Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity. Modesty protects the mystery of persons. It encourages patience and moderation in relationships. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet. There is modesty of the feelings as well as of the body. It protests, for example, against the voyeuristic explorations of the human body in certain advertisements, or against the solicitations of certain media that go too far in the exhibition of intimate things. Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies. The forms taken by modesty vary from one culture to another. Everywhere, however, modesty exists as an intuition of the spiritual dignity proper to man. Teaching modesty to children and adolescents means awakening in them respect for the human person.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty… But I am too busy thinking about myself.” author=”Edith Sitwell”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.” author=”Confucius”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is a reflex, arising naturally to help a woman protect her hopes and guide their fulfillment -specifically, this hope for one man. (…) Along with this hope comes a certain vulnerability, because every time a man fails to stick by us, our hopes are, in a sense, dashed. This is where modesty fits in. For modesty armed this special vulnerability -not to oppress women, but with the aim of putting them on an equal footing with men. The delay modesty created not only made it more likely that women could select men who would stick by them, but in turning lust into love, it changed men from uncivilized males who ran after as many sexual partners as they can get to men who really wanted to stick by one woman.” author=”Shalit”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is amazing what you can accomplish if you do not care who gets the credit.” author=”Harry S. Truman”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is the citadel of beauty.” author=”Demades”/]
Modesty on Facebook …..If you don’t have anything nice to say
Mom always said, “If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.” Mom, of course, pre-dates the internet. Had she been aware of the impact of social media, she might have added “ESPECIALLY on Facebook!”
By now, we all know that social media can both be a powerful tool and an unintentional (and often self-directed) weapon. You’ve probably already seen the post about the woman who got fired for complaining about her boss.
While no one save the two participants can tell if the depicted firing actually occurred, a more recent example is making its way into the Connecticut court system. It seems Dawn Marie Souza was actually fired by American Medical Response for criticizing her supervisor on Facebook. American Medical Response feels Ms. Souza violated a company policy disallowing “any employee from depicting the company in any way on social media websites without permission.”
The National Labor Relations Board has taken an interest, and filed a complaint on Ms. Souza’s behalf – it’s first ever on the subject of negative social media postings. We predict the trend toward litigation will continue – the most applicable case law, like Mom, pre-dates the internet. The article points out how the relatively new landscape of social media has much nuance to it, and there are multiple ways in which a similar case might differ from Ms. Souza’s.
Just as much as the embarrassing pictures from your last trip to Las Vegas can come back to haunt you on Facebook, so too can a status update with a suggestion to your manager about what he or she should do with your job.
Seems Mom was right after all…[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is a shining light; it prepares the mind to receive knowledge, and the heart for truth.” author=”Madam Guizot”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”A great man is always willing to be little.” author=”Ralph Waldo Emerson”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”It’s like the old question, “Do you lock your house to keep people out, or to protect what’s inside?” Should a person act modestly and dress modestly in order to prevent intrusion from the outside, undesirable things from happening, or to preserve and maintain what is inside: the delicate and sensitive ability to have and maintain an intimate relationship.” author=”Manis Friedman”/]
MODESTY: WHAT HAPPENED TO HERMIONE
By Christina Mead
Hermione Granger is the kind of friend I want to have. That girl would go to the ends of the earth for her friends … and she did. She’s brilliant, fun and witty while dealing with bushy hair and oversized teeth. I can’t help but admire her. Plus, as a mud-blood she mastered time-turning, obliviation, polyjuice potion, the Protean Charm, apparating, a Patronus, wingardium leviosa, and lots of other impressive words I can’t pronounce.
Hands down, she rocks. It’s even cooler when the “real–life” person who plays a character is worthy of mention as well. Emma Watson, the actress who plays Hermione, has always interested me. She’s absolutely charming – and she looks gorgeous with or without hair. So when I saw a quote from her about modesty I instantly wanted to read it. Here’s what she said in an interview back in 2009:
“I find the whole concept of being ‘sexy’ embarrassing and confusing. If I do an interview with photographs people desperately want to change me – dye my hair blonder, pluck my eyebrows, give me a fringe. Then there’s the choice of clothes. I know everyone wants a picture of me in a mini-skirt. But that’s not me. I feel uncomfortable. I’d never go out in a mini-skirt. It’s nothing to do with protecting the Hermione image. I wouldn’t do that. Personally, I don’t actually think it’s even that sexy. What’s sexy about saying, ‘I’m here with my boobs out and a short skirt, have a look at everything I’ve got?’ My idea of sexy is that less is more. The less you reveal the more people can wonder.”
Wow. Rings true with what I wrote about last year in a blog about modesty, doesn’t it? So … um … Emma, what happened? What changed? Why didn’t you stick to what you believed so passionately a couple years ago? Have you seen any of Emma’s recent photos from the red carpet or modeling shoots? Let’s just say the world isn’t “wondering” anymore. My guess is that Emma may have changed her opinion about being sexy to conform to what the rest of Hollywood says.
But losing your modesty doesn’t happen over night. It happens kind of easily, doesn’t it? To let our standards down little by little. One day we can decide to wear something that’s a little too tight. Then … well … what’s the big deal if I pull this top a little lower? Or buy a skirt a little shorter than usual. Pretty soon those little decisions pile up and what we once believed whole-heartedly has been forgotten like a boy-band you loved in grade school. We have to be vigilant. We have to be on guard to not let the world sway what we know is true. Don’t let the crowd tell you that skin = sexy, and that’s the only way to be beautiful. Emma was right about what she said. It’s too bad she couldn’t stick to it for longer.
You and I can’t turn the time back and live our day over twice like Hermione did. But we can stand our ground and make the right decisions the first time around, whether that’s about modesty, dignity or if we want to chop all our hair off. It’s up to you.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”With people of limited ability modesty is merely honesty. But with those who possess great talent it is hypocrisy.” author=”Arthur Schopenhauer”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty forbids what the law does not.” author=”Lucius Annaeus Seneca”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty should be typical of the success of a champion.” author=”Major Taylor”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Thoughtfulness for others, generosity, modesty, and self-respect are the qualities which make a real gentleman or lady.” author=”Thomas H. Huxley”/]
Modesty is the only sure bait when you go fishing for praise
By Lord Chesterfield
Standards of modesty are aspects of the culture of a country or people, at a given point in time, and is a measure against which an individual in society may be judged. Modesty may be expressed in social interaction by communicating in a way exhibiting humility, shyness, or simplicity. The general elements of modesty include:
- Downplaying one’s accomplishments and being humble.
- Behavior, manner, or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.
- Avoiding insincere self-abasement through false or sham modesty, which is a form of boasting.
- The expression of modesty, isolated from communication and human interface, focuses more on internal perception of superiority and may be expressed through work ethic, motivation for self improvement, and tolerance of others.
Physical modesty dominates the social stage. Fashions and fads at times test the limits of community standards of modesty. People can be subjected to peer pressure, both to conform to community standards or to flout them. At times of public or private emergency expectations of modesty are suspended, or modified to the extent of the emergency. For example, during the 2001 anthrax attacks in the United States, large numbers of people had to strip to their underwear in parking lots and other public places for hosing down by fire departments, often in front of TV news crews covering the events. Also, there are occasions when standards of modesty are waived, as in the case of medical examinations. On the other hand, even in an emergency situation some people still insist on maintaining their standards of modesty.
Standards of modesty usually discourage non-essential exposure of the body. This applies to the bare skin, hair and undergarments, and especially to intimate parts. The standards not only call for the covering of parts of the body, but also obscuring their shape, by wearing non form-fitting clothing. There are also standards covering the changing of clothes (such as on a beach), and the closing or locking of the door when changing or taking a shower. Standards of modesty vary by culture, or generation and vary depending on who is exposed, which parts of the body are exposed, the duration of the exposure, the context, and other variables. The categories of persons who could see another’s body could include: a spouse or partner, a friend or family member of the same sex, strangers of the same sex, people of the same social class. The context would include matters such as whether it is in one’s own home, at another family member’s home, at a friend’s home, at a semi-public place, at a beach, swimming pool (including whether such venues are considered clothes-optional), changing rooms or other public places. For instance, wearing a bathing suit at the beach would not be considered immodest, while it likely would be in a street or an office.
Excessive immodesty is called exhibitionism.
Proponents of modesty often see it as a demonstration of respect for their bodies, for social norms, and for the feelings of themselves and others. Some people believe modesty may reduce sexual crimes.
Issues of modesty and decency have arisen especially during the 20th century as a result of the increased popularity in many countries of shorter dresses and swimsuits and the consequential exposure of more of the body. This has been more pronounced in the case of female fashions. Most people consider the clothes that they are wearing to be modest. Otherwise, they would not wear the clothes. What is considered “modest” in this context will depend on the context when the clothes will be worn and can vary between religions, cultures, generations, occasions, and the persons who are present. Those who intentionally wear clothes which they consider immodest may be manifesting exhibitionism or seeking to create an impact.
In private homes, the standards of modesty apply selectively. For instance, nudity among close family members in the home can take place, especially in the bedroom and bathroom, and the wearing under garments in the home is common. Elsewhere in the home, particularly when visitors are present, some simple casual clothing is expected like a bathrobe, which can be quickly donned when full clothing is not required, or if it is unavailable nearby, depending on convenience.
Modesty has been and continues to be considered important in Islamic society, but the interpretation of what dress constitutes modesty varies. One traditional opinion is that Muslim women are required to observe the hijab, covering everything but the hands and face, as a sign of modesty. Some Muslims are of the opinion that modesty is not restricted to dress but also depends on the intentions of the individual and that the Quran does not command the hijab or the like. In some Muslim societies, women wear the niqab, a veil that covers the whole face except the eyes, or the full burqa, a full-body covering garment that occasionally does cover the eyes. Wearing these garments is common in some countries with a majority Muslim population.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is not only an ornament, but also a guard to virtue. ” author=”Joseph Addison”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Doth perfect beauty stand in need of praise at all? Nay; no more than law, no more than truth, no more than loving kindness, nor than modesty.” author=”Marcus Aurelius”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”The chief recommendation in a young man is modesty, then dutiful conduct toward parents, then affection for kindred.” author=”Cicero”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty; the gentle art of enhancing your charm by pretending not to be aware of it.” author=”Oliver Herford”/]
The Modesty Manifesto
By David Brooks
We’re an overconfident species. Ninety-four percent of college professors believe they have above-average teaching skills. A survey of high school students found that 70 percent of them have above-average leadership skills and only 2 percent are below average.
Men tend to be especially blessed with self-esteem. Men are the victims of unintentional drowning more than twice as often as women. That’s because men have tremendous faith in their own swimming ability, especially after they’ve been drinking.
Americans are similarly endowed with self-esteem. When pollsters ask people around the world to rate themselves on a variety of traits, they find that people in Serbia, Chile, Israel and the United States generally supply the most positive views of themselves. People in South Korea, Switzerland, Japan, Taiwan and Morocco are on the humble side of the rankings.
Yet even from this high base, there is some evidence to suggest that Americans have taken self-approval up a notch over the past few decades. Start with the anecdotal evidence. It would have been unthinkable for a baseball player to celebrate himself in the batter’s box after a home-run swing. Now it’s not unusual. A few decades ago, pop singers didn’t compose anthems to their own prowess; now those songs dominate the charts.
American students no longer perform particularly well in global math tests. But Americans are among the world leaders when it comes to thinking that we are really good at math. Students in the Middle East, Africa and the United States have the greatest faith in their math skills. Students in Japan, South Korea, Hong Kong and Taiwan have much less self-confidence, though they actually do better on the tests.
In short, there’s abundant evidence to suggest that we have shifted a bit from a culture that emphasized self-effacement — I’m no better than anybody else, but nobody is better than me — to a culture that emphasizes self-expansion.
Some argue that today’s child-rearing and educational techniques have produced praise addicts.
If Americans do, indeed, have a different and larger conception of the self than they did a few decades ago, I wonder if this is connected to some of the social and political problems we have observed over the past few years. I wonder if the rise of consumption and debt is in part influenced by people’s desire to adorn their lives with the things they feel befit their station. I wonder if the rise in partisanship is influenced in part by a narcissistic sense that, “I know how the country should be run and anybody who disagrees with me is just in the way.”
Most pervasively, I wonder if there is a link between a possible magnification of self and a declining saliency of the virtues associated with citizenship. Citizenship, after all, is built on an awareness that we are not all that special but are, instead, enmeshed in a common enterprise. Our lives are given meaning by the service we supply to the nation. I wonder if Americans are unwilling to support the sacrifices that will be required to avert fiscal catastrophe in part because they are less conscious of themselves as components of a national project.
Perhaps the enlargement of the self has also attenuated the links between the generations. Every generation has an incentive to push costs of current spending onto future generations. But no generation has done it as freely as this one. Maybe people in the past had a visceral sense of themselves as a small piece of a larger chain across the centuries. As a result, it felt viscerally wrong to privilege the current generation over the future ones, in a way it no longer does.
It’s possible, in other words, that some of the current political problems are influenced by fundamental shifts in culture, involving things as fundamental as how we appraise ourselves. Addressing them would require a more comprehensive shift in values.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”The hunger and thirst for knowledge, the keen delight in the chase, the good humored willingness to admit that the scent was false, the eager desire to get on with the work, the cheerful resolution to go back and begin again, the broad good sense, the unaffected modesty, the imperturbable temper, the gratitude for any little help that was given—all these will remain in my memory though I cannot paint them for others.” author=”Frederic William Maitland”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty becomes a young man.” author=”Titus Maccius Plautus”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”With people of only moderate ability modesty is mere honesty; but with those who possess great talent it is hypocrisy.” author=”Arthur Schopenhauer”/]
MODESTY IS ANNOYING
By Christina Mead
Modesty is annoying. That’s right, I said it. And not just little brother level of annoying. It’s like stand-still traffic, spilled hot coffee, only AM radio, and little brother in the back seat level of annoying. I really, truly, feel this way. Dressing modestly is not easy. You have to search longer when you’re at the mall. You can’t always embrace the new fashions without a little (or a lot) of modification.
And sometimes being modest is hot. Not like, “Oh, I’m sexy, look at me” hot. I literally mean it’s hot. Adding layers to supplement an insufficient (but adorable) piece of clothing is a sacrifice especially in the summer months. Let’s not forget to mention that it’s hard to be the odd one out when everyone else is in booty shorts, see-through and “draping-off-your-body-to-show-off-your-under-garments” shirts, bikinis, and other styles that are barely anything.
I think it’s fine to just admit that it’s annoying. Go ahead, you can say it too. In fact, let’s go stand in the middle of the mall and scream it together. “Modesty is ANNOYING.”
Of course after we scream this, let’s follow up with a nice, printed handout that we’ll give to all the men who are staring at us screaming in the middle of the mall. It’ll say:
“But we’re making this sacrifice because:
- We want to be appreciated for the people we are, and not the bodies we have.
- We want to dress modestly because we don’t need attention to feel validated.
- We want to make this sacrifice because we care about you and your purity as our brothers.
- We want to give the gift of our bodies to our husbands, not every man we pass on the street.”
. . . Or something along those lines.
Girls, I could commiserate all day with you about the annoyances and frustrations of modesty; but let’s also talk about how we’re not going to give up. When you’re tempted to throw your hands in the air and give up, remember these reasons why. Let’s help each other stay strong. It’s so worth it.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is the color of virtue.” author=”Diogenes Of Sinope”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Loquacity storms the ear, but modesty takes the heart.” author=”Robert South”/]
The Virtue of Modesty
By Donald Demarco
One of the most basic and vexing problems in moral education is how to make virtue more attractive than vice. In this regard, modesty plays a key role. Modesty is the virtue that presents goodness in its proper color: one of elegance rather than affluence, economy rather than extravagance, naturalness rather than ostentation. Modesty is the virtue that allows one to focus on what is good without being distracted by irrelevant superficialities.
The modest person is content with living well and performing good deeds without fanfare. For him, life is essential, rewards are superfluous. He believes that nature opens to a wider world, whereas ornamentation stifles. He is always averse to gilding the lily. He is confident without being demure, unpretentious without being self-defeating. He lets his actions and words speak for themselves.
Modesty is, as it were, the body’s conscience. The modest person is not interested in displaying his talents and attainments for people to admire. He even shuns making himself the subject of conversation. He is more eager to know what he needs to know than to parade what he already knows. He has a healthy sense of himself as he is and is less concerned about how others view him.
Modesty seems out of step with the modern world. As a rule, people are most eager to impress others by recourse to no end of gimmicks. Those who work in the advertising or cosmetic industries regard modesty as a self-imposed handicap. If “nice guys finish last,” people of modesty do not even enter the race. Hollywood, or “Tinsel Town,” as it is appropriately called, is the glamour capital of the world, its chief export being the very antithesis of modesty. It champions style over substance, image over essence.
Despite the arrogance and the artificiality of the modern world, modesty retains an unmatched power. It remains a diamond in the midst of zircons. “In the modesty of fearful duty,” wrote Shakespeare, “I read as much as from the rattling tongue of saucy and audacious eloquence” (A Midsummer Night’s Dream). When modesty speaks, its unvarnished eloquence presents that which is true, dependable, and genuine. Modesty is concerned with honesty, not deceit. Therefore, it has little patience with flattery and adulation. Nor is it inclined to exaggerate or boast.
The modest person is aware of his limitations and retains the capacity to blush. A person blushes when he is suddenly the object of praise or attention. It catches him off guard at a moment when he is interested in something other than himself. The essence of modesty is self-forgetfulness.
Emily Dickinson exemplifies the paradox that modesty, which is unconcerned about stature and reputation, can actually enlarge them. When she was 32, she sent four of her poems to The Atlantic Monthly. The magazine’s rejection of them led her to believe that the public was not interested in her poetry. This belief remained with her throughout the rest of her life, and she never submitted any other works for publication. Although she wrote some 1,775 poems over the course of her life, only seven of them were published — all anonymously, and most of them surreptitiously by friends who wanted to see them in print.
“Fame is a fickle thing,” she wrote. “Men eat of it and die.” As she stated in a letter to a literary critic whom she admired, “My barefoot rank is better.” Her own modest world was broad enough to fill her heart: “A modest lot . . . is plenty! Is enough!” It was her destiny: “I meant to have modest needs, such as content and heaven.” She did not require much to be transported from one realm to another. A book was sufficient — “How frugal is the chariot that bears the human soul.”
A theologian by the name of Nathaniel Emmons, an American contemporary of Dickinson, may have written the perfect summation of her triumphant modesty when he said: “Make no display of your talents or attainments; for everyone will clearly see, admire, and acknowledge them, so long as you cover them with the beautiful veil of modesty.”
One such admirer confessed: “I bless God for Emily — some of her writings have had a more profound influence on my life than anything else that anyone has ever written.” The general consensus recognizes her as one of America’s greatest poets, and the greatest of all her women poets. Moreover, she touched people who ordinarily do not care much for poetry. As one critic put it, she is supremely the poet of those who “never read poetry.”
One of the most basic and vexing problems in moral education is how to make virtue more attractive than vice. In this regard, modesty plays a key role. Modesty is inherently attractive because it invites one to examine the quiet depth of what is there. Display is not as attractive as it is conspicuous. But what is merely conspicuous is often shallow. It is only natural for people to lift up the modest and be turned away by the proud.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Nothing can atone for the lack of modesty; without which beauty is ungraceful and wit detestable.” author=”Sir Richard Steele”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty may make a fool seem a man of sense.” author=”Jonathan Swift”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”At least I have the modesty to admit that lack of modesty is one of my failings.” author=”Hector Berlioz”/]
A Book by its Cover
The fact is, we are often judged by our appearances — sometimes too harshly (“her skirt is 1/2 inch too short!”), sometimes for evil reasons (“look at her clothes; she obviously has no money!”), and sometimes for ridiculous standards that a person has no control over (“her nose is too big!”), sometimes by people who should look at themselves first. Appearance is often held to be the only thing of value, in a woman especially — an attitude that causes great suffering to women who don’t look like the models in magazines (no one looks like that, by the way; airbrushing, soft lights, surgery, and make-up lie). And some women can be completely catty, turning “looking good” into a huge competition, and dishing dirt on other women’s looks in order to put them down. Nonetheless, the things we do have control over can rightfully be deemed to be expressive of who we are. The Jerry Springer people who admonish the audience with an upturned palm and a “don’t judge!” when the latter laughs at their circus freak attire really need to ask themselves what they are trying to tell the world by dressing like circus freaks in the first place. If you don’t want the world to think of you and treat you like a circus freak, or a slut, or what have you, then don’t dress in a way that invites it.
The way we dress is simply a part of how we communicate to the world. This strange “disconnect” between the verbal and non-verbal on which our modern culture expects us to base our ways of being and seeing is simply not human and not rooted in the Truth and Virtue.
What are you communicating by how you are dressed today?[do action=”vfquote” quote=”It is strange that modesty is the rule for women when what they most value in men is boldness.” author=”Ninon de Lenclos”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty, tis a virtue not often found among poets, for almost every one of them thinks himself the greatest in the world.” author=”Miguel De Cervantes”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the luster of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist.” author=”Akhenaton”/]
Modesty’s loss, social pathology’s gain
By Wendy Shalot
Many of the problems we hear about today — sexual harassment, date rape, young women who suffer from eating disorders and report feeling a lack of control over their bodies — are all connected, I believe, to our culture’s attack on modesty. Listen, first, to the words we use to describe intimacy: what once was called “making love,” and then “having sex,” is now “hooking up” — like airplanes refueling in flight. In this context I was interested to learn, while researching for my book, that the early feminists actually praised modesty as ennobling to society. Here I’m not just talking about the temperance-movement feminists, who said, “Lips that touch liquor shall never touch mine.” I’m talking about more recent feminists like Simone de Beauvoir, who warned in her book, The Second Sex, that if society trivializes modesty, violence against women would result. And she was right. Since the 1960s, when our cultural arbiters deemed this age-old virtue a “hang-up,” men have grown to expect women to be casual about sex, and women for their part don’t feel they have the right to say “no.” This has brought us all more misery than joy. On MTV I have seen a 27-year-old woman say she was “sort of glad” that she had herpes, because now she has “an excuse to say ‘no’ to sex.” For her, disease had replaced modesty as the justification for exercising free choice.
In 1948 there was a song called “Baby It’s Cold Outside” by Frank Loesser, in which a boyfriend wants his girlfriend to sleep over. His argument is simple but compelling: Baby it’s cold outside, and if she doesn’t sleep over, she could catch pneumonia and die, and that would cause him “lifelong sorrow.” In response, the girl offers several counter-arguments: “My father will be waiting at the door, there’s bound to be talk tomorrow,” etc. It’s a very cute song. And while post-modern intellectuals at progressive institutions like Yale would no doubt say this song proves how oppressed women were in 1948, I would argue that today’s culture — in which fathers can’t be counted on to be waiting at the door — is far creepier.
The counterpoint to “Baby It’s Cold Outside” is a story I read in a women’s magazine, written by an ex-boyfriend of an 18-year-old girl whose father had decided that she was too old to be a virgin. After commiserating with the boyfriend, this father drove the pair to a hotel (he didn’t trust the boyfriend with his car), where the girl became hysterical and the scheme fell apart. This article was called “My Ex-Girlfriend’s Father: What a Man!” And although the story isn’t typical, it is quite common these days for parents to rent hotel rooms for their kids on prom nights, which is essentially the same principle. So the father in “Baby It’s Cold Outside” waiting at the door, and the older culture that supported modesty, actually made women stronger. It gave them the right to say ‘no’ until they met someone they wanted to marry. Today’s culture of “liberation” gives women no ground on which to stand. And an immodest culture weakens men, too. We are all at the mercy of other people’s judgment of us as sexual objects (witness the revolution in plastic surgery for men), which is not only tiring but also dishonest because we can’t be ourselves.
When I talk to college students, invariably one will say, “Well, if you want to be modest, be modest. If you want to be promiscuous, be promiscuous. We all have a choice, and that’s the wonderful thing about this society.” But the culture, I tell them, can’t be neutral. Nor is it subtle in its influence on behavior. In fact, culture works more like a Sherman tank. In the end, if it’s not going to value modesty, it will value promiscuity and adultery, and all our lives and marriages will suffer as a result.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Learning gives us a fuller conviction of the imperfections of our nature; which one would think, might dispose us to modesty.” author=”Jeremy Collier”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty forbids what the law does not. ” author=”Lucius Annaeus Seneca”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty and unselfishness – these are the virtues which men praise – and pass by.” author=”Andre Maurois”/]
Teaching Your Daughters to Value Modesty
by Cathy Reynolds
Reality TV is all the rage these days. Survivor, Big Brother, The Amazing Race, The Apprentice – they all share the same premise: ordinary people confronted with extreme adversity.
I have an idea for a great new reality show – one in which the task is so challenging as to be nearly impossible. Take a typical mom, dad and daughter, and drop them in a shopping mall with $500 to buy the daughter a new wardrobe. The catch: everything they buy has to pass the modesty test.
Sound simple? Let me tell you, it’s not. When my daughters were small, the fashion world had little impact on their clothing choices. Dad and Mom made most of the decisions for them. For many years, in fact, I made their dresses for special occasions myself, and these were always received with great excitement. As they grew and their worlds enlarged, so did their perceptions of fashion. Our shopping expeditions became exercises in endurance, rather than enjoyable outings.
As just one sample of what we’re up against as parents, one very popular store markets thong underwear emblazoned with sexy slogans like “eye candy” and “wink, wink” to girls aged 7-14. Asked to defend their product, the company spokesperson said, “It’s cute and sweet and fun.”
Granted, this is an extreme example. But even when shopping for basic items like jeans and t-shirts, it is becoming increasingly difficult to find attractive, fashionable clothes for young girls that don’t show off a whole lot of skin. Tube tops, crop tops, clingy fabrics, low-cut dresses and low-rise jeans are all the rage. CNN and Fox News Channel commentator Betsy Hart complained about one national retailer, where she found everything for her young daughter to be too tight, too low-cut and too short. In her words, “dressing my not-yet-six-year-old like she is Britney Spears is at best silly, and at worst unnecessarily sexualizing our littlest girls.”
In this cultural climate, what is a parent to do? Drawing from my experiences as a mother of three daughters, I’d like to share a few suggestions that might be an encouragement in this critical parenting issue.
1. Embrace modesty
Given the current state of things, does modesty even matter anymore? Our culture tells us no, and we’ve been so affected by the world around us that sometimes we don’t even stop to think about what our appearance says about us, or how it measures up to virtuous standards.
Modesty is a natural outworking of a pure heart. A speaker I heard recently told of young men in her church who were complaining about what the girls in the group were wearing. These boys were sincerely coming to to church to worship and they really felt that they were being distracted from that and even led astray by the immodest dress of the girls in the group. They didn’t know where to look, and it was very hard on them as they tried to keep their thoughts on church and keep from lusting.
Keep in mind that these were boys who were actively fighting against temptation. Imagine the impact of improper dress on men who have serious lust problems, or who don’t even recognize it as a problem. I think that the proliferation of pornography and blatant sexual messages in our society today is linked to widespread immodest dress. What once would have been considered unacceptable and risqué is now not just accepted, but commonplace. No wonder some men have great difficulty in this area! It is a battle for them to protect themselves from the onslaught of our sex-crazed society. Yes, the men have a responsibility to control themselves, but we women also have a responsibility not to cause them to stumble.
The way in which a girl dresses will also impact the kind of guy she attracts, which will in turn impact their behaviors and attitudes toward sex. As one young lady shared, “I know that the kind of things that I wear draw a certain kind of guy. And ultimately the guy that I want to have as a husband is a guy that’s committed to purity. He doesn’t want to lust…If I’m dressing kind of seductively in what I’m wearing, I’m going to be attracting a guy that is okay with that, and it almost says that I’m impure, but that he’s okay with that; whereas, if I’m dressing modestly, it’s going to attract a guy that respects that and appreciates that.”
2. Define family modesty standards
What is modesty? Modesty means different things to different people and, like other words, its meaning has undergone a metamorphosis over time. The dictionary tells us that to be modest is to avoid impropriety or indecency, to be reserved in sexual matters, and to be unpretentious in appearance. Indecency is a strong word, meaning ‘highly unsuitable,’ but unfortunately our society has redefined this word as well. What was once considered unsuitable dress in public is now commonplace. Perhaps it is better to focus on the idea of being unpretentious in appearance. A modest person does not call attention to themselves by the way they dress.
In order to teach our daughters to value modesty in a world where modesty is seen as prudish, we must make the effort to establish clearly what we consider to be modest. This is made more difficult because society’s standards of modesty have changed so much over time. When I was in high school, for example, exposing a bra strap would have been extremely embarrassing for a teen girl. Today it’s considered no big deal, and in fact many girls in elementary school purposely wear designer straps as a fashion statement.
So how do we know what constitutes modest apparel and what doesn’t? Ultimately, it is up to you as parents to set the family standard. Discuss it with your spouse and come up with some guidelines that you can pass on to your daughters. Determine what you consider to be acceptable clothing choices. Talk about a specific age when it comes to wearing make-up, heels, etc. and be prepared to explain your decision-making process. I’d encourage you to give this some serious thought and refrain from changing the standard if you have more than one daughter. With three daughters and eleven years between the eldest and youngest, this has been a test of our memories!
For our family, necklines are close to the collarbone and hem lengths are to the knee or longer. Makeup is worn to enhance, rather than to attract attention, and the first makeup to be used is a little mascara and lip gloss around age thirteen. Clothing is clean and well kept.
In developing your standards, you may also need to educate yourself on current fads and slang. Some clothing and accessories may look innocent, while actually conveying a much different message. For example, a lot of kids today are wearing t-shirts carrying slogans of a sexual nature. Because the terms are different from what we grew up with, this often flies under the radar of parents – but rest assured, the kids all know what they mean! Or consider jelly bracelets. These thin, multi-coloured rubber bracelets were innocently traded and collected by children in the 1980’s. They’re now back in vogue among teens and pre-teens, with one important difference: they are now used as sex bracelets, where giving a person a bracelet of a particular color carries with it an implied offer to perform a corresponding sexual act. If your child wants to wear something and you suspect it may convey a hidden message, ask them about it.
Be assured, modest clothing can still be stylish and attractive. Be prepared to spend some extra time searching out suitable fashions for your daughters. They are out there, but you’ll have to be willing to cheerfully make the effort and, in some cases, spend a little extra.
3. Get the kids onside
Once you’ve set your standards, the next key is to get your kids to buy in without a full-scale revolt! It’s easy to say, “I’m the parent and you will do what I tell you,” but while that approach may bring about outward conformity to the standard, it will not help your daughters to begin to value modesty in their own hearts. Instead, you want to help them to understand why modesty is such an important character issue and teach them to make good decisions on their own.
We’ve found it very helpful to be able to give our daughters reasons as to the suitability or unsuitability of a piece of apparel. It’s good to be able to explain to them how a young man regards some of their fashion choices. This explanation, of course, must be purposeful and age appropriate. Your daughter may honestly not realize that the item she’d love to wear causes guys to look at her in a way she was not anticipating. She may respond by saying that this is the guy’s problem; that he should have more self-control. And, again, young men should demonstrate self-control, but nature has made males to be visually attracted to females. Your daughter needs to understand that this is very powerful, and she does not need to contribute to the problem.
The teaching of modesty should begin as early as possible. Model a modest form of dress. Provide bathrobes for family members and be aware of the way you dress both within and outside your home. Minimize the impact of the brand name mentality by beginning early in their lives to teach them the value of money, and that a brand name item is not necessarily a better item. Often we get our kids hooked on brand names by dressing our young children in these clothes, and it becomes hard to backtrack when the price tag inflates or the styles become racier.
Be on the lookout for good role models that are older than your own daughter and allow these friends to influence them; they can be a tremendous help to you. Also, watch for positive examples in the world of entertainment and introduce your kids to them.
4. Counter the media onslaught
Realize that fashion is big business. Kids’ and teen clothing represents a multi-billion dollar industry, and the advertisers know exactly how to entice our children. Your daughters are bombarded from an increasingly early age through the media – music, videos, TV and technology. In fact, marketing that used to be aimed at teens has now shifted to the tween group (ages 8-13).
This shift is having a noticeable impact on girls in this age category. Adult clothing styles are being mini-sized to fit young girls. As Betsy Hart pointed out, this has led to the sexualization of pre-teen girls seeking to emulate their media heroes. And it’s not just the clothes that are being adopted, but also the attitudes toward life in general and sexuality in particular. Kids are being made to grow up faster than ever before.
We can diminish the influence of media by helping our daughters make wise choices concerning TV programs, videos, movies, music and reading material. It’s important to begin at an early age to instill values and guidelines for making discerning choices. Talk about these choices in entertainment and fashion selection with your tweens and teens before they ever become issues.
5. Value character over appearance
It is important to tell your daughter how beautiful she is, so that she doesn’t have to go outside the family to hear this message. Even more vital than praising her appearance, though, is affirming her character. We need to counteract our culture’s influence by placing value on what is virtuous – the inner heart and character of an individual. Compliment your daughter on her inner character frequently. Encourage her to cultivate a vibrant spiritual life.
6. Recognize dad’s critical role
Never underestimate the influence of a Dad. My husband went on many shopping trips, even though this is not his favorite activity, in order to show his interest and have some input into the selection process. Dad’s approval is extremely significant in a daughter’s life, so fathers need to be careful in how they relate to them. Both words and tone matter greatly. Even though she may act like she resents your intrusion in her life at times, your daughter really does care about what you think of her. Dads, let your daughter know that you think she is beautiful. Your girls carefully watch your reaction – your opinion counts!
Preparing your daughter to follow the virtue of modesty is a gift that will last a lifetime. I like to think of modesty as a pattern that I am helping my daughters weave into their lives; a pattern that will become so much a part of their moral fiber that it will enable them to freely and fully enjoy being the women they were designed to be.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is the conscience of the body.” author=”Honore De Balzac”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is to merit, what shade is to figures in a picture; it gives it strength and makes it stand out.” author=”Jean de la Bruyere”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”As blushing will sometimes make a whore pass for a virtuous woman, so modesty may make a fool seem a man of sense.” author=”Jonathan Swift”/]
The Return to Modesty
By Gina Stepp
“If you feel you’re Extra Special, why keep it to yourself?” suggests an online catalog. “Announce it to the world. You’ve got it, so go ahead and flaunt it.” The site’s wares include T-shirts and coffee mugs opining, “I’m Extra Special.” Alternatively, if you’d rather proclaim your wealth than your worthiness, you can choose the sweatshirt that shouts, “Hello girls! I’m very rich!”
The message seems to be “Don’t be modest about your assets; flaunt them, whatever they are!”
If you cling to the old-school idea that “if you have to state it, it must not be true,” then you may not rush out to have sentiments like these emblazoned on bumper stickers. But the Web site gets plenty of traffic, indicating that many of us may have succumbed to the humility-doesn’t-get-you-noticed philosophy outlined in books such as Peggy Klaus’s Brag! The Art of Tooting Your Own Horn Without Blowing It.
Christina Aguilera may have taken a page from Klaus’s brag book. “I consider myself to be a great role model,” the superstar singer stated with breezy self-confidence a year ago. She is often referred to in the press as “Dirty Aguilera” after the title of one of her hip-hop, Britney Spears–style music videos. Aguilera, who claims that her famously scanty outfits are merely a representation of her “true self,” told the World Entertainment News Network that fans should aspire to be like her.
Unfortunately for Aguilera, her true self may no longer be in, however. In fact, the July 2004 issue of Vogue assures us that flaunting is out and propriety is the new byword, at least as far as dress goes. “So sorry to be the one to break the news, gals,” says the fashion journal’s “Point of View,” “but Britney, Paris [Hilton], dirty Christina: With your scant array (and display) of teeny tees, teenier skirts, and teetering heels, you’re overexposed in every way.” Titled “Propriety Values,” the article reveals that fall 2004 fashion “has developed a distinct propensity for propriety, which means the return of elegant suits (buttoned and belted jackets; narrow, neat-as-a-new-pin skirts), evening dresses redolent of the twenties and thirties (which contrive to be both decorous and decorative) . . . all of which spells—and not a moment too soon—the demise of blatant sexiness.”
This new conservatism applies to men’s fashion as well, according to GQ editor Dylan Jones, who predicted to CNN that the decade of dressing down is over. “The suit is definitely back,” he said, adding that it’s all about projecting the right image. “The way people dress at work, particularly the way men dress at work, is fantastically important not only in the way people perceive them but also how they perceive themselves.”
But is the perception of propriety touted by our togs as deep as the trend will take us? Will we all be buttoning up our self-effacing tweeds to sit in seminars and learn how to “Brag!” our way to promotions that will enable us to buy (and then flaunt) yachts worth almost as much as some nations’ gross domestic product?
Presumably, to be meaningful, the new propriety must become more than skin deep.
But what truly is “propriety”? A thesaurus opens up a rich tapestry of synonyms hinting at characteristics that are conspicuously absent in modern culture: appropriateness, decorum, dignity, unobtrusiveness, modesty. All very archaic concepts. But the antonyms are somehow more striking, because they speak directly of flaws we don’t like to think we have. If we don’t have propriety—if we are not modest—we could be said to be ostentatious, pretentious, flaunty, showy, splashy, tasteless, boastful.
A cursory Web search turns up a host of sites dedicated to eliminating these negatives from how we dress by offering clothes that cover from head to toe. But by focusing on dress, we may be defeating the purpose from the start. One online catalog offers “swimsuits” that look like old-fashioned school uniforms: a tunic over a more formfitting but neck-to-knee garment, which shouts rather ostentatiously, “Look! I’m modest!” Rather than making the wearer less conspicuous, such a garment could attract nearly as much attention at the beach as the thong bikini on the next sun lounger.
It can be challenging to present oneself in ways that don’t shout.
In August 2002, National Public Radio personal finance commentator Brooke Stephens had some interesting things to say regarding “shouting” about financial assets, but she may as well have been defining modesty and propriety in general. She said, “If we can’t wear it, drive it, eat it—we’re not interested. Our biggest thing is we want to make a splash and an impression to show off how much we’ve got, how well we’re doing, how successful we are, and how much better we have it than everybody else. However, many of us are gradually beginning to learn how old money behaves . . . . Instead of having five or six cars, or a new car every year, they buy one or two classic cars that are good [and] last forever, and [they] drive them until they fall apart. . . . They purchase classic clothing with a tailored look that will last for ten seasons instead of two. The most important thing, though: we are beginning to learn how to keep a low profile to not let people know what [we] have, so that [we] can maintain [our] privacy.” Or are we?
Maintaining privacy has to some extent become another archaic idea. In general, the media don’t allow celebrities to keep their privacy. We’ve become so accustomed to this state of affairs that we hardly value our own privacy anymore. Nevertheless we admire those who seem to have an innate sense of what is appropriately kept from the intrusion of others.
But have we made the connection? Privacy is foundational to the elusive quality that we try to describe with words like dignity, propriety or modesty: unpretentiousness.
A vivid example of this kind of quiet dignity in recent public memory is Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis. Described repeatedly in the media as “an intensely private person,” Mrs. Onassis almost never granted interviews. But the less she said, the more fascinated with her the press grew. In an obituary, journalist Robert McFadden eulogized the former American first lady with these words, “There was an avalanche of articles and television programs on her fashion choices, her hair styles, her tastes in art, music and literature.” About her reaction to her first husband’s assassination in 1963, he wrote, “In public, what the world saw was a figure of admirable self-control, a black-veiled widow who walked beside the coffin to the tolling drums with her head up . . . and who looked with solemn dignity upon the proceedings.” Is it coincidence that this very private person was described with words like understated, stunning, classic, self-controlled, dignified? And is it also coincidence that it was a rare article that didn’t also describe what she was wearing with similar adjectives?
McFadden’s obituary gave insight into Mrs. Onassis’ sense of propriety, of inner modesty, by citing a comment she made about her work as a book editor at Doubleday: “Mrs. Onassis gave a rare interview to Publishers Weekly, the industry trade magazine, and it was on the subject of publishing. She agreed to the interview, Mrs. Onassis told the reporter, only on the condition that he use no tape recorder, take no photographs and ask no questions about her personal life. In the interview, in typically self-deprecating style, she said she had joined the profession because of a simple love of books. ‘One of the things I like about publishing is that you don’t promote the editor—you promote the book and the author,’ she said.”
Possibly, in light of examples like hers, the adage that “clothes make the man” may be missing the point a little. Maybe the man (or woman) makes the clothes. Maybe propriety, modesty, unpretentiousness—this rare kind of private dignity—if it exists on the inside, will manifest itself on the outside with a wardrobe that is as classic, timeless, and free of self-promotion as the person wearing it.
If it doesn’t originate from a place deeper than our closet, then the new “propriety” is just another passing fashion fad. And based on a June 8, 2004, article in the New York Times, it appears that this is precisely the case: “Robyn Duda, 22, an events coordinator in New York, said her contemporaries are now more conservative. ‘But some of this is just fashion,’ she said. ‘Whatever is in the magazines, that’s what we’re going to wear. If the magazines are showing skin, we’re wearing skin. If it’s a jeans jacket with the collar up, that’s what we’re wearing.’” And one can hardly blame her. Vogue’s “Propriety Values” is not really pushing propriety any more than values. One spread in the article depicts a refreshingly fully clad model, the only visible skin being that on her face and hands. But the accompanying caption is illuminating: “The Art of Flirtation: Statement minks and check-me-out jewelry get your message across.”
When it comes right down to it, it appears that nothing’s really changed. We’re still shouting, “Hey! Look at me!”[do action=”vfquote” quote=”There are no better cosmetics than a severe temperance and purity, modesty and humility, a gracious temper and calmness of spirit; and there is no true beauty without the signatures of these graces in the very countenance.” author=”Arthur Helps”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”When virtue and modesty enlighten her charms, the lustre of a beautiful woman is brighter than the stars of heaven, and the influence of her power it is in vain to resist.” author=”Akhenaton”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”Although modesty is natural to man, it is not natural to children. Modesty only begins with the knowledge of evil.” author=”Jean-Jacques Rousseau”/]
The Emperor’s New Clothes
by Hans Christian Anderson
Once upon a time there lived a vain Emperor whose only worry in life was to dress in elegant clothes. He changed clothes almost every hour and loved to show them off to his people. Word of the Emperor’s refined habits spread over his kingdom and beyond. Two scoundrels who had heard of the Emperor’s vanity decided to take advantage of it. They introduced themselves at the gates of the palace with a scheme in mind.
“We are two very good tailors and after many years of research we have invented an extraordinary method to weave a cloth so light and fine that it looks invisible. As a matter of fact it is invisible to anyone who is too stupid and incompetent to appreciate its quality.”
The chief of the guards heard the scoundrel’s strange story and sent for the court chamberlain. The chamberlain notified the prime minister, who ran to the Emperor and disclosed the incredible news. The Emperor’s curiosity got the better of him and he decided to see the two scoundrels.
“Besides being invisible, your Highness, this cloth will be woven in colors and patterns created especially for you.” The emperor gave the two men a bag of gold coins in exchange for their promise to begin working on the fabric immediately.
“Just tell us what you need to get started and we’ll give it to you.” The two scoundrels asked for a loom, silk, gold thread and then pretended to begin working. The Emperor thought he had spent his money quite well: in addition to getting a new extraordinary suit, he would discover which of his subjects were ignorant and incompetent. A few days later, he called the old and wise prime minister, who was considered by everyone as a man with common sense.
“Go and see how the work is proceeding,” the Emperor told him, “and come back to let me know.”
The prime minister was welcomed by the two scoundrels.
“We’re almost finished, but we need a lot more gold thread. Here, Excellency! Admire the colors, feel the softness!” The old man bent over the loom and tried to see the fabric that was not there. He felt cold sweat on his forehead.
“I can’t see anything,” he thought. “If I see nothing, that means I’m stupid! Or, worse, incompetent!” If the prime minister admitted that he didn’t see anything, he would be discharged from his office.
“What a marvelous fabric, he said then. “I’ll certainly tell the Emperor.” The two scoundrels rubbed their hands gleefully. They had almost made it. More thread was requested to finish the work.
Finally, the Emperor received the announcement that the two tailors had come to take all the measurements needed to sew his new suit.
“Come in,” the Emperor ordered. Even as they bowed, the two scoundrels pretended to be holding large roll of fabric.
“Here it is your Highness, the result of our labour,” the scoundrels said. “We have worked night and day but, at last, the most beautiful fabric in the world is ready for you. Look at the colors and feel how fine it is.” Of course the Emperor did not see any colors and could not feel any cloth between his fingers. He panicked and felt like fainting. But luckily the throne was right behind him and he sat down. But when he realized that no one could know that he did not see the fabric, he felt better. Nobody could find out he was stupid and incompetent. And the Emperor didn’t know that everybody else around him thought and did the very same thing.
The farce continued as the two scoundrels had foreseen it. Once they had taken the measurements, the two began cutting the air with scissors while sewing with their needles an invisible cloth.
“Your Highness, you’ll have to take off your clothes to try on your new ones.” The two scoundrels draped the new clothes on him and then held up a mirror. The Emperor was embarrassed but since none of his bystanders were, he felt relieved.
“Yes, this is a beautiful suit and it looks very good on me,” the Emperor said trying to look comfortable. “You’ve done a fine job.”
“Your Majesty,” the prime minister said, “we have a request for you. The people have found out about this extraordinary fabric and they are anxious to see you in your new suit.” The Emperor was doubtful showing himself naked to the people, but then he abandoned his fears. After all, no one would know about it except the ignorant and the incompetent.
“All right,” he said. “I will grant the people this privilege.” He summoned his carriage and the ceremonial parade was formed. A group of dignitaries walked at the very front of the procession and anxiously scrutinized the faces of the people in the street. All the people had gathered in the main square, pushing and shoving to get a better look. An applause welcomed the regal procession. Everyone wanted to know how stupid or incompetent his or her neighbor was but, as the Emperor passed, a strange murmur rose from the crowd.
Everyone said, loud enough for the others to hear: “Look at the Emperor’s new clothes. They’re beautiful!”
“What a marvellous train!”
“And the colors! The colors of that beautiful fabric! I have never seen anything like it in my life!” They all tried to conceal their disappointment at not being able to see the clothes, and since nobody was willing to admit his own stupidity and incompetence, they all behaved as the two scoundrels had predicted.
A child, however, who had no important job and could only see things as his eyes showed them to him, went up to the carriage.
“The Emperor is naked,” he said.
“Fool!” his father reprimanded, running after him. “Don’t talk nonsense!” He grabbed his child and took him away. But the boy’s remark, which had been heard by the bystanders, was repeated over and over again until everyone cried:
“The boy is right! The Emperor is naked! It’s true!”
The Emperor realized that the people were right but could not admit to that. He though it better to continue the procession under the illusion that anyone who couldn’t see his clothes was either stupid or incompetent. And he stood stiffly on his carriage, while behind him a page held his imaginary mantle.[do action=”vfquote” quote=”Modesty is the only sure bait when you angle for praise.” author=”Lord Chesterfield”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”You have a good many little gifts and virtues, but there is no need of parading them, for conceit spoils the finest genius. There is not much danger that real talent or goodness will be overlooked long, and the great charm of all power is modesty.” author=”Louisa May Alcott”/] [do action=”vfquote” quote=”He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.” author=”Confucius”/]
I think this will be an uncomfortable topic for many. The question is, “What does the virtue of modesty have to do with Facebook?”
It has to do with modesty and keeping custody of our spirit. Keeping “Custody of our Spirit” enables us to be responsible guardians and keepers of our soul.
Practicing the virtue of modesty today isnt just about not being a braggert or showing your cleavage. Today, vanity has evolved into a much more cunning temptation, through the use of technology.
“Social networking”, while serving the virtuous purpose of connecting old friends and family, also feeds into a new individualism. With Face Book and Twitter, the trend is to put your every thought and action out there for the world to see, fostering a growing trend of narcissism (self-absorption). Posting a picture of the bologna sandwich I am currently eating, my toothbrush, the TV show I am watching (I have seen all these things on Facebook)….really? Do you really think that anyone cares whether or not you just put in a load of wash?
The lack of modesty gets even worse when people start saying (or typing) this or that in hopes of making ourselves appear more important than we are, or to please others, or to gain their approval. Using Facebook to create and promote a false and inflated image of yourself is not modesty. Is it humble to paste pictures of myself that stroke my vanity? When I “tweet” or “text” others, am I saying something that is necessary or not? Am I encouraging gossip or just wasting other peoples time? What did mom used to say? “If you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.”
When it comes to social networking, we need to maintain custody of our spirit. We need to control ourselves and confine ourselves to the truth. If you think your life is so boring that others will not take interest in it, then spend your time on Facebook by simply building up and encouraging your friends and family.
We all could use a little encouragement.
I think that modesty has a lot to do with what we think about ourselves.
Do you believe that you are intrinsically good the way that a flower or a tree are good? That many others outside your lost autonomous self, value and believe in you. That you are relevant and significant even when you are barely real and present for yourself. That you are desirable even when you can barely stand to look at yourself in the mirror. Can you bear the miracle of your own dignity?
Virtue is accepting and improving the dignity of our humanity. We need to protect that dignity with modesty.
Vice is denying our human dignity, our desirability. We sell our spirits and bodies cheaply when we don’t believe they have any value.
Modesty is the glow that emits from a human soul that is powered by dignity.