I was introduced to the idea of modesty being a virtue that I should embrace as a young girl. For a long time there was pressure from certain circles of friends who said women could only be modest was by wearing boy’s baggy shirts and skirts that reach the ankles in order to hide their bodies.
I was a member of those groups where dressing frumpy was defined as modesty, and all those other people are being impure. I soon discovered that these girls were going about enacting the virtue of modesty in the wrong way.
While it seemed as if these women were trying to be holy and modest, they did not fully grasp the true understanding of the virtue of modesty.
An important thing to remember is that our bodies are not a hindrance to Heaven as some people hold to be true. Our bodies were made beautiful and perfect by God, marred by sin but made new again through baptism and Christ becoming flesh.
Modesty can sometimes promulgate that same mindset of: “our bodies are evil” (also known as the heresy of Gnosticism). As Catholics, we know this to be false. Yes, our bodies are temporal things and we sin through our bodies at times, but our bodies are not evil. We do not have to walk around in a brown, boxy paper bag to prove our holiness and modesty. We must be careful about what we wear so as not to lead others to sin, but our bodies are not sinful in and of themselves.
We do not have to dress in baggy, frumpy clothes in order to be modest. God created us different from men and deemed us to be beautiful that way. And yes, he did give us extra curves and such, but that doesn’t make our bodies evil. While you shouldn’t flaunt your body to get attention, you should not hide who you are.
Denying the way God made you by being ashamed of your body is just as sad as the women who think they have to hang out of their clothes and show more skin to get attention. Yes, it is hard to be a woman. It is not easy to be modest. There is a fine line we have to walk between being immodest and dressing like our grandpas (no offence Grandpa).
By completely neglecting our appearance and dressing like we are ashamed of our bodies, we are bringing a bad reputation to our faith.
Christ said that when we are fasting we are not to look as if we are fasting. We should not be dressing in a way that gives us that much attention: whether that is dressing super-“modest” or showing every inch of skin legally possible. We should not call attention to ourselves and our “holiness” by dressing like we are from the 1800’s.
Nothing on earth can quite equate to a woman’s beauty. The first woman, Eve, was the final and most beautiful creation of God in the book of Genesis.
With the entrance of sin into the world, some of the world has lost its inherent beauty and the other beauty can be twisted and misused for evil. Our bodies can be used as a way to grow closer to God, or to fall farther away from him. They should not be seen as an evil that we must hide from God and something of which to be ashamed. Christ became flesh to redeem the world. Our bodies can be used to direct others to the Father as well…we just have to present and carry ourselves as followers of Christ.
To the world, we should not be seen as those crazy Christians who don’t know the difference between men and women’s clothing or that stylish “vintage” really doesn’t refer Victorian or puritanical style dresses.
You must dress and live for Christ in a way that radiates beauty.
*This was originally written for the Chastity Project’s Blog, check it out here.*