Beauty

If I'm Honest, Modest Is Not Hottest

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THIS WEEK I AM PLEASED TO SHARE A GUEST POST FROM MY FRIEND CODY NAILOR. YOU CAN READ HIS BLOG AT codynailor.wordpress.com. HOPE YOU ENJOY, AS HE SHARES HIS PERSPECTIVE ON THE TOPIC OF (DARE I SAY IT?) . . . MODESTY.

Modesty. Yep, I bet even the word makes you cringe. And, let me begin with an apology on behalf of all Christian men for making that such a swear word for you. I hope that the following paragraphs can be an encouragement to you, and an insight into a modern and moderate perspective from a peer and brother in Christ.

Everywhere you turn you are essentially being sent one of two messages about your body. In one case -- you are likely standing in the checkout lane at the grocery store, or maybe you’re scanning the magazines in a bookstore, or even flipping channels on the television -- you know the message, your body is an object, to be made available to men, otherwise you might be considered a prude and be undesirable or unable to please them. The second message almost always comes from the Church; you are familiar with it too, I’m sure. Your body is a problem and needs to be covered. If you dare wear clothes that even remotely show its form your brothers may stumble.

I’m here to offer you a third message. Your body is beautiful, designed by God, in His image. It is neither an idol, nor is your body inferior, as the second message often implies. God created you and your body with specific purposes in mind; believing anything else would be believing a lie.

So what’s a girl to do? I think the first thing you can do is forget everything you’ve been told thus far, by the Church or otherwise. At least begin to rethink it all. Modesty does not need to be about your body at all. In most of the passages in the Bible regarding modesty, specifically Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, and 1 Peter 3:3, the authors are not writing concerning sexuality and the appearance of women. In fact, they are discouraging women from wasting their money on jewels and expensive clothes while their neighbors suffer in poverty. In fact, in 1 Timothy, the word Paul uses for modesty is derived from a notion that is concerned primarily with orderliness and self-control. The focus is never on the woman’s body or form.

Unfortunately, I must admit, our society is still predominantly patriarchal. And this remains true in the arena of modesty. Generally speaking, men on both sides of the equation are expecting women to bow to their wishes. On one hand, they desire women to subject themselves to objectification, or on the other hand, they expect women to adhere to strict rules; slapping rulers against their leg to measure their skirt or shorts length, requiring an oversized t-shirt be worn over a two-piece bathing suit, etc.

Let me clear the air. Both parties need to be responsible for themselves. So, as a Christian young woman, what can you do to be responsible? My answer? Engage. Press forward. Challenge your brothers intellectually, encourage your peers (and even those who are not your peers) in their relationships with Christ, care about the people around you, comfort those who are hurting, care for those who are sick, worship with His Creation. Bottom line; engage with the world and the people around you. Demand respect from the men, young and old, in your life. It's time men start giving women credit for their intellect, their strength, and by doing so, giving them their rightful dignity.

So, be a woman of intellect, cultivate your strengths, and cherish your dignity. Let your clothing choices reflect those actions. Start with honoring God, add some dignity for yourself, and end with consideration for all those around you.

Men are created to be stimulated visually; probably more than you will ever understand or comprehend. And let me be the first to say that that’s okay; I can guarantee we will never understand what it is like to be a woman. But, I can attest that we are designed to be attracted to the physical beauty of a woman, and we will also be held responsible for what we do with that attraction. One day, it will prayerfully lead us to a lasting relationship with a beautiful young woman with qualities well beyond her dashing good looks.

So, work on growing to become that woman. Learn how to love all sorts of people, learn what it means to look like Christ a little more each day, learn practical life skills, like how to fix minor problems on common household objects, how to balance a checkbook, how to successfully wash and dry a load of clothes, how to troubleshoot (and even repair) an issue on a computer or phone, or how to make a mean omelet (a skill I’m still acquiring); most importantly, learn how to love yourself, by learning how to see yourself as Christ sees you.

Don’t choose a wardrobe out of fear for causing your brother to stumble. In fact, don’t dress for anyone but yourself. Choose clothes you can be proud of, that you can own, that reflect your personality, gifts, strengths, and desires. But beyond whether you clothe yourself in cotton, nylon, polyester, or some wild combination of the three, make sure you are first clothed in strength, and your God-given dignity.

In regards to the title, it’s true. The Church’s current definition of modest is not “hot.” In fact, my girlfriend and I walked into a Christian clothing store the other day, and I cringed. Most of the clothes were so clearly designed to hide any outline of the female form it was painful. Hardly any of them were remotely attractive, let alone could be considered “cute.” After reading this article, it should be clear that I am not encouraging young women to try to be “hot.” Nor, am I requesting that you replace your entire wardrobe with everything in that store that fits. “Hot” is a standard that is judged by my flesh, “beautiful and dignified” are characteristics judged by my heart. Aim for beauty and dignity.

The problem with phrases like, “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” & “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep”: Part 2

Here is quick recap of what I wrote in Part 1. Basically we need these phrases because we don’t feel beautiful, and one reason for that is because we measure ourselves by the world’s standards instead of how God created us. 1 John 5:21 says, “Dear children, keep away from anything that might take God’s place in your hearts (keep yourselves from idols).”

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines an idol as “an object of extreme devotion," and a statistic from The Dove Campaign says that "72% of girls feel tremendous pressure to be beautiful." From what I see all around me I think it is safe to say that beauty has become to many women an idol. So the problem with phrases like “Beauty is more than skin deep” and “You’re beautiful just the way you are” is that they put all our focus on being beautiful.

The media tells us that in order to feel good about ourselves we need to weigh a certain amount, have a boyfriend or just flings and one night stands, live a certain lifestyle, have a lot of money and the list goes on.

In order to get those things we have to look a certain way. It is this constant cycle, we try and fail, try again and fail again. Doesn’t it get tiring? We try so hard to look pretty or attractive in order to gain popularity and get noticed, but then when it doesn’t work we try something else. All this does is leave us feeling down and insecure.

That is what the world does, and that is all it will ever do because it is fallen and like it says in 1 John 5:17b, “The whole world lies in the power of the evil one.

All Satan wants to do is keep us from realizing and believing the truth about our beauty because then he will lose his power.

The truth is, beauty is not the ultimate goal.

What happens when we idolize beauty is we become inward focused and think too much about ourselves instead of others because we are worried about our image. This in turn actually makes us unattractive, especially on the inside, because we are so consumed with ourselves. You probably can think of at least one person who you really don’t like being around because all they think about is themselves. These are people who have placed self-image and beauty on a pedestal.

What happens when we realize that beauty is not the ultimate goal? Well, we realize that our relationship with God is more important and that the ultimate goal is to bring Him, not ourselves, glory. “So, whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God.” 1 Corinthians 10:31

When we live our lives for God we become women whose focus is not on ourselves, but on loving God and loving others. When this happens we will truly become beautiful because we are doing what we were made to do—worship God.

The problem with phrases like, “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” & “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep”: Part 1

 
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We have all heard the campaigns for women young and old telling them that they shouldn’t have to dress a certain way or wear a ton of make-up or lose weight to “feel good” about themselves. I am all for encouraging women to be comfortable in their own skin and embracing the beauty that God gave them. However, there is just something about this view that is missing the mark. Even though we are bombarded with these messages, women are still left feeling like they are never quite there. The whole, “It’s what’s on the inside that counts” spiel sounds great, and deep down we want to believe it, yet it’s still not enough for us women to feel content with our image.

I won’t really get into how the fact that culture has set an imperfect standard skews women and men’s view of beauty, because that would take too long, but be aware this does play a role in it.

I believe we are afraid to go deep, to get to what’s really keeping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful

I believe it goes deeper than that though. In fact, I believe we are afraid to go deep, to get to what’s really keeping us from seeing ourselves as beautiful. In order to explain fully why I don’t like those phrases, we need to understand WHY we feel like we aren’t beautiful just the way we are and WHY we believe that beauty is more about looks than what’s inside. That’s the reason these phrases even exist because somewhere along the way (way back to when Adam and Eve ate the forbidden fruit) we stopped believing we were beautiful.

So here it is: the fact simply is, we are trying to measure ourselves against the world’s standard. Did you hear that, THE WORLD’S STANDARD, not God’s.

If we say we are Christians, then our approval cannot be found in anyone or anything of this world because we have been told to be set apart. Yet, we have found ourselves, ladies, measuring our beauty against others.

So when it comes down to it our self-image and esteem issues are rooted in the fact that we choose to measure our beauty by the world’s standards and not to see who we are in God’s eyes.

Now that we have that figured out we need to change our way of thinking because we have become wired to think the way the world does, and evaluate ourselves the way the world does.

When we look to the world to see what is beautiful all it really ends up doing is putting us down because we feel like we will never be good enough. For example, we may see ourselves as average or even feel pretty good about our appearance, but we say, “I will never be as stunning as so-and-so.” Comparison is indeed the thief of joy.

But when we look to God and what he sees as beautiful, we are left speechless and amazed by his grace. When he looks at us he sees us without blemish, his wonderful and beautiful creations. He sees us in our worst state and says we are beautiful because we are His. When we are confronted with how God sees us something inside changes and causes a transformation in our hearts.

When we are confronted with how God sees us something inside changes and causes a transformation in our hearts.

When we put all our time and attention into the world we will begin to look like it—a fallen and broken place, but when we shift our focus to God, we will begin to reflect his image—our perfect, gracious, loving, tenderhearted, and beautiful Creator.

Now, I hope to have helped you understand why, despite the fact that people tell us that beauty is more than skin deep, we still feel unbeautiful (yes, I just made up a word), and how changing our perspective is the first step to really seeing ourselves as beautiful. In Part 2 I will share why I think the phrases “You’re Beautiful Just the Way You Are” and “Beauty is More Than Skin Deep” are hurting us more than helping us.

Want to read Part 2? Click here > Part 2