So I must be hard up for a blog post or I would not dream of wading into the heavy waters of the topic of modesty. But I’ve got my hip waders on, so here I go. I’m not going to be discussing what immodesty looks like because, let’s face it, everyone already knows that immodesty is wearing something that is too short, too tight, too low, or just too revealing. My topic here is what the other Christian women should do when a Christian sister is dressed immodestly.
Unfortunately, there will always be some Christian women who are dressing immodestly, even at church. Why do they do it, we all ask. I suggest that there are three motivations behind immodesty. The first is ignorance. They just don’t know. Most of the time, I don’t buy that one, but just to cover all the bases, it is possible that the girl with the knock-out figure doesn’t know what she is doing wearing that clingy thing. So let’s just include that one to be fair.
The second motivation is insecurity and the neediness that grows from such insecurity. This woman dresses immodestly because she is hungry for attention, and she knows the quickest way to get it. When she dresses this way, lots and lots of people look at her, particularly idiot boys.
The third motivation is pride. She knows she is a knock-out, and she wants to flaunt it. Why not? It’s legal. Kind of like driving a hot sports car around, just to show off.
There is a variant of those three motivations above, and that is when women are confused into thinking they are gorgeous, though no one else may share the opinion. These women dress immodestly out of ignorance, insecurity, or pride also. But although the motivation is the same, the effect is not admiration, but shock or disgust. When attractive women dress immodestly, they can stumble the men into lust and annoy the women; when unattractive women dress immodestly, they just embarrass everyone.
When Christian women are dressing immodestly, they should know better. The Bible tells women to dress in modest apparel, in a way that “becometh women professing godliness.” In other words, a Christian woman ought to dress in a manner that is consistent with calling herself a Christian. She should look and dress like a godly woman. Why dress like you love the devil if you really love God? That sounds easy enough.
But what if a sweet woman in the Christian community is dressing immodestly, not just occasionally, but regularly? Should someone speak to her? Should you speak to her? In issues like this, it is essential that the lines of authority are honored. If someone’s daughter is dressing inappropriately, then perhaps the parents should be asked about it. If someone’s wife is dressing immodestly, then perhaps her husband should hear about it. But no matter what, the women in the church should not take it upon themselves to be the modesty police, handing out citations to any girls or women whom they feel have crossed the line.
Why in the world would a woman want to speak to another woman about her inappropriate dress? I can think of three motivations: ignorance, insecurity, and pride. Ignorance, because they do not know their place nor the impact they are going to have on this unsuspecting, immodestly dressed woman. Insecurity, because oftentimes the women who are most offended by the immodest dress are insecure about their own appearance and feel threatened by immodesty. And pride because they feel competitive with the immodest woman and want to put her in her place.
Now I am not saying that the women who do the drive-by modesty rebukes are aware of their own motivations. They may think they have a righteous anger or that they are exercising some spiritual gift that is not listed in the Bible. But I tell you, their own sin may be worse than the immodesty. What does God hate more, stupid immodesty or self-righteousness parading as piety?
So now you’re going to say, then who can speak to a woman about her dress? Parents certainly should. Sometimes other family members mayÂ have the opportunity. A boss in the workplace can object to an employee’s inappropriate dress. A teacher has jurisdiction over her students. But it can be ineffective and unwise to simply take it upon yourself to address the issue whenever you see it. You certainly need to consider the rhetoric involved. And it is doubly counter-productive if older, unattractive, dumpy women are criticizing the young, attractive women for their immodesty. No matter what the motive, they will come across either as envious or as busy-bodies. There are other, better ways to deal with this.
Let’s say you and your husband have some friends you like to spend time with, but the wife is usually dressed inappropriately.Â Then you as a couple can agree not to spend time with them anymore. Now when they ask why you don’t like to go out with them anymore, you have an opening to explain it. (Of course there is always the possibility that the other wife will flatter herself into thinking that she is so gorgeous that she stumbles your husband, when she is actually just an annoyance to him.) Or if you have a girlfriend who dresses immodestly, you can do the same thing. Next time she wants to go to the mall, you can say no thanks. And when she asks why, you can explain that it is because of the way she dresses. Of course there is still the danger that you will be written off as jealous or as a fuddy duddy. But at least you have acted prudently and wisely and you waited for your opportunity. After all, you were asked about it.
Some women feel they should protect their sons and husbands from seeing immodest women, so they take it upon themselves to shield them from ever seeing anything inappropriate. But this is impossible. Husbands don’t need that kind of protection because it doesn’t work. Sons need to be taught to defend themselves. Mom cannot do this for them.
So if a woman is really indecent, let’s say in church, then you should speak first to your husband or parents about it. They may think you are being a fusser. Don’t head off to give this woman a piece of your mind. If it is really egregious, then perhaps your husband or father should take it to the elders, and the pastor can address it. But women who have high views of modesty should also have equally high views of lines of authority and high views of the golden rule. I can easily imagine a scenario where the pastor would need to do something about the lady in his congregation who is rebuking those she deems immodest. She may actually be a bigger problem than the immodesty.
One of the most frequent questions I get asked when discussing topics of godliness is this: “But what do I do about my friend/sister/cousin/co-worker/mother/neighbor who is not doing this?” We love to figure out how we should get other people to apply the Bible to their lives rather than being content to work on applying it to our own. But that is simply a distraction to get us into trouble. Be patient. Many women have grown out of immodesty into wisdom. Others have grown out of fussing into wisdom. Maybe you are one of them.