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Friday, August 17, 2012

The Way of the World

Just because it looks pretty... is attractive to the human eye, doesn't mean it's modest OR acceptable to God.

Modesty has been much on my mind lately.  Predominantly because I read a post a while back (three or more weeks) about the subject and it just has NOT left my thoughts since.  So, I figure maybe it would help to share my thoughts on the subject here... not that anyone will respond or share their ideas, but I can hope!  :)

So... what is modesty, anyway?

mod·es·ty [mod-uh-stee] noun, plural mod·es·ties.
1. the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
2. regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc.
3. simplicity; moderation.

mod·est [mod-ist] adjective
1. having or showing a moderate or humble estimate of one's merits, importance, etc.; free from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or great pretensions.
2. free from ostentation or showy extravagance: a modest house.
3. having or showing regard for the decencies of behavior, speech, dress, etc.; decent: a modest neckline on a dress.
4. limited or moderate in amount, extent, etc.: a modest increase in salary.
I have chosen to ignore the definition of decency because it is conveyed as something relative to the times, which definition is contrary to the truth: that truth is truth regardless of society's perspective at a given time.
To continue, I am sharing a few more definitions which seem pertinent to my point.

mod·er·a·tion [mod-uh-rey-shuhn] noun
1. the quality of being moderate; restraint; avoidance of extremes or excesses; temperance. (there are two more definitions, but they do not pertain)

mod·er·ate [adj., n. mod-er-it, mod-rit; v. mod-uh-reyt] adjective, noun, verb, mod-er-at-ed, mod-er-at-ing.  adjective
1. kept or keeping within reasonable or proper limits; not extreme, excessive, or intense: a moderate price.
2. of medium quantity, extent, or amount: a moderate income.
3. mediocre or fair: moderate talent.
4. calm or mild, as of the weather. (there is one more definition, but not pertinent)

tem·per·ance [tem-per-uhns, tem-pruhns] noun
1. moderation or self-restraint in action, statement, etc.; self-control. (there are two more definitions that do not pertain)
While the following definition references some relativity, I think that which is negative to me about the definition will provide me a jumping-off point to discuss another aspect of the point.
ex·treme [ik-streem] adjective, ex-trem-er, ex-trem-est, noun
1. of a character or kind farthest removed from the ordinary or average: extreme measures.
2. utmost or exceedingly great in degree: extreme joy.
3. farthest from the center or middle; outermost; endmost: the extreme limits of a town.
4. farthest, utmost, or very far in any direction: an object at the extreme point of vision.
5. exceeding the bounds of moderation: extreme fashions.

re·straint [ri-streynt]
1. a restraining  action or influence: freedom from restraint.
2. Sometimes, restraints. a means of or device for restraining, as a harness for the body.
3. the act of restraining, holding back, controlling, or checking.
4. the state or fact of being restrained;  deprivation of liberty; confinement.
5. constraint or reserve in feelings, behavior, etc.

re·strain [ri-streyn] verb (used with object)
1. to hold back from action; keep in check or under control; repress: to restrain one's temper.
2. to deprive of liberty, as by arrest or the like.
3. to limit or hamper the activity, growth, or effect of: to restrain trade with Cuba.
Now for my thoughts.  Be you never thought I'd get around to it, eh?
I believe that modesty is not a subject where relativity or cultural norms are really pertinent.  Should individuals have the right to practice their religion and cover themselves completely (like wearing a burka)?  I believe they should be allowed to make this choice born of their own convictions.  Yes, I acknowledge that one's own convictions are formed by numerous factors.  Be that as it may, there are numerous women who choose and like to wear the coverings they wear.
God has a standard for the attire of men and women.  I know this to be truth.  If you do not believe this, you are entitled to your belief.  However, if you are a truth seeker, then you must apply to the God of truth to know ultimate truths.
I know that through time immemorial man (and I do mean the males among us, primarily, though women have this problem as well) has misunderstood God's direction to him.  I believe our God is a God of Love and tolerance, moderation, temprance, and all things that could be and are related to modesty.  He would have us cover ourselves in such a way as to avoid drawing attention to ourselves.
Clothing is one way, through various means, that someone can draw attention to themselves.  If we look to the microcosm of a public high school (especially one that does not have uniforms), we will find an environment that is representative (though arguably slightly extreme) of the world, at large.  In high school there are those who group themselves according to certain similarities.  I'm not exactly sure of all the current lingo, but I do know there were some groups that were readily identified by the following names: emo, prep, jock (female and male), straight edgers, pseudo-hippies, stoners, band geeks, punks, nerds, goths and more.  Each group has its norm for attire.  Does that mean that any of them are modest?  Well, if modest is relative, then surely there is a sort of modesty in each group.
However, there is a true form of modesty that is outside of the relative or societal norms.
For instance, if a prostitute has a certain way of dressing to attract customers, then it seems to follow that women of virtue would steer clear of the kind of attire that prostitutes find helpful to their cause.  Unfortunately, though, as history shows us, the devil is in the details.  The devil would have us believe that something long considered unacceptable is attractive (at least in part BECAUSE it is successful in garnering business of the sort mentioned... so it must be attractive to men... so it is something women, in general, should use for their own purposes).
In the early days of this country, as a standard, virtuous women wore long skirts and/or dresses with long or quarter-length sleeves  and necklines that were at their neck, all the time.  Do I propose that only this is modest?  No.  But over time, the deceiver of our souls has led us (men and women) to believe that the way prostitutes of that time dressed is acceptable for all.  Is this true?  Certainly not entirely.  And once a successful mode of making wrong into right has been determined, the process continues on.  Prostitutes and pornography lead the charge in becoming ever less modest.  The media touts the beauty of movie stars (in these modern days) and popular/well-known individuals (generally) as those people dress increasingly more and more like prostitutes and porn stars.
About 18 years ago, when I was a bit younger and wilder than I am now... it was significantly more difficult to find stilletos than it is now.  I know because I wanted some.  I did say I was wilder.  Stilletos were, even such a short time ago, considered (generally) shoes best relegated to dress up for your husband and/or common shoe-wear for pole dancers, prostitutes, porn stars and call girls by the majority of generally virtuous women.  Now, the most stylish women at church wear them.  The shoes still serve their purpose (lengthen a woman's body, tighten her calves, raise and tighten her butt, require a particular curve in the back for stability which enhaces the breastline because the chest must be jutted out ever so slightly to maintain alignment created by the unnatural foot positioning that is par for the course in stilleto wearing 101).  So, why is it acceptable to otherwise virtuous women to wear prostitute shoes publicly now, when it wasn't 18 years ago?  Because the devil said so, I guess... in the same way he has led the charge to raise skirts (so now a long shirt that barely covers the gluteous maximus is a dress; basically the same as the '6os).
So what is modest attire anyway?  What has modest always been?  I think the latter question is really more important.  One must completely understand what modesty of attire is... search knowledge, understanding and wisdom in this matter and then appeal to our Father God for confirmation of our understanding.  I have found, in my search, that modesty in attire requires coverage of, minimally, all of the thigh (and over the knee), all breast-age, and full shoulder coverage (because of the proximity to breast-age and potential for accidentally showing that part of the body that is meant to be reserved for one's huband and breastfeeding babies.  Additionally, choosing clothing that neither accentuates nor highlights the area of breast-age (especially in women).  This last part means, really, that one would not wear tight and/or revealing clothing items if we are trying to be truly modest in our dress.
Is it easy for everyone to dress mosdestly?  No.  Of course not.  For instance, I know big breasted women have a difficult time finding cleavage covering tops.  However, difficult does not equate to impossible.  Difficult is difficult.  And if it became impossible to find modest clothing because the world's ways became so far divergent from God's that no modest clothing was readily available, does that mean that we then succumb to the world?  I propose God's answer to that is: no.  I'm certain He would have us develop talents and skills that would enable us to continue to do and fulfill His Will even when the world is far from Him.
Only recently (within the last 5 years), did I realize that modesty was about more than the cloth we can choose to place on our bodies.  Since this post has become longer than I planned, I think the continuation of this subject must wait for another day.
Until then... what do you think?

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