A while ago I shared a few of my thoughts with you concerning modesty blogs. Specifically I focused on the connection between the spirituality and physicality of one’s meekness or piety — how they’re intimately connected, and when that is abused, the ugly results that follow.
I am a private schooled girl, through and through. Minus pre-K, I was taught the basic tenets of baptist evangelical Christianity within a private educational environment. When I was little, I wore plaid skirts with tennis shoes, memorized many Bible verses, and a laminated basket would go on the “Hannah Burcky" candle if I acted badly. You don’t speak out against any level of authority, and you were punished for your transgressions appropriately. Although the tongue was more of a curse than a blessing, your actions were what really mattered at the end of the day.
Fast forward to middle school and high school, where for no apparent reason, the weights of words and actions flipped. Essentially, what came out of your mouth and how you acted were important, but the latter more so than the former. Modesty (when you were allowed to wear normal clothes) was adopted as an honorary fruit of the spirit for young ladies, and over time the importance of what you wore and what you said became more and more disassociated from each other. The modesty talks on youth group nights for girls consisted of discussion on hemlines and necklines, not how you presented yourself with your words. I was taught that the sanctification of others was at stake when you fall short of dressing appropriately, much less so when you said bad things. Phrases such as “You need to do this for your brothers” and “If you don’t dress like (x), they will sin because of you” “Do you want to be the one to cause your brother to stumble?” “Why would you help enable them to sin?” floated through the air with the hopes of entering into our hearts. The drive was guilt and conscience oriented, centered solely around the physical.
Concerning the ever-continuous discussion on modesty, I learned some things during my time in that youth group that I worry many still believe today:
- Modesty wholly concerns clothes.
- What you wear is ultimately more important than what you say.
- Judgement for those who fall short in this area is great.
This is what I was taught concerning modesty. What I quickly learned over time is that this was totally and utterly crap.
The power of the words you speak is just as important and equally powerful as the way that you dress.
What this does not mean (a) that clothes don’t communicate, or that (b) modesty is inconsequential because it’s not written or spoken words. What it does mean is that from what we can tell from Scripture, our words are actions, and actions are words. Confession and action are interdependent. One without the other falls short of what pursuing holiness is supposed to be, and ultimately what a sanctified Christian looks (and sounds) like. We know this because when there is disunity, you become a hypocrite. This entire modesty debate boils down to the fact that actionless words are empty, and wordless actions are empty.
So, out of all this — I exhort women (beginning with myself) to realize that they need to do what they say and say what they do. If you’re meek and modest, don’t talk about it, or make these adjectives the adjective or adverb of your blog title. Quietly follow the Lord, and harkening back to what Josh said far better than me, be a boring Christian. If you love fashion, that’s awesome. Fashion is incredible. If you’re going to have a modesty blog, I believe that in the hopes of protecting your brothers and sisters, you can unnecessarily lead your brothers and sisters astray. Two things are probably going to happen when you call something a modesty blog. Either (1) You’re poorly articulating a good and holy desire as a Christian woman, or (2) you’re being pharisaical by placing your baptized talents on a pedestal. In attempting to protect your brothers in Christ, you can fall short of loving your sisters in Christ. Modesty is not just a spoken word, nor is it a particular style of clothing, modesty is living peaceable quiet lives with all men. Be a boring Christian, and in so doing love your neighbor.
Hannah Sproul is an aspiring artist who lives near Orlando, FL, who strives to read, nap, and paint as much as possible. Currently working towards a college degree in theology and philosophy, she is often both hungry and sleepy. When she isn't studying, she's lifting weights, playing with her dog Grace or rat Pizza, or binging on Netflix while Snapchatting to her heart's desire.