stuff and would love nothing more than to share it with you, ladies:)

Just the other day my husband's good friend told him that he is dreading spring and summer because of the way women dress. Between work, facebook, or simply going to the grocery store, it can be a non-stop battle for the men in our life during those hot summer days when we are simply just trying to stay cool. My brother eventually deleted his facebook account for a couple years just because those seemingly harmless photos posted by his girl friends had turned his facebook into something more harmful than beneficial. I'm proud of him for doing something that bold to protect himself. Women love to dress up to even just go to church, and sadly the place where men go to worship and focus on Christ is hardly a safe haven from the physical temptation that we as sisters in Christ are not careful enough to prevent.

It's really easy for us to want to complain. And justify that it's too hard to find a shirt that fits just right and covers everything. "It's just the style now." "There are no longer shorts." "Modest swimsuits cost more money." "The modest stuff doesn't look as cute." Some women are more blessed in some areas than others and it's just "too hard" to take those extra measures. 

I couldn't agree more. It's so not fair. 

But it's also not fair that men are so much more stimulated by what they see than we are and they can't control what we wear. Only we can. 

As women who are following Christ, I'm sure I'm not the only one who wants to stand out in this world and be a light to those I'm around. To pour Christ's love into other women. For the people I encounter daily to really see Christ in me. That is truly the cry of my heart. I hope it's yours too.

But to dress in a way that barely covers what is meant to be seen in private by our spouses draws little if any attention to Christ. We're not here to be sexy, we're here to be like Jesus.

I'm not writing this to harshly judge anyone. I'm writing because I believe more women who claim to follow Christ and pursue His holiness need to be reminded that dressing modestly is just another part of that process. They aren't separate.

And to the one or two men that might possibly still be reading this: please don't be afraid to tell us the harsh truth that we need to hear to protect YOU. We won't get it until you tell us.

Unfortunately, the idea of modesty has been made into something that is boring, old-fashioned, and legalistic. But I want to challenge each of us Christ-following women to view it as a part of pursuing holiness. To view it as OUR choice.

Modesty is the mark of a woman who knows where beauty really comes from. 

57 comments:

  1. Well-said, Karissa! Thanks for sharing.

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  2. Excellent post, Karissa, I agree wholeheartedly! Look forward your blog.

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  3. from the guy who sees it too often... thank you!

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  4. "But it's also not fair that men are so much more stimulated by what they see than we are and they can't control what we wear. Only we can."

    Do you hear yourself? It's unfair that men can't control what we wear? Did you ever consider that maybe men aren't doomed by G-d to be helpless to bare flesh? That perhaps they need to practice averting their eyes if they are so weak as to be unable to deal with a bare shoulder? You do women a huge disservice here.

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    1. I understand what you are saying Sarah. God created men in a way different from women. They are more apt to be stimulated by the physical rather than the emotional/psychological. Yes, they should be responsible for their own sinless nature but, that doesn't take away the responsibility we have to be modest woman. She is talking about the woman's responsibility, as a follower of Christ, to not provide this type of temptation to men thus causing them to sin. Temptation is not from God but from the works of the devil.

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    2. Sarah, I may be wrong here, but I'm assuming that the fact that you said "G-d" instead of "God" means that you're not a Christ-follower? If so then I can understand why you'd be upset. We are called to operate on a different standard our culture does.

      Karissa is speaking to the community of Christ-followers, and in that community we believe that we are all to do our best to encourage each other and not give each other reason or opportunity to sin. It takes a really strong, disciplined man to look away when he sees something that makes him lust. And yes, after he sees it, it's his responsibility to own up to how he handles it. But we believe that brothers and sisters in Christ should do what they can to help each other and not put each other in that situation.

      More than that, we believe it takes more maturity, self-confidence, and security to dress modestly than it does to dress immodestly. We want women to know that their beauty isn't defined by their bodies or their outfits.

      If you think that men don't become weak when they see scantily clad women, just watch the commercials on networks that men watch. There's a reason that a lot the marketing involves women. Why have bikini girls at a car show? Because most men can't resist. And most of them struggle way more than they'll ever admit. Most women just don't want to believe that.

      And to answer your initial question: yes, my wife hears herself. She prayed about this and thought about it for days before she wrote it.

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    3. Sarah- I don't think Karissa is suggesting that it's not fair that men can't control what women wear. I think she's suggesting that it isn't fair that men are so tempted by something they cannot control. That's very different. And if we can help our Brothers in that area, then we should do so! Non Christ-followers want that temptation. They feed off of it (and all sorts of other worldly things), but our Christian brothers struggle against it daily. Modesty is something done out of love, not in attempt to de-value women. If anything, it is empowering. The issue of modesty protects US as well. If we are relying on beauty to define our self-worth, that's a problem! There are so many body issues from young women that often result in eating disorders, depression, isolation, etc. because of society's fixation on outer appearance. We live in a broken world, friend. Karissa is speaking the truth in LOVE...

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    4. Look, some men can't help but look. They aren't very strong in being able to "avert" their eyes as you put it.. I agree that modesty is important and necessary... If anybody is doing a disservice to women (and men) it's YOU... If you want to wear a two inch skirt that doesn't even cover your butt and my UNDERWEAR are longer than that; that's your choice, but stay home so I don't have to look at you!!!!!!!!!! Men may not have control over looking at us, but we have control of what we wear. If you don't wear that stuff they won't look to lust!! DUH! Lightbulb moment!! Yours may just be too DIM to go off! Not only do men look at women who dress like that, but those of us who dress modestly are outraged and disgusted by people who wear stuff like that.. It's an embarrassment to women and I'd like to thank the writer of this piece because more people should say that..

      Let's put this in different terms; would you like your husband (or future depending) to lust after a young girl wearing a short skirt and barely any shirt so much that he has an affair with her and divorces you because of that short skirt.

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    5. If my husband leaves me because of a short skirt, I consider it a bullet dodged. God created men, just as He created women. It is an insult to men to assume that they cannot control themselves around skin, and an insult to God.

      A woman has zero control over the actions or thoughts of a man that is looking at her, regardless of what she is wearing. You know who has control? The man. Who is blaming his sinfulness on somebody else's clothing.

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    6. I certainly hope this comment was deleted accidentally.

      ‎"Let's put this in different terms; would you like your husband (or future depending) to lust after a young girl wearing a short skirt and barely any shirt so much that he has an affair with her and divorces you because of that short skirt."

      Um. Are you so insecure about the strength of your union that this mythical young girl will somehow force your not-so? loving husband to divorce you?

      And I use the term "G-d" because it's respectful to those who don't think it's appropriate to use "God". I personally don't really care.

      I am so sad that all of you are treating men like they are incapable of controlling themselves. Do you think Jesus lectured Mary Magdelene on the length of her robe? Do you not think he would have called on these mythical men who can't control themselves if they see a teenagers thigh to look within and do the spiritual work to understand that women are more than objects for their lust or amusement? A man can get momentarily turned on by a beautiful woman - which, frankly, can really heat up the marriage bed and it is the SAME for a woman. That you piously enjoin those around you to cover themselves up do to your immaturity and cast stones by basically calling them sluts - why are you punishing women for what men do? Men can control themselves. It is the truth. Those who don't think they have to or think they are helpless are exhibiting a shocking amount of emotional immaturity, Work on yourself. Then cast stones at others.

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    7. Sarah,

      First of all, this is the first we've seen this comment of yours. We are, however, going to delete your most recent comment when you addressed David. We're open to being challenged in our beliefs and discussing our differences, but hateful name-calling and hoping somone gets their "silly head slapped off their neck" is not constructive. And on a personal level, I'd recommend you refrain from those statements because it diminishes your credibility and influence.


      Secondly, Sammie's response was her own and not something we fully endorse.

      Lastly, if you "personally really don't care" how you represent God or say His name, then of course we're not going to see eye to eye on this topic. As I said before, our view is based on the bible and this blog is directed towards other Christ-followers.

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    8. He considers women wearing provoking clothing with men raping. You are letting that stand on your blog. That is shameful.

      And I think how one behaves is much more important than whether or not one spells God with or without a vowel.

      Acting like Puritans doesn't make you any more godly or Christ-like .

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    9. I think some are misreading my remark, whether intentional or not. I was comparing the control factor of rape with the control issue of some women who dress immodestly. I did not see the comment that was perhaps deleted, but I don't think I called names or got personal, or wished ill upon any who have other opinions....
      Opinions are just that. And I do think there is a control issue in some women who dress immodestly.

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    10. To cameron:

      You sound like a pompous jackass, and were I not already a Christian, your remarks to Sarah B would turn me off of the gospel. Please consider not using condescension when addressing people who *may* have other beliefs than you.

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    11. Beth,

      I actually appreciate your comment, because I think that when Christians behave in a manner inconsistent with what they believe, they should be confronted. There are a lot of people misrepresenting Jesus online, and I'm passionate about not being one of those people.

      I went back through my comments to try to find the condescension you were referring to, and I'm just not sure which part you took issue with. If you could point out which part bothered you, I'd be glad to explain myself.

      I'm grateful that you said "sound like" instead of "are", because that at least acknowledges that you can only judge me based my words on this page. I know that being condescending about my faith turns people off, and try to be very intentional about speaking out of love rather than out of anger or pride.

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    12. Sarah,

      Regarding the comment that "biscuit" made regarding male rapists...he is not saying that women provoke rapists by dressing immodestly. He was making a comparison between the mental power that an attractive woman has over a man to the mental power a male rapist has over his victim, citing research that suggests that male rapists power comes primarily from their wicked manipulation and persuasion rather than simply from their physical strength. While I'm not sure I 100% agree, I do think that you've misunderstood his statement and his point, and that's why we've allowed the comment to remain. He is in no way condoning rape, and neither are we.

      The reason I mentioned how "God" was spelled is because I've never met a Christ-follower who censored or altered the spelling of the word like that, so I was genuinely just asking if that meant that you weren't a Christian. The reason I wanted to know if you were or not is because if I know that you're not, it saves us a lot of trouble of arguing because we can just acknowledge that we have different beliefs and function on different moral planes.

      Your last comment about acting like a Puritan communicates to me that you're missing the point of what we're saying, and that you think that we equate rules with holiness. We don't! It's not that simple. Jesus had strong words for those who thought it was. But we do believe in doing what we can to not make each other stumble or sin. We believe that because it's a biblical principle. (1 Corinthians 8:9)

      I have an honest question--what is your foundation for what is Godly or Christ-like? You keep arguing with us, but if your beliefs aren't coming from the bible, then we're going to continue to see things differently--which is ok, but I just want to know. I have been engaged by non-Christians who argue that I'm mis-representing Jesus, but often those people have been ones whose only knowledge of Jesus comes from their perception of him and not from actual biblical text.

      Last thing: in an earlier comment you said "work on yourselves, then cast stones at others".

      First of all, I want you to know that we have worked on ourselves, and continue to. God has done a lot to convict us and shape us and show us what we need to work on and how much we need His grace.

      Secondly, many people love to say "you're casting stones", but much fewer people want to be held accountable to their belief system. Accountability and confrontation are biblical concepts, so long as they are done in love and with good intentions. Karissa wrote this blog in love and with good intentions.

      Think of it this way: if during a basketball game someone stepped out of bounds, and was called for it, they would accept it, because they agreed to a set of expectations when they decided to play the game. It's not wrong to let them know they've stepped out of bounds.

      Similarly, when one becomes a Christ-follower, they agree to live by the standards laid out in the bible. Within the Christian community, we agree to hold each other accountable to that lifestyle. Karissa's blog was written to the Christian community, and more specifically, to her own social network.

      That's why I keep coming back to whether or not you're a Christian, Sarah, because if you're not, then I'm guessing that none of this will really make sense to you. And that's ok! If you detected condescension in any of my above posts, I apologize and want you to know that it is not my intent to embarrass or condemn you in any way. What I do want to do is make sure that I'm clear on what we believe and why we believe it.

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    13. Cameron, you wanted to know where you had been condescending:

      a) You don't speak for the whole of the body of Christ, neither does Karissa. Your regular use of the words "us" and "we" throughout your comments, used as if you represent what the entire body of Christ followers (who actually disagree on a great many things) believe as a whole is condescending (and offensive to me as a Christian; I don't mean to be hostile, but please let me just say this, you don't speak for me, EVER, so please refrain from using we" and "us" to refer to all Christians, and instead speak just for yourself and those who've expressed agreement with you).

      b) Your assumption that those who find offensive the comment comparing the power dynamic of choosing one's clothes to the power dynamic of rape must just not understand it, is alarmingly condescending (and it's hard to tell if you're being deliberately obtuse). The fact that the comment "does not condone rape" doesn't make it not disgusting. To compare a woman expressing "power" by choosing her own clothes to a man expressing power by violating a woman's body, mind, and spirit, is OUTRAGEOUS. And it doesn't have to "condone rape" to be outrageous, it's disgusting enough that it minimizes the type and degree of power exerted over a rape survivor. It's not the people who are offended by that comment that "aren't getting it", it's you and the others who've defended it. Using rape (a scenario in which one person has all of the agency and the other person has none, and where one person is completely captive to another person's ENTIRELY EVIL intent, and where the survivor/victim is without question left physically and emotionally devastated) as analogous to a woman choosing an outfit (a scenario in which, unless a woman is also pinning a man's eyes open and forcing him to stare at and objectify her, involves two people with agency, and where no one is truly captive to the other's intent, and where there are many forms of intent, potentially none of which are evil, and where potentially no one (other then men who are apparently juvenile slaves to their loins) are damaged or violated) is filthy and vile, on top of being condescending.

      c) Saying to a commenter that you need to know whether she's a Christian before you can really engage in a dialogue with her is condescending. You imply that only Christians are worth really speaking to about these sensitive matters, and, again, you claim that "we" Christians will get what you're saying whereas an honest non Christian will not. If Christ spoke to people in this way do you think he would have had ANY influence? If you go ahead and only truly engage people who think just like you, you will live in a one-dimensional, shallow, sheltered form of faith. God doesn't ask this of you. He expects and wants you to stretch yourself, your comments suggest you are unwilling to do that with anyone you can't get a religion status read on first.

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    14. First of all, I genuinely appreciate your well-worded, passionate, and thorough response. You said a lot that made me think--especially the part about examining my motives. I know that it's fully possible for someone to think their motives are pure when they are actually polluted or diluted by their own pride or intent--I know because I can look back and give you example after example from my life alone. So that was good for me, and I will continue to chew on that one.

      I want to give some reply to each of your issues.

      a) If we can never use "us" and "we" to talk about the body of Christ, then we've got a problem. There has to be a point where we agree on some foundational principles, like sin, repentance, and accountability, and where we can identify with each other. If we can't say "we", then we become a bunch of islands. Nevertheless, I understand where you're coming from. I was, in fact, referring to the local faith community that I am a part of.

      b) I'm not being deliberately obtuse. I understand your frustration, because I get similarly alarmed and offended when Christians compare "Obamacare" to the holocaust. But I jest, because what "biscuit" was comparing was the mental manipulative power that an attractive woman can have, which is must stronger than most people realize, to the mental manipulative power that a rapist has. I would have preferred for "biscuit" to have compared it to the power of a hypnotist or something, but the point remains the same. Of course rape is filthy and vile and disgusting!

      c) I didn't say I wouldn't engage in dialogue with a non-Christian. It helps to know that I'm arguing with a non-Christian because that conversation and argument is prepared and approached differently than with a non-Christian. Just so you can be assured, know that I engage with non-Christians regularly. If I wasn't willing to be stretched, I wouldn't have responded to any of the comments and I would have removed commenting abilities on this blog.

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  5. Thank you!! I appreciate this post so much!!

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  6. Assume most the shorts on here are a tad longer, and you have yourself proof that there are awesome clothes out there that are stylish and modest. bam. http://pinterest.com/kayla_steury/what-i-wanna-wear/

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  7. Ha Kayla, that's great! I appreciate everyone's comments:)

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  8. Karissa,

    On an unrelated note: I'm a friend of Cameron's from school, and I don't think we've ever really met.

    On a completely related note, this is an important issue in the church today. I'm so glad that you address it here. Paul spends a lot of time writing to Timothy about proper dress. The prohibitions he lists in 1 Timothy tell us that dressing in a manner that appeared promiscuous (braided hair, pearls, etc.) was an issue in the early church. It's no coincidence that Jesus, when talking to men, addresses the issue in Matthew 5 regarding the true nature of adultery.

    As a future pastor (Lord willing), this is a tough issue. I struggle against my sinful flesh, and I know other men do, too. I'm reminded of Paul's words to the Corinthian Christians “All things are lawful for me,” but not all things are helpful. "'All things are lawful for me,' but I will not be dominated by anything." (1 Cor. 6:12) Later, Paul also talks about eating food sacrificed to idols (1 Cor. 8). Though this may not seem related, this talks about how causing a weaker brother to stumble. He says that is sinning against your brother in Christ and against Christ Himself! Lord protect us from this!

    I worry about how to tackle this issue with my young daughter, and I worry for my son. Thanks be to God that Christ has delivered us from this body of death.

    Though we are free in Christ in all things not forbidden by the Law, we ought not flaunt our freedom at the expense of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

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    1. Jordan, I know who you are through Cameron:) Thanks for your insight on this! It's always good to hear from men who are willing to be bold and honest about it. Your last line competely hit the nail on the head. I appreciate your thoughts on this!

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  9. It was so great to read your post. I am a freelance clothing designer and stand on a strong platform of modesty over at my blog, where I don't so much talk about the specific as much as try to prove the creative biblical modesty is a beautiful and attractive way to dress. I loved reading your thoughts on this topic and appreciate your struggle as well as your victory! Beautifully written...Your newest follower! Obviously!
    Kristina J.

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    1. Thank you so much for your response and encouragement, Kristina! I'll have to check out your blog:)

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  10. Karissa -
    Thank you for this! I've been leading a small group study for young girls at our house on Wednesday nights and i've tried desperately to convey this message to them. Unfortunately, most of the girls that attend come from rough backgrounds and a family life that is less than ideal so often times I feel like they hear what i'm saying and then return home and get a very different message. In addition, they go to school and feel like they have to "fit in" by dressing immodestly and my discussions ultimately seem to fall on deaf ears. I could not agree more with what you said and i can't tell you how frustrated i often become when i see some of the pictures girls post on not only my facebook, but my husband's as well. Modesty was something i struggled with on different levels as well and i have a strong desire to share what i've learned to other young girls who might be going through those same struggles and your post articulated it perfectly. Thanks again for sharing this...i hope more people read it!

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  11. Hi, I came across your blog post via FB and hope you don't mind if I say something. I really do understand why you have written what you have, and just a few years ago I would have given it a hardy "amen". But the Lord has a way of changing our lives and bringing issues out of our hearts that give us a deeper understanding and wisdom. I don't think girls or woman anywhere should be dressing modestly for men's sake. We need to be dressing modestly for the Lord. Let me explain why I think that distinction is so important. When a woman dresses modestly for men she takes on herself a role that she can NEVER fulfill. A woman can never, no matter how hard she tries keep lustful men from lusting after her. Just having a pretty face is a huge source of lust for men and boys. She can however, keep a lovely Christ-centered, joyfull heart that pours forth modesty in her dress and actions. This is both what we are called to do as Christians and is a powerful testimony to the world and a blessing to our weak brothers in Christ. Women are never responsible for the lust of men, that is their own sin, just as a woman who lusts to be lusted after is responsible for hers. When a woman is truly secure and joyfull in her Heavenly Father, modesty blossoms from her as naturally as does immodesty in an insecure girl. Of course we are to love our neighbor and part of that means dressing as a godly woman would dress. But dressing modestly for the sake of men is working backwards and will not change the heart. The heart must be modest for the body to be. Women are not called to protect men, men are called to protect women!
    Men need to STOP lusting and die to themselves (and their desires) for the sake of their sisters in Christ. Too many Christian men are all too willing to let the Christian girls take the responsibility of keeping lust at bay. Men need to be men and bring freedom to the women of the world, by loving them as Christ does. Women are made to be loved, protected, cherished and ravished as wives.
    Women can never take the role of a man and change the lust. Men must do that. So that is why I say, encourage women to dress modestly for the Lord and let Him take care of the men. Let your heart be so firmly secure in Him, that you don't worry about other men. You seek to please Him! He will give you guidance and joy in your dress, He will use your husband to help you in this as well and that will bless others! But please don't feel that it is your responsibly...it's not!
    Love the Lord, be filled with joy and He will bring forth the beauty of Holiness and Grace. That is the greatest blessing you can give to anyone, including the weaker brother!

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  12. Rayia has a point, that women (as well as men) should dress in a manner pleasing to God, and the result will be a code that will not drag the opposite gender into lust. And she is SOOO right, that you can NEVER dress modestly enough for some men. There are the controlling, legalistic kind that would have you dress in concrete and chastity belts, and of course there are the kind whose imagination sees through even the thickest of concrete, and "runs" with it from there.

    I cannot add to the positives on this article, for it and the comments are excellent.

    But to dear Sarah B.: I am male, and now a senior citizen, so have been "at this" for a long time. I grew up in a "modest" church, and live in an immodest world.

    Sometimes the modest church ladies (?) actually dress more provocatively than those at say, Wal-mart, because the style, fit and material are designed that way. It follows the strange truth that provoking attire, no matter how much or little material, that leaves something to the imagination, is the most sensual of attire.

    But my main point is that I tire of women who constantly assert that it is the male with the problem, that they should be more holy, or be more disciplined, or look the other way, etc., etc.

    While this is certainly what a man should do, it does not give license to a woman to dress in any way she pleases.

    I actually conclude that it is the woman who most often has the problem. The problem is called "control". It pleases her immensely when heads turn, especially if they are good looking, have status, power and are supposedly "holy". She knows that in most cases, she could seduce these men if they could get by with the seduction, and it gives her power.

    It, to me, is no less than the power a male rapist exerts, which experts declare is more about the power than the sex. It is control at its finest.

    She has control over the eyes and necks of men, and even the scornful women who look at her.

    Men do the same thing, of course, the buff, muscular, tanned guys who strip to mow the yard, or run in the streets, etc. No difference.

    The amount of cloth is not the issue. I repeat, it is the style, material, etc. PLUS the mannerisms that often accompany the outfit.

    I say it is a two way street, the man must obtain, and exercise a discipline in this area, but a woman has an equal responsibility, if not greater.

    I sympathize with the problems of finding affordable, yet stylish and ahem, attractive, clothes. I really do. And I don't believe that modest clothes have to be only dresses or skirts.

    But modesty IS a responsibility of women, as discipline is a responsibility of men.

    It has often been quoted about the person or Congressman testifying in a pornography issue, saying something like, "I can't define pornography, but I recognize it when I see it." The same is often true of modesty, or immodesty...sometimes it is hard to define, but we recognize both when we see it.

    Thank you Karissa, for this good blog. Keep your chin up.

    I see I am going to show as "biscuit" :) , but I will sign my name.

    David Cary.

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    1. A rapist *rapes a person.* A rapist *forces sex upon a woman.* A woman has *zero* control over how a man reacts to her clothing. A woman who is in a nun's habit cannot control how a man perceives her, or what he thinks and does. A woman who is in a bikini cannot control how a man perceives her, or what he thinks and does. A rapist, on the other hand, RAPES A PERSON.

      To compare the two is absolutely disgusting.

      If a woman dresses provocatively, the man has the option to control himself. How he reacts is ABSOLUTELY not in her control. No matter how much you want to think that it is.

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    2. Your disgust is distressingly amazing, for I was comparing the control issue, not the act vs. the garments.
      You are correct, regardless of how a woman dresses, a man must control himself. A woman should also control herself in her dress.
      To compare a nun's clothing to bikinis is also a stretch, but yes, a criminal has other issues.
      I think there are some women who are going to wear what they want, when they want, no matter how unclassy it may be. Their motives MAY not be wrong, but their disdain for the affect their dress has on others is certainly not right.
      My main issue is that all the blame for the affect of immodesty upon men should not be laid at the feet of the male. The female does have a responsibility.
      I still tire of hearing that "it is the man that has the problem." I don't think so.

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    3. Even comparing the control issue - a rapist has control, 100% control over the situation. A woman who is being ogled by a man has zero control over how he looks at her. Zero. She cannot stop him from thinking impure thoughts. She can try to dress in ways that will mitigate that, but how is she to know which body parts are tempting to which men? Some men are tempted by feet. Some men are tempted by elbows. A woman has no control over the thoughts of a man.

      Is a child responsible for a pedophile molesting him? Because he dressed in shorts and a t-shirt, and is a child?

      I don't think so. No matter how a person dresses, *somebody* will find it tempting. To place blame on a woman who shows her neck in a wedding for a man's inability to control himself is disgusting.

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    4. JezJ, you are right, a woman has no control over an ogling man, not always. But some women do dress in order to gather those ogles, and they like it, so these women that do it on purpose, DO have control.

      And you are sooo right about the feet thing...one never can be insured against the mindset of those kinds of people.

      I hope I did not imply that children were at all, in any way, responsible for their own abuse. Perhaps someone else said something about that. Nor would I include bare necks, unless the neck area includes several inches of cleavage.

      Yes, "somebody" will always find a way to fulfill his own lack of discipline, but I still think women should exercise some restraint and discipline themselves.

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    5. Great post! As a woman, it always baffles me that women cannot see their role in having a man look at them lustfully. If you walk around wearing nothing, a man is going to look at you differently than if you're fully clothed in a modest way. It's just common sense. Yes, there's the odd exception where a man might have an unusually keen interest in things that aren't deemed "sexually attractive" to most but that's not what we're talking about. It's been proven that men are visually aroused (by nature). It's like taking someone that's a known jewel thief and placing them in a jewellery store by themselves. It's not something any sane person would do. You don't dangle the temptation in front of the person and then be upset and blame them when they give in. As a Christian woman, it's my job to not cause my brother to stumble in any way and knowing full well that dressing in a way that is immodest will do that, I should want to run as far away from that as possible.

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  13. Karissa, I've read and re-read your post and the responses to them. I have been rethinking this issue over and over the past couple of days. Then God lead me to something I had read from C. S. Lewis a few months back that I feel has some input on this subject. "We don't like rationing which is imposed upon us, but I suggest one form of rationing which we ought to impose on ourselves. Abstain from all thinking about other people’s faults, unless your duties as a teacher or parent make it necessary to think about them. Whenever the thoughts come unnecessarily into one’s mind, why not simply shove them away? And think of one’s own faults instead? For there, with God’s help, one can do something. Of all the awkward people in your house or job there is only one whom you can improve very much.” (God in the Dock, C.S. Lewis, pp 154)
    Having stated that, I had battled so many years of legalism that nearly destroyed my own hopes in a loving God. I agree with what you say, but where the hurt comes in is when God hasn’t moved my heart to the same place yours has been moved. I can’t say that a two piece swimsuit is right or wrong for anyone else but me. I have to seek God’s opinion and direction and take that up with Him. If I see you in a two piece swimsuit then I have to be ok that you and God are ok with that; if your husband finds it not right with you, then that goes between you and him. But if I choose to wear a 2 piece suit and you find offense with it, you should take it to God and deal with that between you and him. Do you see what I’m saying here? If and when God speaks to my heart about what I wear then I have to be at peace with that….If my cleavage shows more than you think presentable and I’ve cleared it with God as appropriate then we step into the arena of “judgment”. I hope I’m not coming across as ‘nit-picking’ but I think Christianity as times has given itself a black eye to the world when we tell them what is right and wrong in God’s eyes, when we should be seeking that ourselves and living our lives as instruments of inspiration to a dying world. If I’m asked my opinion of an article of clothing, then I feel I have freedom to speak how my heart and situation would be….but to make broad statements that we all have to dress the same comes across as ‘legalism’ and I won’t walk in that path ever again. I love you dearly Karissa and highly respect your stance on this area, but I wanted to share that we, each Christian have to stand before our God and give account of what we did with our lives. I want to stand before God and have him say, “Kim, you did well with what I gave you” and not be saddened by me giving my opinion to others instead of directing them to the Creator of the Universe for salvation.
    Kim S.

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    1. Kim,

      We've seen a lot of responses like yours on Facebook, and I think I can summarize my frustration with your response with this: you quoted C.S. Lewis to defend your position, not the bible. I love C.S. Lewis, but my problem is that here was no biblical foundation in any of your response. How do you reconcile what you said with Romans 14:13? You're fighting for your right to bare cleavage instead of fighting for holiness in this world.

      We've seen many people taking this issue and making it whatever they want it to be before God, playing the "only God can judge me" card and basically avoiding any responsibility for their actions. We "give Christianity a black eye" when we declare our right to do whatever we want to do and try to insist that God is ok with it. Every supposed Christian who has pushed back on this issue has had no biblical backing behind their argument.

      Furthermore, you missed the whole point of the blog. The point of modesty is not to help men, it's to glorify God. Women can be allies to men in glorifying God by not giving them reason to stumble--so that they can focus on the things that God wants them to focus on.

      The bible also talks a lot about accountability and holding each other to the standards set before us. Your "If you have a problem with me, it's between you and God" attitude is selfish, lazy, and not biblically founded in any way. As iron sharpens iron, so one person sharpens another.

      "Legalism" is believing that your salvation comes from following rules. People often toss out the "legalism" card any time they are confronted with something that needs to change in their life. Legalism is doing something for the sake of rules and being a slave to it--what Karissa is pleading for women to do is to be modest for the sake of love for fellow men and for God. She's not saying our salvation is contingent on how we dress, she's asking for help and unity in this area.

      Too many people who say they are Christ-followers refuse to be held accountable to the standards that we profess are best for us. THAT gives Christianity a black eye.

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    2. Kim,

      Thank you for taking the time to share your thoughts. I have to say I agree with Cameron's response, especially when he said that I'm not saying our salvation is contingent on how we dress, but I'm asking for help and unity from other women in this area.

      The point of my blog was also not to say exactly where the line of modesty is and what is exactly "right" and "wrong" for people to wear.
      I know that modesty may look different on different women with different body types and you're right that each woman will have her own convictions about what is "modest", however, because the need for modesty is to protect and help our brothers to keep from stumbling (Romans 14:13) and to draw attention to Christ and not ourselves, I feel so strongly that we as women need to be much more aware and understanding of the power that we have in this area.

      With protecting our brothers being the point, I view modesty as dressing in a way that keeps those men around me from having to work really hard to not look at me so that they might not stumble. That is the basis that I use when I decide what to wear. It may sound legalistic, but it's really not. I take joy in knowing that I'm helping my brother in Christ. And with each woman's body being different, and her style being different...we can all be modest without dressing exactly the "same." It is really possible to have great stylish taste, while keeping in mind the affect that your clothing choices might have on the men around you.

      I do also want to say that I'm so sorry for the legalism that you have worked through over the years. It's such a tough battle and I've had my share of it myself. Modesty used to be a legalism issue for me which is why I didn't care about it for so many years.

      It's easy to get to the point where it becomes just about rules and becoming more like the Christians around you than about becoming more like Jesus. Growing up in a Christian community, I have come a long way in this area, so I want to encourage you to keep focusing on God's word and what becoming more like Jesus really looks like through YOUR OWN personal relationship with him. There is so much freedom to be found in that! :)

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    3. Oh boy, Cameron, I'm tempted to take back any respectful tone I may have included in my previous comment to you. You've now gone from speaking for others to referring to people who don't agree with you as "supposed Christians" and "people who SAY they are Christ followers" -- that is the ULTIMATE in judgment, do you even realize what you're implying, if not outright saying(?!), "Well, I'm ACTUALLY saved, you just say your are; if you REALLY were, you'd see this issue my way." This is very disheartening. Differing opinions about "modest dress" are not a salvation issue (you keep quoting Romans 14, but have you actually read it, it's about the dangers of criticism, not sexy tank tops!), and I'm appalled that you would question the sincerity of someone else's faith because they're more concerned about how they treat others than whether or not a shirt shows some cleavage. Maybe you should look at Romans 14:12 and the first sentence of 14:13.

      What you said to Kim was disgusting. And at the risk of exercising *almost* as much gall as you have, you need to take a step back from the keyboard and CHECK YOURSELF. I'll be praying for calm tonight as I am seething with anger over your arrogance. Your smug lectures to others here in the comments are so beyond a "black eye" I simply do not have the words.

      Kim didn't miss the point of anything, she simply didn't come to the same conclusion YOU (not God) apparently wanted her to, and that is what drew your sanctimonious vitriol.

      As for the biblical accountability you reference, it is about community, and being available to brothers and sisters you have a relationship with, not bullheadedly preaching things that are in no way black and white, AT people because you're baffled that they didn't interpret scripture the way you did. And, speaking of scripture, CS Lewis is very clearly operating from a biblical place when he speaks to not dwelling on the faults of others, Matthew 7:3. But since you're so fond of having strangers be accountable to you, how 'bout you become accountable to strangers, and think about this: the next time you reduce someone's thoughtful comment to "fighting for the right to bare cleavage" or making claims about "supposed Christians" and people merely "saying they're Christians", you might want to take a good long look at what YOUR motivations are. Make sure you're motivated by God's will and holiness and not your desire to have the last word or to set others straight because you think you've got all the answers.

      As for Romans 14:13, don't omit the "don't condemn each other" part (something I'll also need to pray on tonight). And don't neglect that Paul wrote this in response to scrupulous but weak Christians trying to fence others with petty rules and regulations. What's pettier than criticizing another Christian's clothes? What's pettier than referring to a woman who wore a wedding dress that showed some cleavage as some sort of misguided child who's bought into lies and unholiness?

      Stumbling block indeed.

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    4. You could refer to me as "someone who says they are a Christian", and I wouldn't be offended. Your point, the fact that we can never truly know, is the same reason that I use those phrases.

      Can we acknowledge that there are millions of people who identify themselves as "Christians" who want nothing to do with the life that Jesus intends for them? And no, I'm not referring to immodesty. I have lots of friends who are like this--their Facebook status says "Christian", but that's the only thing close to evidence of Christ's presence in their lives. So when these people all of a sudden start googling to find bible verses to rub my face in something, yes, I get upset. But is Kim one of those people? No, I don't think so. At your prompting I will be more mindful and cautious of how, when, and why I use those phrases and refer to people that way.

      I appreciated when you said that I reduced Kim's thoughtful comment to "the right to bare cleavage", because you're right, I did, and that was wrong. I projected onto her the mindset that we've seen from other women who have said things like "if I want to show off my body, that's between me and God!" Kim clearly had a more mature attitude than that, and that part my response was inappropriate.

      Interpreting scripture and acting on it is definitely tricky, because in Romans 14 Paul tells us not to condemn each other, and then he tells us not to make each other stumble. But then when we urge people not to make each other stumble, we get accused of condemning people! So are you condemning me for condemning others? See what I mean? At some point we're allowed to discuss our standards and hold each other accountable to them. It's just a matter of whether or not we're willing to accept it from others. I hope this response will show you that I am. I disagree with parts of your response, but I've been humbled and challenged by other parts--and I believe that's what Christian community and accountability is all about. That's why we need each other.

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    5. This is certainly not a black and white issue, and we're not trying to make it one. What we're trying to do is get women to consider the motives and the implications of their attire. Several women have said that for some men you can't dress modestly enough because their minds are so twisted and lustful--I whole-heartedly agree. I don't think the burden is solely on the women! But for those men--are they disgusting animals, or are they children of God who deserve the same sympathy, thoughtfulness, and grace that everyone else deserves?

      In Romans 14:15 Paul says, "If you brother is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy your brother for whom Christ died".

      My interpretation of that, based on study and counsel from pastors, is that Paul was not merely referring to food in this passage. You could replace "eat" with "drink" or "wear", and the principle would be the same.

      I think the best way to illustrate what we're asking is similar to asking friends to consider not drinking around a recovering alcoholic. Is it wrong to consume alcohol? Of course not. But what is expected of us if it causes someone to be distressed? Well, that's addressed clearly in the passage.

      So is it a sin to wear a low-cut shirt? We never said it was. Is there more purity and reward to be found in being mindful of your fellow Christ-followers when choosing how you eat, dress, or live your life? Yes, clearly there is.

      The only part of your response that I'm offended by is your reducing our pursuit of biblical living to "petty rules and regulations". We are allowed to lovingly and intentionally point each other back to scripture to help each other stay aligned with God's word. Same as you just did with me.

      I think that despite your rage and disgust, there was enough love and truth in your words to have grown me. Thank you for that. I am willing to venture that contrary to those who say that they'll pray about something as a rebuttal safeguard, I'll bet you did actually pray last night, and I think that is why this confrontation was blessed and useful.

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  14. Powerfully, well-written thoughts! I whole-heartedly agree. Your newest follower- Elizabeth

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  15. I would like to add my two cents here, just because I can't help it! :)

    First of all, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out what turns a man on...I mean, seriously, let's be adults, here. Sure, every man is different, but we have a general idea. And, for women who claim to be Christ-followers to say things like, "God is okay that I show almost my entire body...I checked with Him, and He gave me the okay," is so immature and ridiculous. Do you even hear yourself? If you love God, you will automatically have love for those around you, so of course you are going to feel inclined to show compassion on your brothers in Christ. It's not that difficult to comprehend! And, I know that there are some truly naive women out there who have no idea that men are lusting after their bodies on Facebook...truly, I believe there are some that are naive. However, what's sad is that there are a greater number of women who know that posting "that" picture might cause their good guy friend to think an un-pure thought, and yet, do it anyway. I am sickened by this kind of behavior, and more of us should be appalled. God did not give us our bodies to flaunt them...quite the contrary. Our bodies are to be enjoyed by our husbands, not by our slobbering guy friends who can't control themselves. Let those guys lust after someone else who doesn't care...I don't want them doing it to me!! :)

    I really appreciated your very well-written article Karissa! Thanks for having the courage to talk about something so difficult...and I don't think you came across "legalistic" at all, but rather caring and compassionate. I loved it!

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    1. Jamie, I love what you said here..."If you love God, you will automatically have love for those around you..." :)

      And I completely agree about the picture posting, it's sad. My heart hurts for those girls who truly either don't know or don't
      care.

      My only thought about this..."our slobbering guy friends who can't control themselves"...is I don't think it's so much a can't as a won't/don't. We CAN do all things in Christ!

      Love you!

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    2. Oh, I completely agree, Rayia! And, by the way, I loved what you said in your comment...

      I just should have used a better word than "Can't!" I was referring to guys who don't TRY to control themselves!

      Love you too...

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  17. Karissa, I just want to say that I found a lot of wisdom in what you wrote in your blog about modesty; and also read your blog on studying Esther with Beth Moore's book. That study hit home to me too, and actually inspired me to start a blog myself about a year ago.

    Following your blog beginning today!

    Kezia

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  18. An excellent and thoughtful piece with a different viewpoint: http://lizboltzranfeld.wordpress.com/2012/04/06/the-myth-of-modesty-part-one/

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  19. This is extremely well thought out, but I disagree. I wish the American Church would look at the mixed messages they are sending to young girls about their bodies and realize that we are NOT helping the problem. We'll tell them as kids "You are God's beautiful creation." Then they mature & we tell them their bodies cause men to sin & sadly often just that sex is a sin (be ashamed of your body). Then they get married & we tell them the "best" way to "protect" their marriage is to have a very passionate relationship with their husband (not because sex is awesome, but because somehow his temptation for infidelity is also her responsibility). Seriously, it's amazing that girl raised in the church is capable of a healthy body image or view of sex.

    I have been dressing more & more modestly in the last few years myself, but here is why. As I am more focused on God & His love for me, I have less of a need to be noticed by others. If the argument is the idea that dressing immodestly takes attention away from God & focuses it on you then I agree. If you are teaching girls to be secure in the way God made them so they no longer want/crave that confirmation from others, then I say "amen!" But even if it wasn't what you intended, the main focus of your argument is that girls are responsible for keeping men from the sin of lust (which by the way is NOT the same as seeing someone attractive & thinking they are, them moving on with your life) and that I simply can not agree with.

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  20. I wholeheartedly agree with this post. For those who haven't thought about the issue of the male/female responsibilities in modest dressing, I suggest (in addition to searching the Bible for its directives)reading FOR WOMEN ONLY by Shaunti Feldhahn (which surveyed hundreds of men; especially read Chapter 6: Keeper of the Visual Rolodex) and EVERY MAN'S BATTLE by Stephen Arterburn (which addresses men's natural inability to remove visual stimuli but teaches how to "bounce the eyes" and avoid putting those visual stimulants in theri brains). The Bible says lasciviousness is sin, which would include a woman's intent to dress in such a way as to attract the sexual attention of a man, and lust is a sin, which would include a man allowing sexual feelings to be stirred by what he sees outside of his own marital relationship. Both are sin, according to the Bible.

    Karissa, please do not be discouraged by the angry posts of some. Not everyone's heart is ready to accept what the Bible teaches, but you did a great job of putting the idea into their heads. There's hope that, one day, the lightbulb will go off -- maybe when they have a son of their own and realize what he's looking at, or when they have a daughter of their own and realize that guys are looking at their little girl and drooling. After reading these books, my eyes were opened, and my husband and I are keeping this newfound knowledge at the forefront of our parenting journey. Keep your chin up!

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  21. Karissa
    I am also a follower of Christ. I am so proud of you for putting this out there for all women. As an older Christian we are not often listened to. Maybe the younger people will listen to you. May God Bless you in your walk.

    In Christ, Linda

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  22. A bunch of the comments here (and other blogs) say that women can't control what a man thinks when they dress immodestly, but that isn't what we're trying to express. I've never suggested that women can control a man, but I will say that a woman can have a great deal of influence over a man's thoughts...... but yeah, the control is still in the mans' head...
    I guess the real question is (and can be applied to everything we do in life) is how are we trying to influence those around us.

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  23. Great post and much needed topic of Christian women (and men) to hear. It saddens me that the young women don't have anybody keeping them accountable to this or spurring them on to modesty and holiness.

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