Prodigal Magazine

Modesty, Lust and My Responsibility

I grew up in a conservative home, in a conservative church, and in conservative social circles. And hear me correctly, being conservative isn’t the problem. The lies I believed from my culture are the problem, and lies can come from any background. It’s been an intense process over the last two years as I’ve become aware of my many distorted views from my past, but in the midst of it, I’m seeing God more clearly.

In the culture I was raised in, there were constant discussions about modesty. Not the “oh, hey, don’t be a rude show off, because that’s rude” kind of modesty conversations, but the rulers and rulebooks of big time Modesty. If you’ve experienced it, you’re probably nodding or cringing, and if you’ve never encountered it, well, use your imagination.

Though the trappings varied, the lectures and conversations were always essentially the same: people talked about what girls were wearing and how the act of putting on clothes in the morning could radically change what boys were thinking. There were endless options for violations and validations in Modesty-land, depending on the exact situation and circumstances. It didn’t take long for me to absorb the idea that I wasn’t a person with a body, I was an outfit with the power to control the morality of men.

I believed the lie that I was responsible for everyone else.

There was always a part of me that was desperate for a way out of the burden of over-responsibility, but my diligent self just kept trying to shoulder the shame and paranoia of the Modesty Rules, because I thought they were God’s plan for me.

In the last few years, though, I am learning a subtle difference in responsibility. I have learned that, yes, people should be responsible, but not to me. God created each person with a level of autonomy and responsibility tied directly to Him. If you’re exhausted by managing other people, let me assure you that responsibility to or for everyone else is something you were never meant to hold. If you try to carry it, let alone enforce it, it will cripple you and destroy genuine relationships.

I know this firsthand. Because of a lack of boundaries and the constant pressure of my culture’s Modesty Rules, my relationship with my body has been disjointed at best, my interactions with men were stunted, and my friendships with other women have been filled with jealousy and judgment.

Many of the discussions of The Modesty Rules relate clothing choices to lust, but I think that’s a mistake.

Let me explain: I propose that we’ve lost sight of what lust actually is. In fact, we have confused biological sexual attraction with lust and called it sin. This is one reason why shame is so rampant in Christian circles, why we hide rather than confess our reality, why we try to control rather than offer each other the open love and freedom of Christ: we have made into sin something that is not sin.

God created you to desire another person for affection, intimacy, and relationship! Being physically attracted to someone is not lust. Wanting to kiss someone is not lust. Enjoying kissing someone is not lust. Those desires can be a catalyst for lust, but in themselves, they are morally-neutral, God-created, biological and chemical reactions. Your body recognizing sexual compatibility with another person is not inherently evil.

Don’t get me wrong. Lust is serious and lust is a sin. But lust is about control, not just sex.

Lust is dehumanizes a person in your own heart and mind. It is the ritual taking, obsessing, and using someone else for your own benefit rather than valuing that person as an equal image-bearer of God. Lust is forming people in your own image, for your own purposes, whether for sexual pleasure, emotional security, or moral superiority. In lusting, you are creating a world where every other person exists for your approval or dismissal. Lust reduces the complexity of each individual and their story to something you get to manage. Lust certainly can have a sexual component, but when we reduce it merely to sexual reactions, we miss out on God’s heart for all people: infinite value.

In the book of Matthew, when Jesus said “if you even look at a woman with lust…” he wasn’t condemning a physical sexual response as sinful, he was lifting up the inherent value of all women and men. The Sermon on the Mount repeatedly describes the worth of each person, no matter their circumstances.

I don’t think you dressing according to a set of modesty rules will ever stop another person from lusting.

In fact, nothing you do or do not do can influence lust in someone else. Only Jesus can lovingly confront and heal a lustful heart through the working of the Holy Spirit. You can’t change anyone, control anyone, make someone sin or not sin, and you’re only responsible for taking your own heart to Jesus.

I’m asking you to pause and think about this about this issue differently than you may have encountered it before, especially if you grew up with the Modesty Rules on your side.

If anyone tells you that you are responsible for the hearts or minds or actions of any men or women, particularly with your clothing choices, don’t accept it! If anyone uses Bible verses as weapons of condemnation and shame instead of building faith in the working of the Holy Spirit, don’t believe it. Real freedom comes from accepting the life of Christ as your own, which doesn’t mean lawlessness. It means love.

I believe that we need to stop the conversations we’re having and the rules we’re making.

Expecting others to live by your Modesty Rules strips them of value in a way that revealing clothing never can. Thinking you are responsible for everyone causes more damage than wearing a deep-v shirt ever did.

Before you start assuming I think people should be walking around naked, let me say this: I would absolutely encourage men and women to dress in a socially acceptable manner, but not because they are responsible for other people’s reactions. And certainly not because one way of dressing is more “godly” than another! Clothing choices have and will always be culturally relative decisions. Please, make good choices for yourself, whatever those are!

Live in the culture God put you in, but live there in complete freedom that Christ’s resurrection glory, not your hemline or your judgment of her hemline, makes you holy.

Note: If this view of lust and control is new or upsetting to you – as it was to me, because I was so guilty of it – I’d encourage you to ask Jesus first to bring his healing to your heart, talk to a trusted mentor about how to distinguish healthy sexual attraction from practices of lust, and dialogue with safe men and women in your community about positive boundaries for living fully in Christ’s freedom.

The best books I’ve read about control and personal responsibility are: Boundaries, The Pressure’s Off, and Compelled to Control. There are inexpensive used copies available online or check your local library!

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Speak up! Have you radically changed a belief you used to hold? Have you ever tried to control someone through your actions or clothes? How did it work out? Does watching the amazing Olympic athletes make you want to eat a whole pile of tacos?

[photo: A Jordan Pryor]

About The Author

Emily Maynard is an outgoing introvert from Portland, Oregon. She likes Twitter, vegetables, fashion, Harry Potter, college students, and new information on anything. Emily is passionate about questioning, exploring, and growing alongside great friends. She's learning to speak up and loves watching people find their voices. She is not the Emily Maynard from The Bachelorette.

  • Lucie

    A lot of wisdom here.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks, Lucie! These views are definitely the product of the many wise people God has put in my life for my healing. I’m so glad they helped you.

  • http://somuchshoutingsomuchlaughter.com/ suzannah | the smitten word

    “we have confused biological sexual attraction with lust and called it sin.” amen!

    it’s world breastfeeding week, which has reignited the Modesty Rules for Nursing Moms all over again, making my heart hurt and head spin. i love your perspective. it’s much needed.

  • Angela

    Emily, WOW, just WOW! I have been struggling with the sin of lust towards a man I am attracted to as of late. However, your article allowed God to open my eyes to the truth. He is not upset at my physical reactions, but in fact my desires to use this man to fulfill the longings of my heart. This dishonors God and the man I am using, by relegating him to a tool instead of a image bearer of God. I think God is still working some things out in regards to this, but these are my first reactions. Thank you so much for writing this.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Angela, I’m so glad you shared here. The Holy Spirit works with such careful precision in our hearts and I’m glad he’s working in yours! I hope you continue to learn to settle in to your humanity and enjoy your man friend while still finding your worth in Jesus. You’re doing great. :)

    • Coovara

      Angela,

      It is so refreshing to hear this. But I wonder if you are not mistaking true spiritual emotions with lust. Are you looking to use this man for your protection? Do you desire to use him for what he can provide you? Would he fulfill a social standing need, or a sense of worth to you? Are you looking to him to fulfill your need to be found attractive? Do you want to have sex with him? It isn’t any one of these things alone, but the dehumanization, treating this man as an object to fulfill these needs which is lust. Some of those needs you are perfectly capable of providing for yourself.

      If you think him a perspective partner, if you care for his feelings and his needs and desires. You say you want to “use him to fulfill the longings” of your heart. It is ok to have longings of the heart, and it is ok to have someone fulfill that longing. That’s the way physical, emotional, and spiritual attraction work. It isn’t a sin unless you are dehumanizing him and using him. It is a sin if you are pretending to ‘get’ him. It is a sin if he is an object to you, not a fully realized spiritual being in your heart. Maybe you should stress less, be a bit introspective, and, if it is right let this man know how you feel. It might turn out to be true love, and after all, I can’t think of a better way to be in the presence of God, than to find true love?

  • http://jasonandkelliwoodford.blogspot.com/ kelli woodford

    I can totally relate to your days in “conservative” circles, friend. And those Modesty Rules? Such death.
    Thank you for these living words. They offer hope and real grace . . . our hearts always hunger for this.
    No matter what we’re wearing.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Kelli, thank you so much for saying these are living words to you. I’m so sorry that your past has been full of things that are death and I hope you continue to find healing and real grace in Jesus. Thanks for taking the time to share your experience!

  • kim

    good stuff. thanks.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for reading, Kim!

  • Lindsey

    I see your point…and I do not think that we should feel fully responsible for someone sinning. That is between them and God. However, Biblically it is clear that we can lead someone to sin (see 1 Cor 8:12 and Mark 9:42). Paul even says he has the “freedom” to do things but if it “causes” another to sin, he will not for the sake of the brother in Christ. I think when it comes to modesty, women need to take this approach. We should not dress  in the “appropriate social style” of the time, if it clearly would make it more difficult for someone to not sin (or be a “stumbling block”). I dress more “modestly” for my own Christian witness and so that I don’t make it more difficult than it already is for Christian men. I don’t take on the responsibility of whether they sin or don’t. With a brother in law, who has struggled with the sin of lust, I am very aware of this. It isn’t our “burden” but moreso that we should try to respect Christian brothers. I do agree that modesty “rules” are not appropriate and they take away the freedom we have in Christ. 

  • richb

    I certainly
    appreciate and agree with the ideals you put forth and I agree that encouraging
    ‘shame-based’ responsibility for others
    is inappropriate and even abusive. At the same time, I believe we have
    to acknowledge the opposite reality of living amongst fallen humans who do not
    share those ideals. The Apostle Paul also reinforced the inappropriateness of ‘shame-based’
    motivations for helping others with their weaknesses (14:22), but he also
    strongly encouraged the total appropriateness of utilizing a loving, caring
    approach to assuming some responsibility for helping those who struggle with weakness
    through changes in our own behavior (14:19-21).

    You
    say, “Clothing choices have and will always be culturally relative decisions.” I
    agree, and in our extremely complex culture, I think it’s impossible to know
    what clothing choice can stir lust in another fallen person – I know men who
    think the Muslim woman’s burqaa is “hot,” and they’re not talking about
    temperature! You say, “Please,
    make good choices for yourself, whatever those are!” I don’t know if you intended the
    self-centeredness those words could imply to some of your readers, but I
    hope that making good choices for ourselves includes an unselfish
    thoughtfulness for our ‘weaker brother’ that Paul encourages.

    I think your
    use of Jesus’ words in Mt. 5 is not useful to your argument: You
    suggest, “Jesus said ‘if you
    even look at a woman with lust…’ he wasn’t condemning a physical sexual
    response as sinful, he was lifting up the inherent value of all women and men.” I
    agree Jesus “lifted up the inherent value” of everyone in many other
    texts, and I agree that he wasn’t “condemning a physical sexual response as
    sinful.” But Matthew 5 isn’t addressing normal, healthy, God-given
    physical sexual response at all. It’s
    explicitly addressing the reality, sinfulness and seriousness of
    lust in one’s heart by stressing the appropriateness of taking whatever
    drastic measures are necessary to counteract its power in one’s heart and life. These
    words clearly imply lust is a dangerously destructive reality, which, in the
    context of His ‘Sermon on the Mount,’ prevents one from experiencing “blessedness”
    (Mt. 5:3-10).

    • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

      I don’t see how we can uphold the idea that “encouraging ‘shame-based’ responsibility for others is inappropriate and even abusive” and still say we need to have “unselfish thoughtfulness for our ‘weaker brother’ that Paul encourages.” How does that work out, in a practical sense? As a woman, how am I supposed to know with any certainty what clothing will and will not “cause” lust?

      To clarify: I DO want to help out the “weaker brother”, if I can, and if it’s reasonable. But I don’t know of any practical way to do that without shaming women, implying that their bodies are evil, making them think there’s something WRONG with looking cute/beautiful/feminine.

      You mentioned “self-centeredness”- I think a person’s clothing choices SHOULD be self-centered. I can’t control what anyone else is thinking, so why should I base my clothing choices on other people- especially other people who are trying to objectify and disrespect me?

      I wrote about modesty on my blog recently, if you are interested in hearing more of my frustrations/objections, plus my solution:
      “Modesty as she is taught” http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2012/07/modesty-as-she-is-taught.html
      “Modesty: My Solution” http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2012/07/modesty-my-solution.html

      • http://www.ticoandtina.com/ Tico & Tina

        Probably the most simple answer to what other people are thinking is to use common sense in what you’re wearing draws attention to – pants with a word on the butt direct attention there, booty shorts really give no choice than to get an eyeful of legs, cleavage says look here, pink hair says look there. It’s up to you where you want to draw attention. This is attention in general, not just men.

        • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

          Is it bad to want to “draw attention”? If so, then that means I am NOT allowed to look beautiful. That can’t be right, so I conclude that it’s not bad to want to “draw attention.”

          So how do I know if the “attention” is sexual (“causing” lust) or not? Do I just go with what I think? I don’t really think of my body as a sexual object at all. Do I need to try and think like what they told me guys think like? Where anything feminine reminds them of sex- is the pervert’s way of seeing the world the “correct” one?

          This all just gets way too complicated, and it’s all speculation- I get no feedback on whether my clothes/body are “affecting” guys at all. That’s why my solution is to just NOT WORRY ABOUT modesty- if I’m not TRYING to “tempt” guys, and I’m wearing something that people typically wear, then it’s fine.

          • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

            No, it is not a bad thing to look beautiful. Christ clearly throughout scripture wants us to act like the Daughters of the King that we are.

            I’m not sure if you have a godly father/father figure or a boyfriend/husband you can speak with about this issue. But I can tell you that if you do, it would be interesting to see their response when you ask them to tell you what they think about you when they see you in different outfits. My husband thinks I’m super hot, but he doesn’t necessarily want every inch of my body to be on display for every other man to think about and let his eyes wander across “like a slug on a rose”. He wants me to dress fashionably and beautifully. But not in a way that is all about getting people to look at me.

            In my experience, the difference in the type of attention I’ve received (and seen others receive) depending on something as simple as the length of their shorts is incredible. Yes, there are jerks who would make suggestive comments to you if you were wearing a burlap bag, but just generally nice men might make eye contact and smile if I’m wearing something nice but not form-fitting, and never see my face but only stare at my behind if I’m wearing shorter shorts. Or look down my shirt if I’m wearing a low V-neck. I think you’ve probably seen this with your friends as well- the one with the great body flaunting it may get some attention from men, while the one with the great body wearing something less revealing gets less attention.

            But really are you looking for men’s eyes on you? Is that what you really desire? Or are you looking for true friendships and relationships? I know for me, I would take the former, but what I really desired was the latter. One really great way to know if a guy is going to love you forever- if he cares about you and makes it a point to get to know you if you’re NOT flaunting your body. When my then-boyfriend looked deeply into my eyes and told me he would love me just as much if I weighed 600 lbs rather than my at the time 120-ish, and I could see he meant it, and knowing how important his appearance is to him, I knew that he really and truly loved me for who I am, not just for my body.

            I hope this helps you a little bit as you search- I feel for you because I’ve been right there where you are now.

            • http://www.facebook.com/tash.jsus.freak Tash Kenealy

              @099ed7ace18c3e785635a10e697baa2f:disqus
              I’m a little bit uncomfortable with some of the things you are saying. But this is probably more because of my own sensitivity – I once came across a “christian website” where they had polled heaps of guys on what tempted them the most – good in idea but in practice it was kind of terrifying because they were going on and on about the little details – “my jacket should be either completely zipped up or open and especially not zipped up to just my breasts because that draws attention”, “no writing on the butt of my jeans because that draws attention”, “this is the amount of clevage I should show” ect. And the worst part was the way the statistics were presented where x% agreed and y% disagreed so even if only 5% of guys felt that way you still felt guilty.
              And also, these rules get really tricky when you take into account body shape. For a lot of larger chested girls it doesn’t matter how high their neckline is, all you see is “boob”. And apart from getting reduction surgery there’s very little they can do. Similarly, because of my height I noticed one day in High School years ago that my skirt was actually significantly higher above my knees, but looked very long and modest in comparison to some whose were below their knees just because of body length and curves etc. These discrepancies make rules like “no less than an inch above the knees” very unfair as one girl will look like quite immodest in that length while the others may pull it off easily.

              I’m sorry if i’m completely of target here, hopefully you get what I’m meaning. :)

              • http://www.ticoandtina.com christina

                there are definitely no hard and fast “rules”, which is why I think we just really need to use common sense and honesty with ourselves about where our heart is – and that is something we can ask God to show us.

  • http://www.thechurchofnopeople.com Matt @ The Church of No People

    Hey Emily, I think you found the answer with the fact that we can’t be responsible for everyone’s actions. We can’t stop them from doing bad things. We can only be responsible for ourselves. Our witness is based on our actions, not how we are perceived or the bad reactions people respond with.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hey Matt, thank you for reading and sharing your kind response. This post is the result of about two years of thinking and reading and praying and listening to others! It’s amazing that when we let Jesus sort out hearts rather than trying to control, we can be free to expand ourselves and live boldly in grace. Good point about our witness being based on actions. I think the freedom Jesus offers us is so much more compelling than trying to sell the gospel with rules for holy living!

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    “In lusting, you are creating a world where every other person exists for your approval or dismissal.” This sounds suspiciously similar to viewing every woman’s clothing choices as an attempt to seduce/tempt men. I’ve heard it said that “purity culture” objectifies women just as much as the sexualized culture we are fighting against.

    Excellent post- especially the part about what lust is and is not. I’ll have to spend some time thinking about that. But it makes sense- it makes sense that physical attraction was invented by God to be a GOOD thing.

    If you’re interested, I also wrote about modesty recently, because I too think the whole thing is messed up. Here it is:
    “Modesty as she is taught” http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2012/07/modesty-as-she-is-taught.html
    “Modesty: My Solution” http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/2012/07/modesty-my-solution.html

    • http://www.bethanysuckrow.com/ Bethany Suckrow

      Wow, thanks for sharing that part about how purity culture objectifies women… I had never thought of it that way, but it has given me a lot to think about. I think it objectifies men, too, making it seem like they are somehow less responsible for their actions when women dress inappropriately. If we set up these standards and rules, it’s a slippery slope from discussing clothing and fashion to date rape and sexual violence. How can you draw a line when you’re saying that women’s behavior determines men’s actions? So interesting… Thank you!

      • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

        Yeah, it does objectify men too- that’s a good point. Hard for me to see that though, because I’ve always been taught that men “can’t help it.” I remember when I first heard someone raise objections to the idea of “modesty”, I thought, “no, you don’t understand- men can’t help it! They’re so weak! They need our help!”

        And seeing as I’m not a man, it’s impossible for me to get an accurate idea of to what extent it’s true that they “can’t help it”.

        So my conclusion is women should just NOT WORRY ABOUT modesty. You’re fine. If you’re not TRYING to “tempt” boys and you’re wearing something within the realm of what people typically wear, you’re fine.

        • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

          As a woman married to a chaste man, I do very much see how this mindset dehumanizes men. It is like we all believe they are animals. Not so. They are not doomed to be lusty animals. Attraction & admiration are not the same thing as lust. As Emily is saying, lust is desiring to use something/one. A man is not doomed to view women as objects to be used. They are not “hard-wired” that way. Take hope, perfectnumber628. :)

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    sorry to leave a tech question here. But, I can’t read the article because the big square for “sharing” options covers a massive amount. This always happens on the GWP blog, too. Ah! Am I the only one who has this problem?

    • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

      Hey! What browser are you using? I handle the tech stuff around here, and I’ll check it out. :)

      • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

        Google Chrome. Thanks for trying to help me out. :)

  • george spaulding

    Hi, emily-makes a lot of sense! when i was in high school, anda new hristian, roller skatingwas frowned upon, because of the “suggestive music” played in the rink! now…heard some of these christian bands lately? good article! thanks for sharing!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks for sharing your experience, George. Funny how in hind sight it seems ridiculous to look down on an activity for something as silly as the beat you skate to!

  • Josh Captain

    You said, “I think a person’s clothing choices SHOULD be self-centered. I can’t control what anyone else is thinking, so why should I base my clothing choices on other people- especially other people who are trying to objectify and disrespect me?”

    NOTHING in the Christian life should be self-centered! Luke 9:23 – Then he said to them all: “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross daily and follow me.”

    Also, I agree you cannot control other people’s actions or thoughts. However, you can control your own choices. The way you choose to dress is your own choice and can impact men in a positive or negative way. As a Christian man, I believe you as a Christian woman can be yourself and find cute things to wear. At the same time, being yourself and finding cute things should not come at the cost of objectifying and shaming yourself by dressing in an immodest way. Guys have a responsibility to not lust after you. Yes, they could lust no matter what you are wearing. But, when women dress more immodestly it makes it more difficult for any man to not look at you in a different way. All in all, men and women need to be doing their parts. Even more, Christian men and women can be looking out for each other and caring about each other as brothers and sisters in Christ.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Josh, thanks for engaging in this discussion!

      My first question is: where did you get that quote from me? I support your ability to paraphrase and summarize your views on the article, but I think it’s misleading to put it in quotes.

      I agree that we should follow Jesus with everything we’ve got, even to the point of sacrifice. However, the problem comes when we try to regulate or judge the way OTHER people are “taking up their crosses.” I trust that the Holy Spirit is more that capable of doing that for others and unless I am in a specific type of relationship with mutual trust and specific requests for input, it’s mostly none of my business how other Christians follow Jesus. That’s a hard thing for me to do well, but I’m working on it!

      Second question: how would you know if I’m “objectifying and shaming myself by dressing in an immodest way?” I’m not really sure what you mean by that. Can you explain? How does that even work when modest/immodest are such fluid concepts based on culture, circumstance, etc?

      Thank you for pointing out that Christians should be looking out for each other and caring for each other! Wise words.

      • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

        Oh hai! The quote about
        “I think a person’s clothing choices SHOULD be self-centered” came from me, in one of the comments below here- I guess Josh was trying to reply to me?

        I think, in principle, it’s totally a good idea to “look out for our brothers” or whatever. I just have no idea what that means in a practical sense- when taken to its logical conclusion, it means I should be godly by not looking feminine. It just doesn’t make sense. So until someone can put forth an argument about how this whole “modesty” thing works without implying that conclusion, I’m just going to not care about modesty.

        • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1330939033 Theresa Fortin

          Hello! I wanted to suggest a lovely young woman who gives talks on this topic after she had an experience while on the show “America’s Next Top Model”. Her name is Leah Darrow and she is a wonderful example of how to be fashionable AND modest. You can google her or find her on FB. I hope this helps! :)

          • Emily_Maynard

            Hi Theresa,

            The problem for me isn’t really HOW to be “fashionable and modest,” but that this whole topic of modesty is only used to abuse and control women. Even the “lesser legalistic” conversations about modesty stripped me of my ability to be in my body and relate to men without fear. I think we’re wrong in thinking that being sexually attracted to one another is a problem at all. It’s the control at the root of lust that is the real problem, not the sexuality.

            Thanks for reading!

            • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

              “I think, in principle, it’s totally a good idea to “look out for our
              brothers” or whatever. I just have no idea what that means in a
              practical sense- when taken to its logical conclusion, it means I should
              be godly by not looking feminine.” Absolutely not! “So until
              someone can put forth an argument about how this whole “modesty” thing
              works without implying that conclusion, I’m just going to not care about
              modesty.”

              Ask some guys you know are godly and mature what they would like to see their future wife or better yet, their daughter wearing in public – or in a crowd of men – and I think you might be surprised. If you dare, take them shopping with you or just straight up ask them to tell you if you wear something that they think is out of line.

              I don’t think it needs to be about an argument and I definitely doesn’t need to be about controlling and abusing women- or men, for that matter. Because as a woman, I have strong thoughts about what I do and do not want in my mind. Do I want to see a shirtless guy, especially one that is “so hot”? Maybe. But do I want that in my mind when I am with my husband, and he is shirtless? Frankly, I don’t. So if I see some guy without their shirt, I always to look the other way and think about something else. Likewise, I don’t want to EVER be the picture in some guy’s mind when he is with his wife. I think if you personalize it in that way, it can help- eg: would I want my husband looking down another woman’s shirt? My answer is absolutely not! So for me, wearing something (and also behaving in a way that makes it either possible or just plain guaranteed) that a guy can look down my shirt is just out of the question unless I’m home alone with my husband.

              • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

                Sorry the above was intended for perfectnumber628

            • Angie

              @Emily_Maynard:disqus

              Hi Emily,

              I wanted to chime in here as well. Modesty, as taught in Scripture, has nothing to do with abuse and control of women. If you’ve been abused in some way, I am so sorry about that. I will pray for your healing in that because it is giving you a very inaccurate picture of Scripture. Even legalism (and I’m certainly not denying that is out there) should never strip you of your ability “to be in your body” but it also does not excuse immodesty, which is sin.

              It is quite wrong to say that being sexually attracted to one another is no problem at all. If you are sexually attracted to a married man, that is sin. If a married man is sexually attracted to you, that is sin. This is where it is vital to guard the heart because our sin natures will most definitely take us there if we are not soberminded and self-controlled. All sexual contact outside of the biblical boundary of marriage is sin. Controlling a person sexually is sin, but that’s not all lust is.

              Continue to seek the Lord for healing and clarity of Scripture! Blessings to you!

              • Emily_Maynard

                Hi Angie,

                I think it’s inappropriate for you to say that just because someone disagrees with you, they have a “very inaccurate picture of Scripture.” Can you identify where the word “modesty” in the sense of “how much of a woman’s skin is covered by how much fabric and how tight” is used in the Bible? I certainly see room for diversity of opinion and practice in the church as a whole and think it’s amazing that God is able to work through the complexity of each of our individual stories! This certainly leads to strong differences of opinion in many cases, but the thing that unifies us is the freedom we have in Christ to listen to HIM, even if it looks different from the exact way he’s leading someone else.

                Also, please note that I do not condone sexual contact outside of marriage and you pulled a switch in your paragraph here when you were talking about our disagreement that sexual attraction is sin, then shifted the topic to sexual contact, which is entirely separate. Sexual attraction happens because of chemicals and hormones. You cannot stop it unless you damage your body in some way. The taking the glorious humanity from another person is what offends God in the act of lust, not just the sex.

                Again, I never condone lust, adultery, sexual promiscuity, or public nudity. I’m saying we need to examine the deeper level of WHY these things are a problem. Bodies aren’t the problem. Sexuality isn’t the problem. Taking responsibility for, trying to control, or in some way shutting down the freedom of other humans – precious people created in God’s image – precious people created in God’s image – is the real problem.

                I’m confident that we can disagree on this issue and many others without critiquing each other’s interpretation, faith, or intelligence. We can simply disagree on this.

                I never mention my personal style or the type of clothing I’m comfortable wearing, because that’s not the point of my post. I may be more conservative or less conservative than you on any day. The point of my story is: I’m not better or worse, more holy or less holy, because of my clothing choices. I’m responsible to God and get to care for and clothe my body in a way that represents my freedom and joy at being alive and made new by Jesus. I’m not responsible to any man or woman, but get to enjoy my own relationship with God, my body, and others.

                Thanks for engaging so passionately in this discussion!

                • Angie

                  Hi Emily,

                  I know posting back and forth like this can get touchy. I just want to assure you that I am in no way condemning you personally when I say that something you said is inaccurate biblically. As iron sharpens iron, I think it’s always profitable to have discourses over Scripture to reprove and encourage us all. Anytime I bring something like that up, it’s only as food for thought. If you find biblical error in something I say, I would implore you to show it to me. I am always teachable and always searching out Scripture.

                  The Lord tells us through Scripture that we are to adorn ourselves in respectable apparel (1 Timothy 2:9) Of course that is open to interpretation and there is much room for cultural norms, fashion, and beauty. There are some that consider it immodest for women to wear pants. That does not mean a woman who wears pants is in sin because that is not a Scriptural principle but a matter of preference. Within our preferences we are to prayerfully consider our clothing choices. Scripture doesn’t give us particular clothing choices, but principles for us to prayerfully apply.

                  I did not “pull a switch” from sexual attraction to sexual contact. Sexual attraction is sin in the cases I mentioned. If sexual attraction is extramarital, it is sin. Any sexual contact outside of marriage is sin. Sexual attraction is normal, of course, and outside of proper boundaries must be brought under submission. That is where modesty comes in. Men are more prone biologically to be visually stimulated and women can and should take that into consideration in their clothing choices. It is an act of love toward out brothers in Christ (as well as other men). Training your eyes and thought life to come under the submission of Christ is a discipline that is only achieved with the Lord’s grace, as is all sin. Without the intervention of the Holy Spirit in our lives, none of us would have any victory over sin.

                  Why these things are a problem is because we are all fallen and have a sin nature. We will all struggle with sin as long as we live, saved and unsaved alike. Sin is the problem. Being modest in our dress is not stealing our freedom anymore than saying unmarried folks should not have a sexual relationship is stealing freedom. Scripture is full of boundaries set for our good and God’s glory. They are not oppressive but liberating.

                  You are most correct that we can disagree (and I believe we do) on what Scripture says to the matter. But, as I stated above, I love discussions with other Christians because I believe delving deeply into Scripture for its correct interpretation is always a valuable exercise.

                  And we do agree on your last point. All matters are ultimately between you and the Lord. It is Him you will stand before to make account for your actions as will I. That is very liberating indeed. :-)

                  • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

                    ” If sexual attraction is extramarital, it is sin.”

                    Please expand on this. I would contend that sexual attraction is simply that. Sin has to do with your response to it. Letting yourself dwell on it, lusting, that’s where you get into sin. Attraction is simply attraction, and you can choose what to do with it.

                    Even us men. We may be more “prone biologically to be visually stimulated” but we have the power to deal with that– especially as Christians. I simply refuse to let lust win. Christ made me new. Lust loses. I kicked it to the curb. Does it whine, and whimper and plead to come “home”? Sure. Every once in a while I even hear it. But out it goes again. It’s lost the game, why should I keep playing when the game is over?

              • H24

                Angie , wow wow wow. It seriously amazes me to see the ignorance that Christians honestly believe these days . Were you sexuallu attracted to your husband before you married him , because tat would be a sin based on what you’re saying here. Attraction to someone is a physical and biological response that is part of our body design. Of it wasn’t

                • H24

                  Cont from last post to Angie- if that wasnt a part of us then no one would be married . It is absolutely ridiculous for to say that of you are sexually attracted to
                  Someone that is married that you’re sinning. Them being marred does not change the fact that they re attractive

                • Angie

                  Modesty is not first an issue of clothing. It is primarily an issue of the heart. If the heart is right with God, it will govern itself in purity coupled with humility and will express itself modestly. Calvin observes, ‘Yet we must always begin with the dispositions; for where debauchery reigns within, there will be no chastity; and where ambition reigns within, there will be no modesty in the outward dress.’

                  He concludes, ‘Undoubtedly the dress of a virtuous and godly woman must differ from that of a [prostitute]…If piety must be testified by works, this profession ought also to be visible in chaste and becoming dress.’ This applies not only to corporate worship, but to daily living also. Though it is true that one may dress modestly from a sinful and prideful motive, one cannot knowingly dress lavishly or sensually from a good one. Thus, the purity and humility of a regenerate heart internally must ultimately express itself by modest clothing externally.

            • H24

              Emily … These people just don’t get it . Christianity in itself was man made and this is where all the rules started . Instead of just being loving and non judgmental which was Jesus main message , people instead feel that if they follow these rules that they ate being good in gods eyes. People just cannot understand that they guilt they feel around sex is something that the church put in their minds with all of rules and they don’t understand that being attracts to someone physically is a biological response from god and there should be no guilt associated with it . This whole thing was created as a way to control women when the church first started and has since been passed down and truth and

              • lizzynaija

                Hmm…”Jesus main message was about being loving and non-judgmental” Well, Jesus is the Way, the Truth and the Life; His purpose was and is to connect us to God by giving us power over sin and giving us the right to come into a relationship with God (John 1:1-12). I would disagree that Christianity is man made because Jesus said that ” I shall build my church” (Matt 16:18) and also Christ is the Author and Finisher of our faith (Hebrews 12:2).

                In Matthew 15:3, Jesus took on the Pharisees for violating the Ten Commandments in favor of man made rules. Being a follower of Christ does not give us the opportunity of condoning any sin in the name of being ‘loving and non-judgmental.’ In that case, we shouldn’t be able to say that adultery, murder, lying, bearing false witness, etc are sins, whereas we should condemn the sin but musn’t condemn the sinner.

                In Mark 10:17-21 and Matthew 19:16-21, Jesus did not tell the rich young ruler to forget about the Ten Commandments, verse 21 said “And Jesus, looking upon him, LOVED HIM (emphasis mine) and said to him, you lack one thing..” It was out of love, that Jesus told him essentially “You keep the Commandments– that’s great; now go further show love by giving yourself unselfishly to the poor and follow Me, for I am the Way.”
                The dictionary definition of “lust” is an intense longing or intense or unbridled sexual desire, among others. If Jesus in all His Love told His listeners that to look on a woman with lust was a sin, then it is hard to understand where the man made rules part features. Sexual attraction is a biological fact; it is what you do with that attraction that defines when it becomes a sin. When your thoughts veer towards actualizing that attraction — either in your mind or openly — in a way unacceptable by God’s standards it becomes lust.
                Each person is responsible for not allowing lust to become his/her lifestyle

            • kc

              I don’t doubt that there are some who use the issue of modesty to control but I think the idea of modesty is wise. Also, I don’t know anyone in or out of the church who thinks sexual attraction in and of itself is wrong. However the goal has to be greater. We should want to attract a mate on a higher level than sex.

        • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

          “I think, in principle, it’s totally a good idea to “look out for our
          brothers” or whatevever. I just have no idea what that means in a
          practical sense- when taken to its logical conclusion, it means I should
          be godly by not looking feminine.” Absolutely not! “So until
          someone can put forth an argument about how this whole “modesty” thing
          works without implying that conclusion, I’m just going to not care about
          modesty.”

          Ask some guys you know are godly and mature what they would like to
          see their future wife or better yet, their daughter wearing in public –
          or in a crowd of men – and I think you might be surprised. If you dare,
          take them shopping with you or just straight up ask them to tell you if
          you wear something that they think is out of line.

          I don’t think it needs to be about an argument and I definitely
          doesn’t need to be about controlling and abusing women- or men, for that
          matter. Because as a woman, I have strong thoughts about what I do and
          do not want in my mind. Do I want to see a shirtless guy, especially
          one that is “so hot”? Maybe. But do I want that in my mind when I am
          with my husband, and he is shirtless? Frankly, I don’t. So if I see
          some guy without their shirt, I always to look the other way and think
          about something else. Likewise, I don’t want to EVER be the picture in
          some guy’s mind when he is with his wife. I think if you personalize it
          in that way, it can help- eg: would I want my husband looking down
          another woman’s shirt? My answer is absolutely not! So for me, wearing
          something (and also behaving in a way that makes it either possible or
          just plain guaranteed) that a guy can look down my shirt is just out of
          the question unless I’m home alone with my husband.

          • H24

            behaving in a way that make it possible for a man to look down your shirt ? Seriously ? So u don’t move in certain ways to keep men from looking down your shirt ? Men will look no matter what. Your boobs are still there even if they are covered an men will look because it’s a biological response ! This clearly shows that this is something that is on your mind in a weird obsessive way . Also if u can’t handle lookin at a man shirtless because that bothers you when your husband is shirtless

            • H24

              Cont. from my previous post: if you can’t look at a hot shirtless man without that being a problem for you when your husband is shirtless , it sounds like you may have a weird hang up in this area an frankly I’d be a little offended if i was your husband . It’s really sad how the world is still so opressed by religion and the guilt that comes from it .

        • Grace Elizabeth Gregory-Cohen

          1 Timothy 2:9-10 9 likewise also that women should adorn themselves in respectable apparel, with modesty and self-control, not with braided hair and gold or pearls or costly attire, 10 but with what is proper for women who profess godliness—with good works.

          As Christian women we are expected, not only because of the weakness of our brother, but for the glory of YHWH dress in ‘modest’ apparell. Now in the First Century, it was considered ‘immodest’ to braid your hair and wear jewelry as it was used solely to attract the eyes of the opposite sex, we now have a different concept of ‘immodesty’. I think you really just have to use common sense when judging what is and isn’t ‘immodest’, occasionally there are articles of clothing that take me a while to ponder, as they are in between, but most of the time it’s fairly obvious. If you’re going to circumvent your God-given responsibility as a woman of Him by simply throwing your hands up and saying ‘It’s all too confusing! It’s all too hard! It doesn’t serve my desires! I’m not going to bother’, than you’re really not making enough effort to be conformed into the image of the Messiah…

          Immodesty is essentially when one dresses in a way simply to attract attention (and no, this isn’t okay, as 1 Peter says, your beauty and adorning should be inward. Proverbs 31 also expresses the same (that beauty is deceitful and charm is vain, but a woman who fears YHWH should be praised).

          I think it is wonderful to be beautiful, YHWH made us beautiful, but not to draw attention to your body- and just using common sense will lead to understand what draws attention to your body. For example: short shorts, miniskirts, low cut tops, tight fitting tops if you have large breasts etc. will draw attention to your body- causing either men to stumble or YHWH to be dishonoured.

          Many of the women in the Old Testament were praised for their beauty, beauty is something to be joyous about as it was given to us by our Father. But that beauty was intended to bring joy to our husbands, we should not be displaying our bodies in a provocative manner to anyone but them. I think one of the main issues in encouraging modesty, is that everyone makes it about helping out our Christian brother, when the focus should be on glorifying YHWH and respecting our husbands in veiling our bodies. While this should be the focus, the Bible puts on all of us the responsibility to act in a way that will not cause a brother to stumble, if you find that too constraining or too difficult than you may want to consider another belief system, because Christianity is all about making sacrifices for YHWH and for others.

          • Grace Elizabeth Gregory-Cohen

            And are we not called to be ‘set apart’, to not be ‘conformed to the world’, if you are dressing just as any other secular woman would dress, than how is your external self proclaiming what Yahshua did for you? How does your outward appearance glorify YHWH? He isn’t only interested in partial transformation, He isn’t only wanting for us to be internally transformed, this isn’t Gnosticism, He also values our bodies and wants all of our being to glorify Him!

  • SmarttGirl

    As a woman that grew up in a Pentecostal type church, I understand your viewpoint. I was told what to wear, how to fix my hair, and remember numerous reminders of Jezebel and how the dogs ate her face. I was told this was due to her painted face. I now realize that her violent death had nothing to do with the makeup she wore and everything to do with her exceedingly wicked heart. At the age of 36 I do not hold myself to the appearance rules imposed on me in my youth. However, as a member of Christ’s body I do understand that I do have to have to live by a higher set of standards than the world around me. I feel that the words you used in this article could become a stumbling block to a young believer. While I obviously understand, and hope, that you do not mean Christian women are free to dress in any manner, I can see where someone hoping to find that freedom may use your words to prove that untruth. I completely agree that you and I, as women, are not responsible for a man’s lustful heart. We are however commanded to “bear one another’s burdens.”(Galatians 6:2) So, I challenge you ladies out there, before you put that outfit on to ask yourselves…Am I helping my brother with the penchant for lust to bear his burden and make that load less heavy. Or, am I so caught up in my ‘freedom’ as a Christian that I care not for his daily struggle.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thanks for commenting SmarttGirl!

      Just to clarify, I DO mean that Christian women are free to dress in any manner! Because of Jesus, you ARE free to dress however you’d like! Jesus didn’t come to bring us more rules, but to restore us to Love. That’s why I’m so compelled to worship him! Jesus is the last person worrying about how tight my shirt is. I know this because we’ve talked and he told me to quit freaking out and feeling guilty so much and just enjoy grace and love and hope and peace and fun!

      I believe we should trust women more. We should trust Christians more with true freedom from Jesus. I don’t think that if you told a Christian woman she COULD wear whatever she wants that means she WILL walk around naked. I think love for herself and being present in a society where that isn’t acceptable would be sufficient to curb the rampant nudity people proclaim will be the result of eliminating the Modesty Rules. What are we so afraid of that we can’t offer each other freedom?

      Thanks again for your response. I’d encourage everyone to read the entire book of Galatians (maybe even in The Message translation, and out loud) because it is FULL of this type of freedom language.

      • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

        I agree with your earlier response to another comment that Galatians talks about the great freedom we have in Christ,
        to love Him so much that our decisions honor Him.

        I’d be interested to
        hear your comments regarding how a young, beautiful woman’s choice to
        dress in super tight and revealing clothing (and by this potentially
        encouraging a man to look at specific parts of her body and think sinful
        thoughts- not of the “Oh, she’s pretty” or even “I’d like to explore a
        relationship with her”, but of the dwelling on her body and choosing to
        make sinful decisions as a result of this young woman
        exposing/flaunting her body, even in a culturally acceptable manner)
        relates to the other Biblical principles and passages that ask us to
        give up some of our freedom in Christ in order to safeguard our
        fellow Christians’ hearts and help them to stay as far away as possible
        from sin.

        Examples that come immediately to my mind are:

        Romans 14 regarding choosing not to eat meat sacrificed to
        idols as it could cause someone else (who did not fully understand that
        this didn’t matter) to sin-

        “Therefore let us not judge one another anymore, but rather determine this -not to put an obstacle or a stumbling block in a brother’s way. I know and am convinced in the Lord Jesus that nothing is unclean in itself ; but to him who thinks anything to be unclean, to him it is unclean. For if because of food your brother is hurt, you are no longer walking according to love. Do not destroy with your food him for whom Christ died.” “So then we pursue the things which make for peace and the building up of one another.”

        Again, dealing with the issue of something that is not
        sinful in itself but could lead others to sin (1 Corinthians 8):

        “Knowledge makes arrogant, but love edifies. …. their conscience being weak is defiled.
        … But take care that this liberty of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak…. For through your knowledge he who is weak is ruined, the brother for whose sake Christ died. And so, by sinning against the brethren and wounding their conscience when it is weak [by eating this perfectly acceptable meat which they think is sinful], you sin against Christ.

        Therefore, if food causes my brother to stumble, I will never eat meat again, so that I will not cause my brother to stumble.

        Therefore, I ask you- is it not worth reining in our liberty to wear
        whatever we choose, in an effort to help a brother in Christ to live in a
        more godly way? To wear a little more clothing, to leave something to
        the imagination? Or, as my much younger brother put it after a trip to
        the beach, to “give [them] somewhere to look [without seeing something
        that is causing them to struggle with sin]“?

        • Emily_Maynard

          Hi LovingThem,

          Frankly, I think I would say it’s none of my business what this fictional woman is wearing, nor is it yours. She’s free because of Jesus. Let her be.
          As far as drawing attention to “specific parts of her body,” I want you to know that the idea that specific parts of my body are evil has had drastic emotional, spiritual, and physical consequences for me. My body is my body, and it’s mine to use because of God’s love, and I’m still learning that.
          Also, would you really want to “explore a relationship” with a woman who wasn’t sexually attractive to you? Relationships and sexual attraction don’t have to be mutually exclusive, in my opinion.
          The whole point of my story is that it’s harmful to tell women they are the problem and men that they have a problem where there isn’t one. I don’t think men are weak and I think all healthy humans have a working sex drive. But being attracted to someone isn’t the same thing as lust. Sexual attraction isn’t the problem and it doesn’t offend God. What I believe DOES offend him is when we try to play his role in the lives of other people, Christian or not. Through the Holy Spirit, I’ve come to realize the damage it has done to my relationships when I’ve tried to control the stories of others rather than simply telling how God’s love is moving me and listening to others if they choose to share.

          I believe that men and women are capable of interacting without using each other. I believe all men and women are worthy of being attractive. I believe that sexual attraction in itself isn’t sinful.

          I believe trying to control the situation by telling Christian women how to dress actually PREVENTS us from having the deeper, more significant, maturing conversations about how to live in a world that we can’t control.

          We need to create safe spaces where we can talk about these issues as communities and I believe we can. We’re capable of changing the conversation from “Jesus saves us so we’d better get it right now or else!” to “Jesus saves us. WOW! How do we worship him and enjoy this grace fully?” We’ve got to stop trying to control the circumstances and situations and what people are wearing and start healing.

          • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

            Hi Emily,

            I want to be clear that I’m not saying that certain parts of the body are sinful. Also, that finding someone attractive is not necessarily equal to lusting after them- but I do believe that it can be a first step along the pathway to lust.

            I’m not trying in any way to tell you what you can or cannot wear, but I am asking you to thoughtfully consider how your choice to “do whatever you want” can impact others. I’m asking everyone- male or female- to do this, not only with clothing, but in every area of our lives.

            I agree that we can talk about this, but I am not in agreement that we should ignore parts of scripture in order to prove our own points.

            I don’t believe the Bible provides a list of rules or a dress code that makes us modest or immodest. But I do believe that we need to look out for the needs of others before our own (James). I think that is really the point of the two passages that I brought up above- so if it makes you more comfortable to think about this in a context apart from your clothes and the impact they can have on others, at least to begin, then I think that is where you should start.

            However, I do feel that your response missed the point of my post. I would love to know your thoughts, not from a defensive standpoint or assuming that I would be judging you right now if you were standing in front of me wearing a bikini (or something else you consider culturally appropriate and which I may not), but just your thoughts on how the passages I mentioned (where Paul talks about giving up our rights in an effort to help others not to sin) relate to your thoughts on your freedom to choose what to wear.

            Thanks!

            Thanks.

            • Christie

              I would really like to see Emily’s response to the verses you posted as well, because they are KEY to this discussion.

          • Michael

            Emily,
            You said, “My body is my body, and it’s mine to use because of God’s love…”
            But God tells us, “You are NOT YOUR OWN; you were bought with a price. Therefore honor God with your body.” -1 Corinthians 6:19-20
            We’re also told to, “offer the parts of your body to Him as instruments of righteousness.”
            It’s wrong to use Galatians as an excuse to live, dress, act, or behave in anyway we want! Yes, we are free- glouriously so! But we are bondslaves of Jesus Christ.
            “And he died for all, that those who live SHOULD NO LONGER LIVE FOR THEMSELVES
            but for him who died for them and was raised again.” – 2 Corinthians 5:15

            • Emily_Maynard

              Hi Michael,

              Thanks for reading and engaging with this topic! First of all, can you explain a little more what that 1 Cor verse actually means practically? Surely it doesn’t mean that God is actually controlling my body in some puppet like way because I give it to him or that I’m not responsible for my actions. He’s definitely not (I have to feed and clothe myself, actively serve others, etc) and I surely am! But this responsibility doesn’t mean that I’m responsible FOR everyone and their unique sex drive or what they do with it, does it? (Because, frankly, that’s impossible)

              I honor God with my body by being IN my body. I honor God with my body by accepting it’s flaws and working on its weaknesses. I honor God with my body by integrating soul, spirit, mind, and body to use for my benefit, which glorifies the One who made me and gave me this body!

              I don’t think these verses mean what you’re trying to say they mean. I think God is delighted when I’m in my body rather than trying to separate from it and dress in a way that is comfortable and reflects ME in MY body because my God is good to give it to me!

              Again, please note this paragraph from the end of my original post: “Before you start assuming I think people should be walking around naked, let me say this: I would absolutely encourage men and women to dress in a socially acceptable manner, but not because they are responsible for other people’s reactions. And certainly not because one way of dressing is more “godly” than another! Clothing choices have and will always be culturally relative decisions. Please, make good choices for yourself, whatever those are!”

              Choose well for yourself, my friend. I’ll do the same. Trust me. I’ll trust you. This honors God.

          • Jim

            What seems to be missing here is self-preservation and diseases from both ends. There are women who believe there top and bottom will get them through life with no skills. There are women who believe men have a heart and respect them for it while working just as hard. There are men who believe a whole women should set the example for the kids. There are men who needs to breed and the hell with the responsibility or raising the kids.
            Lust is when one sticks there head in the gutter in hunt for a candy eye. they cant see side ways and neglect all those around them. When it it all over they become the fool. Read proverbs and find about your heart. Modesty is very important. My body is not my body because it belongs to god. It is how I use it that matters. Some people like to hunt and never enter a real relationship with substance.

      • Ashley

        Oh God. Just, oh god.

      • Beth

        I know I’m commenting on an old discussion but this topic is fascinating and I’m reading pretty far back in the comments.

        This is from Galatians 5:13: “You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.”

        You are so right that Jesus didn’t come to bring us more rules – because of him, we can serve one another in love, both women graciously dressing with respect to themselves and others, and men exercising control over their own minds, viewing women with the respect they deserve, and not transferring the blame onto the women for their own thoughts and actions.

      • James

        Hi Emily,

        I’ll agree with you that you have the “right” and the “freedom” to do and wear whatever you please… and rightly so you should not feel judged or condemned by anyone (that’s their failing in any case)

        However, I’d challenge you to consider 1Corinthians 10:23-33. particularly “Everything is permissable, but not everything i beneficial” and “Do not cause anyone to stumble, whether Jews, Greeks or the church of God”

        In reality, dressing in a particular manner is going to cause someone to stumble… so why would you (royal you) think it was a good thing to do?

        Whether you feel its your responsibility or not, you’re still going to have the same impact

        It’s unfortunate that the sexualisation of Males in popular culture is not as pronounced as with Female; but if a guy rocked up to church wearing something accenting his package or showing how ripped his upper body is, he’s going to risk causing his Sister’s in Christ to stumble.

        I will finish by reiterating that i DO agree that you should be free to wear whatever you please without fear of repercussions as you quite rightly state that you are free in Christ – it’s just that in certain situations, i feel its better not to exercise that right.

        • http://emilyisspeakingup.com/ Emily Maynard

          Here’s the thing though, James. Why do you get to make that decision for me rather than me making a decision for how I dress my body?

          I don’t deny that humans exist in relationship, but we have to be very careful to acknowledge unhealthy power interactions in society. Not all men are attracted to women. Not all men who are attracted to women are attracted to me. And attraction doesn’t automatically lead to lust. I cannot make the private biological workings of some men who I may encounter in my daily life the primary consideration in the personal act of putting clothes on my body every day. You ask kindly, and I commend you for that, but what you are asking is A. impossible due to the vast variations in biological attraction and B. misusing scripture out of appropriate context and phrasing.

          It’s been uncharacteristically sunny in Portland lately. I’ve encountered a bunch of men who are dressed attractively and I’m attracted to some of them. But guess what – I recognize that they exist for more than my pleasure, that they chose to dress themselves for a billion reasons besides “enticing” or “tempting” me, so I notice their attractiveness to me and I move on. It’s counter cultural inside and outside the church, but I propose we give women the same agency we give men to choose their clothes (on any spectrum of the conservative-liberal dress scale) for personal and legitimate reasons. And then we deal with our personal and social sins of judgement, control, lust, and power.

  • Stacy

    Yes, yes, a thousand times, yes! I desire to replace oppressive, faulty religious impositions with real, freeing truth that is actually representative of the Gospel–and it’s great to read thoughts from others who are aiming to spread truth as well.

    As a woman, I have felt condemned numerous times because I’ve been told I’m responsible for the thoughts of the men around me. Utter bullshit! It’s time to release ourselves of trying to “fix” everyone around us and release ourselves from the notion that we even have that control (because we don’t), and leave that stuff to God (and this applies not just to lust issues, but to a multitude of other life situations as well).
    Certainly, we should each be cognizant of the needs and weaknesses of those around us and not intentionally seek to harm anyone or feed into those weaknesses, but I believe that if those of us who are Christians are each loving and following God and listening to the Holy Spirit earnestly and doing our best to live according to that, then we have to trust God to handle the rest of the details.
    I say all this as someone who used to live by those oppressive “rules” that Christendom too oft imposes, and I’m thankful that Jesus has led me (and is still leading me) into a clearer and understanding of his grace and his sovereignty.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Wow, Stacy, thank you so much for sharing! I’m grateful that this post resonated with you. I’m so sorry you’ve felt condemned by others because they put pressure on you to be overly responsible, but I’m proud of you for calling BS! Keep growing and trusting that Jesus doesn’t want to control your life either, he offers you an amazing love that will make you flourish!

      I think you’re spot on with this: “It’s time to release ourselves of trying to “fix” everyone around us and release ourselves from the notion that we even have that control (because we don’t), and leave that stuff to God (and this applies not just to lust issues, but to a multitude of other life situations as well).”

      Glad to have you reading!

  • msbyrd

    I agree with your article. But as a Christian woman, I do think I have a responsibility to honor God with everything. That also means honoring Him with my body and the way I dress. For me, that means to be modest. I can’t go around a proclaim Christ to the nations wearing a low-V shirt and tight short shorts, because that doesn’t set me apart from the world. So I want to be clear that Christian girls do have a responsibility… no it’s not to other men or woman, but as you said, we have a responsibility to God and to honor Him and represent Him with our bodies. This means, I believe Christian women should be modest. But only for the glory of God, not the rules of man.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Msbyrd! I’m grateful you shared your personal standards for the way you dress and I want to support and encourage you. You’ve clearly thought about what makes you most comfortable as far as clothing goes, and think it’s great you’re aware of that. Thanks for reading and sharing your opinion!

    • http://twitter.com/kelseyethomas Kelsey Thomas

      With all due respect and love possible, I do not want to be “set apart from the world” because my shorts are two inches longer. I want to be set apart from the world because I display a love and a joy that can only come from the Holy Spirit. Personally, I choose to dress more modestly than most other college girls because by doing so, I am less likely to get objectifying / lustful stares. It is to protect myself more than anything. But if a man did look at me lustfully, it would not at all be MY sin or mean I was glorifying the Lord any less.

  • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

    Yes. To the tacos and Olympians. With lots of salsa!

    • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

      Also. This.

      Amazing Insight.

      Lust is about control, not just sex.

      Lust is dehumanizes a person in your own heart and mind. It is the
      ritual taking, obsessing, and using someone else for your own benefit
      rather than valuing that person as an equal image-bearer of God. Lust is
      forming people in your own image, for your own purposes, whether for
      sexual pleasure, emotional security, or moral superiority. In lusting,
      you are creating a world where every other person exists for your
      approval or dismissal. Lust reduces the complexity of each individual
      and their story to something you get to manage. Lust certainly can have a
      sexual component, but when we reduce it merely to sexual reactions, we
      miss out on God’s heart for all people: infinite value.

      • Emily_Maynard

        Thank you so much, Christy! This view of lust radically changed the way I think and live. It’s super convicting, too, because I don’t have any excuse to say “oh, lust is just a man thing” or “ewww, no good woman would wear that!”

        When my heart is controlling or taking the humanity from someone, even in ways so subtle the church may back me up, I am in the wrong.

        • http://christymcferren.com/ Christy McFerren

          “ways so subtle the church may back me up”… this is something I am finding to be a common thread lately in conversations. It seems the church is in a new season of being refined, to allow the free will of man to choose God, rather than from fear, restrict men and constrain them to God by force. It’s always been an issue, but I feel a new layer is being pulled back for freedom for everyone. Thanks for being a part of that voice on this important issue!

          • Emily_Maynard

            I’d love to hear more about where these threads are showing up in your spheres, Christy. They make me so excited!

          • http://www.facebook.com/kbates31 Kristopher Bates

            Exactly !!!!! The Path the Wisdom is No longer the Fear God. Never was actually !

    • Emily_Maynard

      I was thinking lots of guac. Gotta keep up that good fat for all those toned muscles!

  • http://bretwortman.com/ Bret Wortman

    Excellent post, and very thought-provoking.

    A friend once defined lust for me as, “wanting more of anything for myself than God wants for me.” By that definition lust can absolutely be sexual, but it can also be lust for money, for power, for cars, for anything that I want more of than God desires for me. It’s definitely an attitude, and while I’m conflicted as a father who wants my daughter to dress modestly to protect and preserve her own attitudes about sexuality, I do not for a moment believe that this will stop someone who wants to lust after her from doing so.

    But it just might cut down on the frequency a bit. And I guess, for me, that’s good enough for now.

    I appreciated your article today. Thanks for sharing!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Bret, thanks for sharing that definition! And good luck as you teach your daughter that her body belongs to her! That’s a huge challenge, but having a dad who is involved in her life and loves her unconditionally as she figures it all out will certainly help her!

      Honestly, I’m not sure what cuts down on “frequency.” I know from my own experience that public harassment hasn’t increased or decreased based on the amount of or type of clothing I was wearing, and I’ve paid attention to this phenomenon for several years. At the end of the day, harassment is wrong and never the victim’s fault.

      Again, thanks for reading Prodigal!

      • http://www.ticoandtina.com/ Tico & Tina

        I do not in any way mean to imply anything about you, your statement merely reminded me of observations i have made, that some people exude sexuality

        • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

          sexuality is not wrong, though. And some people are seen as attractive to many people, no matter what they are wearing. Perhaps the attitude of the heart that you are meaning to say is wrong is a seductive heart?

          • http://www.ticoandtina.com christina

            yes, I believe semantics got in the way there =) in the definition of sexuality, 3 points are “recognition of or emphasis upon sexual matters.” and “an organism’s preparedness for engaging in sexual activity.” and “the possession of sexual potency” which is the way in which I was referencing the word.

  • Fiona

    Thanks, Emily, for sharing truth to set us free. As a homeschool graduate, I’ve had many similar thoughts in recent years. You hit the nail on the head when you said that modesty will always be “culturally relative decisions”.

    I spent a month and a half serving in a conservative community in India earlier this year, was covered from head to toe every time I went outside my apartment (read: the feet and the lower arms/hands & face were the only things showing), and had some of the rudest, most forward and inappropriate sexual remarks made to me…way more than wearing a bikini on a Florida beach.

    It was bizarre for me to go out the first few weeks I was “home”, dressed in half the clothing and only be greeted by kind smiles and relative indifference to my wardrobe.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Fiona, thank you so much for sharing this perspective! I think it’s a great example of modesty being culturally relative. I’m so sorry that you also had to experience sexual harassment.

      I think it’s interesting to note that in that situation (and frequently in my own experience), even dressing “modestly” by that culture’s standards doesn’t prevent abuse. We need to stand up and proclaim that street harassment is NEVER okay, no matter what a person is wearing. The fault is ALWAYS with the abuser, never with the victim.

      I hope you continue to find freedom in dressing the way you like and what works for your situation! Thank you for reading!

  • http://www.facebook.com/rachel.hemperly Rachel Hemperly

    Thank you for this. And not because it’s all brand new to me, but because I’ve wanted to write this very article for a long time and didn’t know where to begin. I now feel like I have a couple printed resources to point people to when trying to explain how I feel on this subject, to get conversations rolling.

  • http://www.facebook.com/lauren.hildreth Lauren Hildreth

    I am going to post this shamelessly across the interwebz, if you don’t mind, because I think it’s fantastic! (Well, I’ll link back to it…) You are spot on, and the first of all I’ve read to hit the mark. :)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you so much, Lauren! I’m glad you’re reading and hope life is grand! :)

  • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

    Emily,
    this conversation is excellent! I am from an ultra conservative background also. I am still quite conservative. But I too have realized recently that a lot of my wrong ideas are based on the control-based relationships. To tell you the truth, I that I had moved beyond all the co-dependency type stuff. And then, recently I saw it crop up in my own heart. It may have been simmering in there all these years. But, I finally stood up & took notice of it when the co-dependent attitudes got tangled in with some lust. That was enough to get my attention. Hello! I MAY NOT see myself as anyone else’s salvation, Holy Spirit, or whatever. God is that. And I must see people in their full context of who they are & not as my project or charity or whatever. Modesty was part of it all too. But, modesty of the heart is where I failed. I was arrogant & foolish of heart. My clothing never got sexier, or whatever. It was my heart. And I don’t know what anyone else’s heart is struggling with.
    I’m not sure how much sense any of that makes.
    But, to be a modest women who is not lusting, or seeking to an object of lust, it absolutely is all based in my heart. I am responsible for my own heart before God. So is everyone else. :)

  • http://www.facebook.com/kbates31 Kristopher Bates

    Emily, your insight is right-on. The undertone that I believe some find so hard to accept or receive rather, is your absolute total lack of judgment and total acceptance for others processes you have come to realize. As Christians we feel responsible to set forth and follow rules that we all abide by for collective acceptance in this way or that for reason of sitting in favor of God. Each religion for that matter does this. My take is, when the individual soul places forth actual genuine intention to know God one’s life is irreversibly changed. The magic of God is irreversibly addictive, it talks to soul and is peppered with purpose. When one truly connects to our Source (God), the desire to sin wanes dramatically. Sin is just not worth anymore. The struggle or “The Walk through the Valley of Darkness” begins to subside. The nuggets of wisdom obtained by a walk through the darkness (or ignorance) is so very precious not only to the now “Striped With Honor/Wisdom” soul but to GOD. God judges not, he is total accepting and forgiving of all, he is simply waiting for our return in consciousness for he dwells within our own self worth. Which as humans we must fight for or so we think until we connect to GOD. We must understand not all will return to the father is this life. It is not ours to judge this, but only to provide a safe loving space for those to heal in there own time. “A Man convince against his will, is of the same opinion still”. This position will also eliminate the Commanding Overtone we have given God, which by the way is what creates religious zealots and is straight out of Medieval Times. We cannot speed one’s path to God we can only act as facilitators. When we rush or persuade we cause people to put up fake facades so that they can be apart of the Christian Body. This only creates latent problems that will either explode or be numbed down with resentment later in life. It creates a body of people who are full of hypocritical judgmental ways of thinking because they are not quite connected so slinging the spiritual sword makes them feel better, (which is well intended but ultimately destructive). Thus the reason Lust has been mis-categorized as purely sexual.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mckenzie.jones.1840 McKenzie Jones

    A humble heart is very important. Dressing modestly does not make you prideful. However, I am sure it could if your heart is not right with God.The “rules” people make or do not make are not important, but God’s rules are, and he does have some concerning modesty. We need to be careful not to share opinions but lovingly share the Bible. We cannot control what others think or do, but we do have a responsibility not to cause a stumbling block for Christians or anyone else. I don’t know how to help people see spiritually except through God’s word, so here are some references: 1Cor. 8:9 Do not let your liberty become a stumbling block to those that are weak, and 1John 2:10. Jesus did refer to the the lust in the heart as sin, and He called that sin adultery Matthew 5:28. Guys have to be responsible for their lust, but if we are dressing in a sensual way we are being a stumbling block. We answer to God for our immodesty. Here is a good book too, if you want to find out why modesty is important: Every Man’s Battle. I have been through the same thought process you are going through as well; once I realized what a real battle this was, I realized I didn’t need to use my perceived “liberty” as a stumbling block. I am far from perfect at the “old” age of 31 and have a lot to learn, but whatever I can do to be a bright light I want to do it with a humble heart. It is not by my own righteousness but through Christ’s.

  • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

    This is a tricky topic that I’m not sure anyone gets quite right. (No offense intended, Emily. I’m still thinking on your words here.) I’ve seen some articles that concluded, “Wear whatever you want! You’re not responsible for the sin of others!” and yet failed to recognize the selfishness at the heart of “my clothing choice is more important than your struggle”. I’ve also seen articles that declared it a sin for a woman to wear pants, and yet completely neglected a man’s responsibility for his own sin. Far more of the former than the latter, as you might imagine. But I think the truth lies somewhere in between. I also think to come up with some kind “this is ok, this is not” list is legalism and discounts the intelligence that God gave us.

    I found myself thinking again how I might approach the subject with my kids. I think I might teach a daughter that her freedom in Christ is far reaching, but the position of her heart is more important. I’ll teach her that even though the world might try to tell her otherwise, she does have great power as a representative of Christ. “With great power comes great responsibility,” I’ll say. And she’ll grin, knowing these words of wisdom from Spider-Man are true even here in the real world. And because I’ve hopefully taught her to love like Christ, she’ll use the brain given her to judge each situation for herself and consider the perspective of those around her, giving up her own freedom for the benefit of others as appropriate, but never laying down to be steamrolled over by someone who seeks to condemn her.

    I think I’d teach a son the same.

    • Aaron

      Amen!

    • Helené

      Very well said. That’s the way I’m handling the issue. When I dress I think about what I want to ‘achieve’ with the way I dress. Do I want to frame my face and look like the pretty daughter of the King? Or do I intend to highlight my body because I’d like some ”wow”s!

      I like what you said about the position of one’s heart. I think if my heart is in a right place and I was honestly not trying to look sexy or whatever, and yet some brother might stumble, then there’s really not much else I could’ve done to prevent that.

      IF I had an issue with dressing (in)appropriately, however, I trust that the holy spirit would convict me and show me how to change for the better.

      In fact, last christmas I wore an outfit that I really liked because it complimented my legs. I wore it to church and I realized that guys, yes even some married guys, were ‘looking’ at me. Not in a gross way, but still…looking. I think the holy spirit showed me that day, that my outfit choice might’ve not been the best. But It showed me in a loving way, not shaming me. I was actually sorry for having been a possible source of stumbling, but I was not ashamed by any means. Plus, even if that leg-complimenting-outfit that day was a mistake on my account, I think any guy who might’ve looked at me ‘lustingly’ was as much responsible for his thoughts and behavior as I was for mine.

      (I’m not a native English speaker, so I hope I could get my point across. :-) )

      • H24

        It is perfectly ok to want to feel and look sexy . You don’t have to dress slutty to feel sexy . And if you’re attractive , you’re probably going to get looked at by married and single men just the same . It is naturally within us to be attracted to people and take a look occasionally. This doesn’t mean the heart is lustful or that a married man wants to cheat but is just a natural reaction we have from our bodies annd minds which were crated by god . It is people like all of you posting this nonsense that keep this craziness and of feeling guilt for doing absolutely nothing wrong , going

        • H24

          Also it was not god that let u know you should not have worn that dress . It was your life long guilt that has been taught to u that made u feel bad that men were checkin you out . Let them look. No one is getting harmed .

          • A Prodigal Daughter

            Sorry, but who are you to say whether that was God speaking to her or not?
            The Holy Spirit is a PERSON (not an IT, Helene) and HE speaks to us in our hearts. It’s not practical for you to know another person’s heart… Especially someone from a comment thread on the internet. 1 Samuel 16:8- “People judge by outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart.” When you actively seek to hear His “still small voice,” you start to recognize when it is God speaking to you.
            Please don’t judge Helene for feeling convicted about a personal choice, and maybe instead you should ask God why you wouldn’t want someone to feel convicted about their clothing. Maybe He’d like to show you something about yourself.

      • Rex S

        awesome dear sister i love your heart and iam sure so does your heavenly Father. I have 8 daughters of my own

  • http://sammmbam.wordpress.com/ Samantha Fritschle

    “I don’t think you dressing according to a set of modesty rules will ever stop another person from lusting.”

    I’ve always held so tightly to the idea that how I dress affects others’ sin–and how they will treat me. The Modest Rules seemed to offer a guarantee that I would never be objectified and that I would never cause anyone to sin. One day, while I was walking down the street in my bermuda shorts and a t-shirt, a man honked and cat-called from his truck. It made me feel so frustrated, so guilty, and most of all, deeply confused. Even if I wore clothes that DID abide by the Modest Rules, I still “caused someone to stumble” and I still was made into a sexual object. But…I thought my modesty was supposed to shield me from all of that!
    Most of all, it hurt my pride. Yes, it hurt my heart and made me feel degraded. But I didn’t like that my way of shouldering everyone’s responsibility was impossible and awful for me.
    I’m still learning about all of this, and figuring it out. Thanks for posting this–it’s really encouraging and helpful!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Samantha,

      Thank you so much for sharing. I’m so sorry that you’ve experience objectification and street harassment. I want to assure you that it wasn’t your fault, you didn’t cause it, and the guilty party is absolutely wrong. I understand your feelings of frustration and have experienced the same.

      The interesting thing that you bring up is that the Modesty Rules objectify you, even while they proclaim to protect you from objectification. They make your clothing choices about your sexual responsibility first, not about what you wanted to wear that day, the weather, where you’re going, your latest creative outfit idea, etc. That turns you into an object, not a human with a soul.

      You’re great and I have absolute confidence you’ll keep figuring it out! Thank you for reading.

  • Adam Allevato

    As a guy, here’s how I see it. You are correct in that you are not responsible for other people’s sin. At least not directly. But dressing immodestly makes it easier for others to experience lust, in the same way that not putting your blinker on before a lane change makes it easier for others to experience anger (a.k.a. road rage), or bragging about your possessions makes it easier for others to envy/covet those possessions.

    So, yes, lust is an issue between the luster and God. But other people and their attire can certainly have a helping hand in bringing it about.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Adam, I’m glad you offered your opinion here. My question is, (using general pronouns) why do you get to decide what exactly “dressing immodestly” is and require that I change for you? You’re welcome to disagree, but I want you to know that what you’re asking is a HUGE burden for women. You’re asking us to consider men and their sex drives first before we consider what we’d like to wear that day, what makes us feel comfortable or fun, or anything else. Does that make more sense? Even indirect responsibility is too much of a burden to ask someone else to carry.

      • Adam Allevato

        I understand that it’s a burden. So is driving courteously, not bragging, holding your tongue when it’s prudent, giving freely from your wealth, and many other “indirect responsibilities.” And I realize that it isn’t possible (as shown by other commenters’ examples) to dress in a way that is completely lust-proof (for lack of a better term). But just dressing in a “socially acceptable manner” is not always the Christ-like thing to do.

        You said “You’re asking us to consider men and their sex drives first before we consider what we’d like to wear that day.” Actually, yes, I am asking that. It may not be particularly “comfortable or fun,” and it probably isn’t fully achievable for that matter. But it is the mark of a considerate and sacrificial love for others.

        • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

          There in lies the key – it isn’t fully achievable.

          • http://www.ticoandtina.com/ Tico & Tina

            Yes, however as described in my response to another commentin this thread, common sense is really not that hard to come by. Let’s just be honest with ourselves when we get dressed, what do our choices most draw attention to.

            • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

              I just think modesty is in the heart of a person. And one can be seductive in any sort of clothing. And one can lust after another in any sort of clothing. I do seek to dress appropriately. But the root of it all is the heart. We cannot dress to ward off lust. (But, our clothing choices can indeed make a person who is overtaken with lust think that we are desiring to be lusted after. But, that is indeed all culturally subjective. Different cultures view different things as provocative . So we dress based on our culture & we seek not to control or use other people.)

              • Emily_Maynard

                Erin, what do you mean when you say “modesty is in the heart?” What does that type of modesty (not being a show off, flaunting wealth, etc, which is what Paul describes) relate to how much skin you show or how much fabric reveals form?

                I love much of what you say, but I still don’t understand that concept. I’d love to see you describe it a little more!

                Thanks.

                • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

                  Emily, that is exactly what I mean – showing off, arrogant, flaunting, etc, is what immodesty is. Modesty means to be humble. Our clothing choices don’t come from a moral code. I guess I didn’t say well what I was meaning to say?
                  Thanks for the awesome discussion, Emily!

        • Emily_Maynard

          Hey Adam, thanks for continuing to discuss this issue respectfully. I’m glad you’re here!

          I think the issue has gotten a bit sidetracked from my point, though. Finding someone attractive is not the same as lust, and I think that’s why we’ve created an obsession with this issue. We’ve created a problem and then tried to solve that non-problem by managing what women wear or telling them they should worry about it constantly. (Which doesn’t even work, by the way. Ask any woman who has been harassed on the street.)

          The real problem in the act of lusting is stripping the power and value from another gloriously made person. And by controlling or promoting control over someone else’s clothing choices, you’re engaging in the root of that very same sin.

          Does that refocus the issue a little bit for you? Thanks again for reading!

          • Adam

            I agree on all above points except for one, and yes, thank you for refocusing the issue. I just don’t understand how “by controlling or promoting control over someone else’s clothing choices, you’re engaging in the root of that very same sin.”
            It seems to me that this action is recognizing that people have problems with the sin of lust, real lust, and that to help others overcome their sin (which we should all do), women can be more considerate about their attire. From personal experience I can say that attire has consequences in the minds of men, not just regarding attraction, but actual lust.
            I just ask that women consider others and how they can help or hurt those people’s struggles by their dress. Not to meet requirements or Modesty Rules, but as a gift.

            • Coovara

              @Adam: I hope you will read what I posted earlier. By taking the attitude that you are, you are doing men as much of a disservice as you are women. The issue is that what you are accustomed to calling ‘lust’ isn’t as sin! It may be unwanted attention, but it has been shown that this attention is a constant for both men -and women-. It is an injustice to women to ask them to protect men from this attention, because there isn’t inherently anything wrong with it. It is an injustice to men because women show other women the exact same attention.

              In fact the real sin of Lust is in the de-humanization of another person. By falsely suggesting that men can not engage in the very natural and and ubiquitous deconstruction of the human form, without dehumanizing you are in fact dehumanizing all men. And of course, requesting all women to take responsibility for something you feel uncomfortable with, is dehumanizing women, in that you are requesting that they take responsibility for something that isn’t theirs to take.

              Let me put it in your analogy. The reasons we signal in a car when we plan to turn is so that others will know and can take the appropriate response. It is a convention, and a law, because it avoids wrecks. It is ones responsibility because they are the one turning. But going strait requires no signal to say that you are not going to turn. Sensual attention is not lust, and is not a sin, therefore no signal is required. It’s as if you are asking all women to drive around with an ‘I’m going strait’ signal on at all times except when they are turning. And you are suggesting that unlike women, who only need a turn signal to know when someone else is going to turn, that men are such uninvolved beasts that they all need women to not only use turn signals, but also ‘I’m going strait’ signals.

              • Angie

                Hi Coovara,

                I think you would really benefit from listening to this perspective on lust by Dr. Voddie Baucham. I highly encourage you to listen to this and anything else you can get your hands on from Dr. Baucham.

                http://www.sermonaudio.com/sermoninfo.asp?SID=53091755325

                • Coovara

                  Dr. Baucham:
                  “Political ideology is an outgrowth of our religious beliefs.”
                  “One of the signs that a culture is under judgment is, women in leadership.”

                  This guy is seriously sexists! He is a radical christian extremist, just like the radical Islamic extremists.

                  If you are a woman, and you believe in the teachings of Dr. Baucham.
                  Then I think you should again read Timothy 2:11-12. If this is your belief, then what are you doing on this or any other blog? Listen, you know this is ludicrous to interpret the scripture in this way. So please stop trying to pick and choose which scriptures you are going to take literally, and which ones have a ‘more correct interpretation’.

                  The answer is so easy. Look inside your heart, your mind, your body, and your spirit and know that the being you are is in direct connection and communication with God. Your true heart will not lead you astray. Your true heart will not feel fearful or horrific. Your true heart may tell you things that are uncomfortable or unwanted by you, but never without insight, or clear path.

                  That was the greatest message Jesus came here to impart! It is the underlying message throughout the New Testament. You really don’t need the bible, Jesus never compiled a book and called it the bible. The old testament already existed, but Jesus didn’t make the bible. You really don’t ever need to hear the teachings of another person. Tribes in the middle of South America that have never had outside contact don’t need any of this to know God. You really don’t need a church. Though these things may help you on your path, if you listen and follow your true heart, you will be as one with God, because your true heart IS God.

                  Are you afraid to look inside at your own true heart? Are you afraid to look on the face of God? Perhaps you should be. The life you lead may be drastically different, and that is very scary. But can’t you feel it? Don’t you feel your heart race at the thought? Doesn’t your very should quiver? Don’t you truly know it is the right thing to do?

                  • Angie

                    Hi Coovara,

                    Actually I would encourage you to delve in more deeply to Dr. Baucham’s sermons. We are personal friends with the Bauchams and I can assure you they are far from sexist. :-)

                    You said that ‘Your true heart will not lead you astray’. That is actually false. The Bible tells us that “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” Jeremiah 17:9. What will never lead you astray is Scripture.

                    You seem to be under the impression that I only believe portions of Scripture. I believe it all and it is literal. Certainly there are parables and poetry, etc. But Scripture is clear when a passage is a literal event and when it is a parable. All of Scripture is true exactly as it is written.

                    The message of Christ is to believe on Him as the propitiation for your sin for He has come to make a way for you to dwell with Him eternally. Jesus didn’t make the Bible? Do you not believe that Jesus is God? God the Father, God the Son and God the Holy Spirit are the One True Triune God. Jesus most certainly “made” the Bible as He created all things before the foundation of the earth.

                    My heart is not God. God is God. He is separate from me, a wholly redeemed sinner.

                    I’m not sure what you are asking in your last paragraph but I will close with this. Yes, I am afraid to look into my own heart, because apart from Christ there is nothing good in me. I am also afraid to look in the face of a holy God, because apart from Christ I would be consumed as I am most unholy. The wages of sin is death. I deserve death. Apart from Christ, I have no merit. It is only through Him that I have salvation and for that I am eternally humbled and grateful. The life I lead would be drastically different were it not for the mercy of Christ. Anything good in me is only because of Him and nothing that I have done. Repent and believe is message Jesus came to give.

                    • Coovara

                      Angie

                      Clearly you do not take the scriptures literally or you would not continue this conversation given Timothy 2:11- . This means you are being dishonest and that dishonesty is one of the greatest sins specifically because you are attempting whether you know it or not to lead others astray by it.

                      You quote Jeremiah 17:9 as if the word ‘Heart’ in this case refers to the same as the True Heart, the internal knowing, ones intuition, ones conscience, ones link to God. But then you refuse to look at that divine part of yourself.

                      Should you perhaps read this:
                      http://truthsaves.org/articles/jeremiah17_9.shtml

                      Then you might come to understand, not only why I say Jesus did not write the Bible, but also why the way you use Jeremiah 17:9 is so deceitful.

                      You say “I am afraid to look into my own heart, because apart from Christ there is nothing good in me.” I am so happy to inform you that this is not the case. There is in fact very little wicked about you, other than that you will not look into your own true heart and follow the path you find within. That is the primary lesson of Jesus Christ. You deserve forgiveness, you are divine, you are made in his image. You must be has Jesus to enter heaven yes? You are made in his image and therefore you are capable of being as one. Follow your True Heart. Follow your Divine Heart if that makes you more comfortable to phrase it as such.

                      You say you are afraid to look in the face of God. You believe you would be consumed as you are most unholy. If you believe you are unholy then what reason would you have to change this unholiness? Why do you believe you are unholy? Is this some other twisted scripture you will pull from a twice over mistranslation and out of context?

                      You say that it is only through him that you have salvation. I think you misunderstand. In fact jeremiah17 is quite appropriate. It is only through YOU that you have salvation. Only by connecting with and living according to the Divine, the True Heart within you will you have the salvation you seek. But you refuse to look to your true hear from fear that you will have to take true responsibility for yourself.

                      You believe yourself incapable of good, and as long as you do, you will do no good.

                    • Angie

                      Hi Coovara,

                      You clearly do not believe Scripture so I’m not sure we have anything really to debate since we’re not on the same page. I would encourage you to spend some time in your Bible reading and asking the Lord to reveal the truth of Scripture to you. A good commentary is helpful too. I recommend Matthew Henry.

                      I will be praying that the Lord will be merciful to you and shower you with His saving grace.

                      Blessings to you, Coovara!

                    • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.dedeaux.9 Timothy Dedeaux

                      I hear this a lot: Jeremiah 17:9 used as a way to shut someone down, because their hearts/consciences/thoughts are wicked, and thus they should submit to the authority of scripture, as interpreted by someone who is also human (and thus equally wicked).

                      I really find this kind of use of Jeremiah troubling. There are two troubling implications

                      1) That we don’t have the guidance of the Holy Spirit, that we’re no better off than those living under the old covenant, without Christ (I’d also add that Jeremiah is talking about people during a particularly wicked period in Israel’s past, when God was in process of punishing them for idolatry and exploitation of the poor and weak)

                      2) That the Bible is so perspicuous that our hearts aren’t involved in interpreting it. Sorry, but if our hearts (under the new covenant) are still desperately wicked, then *We have no ability to interpret the Bible accurately or clearly, and neither does any preacher, scholar, or priest.*

                    • Angie

                      Timothy,

                      If the Word of God offends you, then it is the Lord who offends you. The wickedness of man’s heart is not merely an ‘old covenant’ issue but is all throughout Scripture If you don’t understand the depravity of your own heart, then how can you understand your need for a Savior?

                      I point you to a few areas for further study under the new covenant:

                      Romans 11:32 – For God has consigned all to disobedience, that he may have mercy on all. (c.f. Galatians 3:22)

                      Romans 3:23 – for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God.

                      Romans 3:9-12 – What then? Are we Jews any better off? No, not at all. For we have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under sin, as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” (c.f. Psalm 14:1-3, 53:1-3)

                      1 John 1:8,10 – If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we say we have not sinned, we make [God] a liar, and his word is not in us.

                      Mark 10:18/Luke 18:19 – And Jesus said to him, “Why do you call me good? No one is good except God alone.”

                      Mark 7:21-23 – “For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” (c.f. Matthew 15:19)

                      Titus 1:15-16 – to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled.

                      Romans 1:28-31 – And since they did not see fit to acknowledge God, God gave them up to a debased mindto do what ought not to be done. They were… foolish

                      Ephesians 4:17-18 – you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. They aredarkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart.

                      Matthew 15:19 – “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander.” (c.f. Mark 7:21-23)

                      Matthew 12:34-35 – “How can you speak good, when you are evil? For out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. The good person out of his good treasure brings forth good, and the evil person out of his evil treasure brings forth evil.”

                      Romans 8:7 – For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot.

                      Titus 1:15-16 – to the defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure; but both their minds and their consciences are defiled. They profess to know God, but they deny him by their works. They are detestable, disobedient, unfit for any good work.

                      Ephesians 2:3 – among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

                      Romans 3:10-12 – “no one seeks for God.”

                      Matthew 11:27 – “no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.”

                    • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.dedeaux.9 Timothy Dedeaux

                      None of the verses you stated apply to those who are saved by Grace and whose hearts have been redeemed by the Holy Spirit. They’re all talking about unbelievers. Except the one in which Jesus himself says that none is good except the Father. That’s quite a standard, if the Messiah, who was God in flesh, doesn’t even count as good.

                      Maybe Jesus means something other than “I, the incarnate God, am not good.” Let’s look at that in context, instead of proof-texting.

                      Mark 10:17-22. This is the story of the rich young man who came to Jesus asking what he had to do to gain eternal life. When asked what the scriptures said, he listed laws and commandments, and said he’d fulfilled them from his youth. Jesus told him to sell what he owned (giving up his power and security) and give it to the poor and follow him. The man went away dejected, because he was very rich. Perhaps Jesus meant to interrupt his flattery and show him that his good works were not enough to gain eternal life.

                      After all, if Jesus meant that literally – that he, the Messiah, the incarnate God, the sinless sacrifice for our sins – was not “good,” was not sinless, then our entire faith is for nothing. It all turns on Jesus being sinless, perfect, God.

                    • Angie

                      Can you provide a Scripture that says that depravity does not apply to those who are saved? If we weren’t depraved before our redemption, why did we need a Savior?

                      God the Father and God the Son are One in the same. None is good except the Father is referring to Jesus as well. They are One in the same.

                      I’m not exactly sure of your point on the Mark verse, but it did mean to show him that his good works were not enough. It has nothing to do with Jesus not being sinless, which He is.

                    • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.dedeaux.9 Timothy Dedeaux

                      How about the first part of Titus 1:15, the part you cut out when you quoted it?

                      “To the pure, all things are pure, but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled.”

                      You can cherry-pick individual verse and parts of verses from the Bible, and honestly, you can use them to “prove” anything – subjugation of women, Biblical support for slavery, predestination, free will, Manifest Destiny (the necessity of conquering “pagan savages” so you can teach them about Jesus), vegetarianism, socialism, capitalism, whatever.

                      And THAT is what offends me. Not the scripture, but the use of individual verses (and verse-fragments) as a tool to back up whatever point we’re making.

                      The Bible can only be respected if it is studied as a whole unity, understanding that it was divinely inspired, but written by human hands. We respect it and take it seriously by studying it as a whole, praying for God’s guidance, AND by learning about the genres, culture, and lives lived by the people who first heard it.

                    • Angie

                      The Bible is to be studied as a whole and is Divinely inspired. On that we are in complete agreement. :-)

                • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

                  @ Angie, I am listening to the sermon by Voddie & he is saying the same thing as I hear Emily & Coovara trying to say – looking with lustful intent is not noticing someone as attractive, it is desiring to possess. He says it was not immodesty that leads to the immorality, but it is the blasphemy of worshiping the creature rather than the Creator.

  • coovara

    I like the way you have defined Lust. I think it works well with Jesus’s intent. “In the book of Matthew, when Jesus said “if you even look at a woman with lust…” he wasn’t condemning a physical sexual response as sinful, he was lifting up the inherent value of all women and men.”

    I think a lot of people read this and they still use the distorted modern use of the word Lust. They still want to talk about the sin of the man who looks at the woman and has a sexual response. The point I hear you making is that this response, in and of itself, is not a sin, and neither would a woman looking at a man this way be. It is when one ignores the others sentience that it is a sin, and this would be the case were it sexual or not.

    A recent study in the European Journal of Social Psychology suggests that both men and women are wired to visually deconstruct the female form. It’s the way we all are, male or female. How can our instinct, the way God made us, be a sin? Having a natural God-given response that both men and women experience is not objectification. Since this deconstruction and sexual response happens nearly every time for both genres, it is obvious that both men and women are capable of such a response while not dehumanizing the person they are seeing.

    I think we have done both men and women an injustice by making this natural God-given response feel uncomfortable. We do not typically attribute objectification or sin when a woman deconstructs the features of another women, but we do when a man does. This makes women feel as though they were constantly viewed as objects by men, even though this mechanism is happening all the time from both genders. And it separates the genders and produces a kind of sexism against males, because it makes women feel specifically uncomfortable with men. It certainly dehumanizes men as uninvolved creatures unable to differentiate the difference between their own natural visual deconstruction response, and the objectification of another being.

    • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

      Not to discount what you’re saying, but I’m always very careful when some study finds something to be “natural”. Because all people start from a state of sin, naturally. “Natural” doesn’t mean “right” by default.

      • http://www.ticoandtina.com/ Tico & Tina

        My thoughts exactly, john

      • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

        While I agree with your caution on accepting something as fine, just because it is “natural”, John, what do say about the point that women notice other women’s bodies, too. I know I do & I am most certainly not lesbian. The noticing is not sin. It is what I do with that. Do I judge that person’s worth? Do I deem them as trashy, prudish, boring, stupid, lazy, & on & on…? Is there envy, comparisons, desire to use & have? All those things are apart from the simple noticing of a body.

        • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

          I guess I need to be schooled on what scientists mean when they use terms like “visual deconstruction”. Because my first thought is, “duh”. That’s a head, that’s a torso, that’s a pair of arms and a pair of legs, all together they make a person. Perhaps I’m the oddball in my thinking, but I can easily see how one can recognize the various parts of a person and begin a sort of comparison without even thinking about it. Those arms are bigger than these, these legs are longer than those, and so on.

          Generally speaking, I think women are more likely to compare themselves to other women than men are to compare themselves to other men, so that part kind of seems like a no-brainer to me as well. I don’t know if that’s a cultural thing or biological thing, just an observation I’ve made.

          Noticing, I agree, is not a sin. Recognizing beauty isn’t either. I can recognize that both of my sisters-in-law are beautiful women. My brothers are lucky men. As you say, it’s what you do with those thoughts that can get you in trouble.

          • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

            True John! I wonder what deconstruction means exactly, too. If it is noticing, I get it. I have a problem with it if it is “undressing” someone with our eyes & “using” them in our minds. It is possible that deconstruction means something more like that. And, that’s called lust!

            • Coovara

              @Erin & John:

              In this context they do mean “undressing” someone with our eyes. But what I was saying is that while this is natural, and while having the sensual parts of our brains respond to such, “USING” and dehumanizing does not necessarily follow. One can certainly find this beauty without Objectifying, just as one can love a pig as a pet without thinking of it as food.

              So I disagree with your definition of lust in this context. You see, the discussion of lust in the bible, I think the point was missed. It’s the dehumanizing objectifying part that is sin. But that is the case for every thought and every action. In the bible, and extreme was provided so that we could ‘get it’. By focusing on the extreme example, you miss the point entirely. And this leads to the objectification being acceptable in some cases, but not in the extreme cases that were used as examples.

              “I think women are more likely to compare themselves to other women than men are to compare themselves to other men”

              I think think perhaps this isn’t the case. The reality is we wear clothing more to avoid envy than we do to avoid lust.

              • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

                I think I do agree with you Coovara, perhaps. :) I get that noticing someone’s body & being aware of what they probably look like under their clothes, generally speaking, & seeing them as attractive is all not lust. I agree. But, I do have to say that I do feel “used” & objectified by a man who looks me up & down with “bedroom” eyes, like he is “stripping” me in his mind. My body is not his. That is why I say undressing with your eyes is a negative thing to me. I see it as more than having a pretty good idea of what someone may look like underneath all their clothes.
                A lot of this is misunderstanding what each other means by certain phrases, perhaps.

      • Coovara

        @John Hanan:

        I disagree that all people start from a state of sin. Are you really suggesting that as soon as a baby is born that it is in a state of sin?

        Natural means, the way God created us.

        By the way, to say ‘Not to discount what you are saying’ and then to follow with statements that do is disingenuous. It is a kind of lie is it not?

        • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

          That’s exactly what I’m suggesting. We don’t start from a position of neutrality with God. If we did, with proper management, any human man could live a sinless life. We are born rebels against Him, inheritors of Adam’s sin. It is only by Christ’s sacrifice that we can overcome that gap. I know this position brings up all kinds of questions along the lines of “What happens when a baby dies then?” and to those I have to say, I don’t know. I fully believe God is merciful and just, and I don’t believe He would allow a life to be snuffed out without some opportunity to come to know Him. I don’t know what that looks like though.

          I question your definition of natural. Because Adam and Eve were formed fully grown in Eden and had no shame at their nakedness. This is how God first created man, so wouldn’t that be the most “natural” state? Or would it be considered supernatural? I don’t know for certain, but I think – if your definition of “natural” is the correct one – that we have fallen from a very high place and could easily be considered to be “unnatural” at this point. For we were created to have relationship with God, and yet so many don’t. Unnatural for sure.

          I think you’re reading some meaning or intent to my words that isn’t there. I’m not discounting what you’re saying, just cautioning that – in my opinion – “natural” isn’t a safe place to start necessarily. That doesn’t mean it’s right or wrong, just that you can’t take it for granted.

          • Coovara

            @John,

            You say “If we did, with proper management, any human man could live a sinless life.”

            Why do you pick out specifically only half the population?

            I am surprised that you believe you can not live a sinless life. Shocked actually! I feel so very sorry for you. You must live in a constant state of fear and trepidation. You must live in a constant state of sin.

            Of course our natural state expresses the glory of God. Of course ANY HUMAN can live a _sinless_ life. To believe otherwise is surly to not follow the teachings of Jesus. It isn’t a matter of repent and be miserable, it is repent and share in the glory of the divine. Repent and be happy.

            There seems to be a constant thread to the detractors of the words written here. One that states a belief that we can not help but be sinners and that it isn’t our fault it is that of some originator or that God intended us to be faulty. A kind of refusal to take responsibility, and therefore want others to take that responsibility for us. Jesus didn’t come here to take responsibility for your sins, to provide you a loophole, he came here to tell you that you are indeed capable of being holy, that you can be forgiven. He didn’t say ‘sin all you want’ and God will give you a pass if you believe in me. He said, stop sinning, and you can be forgiven. If you don’t believe in this most basic of his teachings, I don’t see how you can believe in HIM.

            It’s like we believe in two different religions.

            • http://www.cross-platform.org John Hanan

              I don’t see how your beliefs square with Romans 3:23, which tells us that all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God. But then, I don’t see much point in continuing a debate of this nature here when it seems you’d prefer to make assumptions about my state of mind and intent. We’ll just have to agree to disagree, because I think you’re right: we do have two very different faiths.

              • Coovara

                @John:

                Something to think about… I copied Romans here: (I am not going to go into linguistics which pertains greatly here, but not as drastically as it does in other passages.)

                But now apart from the law the righteousness of God has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness is given through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe.

                ( You read belief in the Entity. I read belief in his message. )

                There is no difference between Jew and Gentile, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and all are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus.

                ( You read that we all are individually in an unavoidable state of sin, I read that Jews and Gentiles are both as sinful as groups – why else would the two be mentioned? Otherwise why not just say “All have sinned and fall short..”- . I read that Jews just as Gentiles can find redemption by doing what both are truly capable of, following the message of Jesus and _not_ sinning. This is exactly the scripture one might use to say that you must believe in the _Being_ Jesus as Trinity, ignoring the message. But it makes a lot more sense that what is being said here is that you don’t have to believe in the Entity, but you do have to follow the message, that is what is important. )

                God presented Christ as a sacrifice of atonement, through the shedding of his blood
                —to be received by faith. He did this to demonstrate his righteousness,
                because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand
                unpunished

                ( Here is where we run into some translation issues with this version. Clearly the sins committed beforehand were punished. The Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah. )

                — he
                did it to demonstrate his righteousness at the present time, so as to
                be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.

                ( But the point is still sound, it doesn’t even matter if you have every heard of Jesus. Don’t Sin! But how could this be if you are incapable? Well, you are, it’s just that what you are defining as sin often isn’t, and in fact, it is that definition which is causing you to sin even more than you would otherwise. )

  • http://twitter.com/AliciaMMiller Alicia Miller

    Love your thoughts here, Emily. Thank you! Jonalyn Fincher of Soulation just posted about modesty today too – you two should connect! Here’s a link: http://soulation.org/jonalynblog/2012/08/modesty-is-a-chameleon.html

  • Angie Martin

    Hi Emily,

    Thank you for inviting me to comment! Many of your points seem to gently approach the topic of legalism more so than the topic of lust. There is a LOT of legalism out there, especially in the more conservative circles. We are friends with families where the girls wear only dresses… and we’re not talking fashionable, attractive dresses. We’re talking potato sacks. If you dress in pants, you are in sin in their eyes. When we are with these friends we wear dresses, not because we feel compelled by the Lord to do so, but because we defer to them out of love. Their attitude, as much as we love them, is legalism. Pants can be holy or pants can be sinful. It’s all in the heart of the wearer. The pair of pants is neutral.

    To compel someone to “obey” rules not expressed in Scripture (like dresses only) is legalism and it can create all the emotions you mentioned above. I agree that we need to throw that off because it is not of the Lord, even if you defer to the conscience of someone who believes this way (as we do with the friends I mentioned). We need to put off any and all guilt created by legalism.

    Where I think you miss the mark a little is on this statement: “In fact, nothing you do or do not do can influence lust in someone else.” Things you do can influence lust in someone. Men are visual creatures and the female form promotes a sexual response. In the proper marriage context, that is good and right and holy and pure. Outside of that context, it is sin. We should be mindful of that ‘wiring’ and dress accordingly. To dress provocatively for our own pleasure or to garner male attention is sin on our part. In that case we are (knowingly or unknowingly) causing someone to stumble. Godly men that are trying to have a pure thought life can be negatively impacted by their natural desires by thoughtless girls who don’t consider or understand this.

    We do need to consider our dress out of deference to men because we want to do everything we can to help them walk in purity. We need to understand that the way we dress does affect even the godliest of men. That’s not to say you need a set of rules. Far from it. That’s not to say everyone needs a burka. Far from it. You can dress in beautiful fashionable clothing, as long as you are prayerfully considering your choices and relying on the Holy Spirit to convict and guide you. Also, there are some men living in rebellion who will embrace and seek out lust no matter how the object of their lust is dressed. There’s nothing we can do about that. But we can obey the Lord, pray for our brothers, and dress in a way that brings glory to Him.

    As in all things, there’s not a ‘one size fits all’ answer other than the principles provided in Scripture. Good thought provoking post and discussion!!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Angie, I’m glad you make it over here to share! First of all, I still don’t understand exactly how you define lust or think I define it incorrectly as being more about control than about sex. Can you explain that a little more?

      Also, I definitely take issue with this idea in several ways, a few of which I brought up in my post: “Men are visual creatures and the female form promotes a sexual response.” First of all, I really dislike speaking of men as creatures. Humans are humans and the way we talk about each other has a powerful effect on reality. Men aren’t creatures and are fully capable of taking care of themselves. And all seeing humans are “visual” to some extent, which varies based on person, not on gender. I learn, interact, and process things visually and I’m a woman. Lastly, when you say the female form “promotes a sexual response” and “outside of [marriage] it is sin,” I would love to know how that plays out practically. Because I’m pretty sure sexual responses are triggered by hormones, pheromones, and areas of the brain we haven’t even mapped yet. How can that possibly be sin? Just because I recognize someone as attractive doesn’t mean I’m trying to strip them of their value. Usually attractive people make me marvel at the creativity of God and diversity of the world and make me praise Jesus that my hormones are working!

      Sexuality isn’t the enemy here. Control is. Using people is. Taking the power from others is. Being afraid is.

      You proclaim that there’s no “one size fits all” other than scripture, yet scripture never speaks at all to how much of your body to cover or what color looks best with your eyes. It sounds good to say this, but I can tell you that in practice, the ideas of modesty hurt men and women deeply.

      Jesus came and died and lives now so that I don’t have to question every choice I make, whether it’s about the length of my skirt or the color of my hair. He came for freedom and love and THAT’S what makes me love him so much!

      Thank you so much for being polite and generous in your response here, Angie. I really appreciate the time you took to think and engage here and wish you the best as you make good choices for yourself!

      • Angie

        Hi Emily,

        Thank you for your thoughtful answer. Threads like this are great fun for lively debates but if you are really interested in delving into this topic further, I’d be delighted to engage in a more indepth study of the topic with you. You can friend me on facebook and we can exchange email information.

        I think you have a fundamental misunderstanding of lust and some misunderstandings of Scripture, particularly Galatians. I’d love to discuss where I think there are some errors if you’re interested.

        In the meantime, here are some biblical principles and Scriptures that you might consider as you study your Bible on these matters…

        ~ Read your Bible and earnestly pray that the Lord would show you how He would have you dress. Consider the fact that our bodies are to be used to glorify God and that we are called to love others sacrificially.

        “For ye are bought with a price; therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.” I Corinthians 6:20

        ~ Love your brothers in Christ (and other men) enough to want to help them not to sin, rather than risk being a likely stumbling block. Yes, some guys will lust regardless; just make sure you aren’t an actual participant in the problem. Love your husband (or future husband) enough to save yourself for him.

        ~ Love your sisters in Christ (and other women) enough not to hurt them by flaunting yourself in front of their brothers, husbands and sons.

        ~ If you are confronted about modesty, do not assume false motives of your sister (or brother). Know that it is likely that she has your best interest in mind. Try to be teachable and always think the best of others.

        ~ Most of all, love your God enough to be willing to lay down your “favorite outfit” if you know that it causes someone else to stumble. Remember that your body belongs to God.

        “Let us consider one another in order to stir up love and good works…” Hebrews 10:24

        “For you, brethren, have been called to liberty; only do not use liberty as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Galatians 5:13

        “But beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak.” I Corinthians 8:9

      • http://www.facebook.com/timothy.dedeaux.9 Timothy Dedeaux

        Emily, I really think you’ve hit the nail on the head here, and it’s something I hadn’t really grasped before (how’s that for mixing metaphors?).

        I’d heard growing up that the initial thought or glance wasn’t the sin, it was the second glance, the entertaining the thoughts, that was the sin (granted, this works for things like anger or greed as well as sexual lust). And to some degree I agree with that: allowing ourselves to dwell on things that are actively ungodly is definitely, well, un-godly.

        But your analysis of lust as being an act of control, of (in the mind) ignoring the person’s humanity and seeing them as sexual only: that is absolutely the key component of the lustful eye.

        And it’s something that men CAN choose not to do, regardless of what the woman wears. There’s a choice there, to willfully ignore the personhood of the woman in question and focus only upon the physical appearance.

        It’s a choice that we, as guys, often don’t realize is happening, because (let’s face it) people aren’t really that good at analyzing, much less disciplining, their own thoughts. But that doesn’t excuse it, and it doesn’t put the responsibility on the woman. If anybody but the guy in question carries any responsibility, it’s the church that didn’t teach the guy to discipline his thoughts, and the culture that revels in sexual objectification.

        • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

          “And it’s something that men CAN choose not to do, regardless of what the woman wears. There’s a choice there, to willfully ignore the personhood of the woman in question and focus only upon the physical appearance.”
          So right, Timothy! The arguments that men don’t have a choice, or that pretty much every guy is going have to fight against lusting after a scantily clad attractive woman… these all really frustrate my husband. I believed these arguments for so long & it took me a long time to trust him when he would tell me, “no. I am not lusting after any of those ladies.” I couldn’t see how it was true, because that was all I heard. Guys lust, guys lust, all the time… Now I get it. He tells me, “no! I have no desire to have sex with a woman just because she is lovely.” He loves me.

        • http://www.ticoandtina.com christina

          so are you saying that it’s not an issue to enjoy looking at a woman as long as you’re thinking about who she is as a person as well as how much you appreciate the shape of her breasts? or…? sorry, I’m just a little confused by this.

  • http://dsimmer.com/ Dean P. Simmer

    As we discuss this issue here, Paul’s messages about actions and causing a brother to stumble immediately rise to the surface. I think that is a valid point but it doesn’t get to the heart of the problem.

    When I was in middle school and high school there would often be small group/retreat things at church “just for guys” to talk about these things. Ironically we never talked to the girls about them, we just philosophized about love, lust, sexuality, all of the things that we’re talking about here but only in the context of “fellow strugglers.”

    I think some of this stems from a lack of community identity in our churches, a lack of shared journeys, etc. My convictions, my struggles, my attractions are amplified when they are wrestled with in silence. I guarantee you that I won’t drink around a friend who struggles with alcoholism, but if I don’t know that they do I will unashamedly have a beer with dinner. But when the rector of a parish tells you that he has been sober for 12 years you can bet that the conversations about alcohol, alcoholism, and such are much more respectful and prominent at that parish.

    Likewise, I would propose that a church, a community, exist where love, attraction, and the human form can be discussed. This can only start when the community has relationships that are healthy and doesn’t emphasize dating and marriage so much that we raise youth with that as a primary focus (how many churches have ‘singles ministries’ that essentially serve as a Christian dating service?). If we can pull away the focus from getting married and having sex and focus it on discipleship in the context of a believing community, I think our own brokenness can be dealt with more openly and causing our brothers and sisters to stumble becomes a corporate concern, not just a “fix what you are doing for ME!” concern.

    I hope this helps the conversation and isn’t too rambling.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Love this perspective, friend. Thank you for sharing your passion for building healthy relationships and a healthy church.

      • http://dsimmer.com/ Dean P. Simmer

        Another thing that occurred to me today was the lack of reconciliation and confession in the church community today. In the Anglican Church I have learned to appreciate these things and I think they can speak to this modesty/lust issue.

        In much of the churches we are talking about in this thread, the discussion about lust is contained to “fellow strugglers.” And often times these churches encourage accountability-partner relationships, but they never get to the mentor/mentee or priest/lay person role.

        Do we actually confess our sins and struggles to those who aren’t exactly like us? Do our churches foster an environment that isn’t just about silencing sins? I remember week after week going to the altar for prayer and feeling that was enough, that I didn’t need to talk to someone about whatever the issue was. And the church culture didn’t call out against that and encourage me to confess in the presence of someone, or confess to someone.

        Please understand that I’m not pro-voyeurism. That’s why I suggest confessing to a priest, not just the guy next to you in the pew. :-)

  • Alyssa Neumeister

    I do agree with a lot that you have to say since I grew up in that culture too. And I remember a couple of Sono Harris’ women’s meetings about modesty. And I was forced to wear just the longer skirts and dresses. I remember that what I got out of her discussions was to think about is it too short, too low, too tight? And how it all related to the liberty garden series Gregg was doing. Now at almost 30, I believe that as long as there’s no cleavage, clothing isn’t too tight, one piece swim suits, shorts are at knee length, it’s being modest.
    So in essence, as long as we keep it covered mostly with the thought in mind it’s not revealing, it’s modest. And when it’s not revealing, you will garner Christian and non Christian men’s respect by not looking easy and trashy.
    Thank you, Emily for posting this so many women can lose the condemnation and be free in their own personal walk.

  • http://www.facebook.com/sara.mcferren Sara McFerren

    I have a lot of thoughts on the subject of modest and responsibility, but not all of them need to be shared right now. However, there is one idea here that caught my attention and disturbed me so much I just had to comment. You mention it in your article and also in one or two replies to comments: that, as women, our bodies are our own. I understand the heart behind wanting to free someone from the bondage of worrying what others think, even the bondage of being mentally or emotional enslaved to another human being. But it’s easy to take that notion too far.

    Off the top of my head, 1 Cor 6:19 – “Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and YOU ARE NOT YOUR OWN?” [emphasis added] And apparently our bodies belong to us even less when we marry: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” (1 Cor 7:4)

    Whatever our personal standard for dress, however we came to set the bar where it is in our own lives, it’s important for us as Christians to remember that our bodies are NOT ours. They belong to the Creator who redeemed us to live for His glory. I trust that the heart of your words was to encourage and edify and not to point people towards an unbiblical mindset, but phrases like that (“your body is yours”) have a very dangerous side.

  • Kati

    Girl, YES. This is great, and I’m so thankful for your voice and well-thought-out words. I agree with you wholeheartedly, and I think you rock. :)

  • Malin

    Aaaaahhhhh…. Scroll down
    and read Angie Martin’s comment on the article. Romans 14 says that it
    is sin to cause a brother to stumble, so by dressing a certain way you
    are causing lust to form in a mans heart, so whether or not you like it
    you caused him to sin. Luk 17:2 ” It would be better for him if a
    millstone were hung around his neck and he were cast into the sea than
    that he should cause one of these little ones to sin.” read Romans 14
    (specifically vs21)! The Holy Spirit via paul says it is better not to
    even eat meat or drink wine if it might cause thy brother to stumbleth-
    You do have the freedom in Christ, but 1Co 8:9 ” But take care that this
    right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak.”
    What are the greatest commandments? Love God, Love people. So lets look
    at 1 Cor 13, the chapter which describes love. “Love is patient and
    kind; love does not envy or boast; IT IS NOT ARROGANT or rude. It DOES
    NOT INSIST ON ITS OWN WAY; it is not irritable or resentful…” In love,
    ladies- please be modest if only for half the populations sake. A Godly
    man (husband) will not be looking for superficiality like a wrapped
    gift, no. He will be searching for the beauty within, the beauty of your
    soul. -a brothers two cents-

  • Margaux

    I find this whole article extremely fascinating. As a former fundamentalist christian, now not religious at all, I’ve crossed the whole spectrum. I’ve read Wendy Shalit’s book about modesty and agreed with it wholeheartedly at the time, but now think it’s all kind of silly in a way (really, staying out of sex ed class means you won’t be tainted by unpure thoughts? ha!). The thing that I find most fascinating about this stuff is how modesty actually does a paradoxical thing, and usually has the opposite of the intended action, and actually fetishizes the female body. By covering up to an extreme, you are actually saying “oh my, this body must be SOO tempting to men that it’s whole shape must be obliterated”. Bizarre. For some reason, even in places where women wear burqas there are still rapes that happen. I also find the whole idea of not mentioning male modesty anywhere interesting. Based on the HUGE turnout for Magic Mike, women actually lust after male bodies too. But oops, don’t you know women are not supposed to have sexual thoughts?? Thanks for the great article, I wish I had seen this earlier, I bet it would have relieved some of the pressure I felt before!

  • Casey

    I remember being at camp one year and our cabin “mom” had a talk with us about modesty that included “Men have so much trouble with lust. My son had to leave the church service during music because he was having lustful thoughts about one of the girls leading worship. She was even wearing a long skirt.” I remember this shocking me! Instead of proving her point, it revealed that lust was not so easily “stereotyped.” This girl in a long skirt somehow conjured up lustful thoughts in a boy while she was leading worship! I was horrified–and definitely stayed away from her son after that! haha It also made me realize that lust was a heart/mind issue that goes way beyond what we wear. If a man wants to lust, he will–no matter what you are/n’t wearing. After every modesty talk, I always felt dirty (even though I was dressed as frumpy as possible) and that men were animals. My friends and I would always joke about how we wished there was a convent for non-Catholic girls. While we were kidding, I think it shows how devastatingly demeaning it is to healthy male/female relationships that men are portrayed as such “consumers.” I’m SO thankful that I was in several friend groups that had men who loved God and made it impossible to believe the lies preached at lust/modesty talks that all men are pigs. (And yes, I’ve heard guys say that about their gender).

    One thing that I LOVED about your article (I think 99.9% of the people disagreeing with you must’ve failed to read that part) is that you said that you had a conversation with the Holy Spirit about what was okay for YOU to wear! Absolutely! Abandoning the Modesty Rules means that you interact directly with God rather than follow a set of rules made up by people (who also like to judge/enforce those rules). If an outfit is inappropriate always or just happens to be on that day, God WILL tell you if you ask Him. Why is that so hard for people to believe? And there is a beauty in letting Him interact with believers rather than trying to control them or have them bypass Him and go straight to humans to get their answers. If someone is dressing inappropriately, He is more than capable of letting them know without human intervention. The Christian Life minus the Holy Spirit needs LOTS of rules! =/

    If Christians truly believe that Jesus is capable of conquering our strongholds and delivering us from them–then why do people always act like “lust” is the one that is unconquerable and things will always be that way? Yes, Christian women need to seek His face and dress with dignity. But even if every Christian woman wore a potato sack, there would still be plenty of women in the world–or online–for men to think inappropriately about…so maybe men need to spend more time fighting the real battle that is in their hearts. 1 Cor 10:13 says that with every temptation, there is a way of escape…

    • Emily_Maynard

      THIS: “Abandoning the Modesty Rules means that you interact directly with God rather than follow a set of rules made up by people (who also like to judge/enforce those rules).” Casey, thank you so much. I love that and heartily agree.

      • LovingEnoughToSacrifice

        I fully believe that “Jesus is capable of conquering our strongholds and delivering us from them”, but I also have to point out that the Holy Spirit is not going to tell you that it’s ok to break one of His own rules- to put others before ourselves. If you could choose to try to focus on others’ needs and wants over your own urges, then I think you would be able to forget all about the “modesty rules” and whomever made them and just live your life in a way that shows your love to everyone else. It would be less about “modesty” and more about finding ways to serve others.

        • Emily_Maynard

          You have a great point that it should be less about “modesty” and more about finding ways to serve others. I would LOVE it if a fellow Christian decided to serve me by not taking the time to judge what I was wearing and make a conclusion about the strength my relationship with God based on that. ;)

          • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

            One thing that concerns me, Emily, is that your entire focus in this conversation seems to be on yourself, you getting your way, having the freedom in Christ to do whatever you want. This seems to me to be directly opposed to the clear teaching and example of Christ to put others first.

            I try not to judge others based on their appearance as I have found so many times that the opposite of what I would have guessed by looking is really the case when I get to know someone. And I definitely am not in a place to say what your relationship with God is like.

            So while I choose to serve you by not judging you, but instead trying to encourage you to be a better reflection of Christ, and as I choose to serve the men around me by doing my best to glorify God with my body and the way I choose to clothe it, and as I choose to serve the women around me by trying to be the best example I can be of a woman following Him- how are the decisions you are making in this area serving others?

            Or are you so caught up in the thoughts of how others can best serve you that perhaps you are missing out on the opportunity God has given you to choose to deny yourself and maybe, just maybe, help someone else to see Christ rather than you?

            • Emily_Maynard

              Hi Loving,

              Thanks for your deep concern. It’s interesting that you say you’re not in a place to say what my relationship with God is like, yet you question it in very specific ways with leading questions. I’m fascinated by the assumptions that I don’t meet your standards of dress for what “serves” others. I don’t know you, so it’s possible the way you dress may be even more revealing than the standards that I’m comfortable with for myself. The point is: you get to decide what you’re comfortable wearing, and I do the same for myself. Both of us are responsible to cultivate a responsive relationship with the Holy Spirit. I trust that you’re making good decisions for yourself, just like I try to do for myself.

              I want to assure you that my focus is on CHRIST who set me free, not on the fact that I earned or deserve this freedom. God’s love is a gift that puzzles and amazes me and excites me and I hope I never lose that wonder. The fact that I get to experience love and freedom keeps me in awe.

              I’m totally on board with “glorifying God with your body,” just like you said! I want to absolutely support your ability to choose to wear what you feel comfortable in and what works for you. You being you absolutely glorifies the God who made you and is intently involved in your story!

              I trust that each individual can make good choices for themselves, but that isn’t even the main point of my story. I wrote this piece to share my experience being told that my body was primarily a sexual weapon and offer hope to those who have experienced the same. The point isn’t to tell others what to wear or what not to wear, but to proclaim loudly that Jesus is better than these conversations we’re having. Sexual attraction in itself isn’t evil, but when we taking the responsibility, judgement, sexuality, or control from someone else to feed our ego or security, we’re taking what isn’t ours. And THAT’S what’s wrong with lust and wrong with these conversations.

              Thank you again for your interaction in this space. I wish you the very best and encourage you to keep thinking and talking to Jesus about this issue. He loves us very much!

              Emily

              • LovingThemEnoughToSacrifice

                Hi again Emily,

                I just wanted to comment that I was not intending to question your relationship with Christ in any way. I like to be asked hard questions that make me re-examine my attitudes and beliefs and I think you’ve tried to challenge your readers to do just that- not to assume that because we are following a certain set of rules that we are spiritual, or that others who don’t agree with us are not. I appreciate that.

                I have no idea what are your standards of dress and I don’t have specific standards or rules for myself- but when I put something on, I know whether or not I am being glorifying to God in my attitude and often I can also tell based on what I see in the mirror how others may perceive me.

                This issue hits super close to home for me as although I didn’t have a lot of specific rules about dress growing up, I knew a lot of people who did and did not have any more idea of why they were doing what they were doing than I did about the way my choices impacted those around me. The first time I ever realized that what I wear matters was one day as a teen, I was out shopping with my dad. I noticed that I was getting a lot of looks from guys- and I didn’t know why that was different from any other day when I’d been out and about. I mentioned it to my dad, and his response shocked me- he said something like, “of course they’re going to look at you. And your shorts are pretty short today so that gives them more to look at.” I started paying attention to the responses I received depending on what I happened to wear on any given day, and it was really remarkable to see the contrast if I wore certain clothes versus other ones. Years later, I can still tell sometimes, even if I think an outfit is ok, that if I start getting certain kinds of attention repeatedly, perhaps I should re-assess my outfit. I wish I’d realized this sooner and paid more attention to it as well, and I have been so concerned by the impact I have seen on our Christian girls being ignorant of the effect their choices may have on the way others perceive them – it breaks my heart that they have no idea why they are getting the kind of attention they are when they really yearn for the real love of who they are not just their appearance.

                It scares me that some people have been taught the awful things you have described, I think that is also damaging to our relationships and I hope you are able to continue to heal and discover God’s best in your life and relationships.

              • Becca

                Hi Emily :)
                “Sexual attraction in itself isn’t evil, but when we try to take the
                responsibility, judgement, sexuality, or control from someone else to
                feed our ego or security, we’re taking what isn’t ours.”

                I was thinking about this in conjunction with the part about kissing not being evil, and I have TOTALLY been there. I have DONE the evil in the quote above, simply because I was always hurt by never having sexual appeal, so once I finally did, I made others stumble. I distinctly remember my 2nd ex being a gift for the summer, someone who was supposed to be a brother in Christ, who’s light kisses felt completely right by the Holy Spirit (and I am always intensely aware when I’m offending him), and a source of healing after sleeping with/dating/being emotionally abused by a non-Christian the previous year. But I used this “power” as you put it, and ruined a good relationship. After he returned to school, and I met my future husband, I lost a friend. All because of my lust for……power. (i wasn’t physically attracted to him at first).

                Anyways, thank you for writing, Emily. The way you’re wording things is making me think, so I wanted to share my own observations on incidences in my past.

                With love from a sister,
                Becca

      • http://twitter.com/kelseyethomas Kelsey Thomas

        AGREE. This quote was a total light bulb moment for me :)

    • http://www.adamshome.blogspot.com Erin Adams

      Yes & Amen!!

    • Becca

      “And there is a beauty in letting Him interact with believers rather than
      trying to control them or have them bypass Him and go straight to
      humans to get their answers.”
      I really like the way you worded that; made me think of more than just issues of modesty. I’ve had to learn this after being what I now know was self-righteous (and not justifiably disappointed) during my first year of marriage.

    • A Prodigal Daughter

      Great insight about legalism: “The Christian Life minus the Holy Spirit needs LOTS of rules!” I never really thought about the reason church leaders/Christians sometimes cling so tightly to rules and restrictions. They probably often create those guidelines based on something they are convicted of or struggle with, and are trying to save others from repeating their mistakes. The problem is, it doesn’t give God enough credit when it comes to revealing these issues to each individual. Of course He can speak to someone through another person and it’s great to have a mentor to share lessons, but making blanket statements about what’s okay and what’s not for every Christ-follower misses the mark.

  • Free-in-Him

    I, too have been brought up in a conservative environment that tended toward legalism. I know exactly how you feel and have felt the same tendency to react to that legalism. But, I realized after searching my soul and searching scripture that in our reaction to legalism, we must still conform our lives to Christ. I have to be careful not to purposely be “in your face” just to get a reaction.

    We are free to celebrate our freedom in Christ, but the spirit of 1 Timothy 2:9 would lead us to be careful how far we go in terms of our freedom to dress however we might wish to. 1 Cor 8:8-13 would lead us to restrict our freedom out of deference for others. And Paul’s exhortation in 1 Cor 10:23-33 provided me with some direction as well. Verse 23 says: “All things are lawful for me, but all things are not expedient: all things are lawful for me, but all things do not edify.” And verses 31 & 32 say “Whether therefore you eat, or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God. Give no offense, either to the Jews or to the Greeks of to the church of God.” Hebrews 10:24 encourages me to consider how to stimulate other brothers and sisters to love and good works.

    Thought-provoking post.

  • Nikki

    I just wanted to say I agree with you completley. I’m not so much in the church anymore, but this was one of my huge breaking points – I felt like I was a walking, ticking time bomb. For someone who has had food issues, it was such a mind-bend to be told that my body was just *inherently bad* – not a very biblical concept, no?

    I remeber one day around my breaking point, I had a conversation with a young adult leader at the university who was sure this sentiment could be translated directly into articles of clothing, and claimed that they, too, knew what it was like to sin – and that this was wrapped up completley into thongs. So whenever she saw a girl with a panty line, she KNEW she was a good girl.

    Um, hold on – I just don’t like looking weird :/ So strange. But I think there is just a lot of baggage about this, and it’s trickling down in communities.

  • Becca

    This helped me clear up some things I’ve been thinking, but other Christians I know seem to say the opposite to. So thank you so much for your article! I think what people don’t get is that you’re not saying dress in a way that isn’t modest. but in a way that you feel comfy and confident in, whether that’s a long skirt and top, or short, shorts.
    I think as long as what you wear is acceptable to the culture and you feel happy in it, then it’s fine.
    I know I have been guilty of judging people for what they wear, and am begging to realise that that actually wont get me anywhere!

  • Laura

    Hi Emily,
    I can understand anyone’s disillusionment with legalism and judgementalness… I don’t think we are called to be those extremes. I do think we, as part of the church, have a voice in each other’s lives and are called to come alongside and help a woman grow in her understanding of how we are to conduct ourselves with each other, our children and men – Titus 2.

    And we need to be really careful how we present what Jesus said. I would disagree with something you said : “In the book of Matthew, when Jesus said “if you even look at a woman with lust…” he wasn’t condemning a physical sexual response as sinful, he was lifting up the inherent value of all women and men. The Sermon on the Mount repeatedly describes the worth of each person, no matter their circumstances.”
    The whole verse says:
    Matthew 5:28 ESV
    ‘But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committedadultery with her in his heart.” He just brought the standard higher – straight to the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. This translation of what is being said here can helps us:
    “Victory over the desires of the heart, must be attended with painful exertions. But it must be done. Every thing is bestowed to save us from our sins, not in them. All our senses and powers must be kept from those things which lead to transgression. Those who lead others into temptation to sin, by dress or in other ways, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. Mathew Henry”

    Below you make some very dangerous comments that Jesus told you “to quit freaking out and feeling guilty so much and just enjoy grace and love and hope and peace and fun.” We always need to compare what we think the Spirit is “telling” us to what scripture actually says. Jesus would not contradict Himself, His Father or the Holy Spirit as He has taught us in scripture. The scripture gives very clear directives for conduct and warns against this type of interpretation. Of course we ARE to enjoy these tings IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT. We are never told we can wear anything we want… that really would be the abuse of freedom we have in Galatians

    I can also tell you that one time my godly sons when they were struggling in their purity of thought life got very tired of going to church (their home or a friends Christian home where they felt they could catch a break from the onslaught of worldly scantily dressed women that would have them constantly going to the Lord for pure thoughts, only to find careless women dressing in their so called freedom no differently than women in the world. It made them wonder where their heart and walk was with the Lord and of course be discouraged that their own sisters would be so callous and careless for what? Attention? Freedom? What really matters more? There are plenty of ways to dress attractively (and not in a dowdy sack) without being sensual, provocative, alluring etc which we WILL be held accountable for and WILL responsible for causing a brother to stumble. Only God can judge the thoughts and intentions but He sure is the one that counts! I would rather be warned (and was once, very lovingly) than cause a brother to stumble. I could have lied to myself and said she was judgmental because no one likes correction but that would have made my heart hard, don’t you think?

    • Coovara

      @Laura: “We always need to compare what we think the Spirit is “telling” us to
      what scripture actually says. Jesus would not contradict Himself, His
      Father or the Holy Spirit as He has taught us in scripture.”

      In that case please consider the following scriptures.

      First, just to sort of prove a point:

      Timothy 2:11

      But also:

      Genesis 2:24, 16, 38:6-10
      Deuteronomy 21:11-14, 22: 20-21, 22:28-29, 23:1-2, 25:11-12
      Numbers 31:1-18
      Exodus 21:4
      Leviticus 12:5, 18:19, 20:9, 21:18-21, 26:27-30
      Psalm 137:9
      Matthew 5:39-40
      Luke 16:18
      Corinthians 11:5

      • Angie

        Hi Coovara,

        I thought I would chime in here. I assume you are implying that these Scriptures are contradictory in some way? They are not. If you are confused by a certain passage, I would encourage you to go to the full context of the chapter. If you still have a lack of understanding, a good doctrinally sound commentary can be quite helpful. I would recommend Matthew Henry as a good place to start.

        Blessings to you as you seek to know Him more.

        • Coovara

          Hello Angie,

          Why don’t we just look at Timothy 2:11-12. I am interested in what Your and Laura’s interpretation to this scripture is! I am %100 certain that you must not take it at face value. Since you do not, I am interested in how you can justify NOT taking this seemingly very clear directive in a literal way, but yet insist on taking the passage in question in a literal way.

          Oh, by the way Timothy 2:11-12
          A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet.

          • Angie

            Hi Coovara,

            Actually, I do take it at face value. The verse in context is referring to the authority of teaching and preaching in the church. The Bible is quite clear that women are not to preach in the church.

            • Coovara

              Angie,

              You say you are taking it at face value, but then you provide a context which gives you a loophole. Here is the rest:

              I also
              want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with
              braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes,

              10
              but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.

              11
              A woman should learn in quietness and full submission.

              12
              I do not permit a woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she must be silent.

              13
              For Adam was formed first, then Eve.

              14
              And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner.

              15
              But women will be saved through childbearing–if they continue in faith, love and holiness with propriety.

              This doesn’t sound at all like it is within the context you give. It sounds specifically as if it, like every other passage around it is in any case at any time. Are we to interpret every line here as ‘in the context of the church’?

              In every passage there is the one message that can not be distorted and twisted. In every book the truth leaks through. Here in Timothy: The goal of this command is love, which comes from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith.

              Sound familiar?

              • Angie

                I would direct you to the entirety of Paul’s teaching, specifically I Corinthians 14.

  • Laura

    Hi Emily,
    I can understand anyone’s disillusionment with legalism and judgementalness… I don’t think we are called to be those extremes. I do think we, as part of the church, have a voice in each other’s lives and are called to come alongside and help a woman grow in her understanding of how we are to conduct ourselves with each other, our children and men – Titus 2.

    And we need to be really careful how we present what Jesus said. I would disagree with something you said : “In the book of Matthew, when Jesus said “if you even look at a woman with lust…” he wasn’t condemning a physical sexual response as sinful, he was lifting up the inherent value of all women and men. The Sermon on the Mount repeatedly describes the worth of each person, no matter their circumstances.”
    The whole verse says:
    Matthew 5:28 ESV
    ‘But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committedadultery with her in his heart.” He just brought the standard higher – straight to the thoughts and intentions of our hearts. This translation of what is being said here can helps us:
    “Victory over the desires of the heart, must be attended with painful exertions. But it must be done. Every thing is bestowed to save us from our sins, not in them. All our senses and powers must be kept from those things which lead to transgression. Those who lead others into temptation to sin, by dress or in other ways, or leave them in it, or expose them to it, make themselves guilty of their sin, and will be accountable for it. Mathew Henry”

    Below you make some very dangerous comments that Jesus told you “to quit freaking out and feeling guilty so much and just enjoy grace and love and hope and peace and fun.” We always need to compare what we think the Spirit is “telling” us to what scripture actually says. Jesus would not contradict Himself, His Father or the Holy Spirit as He has taught us in scripture. The scripture gives very clear directives for conduct and warns against this type of interpretation. Of course we ARE to enjoy these tings IN THE RIGHT CONTEXT. We are never told we can wear anything we want… that really would be the abuse of freedom we have in Galatians

    I can also tell you that one time my godly sons when they were struggling in their purity of thought life got very tired of going to church (their home or a friends Christian home where they felt they could catch a break from the onslaught of worldly scantily dressed women that would have them constantly going to the Lord for pure thoughts, only to find careless women dressing in their so called freedom no differently than women in the world. It made them wonder where their heart and walk was with the Lord and of course be discouraged that their own sisters would be so callous and careless for what? Attention? Freedom? What really matters more? There are plenty of ways to dress attractively (and not in a dowdy sack) without being sensual, provocative, alluring etc which we WILL be held accountable for and WILL responsible for causing a brother to stumble. Only God can judge the thoughts and intentions but He sure is the one that counts! I would rather be warned (and was once, very lovingly) than cause a brother to stumble. I could have lied to myself and said she was judgmental because no one likes correction but that would have made my heart hard, don’t you think?

  • Auntie J

    I’m the mom of three little girls. I grew up under the Modesty Rules…but my parents’ emphasis was more on looking nice and presentable and not showing so much skin that it could potentially put me in danger from those with nefarious intentions. Granted, their choice to do so is their choice and can’t be blamed on my clothing choices, and I’ve always known that. I struggle with how to impart the right level of modesty for my kids (who aren’t old enough to have had that innate modesty kick in yet–running naked and shrieking around the house are still activities of great fun when you’re 5.5), knowing that the battles are coming. I want them to be comfortable in their clothes, but I also want their clothes to not be more than a few strategically-placed tissues. So…I’m relieved that someone else sees that it’s not my responsibility to make sure boys don’t look (they’re going to look if you’re wearing a full-fledged burqa), and it sure wasn’t in high school, and I need to take responsibility for my own choices rather than what someone else does. I hope I can find a way to impart the idea of the right kind of modesty in my own kids!

  • Auntie J

    And, yes, seeing the Olympic athletes make me want to eat a whole pile of tacos. With a serious bowl of chocolate marshmallow ice cream as a chaser.

  • K-Jo :)

    Emily,
    I love your mind AND your heart!! Some thoughts on my own journey . . . I had a tight group of christian friends in my 20′s that essentially defined what was okay and not okay to wear. What the group considered appropriate had fear, jealousy, competitiveness for attention and legalism all over it – I was more afraid of making the group mad then I was concerned about how I was presenting myself. When I finally became tuned in enough to realize I was being controlled by this, it took me a while to figure out what modesty really meant and what it looked like for me to honor God in this way. There were times I took a risk with a certain new style and after pulling my shirt up all day long and feeling awkward when men were around, I went home and determined – okay, that shirt was too low for how I’m comfortable presenting myself. Same was true for skirt lengths, for the cut of clothing, etc. Giving myself freedom to try things and then check in with my own conscience enabled me own the issue of modesty and come up with a standard that felt true to who I am (it helped me grow up in this regard). Doing this helped me respect myself more – which, ironically, did play out in what I chose to wear. When a girl has healthy self respect, she is not thinking that her bust size is her main asset and therefore it must be showed off at every opportunity. AND, when a girl has healthy self respect, she is also not trying to hide at all cost the fact that she may have a nice figure or a big smile that others respond to. A healthy integrated person will be making their choices out of what they believe about God and what they believe about themselves, not in reaction to shame and control. Giving people freedom to grow up in this way is so essential to us maturing as a subculture!

    • Emily_Maynard

      KJo, thank you so much for sharing this! This is exactly what I’m hoping people gain out of this post: that they can make good choices for themselves out of love, not out of fear. I love your story about determining for yourself what you’re comfortable wearing and your growing self-respect.

      “A healthy integrated person will be making their choices out of what they believe about God and what they believe about themselves, not in reaction to shame and control. Giving people freedom to grow up in this way is so essential to us maturing as a subculture!”

      Thank you so much for your wisdom!

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  • http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/ Mackman

    First off, i’m sorry for the atmosphere you grew up in. I’m sorry you felt that your body was something to be ashamed of. I don’t know what that feels like, and I suspect I never shall. I’m sorry.

    But I believe you have gone far wrong in the other direction. If you respond, please don’t respond with more rhetoric about freedom and autonomy, as you’ve done to the initial few comments. Please address the words of God that I’ve cited, because I feel they are particularly applicable to your words in this post.

    I agree with those commenters who bring up Romans 15:1: “But we who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak, and not just please ourselves.” I don’t know any guy who will deny being weak in the area of lust. Your post, however, reads to me very much like “You’re not responsible for others, so ignore them: just please yourself.”

    That may be a flawed read, and I’m open to correction, but when you say things like “You can’t change anyone, control anyone, make someone sin or not sin, and you’re only responsible for yourself,” you seem to be blatantly ignoring Mark 9:42, 1 Cor. 8:10-13, and, of course, Romans 15.

    In all your rhetoric of freedom, you’ve forgotten that being free also means being a slave. You’re not autonomous: Where did you get that idea from? You’re part of the body of Christ, and your attitude in this post reads incredibly similar to Paul’s scenario of the eye saying to the hand, “I do not need you” (Romans 12:12).

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Mackman,

      Thank you for commenting. I hope you’ll stick around Prodigal and keep reading!

      I hope you understand that my attitude isn’t to ignore everyone else, stop respecting others, or stop listening. I was transformed when God taught me that I didn’t have to live under the weight of whether or not my precious body was causing others to sin. Attraction is a variable thing and I don’t think our lives should be centered around whether or not people are attracted or not attracted to us. (That would be idolatry, I’m pretty sure.) My life is centered around the joy of Christ’s love for me and the full expression of myself as his child. As his child, I have an equal voice in this discussion and in this life. I may or may not dress what someone would consider conservatively, but again, if we’re focusing on dress, we’re missing Jesus’s very heart for people: that they would know their value in him and be transformed by his lovingkindness. When we’re trying to control what others are wearing or trying to control the thoughts of others by what we’re wearing, we’re missing the point.

      As for Romans 15, I’m not exactly sure how it applies in this situation. I’m not sure how it makes me strong and someone else weak if they are sexually attracted to me. Can you explain that a little more? I think the difference in our discussion is that you’re still considering attraction and lust the same thing, while I think there are some differences. I think God made our bodies in this fantastic creative way and attraction occurs on the level of chemical reactions in your brain, hormonal patterns, and even a spiritual connection. None of these things are evil in themselves. Attraction by itself isn’t an issue of power, but of various chemical reactions. Attraction is not solely visually stimulated for men or women (as someone who has less than perfect eyesight about this!)

      Also, how would Mark 9:42 apply? I never mentioned children in my post and want to be very clear that the abuse and mistreatment of children, should be taken extremely seriously. The protection of children is very important to me.

      And the use of the Corinthians passage, again, puzzles me. I don’t equate being attracted to someone as weakness. I don’t equate being attractive as weakness or strength. I’m responsible to God for my mind and asking God to root out the control issues in my heart, just like you are. Again, don’t get me wrong. Lust is serious and lust is absolutely a sin, but not just because it’s sexual. Lust is deplorable because of the way it uses another human being made in the image of God and takes them for your own purposes. God isn’t offended by sex, but he is angry when we use each other and strip each other of the value that he gives all his creation.

      We absolutely need to dialogue about the control issues at the root of lust and many other sins. I’m so grateful for the relationships I have with friends who have helped me explore these issues and watched as God brought new healing to hearts.

      I hope that everyone reading knows that God’s complete favor is already theirs because of Jesus. You can’t get more of it and you can’t lose it. This passionate love has set us free to love, not control. Free to love, not lust. Free to love, not take. Free to love, not judge.

      Again, thanks for reading!

      • http://imperfectfornow.blogspot.com/ Mackman

        Think about alcohol. Few Christians believe alcohol to be inherently wrong. Christians can partake of it with a clean conscience. But now consider a recovering alcoholic. You meet said alcoholic on the street. You know his history. You know his struggle. You know that for him, drinking is a real problem. Once presented with a drink, he will find it difficult to stop. And yet you invite him into the nearest bar. You order a drink, and you enjoy it, right in front of him. Then you offer him a drink… and he accepts.

        Who’s responsibility is it? His, of course, And yet you facilitated it. You tempted him, presented him with the very thing he’s weak against.

        Now consider a guy. Any guy, almost. For him, it’s difficult to look at a scantily clad woman and acknowledge her attractiveness without looking again, this time with the intention of attaining sexual gratification. Every low-cut blouse or tiny miniskirt introduces a struggle to respect his fellow human beings, to resist seeking sexual gratification via visual stimulation. And then Woman A comes along, knowing this about our Guy. Our Guy has told her about his struggles. Our Guy has told her that every time he sees a scantily-clad woman, it’s a struggle not to seek gratification from someone he has no right to get it from.

        But she doesn’t care. She’s not going to do anything to alleviate that struggle, and in fact, she’s going to add to it. She puts on her sexiest, most low-cut top and her nicest mini-skirt…

        And she offers the recovering alcoholic a drink, because since it’s no big deal to her, it must not be that big a deal to him.

        • http://www.facebook.com/tash.jsus.freak Tash Kenealy

          Hi Mackman,
          I understand the point you are making here, but personally I don’t quite see how the analogy fits. Regarding the alcoholic analogy; say I invite him to have an alcoholic drink with me, but am unaware of his past.
          Would I be responsible for his actions if he did not actually tell me he was an alcoholic, and assumed that he, like me [in this situation. I personally don't drink], had no issue with the drink.
          If he told me – of course. It is a weakness/temptation of his and I am obliged to respect him as a person and assist him by offering to have coffee instead.

          Likewise, I remember a story on another website discussing this. She spoke of a neighbour who suffered from a foot fetish – i.e. he lusted after naked feet. After he told her this, understandably she took care to cover her feet around him (closed in shoes etc.). However, she did not refuse to wear thongs (flip-flops) and sandals around for the rest of her life. For him to ask her to do that would be inappropriate.

          I am uncomfortable with your perspective that attractiveness is wrong. In a hypothetical situation, if a girl stood butt-naked in front of you you might recognise her as sexually attractive. God has wired you that way. Similarly if a guy stood naked in front of me I might recognise him as attractive. The sin is not reacting biologically, but then acting inappropriately upon that. In context with my analogy, say our girl accidentally runs into her neighbour wearing sandals. She HAS NOT SINNED! And similarly, by noticing her “sexy” feet, he has not sinned. It would be sinful for him to then think about her naked feet later and fantasie about it later.

          “She doesn’t care. She’s not going to do anything to alleviate that struggle.” I really don’t like the way you’ve put that – assuming that us girls who are trying to come to terms with being able to wear clothes that make us beautiful without feeling guilty about being potentially attractive “don’t care” about the guy’s struggle. I know that if a guy came up to me and said that he struggles personally with a particular item of clothing, I would take his opinion into consideration and lengthen my skirt or add a cardigan ect.! But, if he asked me to wear a habit for instance, I would likely refuse that, because I have a right to be beautiful and comfortable in my own skin.

          Hopefully you understand the point I am trying to make! :) Grace & peace!

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  • Melanie

    What an interesting article and discussion. :) Emily, I love that you are a true seeker of God and wanting to follow God, not man. I won’t say that I agree 100% with everything you wrote here, cause, well, I don’t. But you hit some things right on the head, that’s for sure, and gave some good food for thought and that challenges me to get into the Word and seek God for myself to see where my approach to things in the past may have been wrong.

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  • kw

    I haven’t read through all the comments (wow, you provoked a real reaction!), but wanted to affirm this post.

    Emily – good for you! Good for defining “lust”. Let everyone be clear – lust has nothing to do with how we dress. If that were true, classic literature would not be quite so rapturous about the glimpse of an ankle… nor would lust occur in “modest clothing” cultures. But it does. Conversely, the lack of clothing cultures and tribes (think National Geographic) would suggest that those cultures must be rampant with lust… I suspect the levels of lust are similar.

    Lust (male or female) is generated within. We can be interested or aroused by visual cues, and while cultural differences may provide personal levels of what is titillating, dress or undress does not produce lust. Our brains and our “hearts” do. Many males of my acquaintance have related that when going to a topless beach in Europe, the first hour WAS difficult (because of their own backgrounds). Then, it wasn’t. The level of undress faded away and just viewing a breast or buttock didn’t lead to lust. Although I’m sure there were some where they were tempted! (They ARE human).

    I’m probably repeating other posts… great questions, great thinking and great conversation Emily. Keep it up.

  • http://www.losingself.org/ Tracy Mbabu

    Agreed. Living by what other people think is exhausting! If a person feels that what they wear may cause a brother to stumble, then sure don’t wear it. but if the sole reason for dressing a certain way is because of what people will say… that’s just a waste of living. There’s behaving a certain way because of love for our brothers and sisters, and then there’s behaving a certain way because it has been driven into us that that’s how we should behave. That is not right at all. The spirit of the Lord does give us freedom not bondage.

  • Michael Vuke

    Whew you ignited a firestorm! I just wanted to say that it is wonderful that you are taking a stand on modesty. Modesty really does need to be addressed, and you just addressed it in the right way! If you were a speaker, I’d be giving you a standing ovation right now :)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Michael, thank you so much for your kind words! If you know of a venue for me to speak on this issue or others, I’d love to, standing ovation or thrown tomatoes. ;)

  • Sarah

    had to stop and read this because i’ve done quite a few posts on modesty myself this summer! http://www.allthingswithpurpose.com/2012/06/jeggings-are-pants-and-other-myths.html if anyone cares :)
    love your definition of lust, and the points you’ve made regarding the responsibility of men to guard their own thoughts/not putting all the responsibility on women. but i did cringed a bit while reading further… there is a balance between loving your body/freedom in Christ/embracing your sexuality -and- watching out for the needs of others/laying aside our own desires when you know they will cause division/doing the best thing for the glory of God.

    “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is beneficial. “Everything is permissible”—but not everything is constructive. Nobody should seek his own good, but the good of others. -1 Cor. 10:23-24

    good discussion!

  • Jenn

    My only comment is to say that “The Message” is not a reliable translation of the Bible. Yes it is very readable, but if you put it along side any other translation, you will find serious differences in many passages where the entire meaning has been changed by the translation. I lovingly hope you and anyone who has only read the message to pick up another version and read it as well. Refer to it if you must in places where it is “accurate”, but don’t let that be your only reference to the scriptures!

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  • http://twitter.com/RASaxton Regis S

    It is hard to keep up with all these comments!! Many of them are crazy good and thoughtful, others not so much ;) Emily, you got mad kudos from me for your bravery in speaking up. And thank you for not being afraid of saying what Jesus told you about how to dress, I like the relational way you spoke. This article found some truth in my heart, I think you’re dead on. This isn’t the end of the discussion, but I think it’s a strong beginning.

    Men, leap to Emily’s defense on this, you know she’s right. And everyone I think we need to consider this in a global context. Consider how in Saudi Arabia women are made to wear full burqas or some a hijab, all meant to help their brothers not lust. No one ever tells a man to dress modestly.

    And let’s be honest even further: modesty is relative. In our modern American culture a woman in pants would be perfectly fine, as long as they’re not skin-tight right? 100 years ago? She was considered a whore.

    And how discriminatory are we being? We wouldn’t dream of using these verses to tell a brother “Ya know, Brent, you look a little too much like a model today. You’re kinda lumberjacky, I’m worried you’re leading our sisters astray.” We’re acting discriminatory and prejudicial against our sisters, and that violates the the law of freedom in the Spirit of Christ. We should stop it and start from a place of freedom for our sisters.

    And I think I should defend Emily on this point: in no way is she advocating that women dress in a provocative manner. The question is what Jesus taught us to ask: what’s in your heart? If a woman starts dressing in miniskirts because she doesn’t know it’s tacky is far and away different from doing it b/c she’s trying to attract a man. And instead of blaming her for causing lust (an absurd assumption) we should wonder what’s the hole she’s trying to fill in her heart and have mercy on her. Jesus did that all the time.

    Lastly I will say this, and men out there, come and agree with me: ladies, whether you dress in a bikini or a burqa you will not stop a man from lusting after you. If he wishes to lust, he will lust, if it is in his heart to do it. Lust is a disease of the heart and only God can change that. He’s doing it for me and he can do it for other men. But I place the blame for it on me and on sin, not on my sisters.

    Emily, thanks for your post, and thank you for an INCREDIBLE definition of lust, that was huge. I applaud you.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Regis,

      Thank you so much for your comment! I appreciate that you read this post and you are articulate in standing up for men and women and the freedom we have in Jesus!

      One thing I would challenge you to reconsider or think about more deeply is this paragraph: “If a woman starts dressing in miniskirts because she doesn’t know it’s tacky is far and away different from doing it b/c she’s trying to attract a man. And instead of blaming her for causing lust (an absurd assumption) we should wonder what’s the hole she’s trying to fill in her heart and have mercy on her.”

      1. This kind of statement still perpetuates the idea that we have the power to judge the value and motives of others. I like that you assume that every woman isn’t dressing solely to attract men, but I would also say that assuming “she doesn’t know it’s tacky” is still a judgment on her intelligence, social awareness, etc. It’s possible she loves that skirt! The point is: we don’t know.

      2. Assuming everyone dressing attractively (again, this is a matter of opinion and varies GREATLY) is “trying to fill a hole in her heart” and we should “have mercy on her.” STILL puts you, the viewer of the person wearing the outfit, in a position of authority and judgment over her. Conservatively dressed people can have holes in their hearts, too! Dress should not be a determining factor in holiness, spiritual maturity, or faith.
      3. This doesn’t mean that we can’t be discerning in what we wear. Certain articles of clothing aren’t preferable in certain social situations. But SOCIETY dictates that, not the Bible. Trust that God put you in the society you live in and you’re free to live there fully, following many social customs, while continually asking him to fill you with overwhelming grace and love. Jesus never mentions any particular persons clothes or “modesty” in the way we frequently talk about it.
      4. (and this is a big one so I’m tempted to write it in all caps, but I’ll refrain) When we see a woman and immediately judge her for what she’s wearing, we need to immediately about the hole in OUR hearts and ask Jesus to help us understand why we’re needing to judge or control or dictate her value to make ourselves feel better. Maybe she looks better in a mini skirt or skinny jeans we think we do, so we’re judging her out of jealousy. Maybe we think that God will like us better if we’re wearing more fabric than her, which is a false view of a God who loves unconditionally. Maybe that person doesn’t fit our culturally determined view of beauty, and we’d rather label her “tacky” or “gross” than have God renew our view of beauty and worth. Maybe we’re perpetuating classist or racist views we haven’t confronted yet. Maybe we’re envious of her confidence and don’t know how to have it for ourselves, so we want to make it wrong. I know that I’ve judged women and their clothing choices for all of these reasons and I was absolutely wrong! Clothes will always just be clothes. But people are PEOPLE and that means that they are of infinite value to God. I am amazed at the depths he goes to for us.

      Again, thanks so much for engaging here. I’d love to hear your thoughts on these additional comments. I am thrilled that you said that God is working in your heart and I hope you continue to dive into the amazing love that changes us all!

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  • Julie Anne

    Bravo, Emily! What is lacking in all of these rules is common sense and a good dose of grace.

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  • http://www.ticoandtina.com christina

    removing morality from the equation, let’s just talk practicality.

    I may have missed it somewhere in all these comments, but I think what a lot of people aren’t identifying is that it’s not just about avoiding lust – I think many people would also like to avoid being in a constant state of arousal.

    it’s not just about finding someone attractive, it’s about being aroused by them. it’s uncomfortable. period.

    being aroused is not a moral issue perhaps, it’s just a very, very slippery slope, and one I’d like to avoid and appreciate my husband avoiding as well. if that means we have to avoid people who are embracing their freedom to dress however they feel most attractive and inadvertently show a lot of boob, leg, whatever, well, so be it. because hormones are quick to do their thing. additionally, it’s very annoying to keep having images of how other people looked in their particularly revealing clothes popping up while having sex with your spouse.

  • Darcy

    A friend just posted your article and I loved it. I also was raised with very strict, legalistic modesty rules and the idea that if a man lusted after me, it was my fault. I grew up with every article of clothing being religiously scrutinized and much shame heaped upon my shoulders. I came to equate my beauty with shame. Thankfully, I’ve found healing (mostly) and I, too, write about the damaging effects of strict modesty teachings, as well as many conservative teachings from my past. Anyway, thank you so much for your thoughts and your heart. Every word resonated in my soul. Here’s to freedom! :)

    • Emily_Maynard

      Aaaaaahhh, Darcy, it means so much that you would comment, because I love your writing! I found your blog some time ago.

      If any of these are your ideas, please take credit. I’ve been influenced by so many bloggers who’ve found freedom and a love for Jesus outside of The Rules. I’m so grateful that you’ve told your story. You are part of the chorus that is teaching me to sing as loud as I can!

  • Soli Deo Gloria

    If
    only you knew what was in the heart and mind of a man. The God’s very Word
    written down declares this truth,

    “The heart is deceitful above all
    things, and desperately wicked: who can know it?” (Jer 17:9, kjv)

    I pray
    that as you seek truth and as you seek the true freedom that comes from Christ,
    you would not become so naive as to actually believe that, “In fact, nothing you do or do not do can influence
    lust in someone else.”

    Respectfully, you will never know from a man’s
    perspective what influences his lust. Take it from a guy who has experienced
    it. Women do influence lust in men. Yes, even dress influences lust. If you say it
    does not, you preach against the truth. The truth is, I have been
    influenced by how women have dressed, acted, and interacted around and with me.
    May our hearts be free from legalism, and may our hearts be free from sin.
    You
    have more influence than you know.
    SDG.

  • http://www.thedailyretort.com/ TorConstantino

    “Nerve” let me introduce you to my friend “struck” – AWESOME!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Haha, thank you. It’s been fun to see people interact with this topic!

  • Thomas

    As a christian guy I would like to say that I really appreciate this article because it not only humanizes women in a way that the church doesn’t always do, but also it humanizes men. When people say that the way a women dresses can cause men to sin, it makes guys like me look like crazy lustful sex-monsters when in reality I control my own sins. If lust is in the heart of a man then he will lust and there is no amount of clothing that a women can wear that will stop him. However if a man is virtuous, then there is no amount of “nakedness” that will make him lust. I’m not saying that being naked is necessarily something that is ok, but I am saying that Emily is correct, it isn’t the responsibility of women to make sure that men don’t lust. In fact there is really no way that a women can dress that will change the heart of a man (aside from intentionally dressing/acting sexually).
    As a guy, I dress for myself not for other people and I believe that women should have that same right. Also, any guy that tries to say that the way women dresses can cause him to lust, is only trying to justify his own sinful thoughts. So thank you Emily for writing this incredible article. And as a side note, I just moved to Portland a year ago and love it here! I am actually looking for a church downtown (I have been going to one in Beaverton, but i live downtown and i don’t really drive anymore so it’s not easy to get all the way out there) and I was wondering what church you go to so i could maybe come check it out sometime. Thanks.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thomas, this is awesome! Thank you so much for commenting. I’m glad my story resonated with you.

      I especially appreciate this line: “As a guy, I dress for myself not for other people and I believe that women should have that same right.”
      Attitudes like this from men and women have helped me heal from the negative self image and weight of too much responsibility.

      As for Portland churches, I usually suggest people check out Solid Rock (there’s a downtown service on Sunday nights), Imago Dei, or Door of Hope. All vibrant churches with a heart to love this city and grow together. Welcome to Portland! Feel free to connect on Twitter or email if you need more help getting connected here.

  • Maranatha John

    True! Jesus taught that when you look at a woman and lust after her, you’ve already committed fornication with her in your heart. In other words, the physical sexual act doesn’t start on the bed, it starts in the heart, and so is any transgression in the eyes of God. I recommend Dag Heward-Mills’
    “All about fornication”, a wonderful book that encompasses this subject area in every conceivable aspect.

    Enjoy!

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  • Emily_Maynard

    Thanks for reading!

  • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

    My eyes kind of glazed over trying to get through the comments…

    We pretty much agree. Both for the reasons you give *and* because I’m tired of guys being portrayed like dogs who can’t control themselves, who smell a dog in heat (see a hot woman in “immodest” dress), and are completely out of control until they’ve had their way with her. We guys *can* control our eyes. We *can* control our thoughts. We *can* control our actions. Guys do it all the time– if and when they want to.

    [Anything else basically gives guys a pass for rape. I don't care if the sexiest woman on the planet struts herself in front of you 24/7 for a year, rape is still not an option. It would be really stupid of her because some guys *won't* control themselves, but rape is never acceptable. Never.]

    How much more should a Christian guy, one who’s been made new, with a new nature, one who should *recognize* that he is made in God’s image (as is every man and woman who has ever lived) be able to do so?

    We’re so trapped in this “sinners saved by grace” mindset where our identity is still “Sinner!” No, no, a bazillion times no! I don’t need to take authority over what any woman wears. I work with teens, and I warn girls to think about what they wear where. Because there are both weak guys and predators out there. And if you know your brother is struggling with lust, you might want to watch what you wear around him, how you sit, etc. But because you love him and want to help him, and in that case it’s a short term solution, because anything that really helps will involve his drawing closer to God until he’s strong enough to be free– however that has to work out in his life.

    Some women certainly dress to draw attention to their features. If the whole point is to get a guy to look at your butt or boobs, then you should ask yourself why you want a guy to focus on those. And realize that a guy who is mainly attracted to yours is just as easily attracted to someone else’s. But even if he isn’t, is that really all you think you have to offer???

    That works both ways, guys. Is your shirt unbuttoned for comfort or because you want a girl to notice your chest? If the latter, why? Sooner or later she’ll almost certainly think someone else’s chest is sexier; but even if she doesn’t, is that really all you think you have to offer???

    I believe in modesty. I believe, as with most things, it’s something you work out between you and God.

  • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

    A true story:

    A couple of my nieces[1] had a woman come to their youth group a few years ago who explained that women should never have bare shoulders, because they made guys think of breasts. Seriously!

    It has become a running joke with us and one of their moms– especially since we live in central Texas, where 100+ degree summer days are pretty normal. I make it a point not to touch their shoulders, or if I do, I apologize profusely. Sometimes my wife will cover my eyes around them so I won’t be tempted to “lust after those bodacious shoulders” (perhaps we should call them sha-shas?).

    One of them toyed with the idea of having nipples tattooed on her shoulders (they’re legally adults now). It’s probably for the best she didn’t, but I still find the idea hysterical.

    [1] spiritually adopted, if that makes sense

  • Donna Carlaw

    Not sure if you addressed this, but I’m wondering about girls who deliberately dress in ways that express their own sinful lust. No, they are not responsible for another person’s lust, but aren’t we all responsible for our own?

    Very young girls are being encouraged to dress in sexually provocative ways as an expression of their own sexuality. They are being encouraged to explore their sexuality, including same sex relationships or even in groups. I hope you think that dressing in ways that would tend to feed one’s own lust and desire to have sex with others is indeed a girl’s responsibility and a girl’s sin. Right?

    If you stop at the point, “A girl is not responsible for the lust of others,” then maybe you are missing an equally important point that needs to be made.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Hi Donna,

      Thanks for reading and commenting! I, too, am concerned about the way media encourages sexualization in the lives of girls far too immature to understand these power and complexity of these issues. I’ve found this book: The Lolita Effect, by Gigi Durham, (http://www.amazon.com/The-Lolita-Effect-Media-Sexualization/dp/B004JZWMF8/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353358619&sr=8-1&keywords=gigi+durham) to be incredibly insightful and full of practical ways to walk with girls as they encounter their world and all of the lies thrown out towards them. I think this book walks the important line of not dismissing sexuality as a human trait, but encouraging age appropriate discussions, responses, and self-respect.

      The correct answer is neither to hide from media or human sexuality, but to learn the skills to engage with both in a healthy manner.

      Other than that, I’m not really certain I follow your additional arguments. Perhaps you could explain a bit more? I’m certainly on board with the idea that every capable person is responsible for themselves in all areas before God.

  • http://www.sheisfierce.net/ Kim

    I am late to the party here. And I totally love your view on what lust is.
    Might I say that I do think that the concern with modesty lies not in what the response is to a woman’s clothing (which is not the responsibility of the woman), but why she is wearing it? I have spent a lot of time exploring the idea of modesty and have found that the sad part is not the fact that men might look lustfully, but that many women who dress in ways that might be considered sexually charged, they do so out of a need to be loved and sought after that is misdirected towards men and away from Christ. Does that make sense? I know very few women who dress ‘provocatively’ because they like it, but instead because they would like a reaction and crave that attention. And that brokeness, that I fall trap to as much as the next woman, is in fact the issue. Not their responsibility to those who might look at them, which is not their responsibility at all.
    I am not good at discribing this and maybe I am doing a horrible job. But that’s my thoughts.
    Thanks for sharing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Ariel-C-McGlothin/1411058189 Ariel C. McGlothin

    Thank you for your writing. I just read this, and your two posts on can men and women be friends? i heartily agree with you on both topics. It sounds like you grew up with a lot of the same expectation that I did and I’ve come to the same conclusions as you. It’s sad to me that more people haven’t. I rarely find anyone expressing these views, much less an intelligent women. So thank you.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Thank you for reading, Ariel! I’m so grateful that you have a similar story of healing from harmful expectations. We have a great hope!

  • Sts123

    I agree a lot with you especially the confusion of lust and attraction. But you said have led me to now believe you think “it is not my problem at all if someone lusts at me”. And men ARE most responsible for their actions. The question is: did you help it in anyway. The bible, assuming you believe all of it, says do not be a stumbling block to others. This definitely is not just talking about lust, sex etc. in fact Paul is talking about what kind of meat we can eat. If what kind of animal we can eat is a stumbling block. You CANNOT under any circumstance say “I am not responsible in any part for causing someone to stumble by how I dress”. That doesn’t mean you have to dress in a baggy robe. But I would like to point out Paul told the Corinthian church women to wear head coverings. In almost any study you do you will find Paul was talking to that church and those women because of culture and because IT WAS A STUMBLING BLOCK. In fact the only other conclusion you can get from that passage would be all women should wear head covers in church. And I’m sure if they were covering their hair, their bodies were fully covered too. The ideology that I am not responsible for men lusting is the same and men not being responsible for women lusting. And to take it even further. That we are not responsible for anyone stumbling. Which is not true. The bible said that we WILL BE JUDGED for these things.

    I know a lot of people will read this and say “he is just justifying”. But I assure you I am not. It is my fault if I lust after a women, as the initial thought is not sin. And dwelling is. But you will be judged on your actions that create stumbling blocks, clothing choices,
    Eating choices, and anything else. I have never heard specific “modesty rules” but I am sure who ever originally started was doing it for the best interest of men and women. It’s time to end “menism” and “feminism” because they are both a poison. We are 100% responsible to God, and I guarantee that if you are truly 100% to God you will dress modest ( I would like to say that I believe there is a fine line between where modest begins, and ends. I should not see the exact shape of you body, it has always been a culture view of modesty it always will be for men or women). You will dress modest because God will lead you to not cause each other to stumble. For the sake of everyone’s sole here, your answer should not be “it’s men’s poblem” it is both out problem. If you are not moving away from sin. Then you are in sin. If you are not trying to help each other than you are hurting each other. From front of the bible to back you cannot say “it is my fault” in King David’s time the woman he slept with was punished by God as well. From Adam and Eve, men and women were BOTH respsonsible and both punished. No sin is different in God’s eye which means lust is both parties fault. Please pray about what stumbling blocks you have to others and work to fix them(not just lust stumbling blocks). And let’s use some common sense, women should not wear yoga pants and think its not my problem, the same way man cannot wear sex appealing clothing and say its not my problem. We are in this together. Get over yourself and think about others.

  • Katelyn F

    I appreciate your honesty about this topic, Emily. I think that within the culture of our Christian society we sometimes have a hard time being open about the topics discussed in this article and the following comments, e.g. sexual attraction vs. lust, the definition of modesty, etc.

    “Do I want to see a shirtless guy, especially one that is “so hot”? Maybe. But do I want that in my mind when I am with my husband, and he is shirtless? Frankly, I don’t. So if I see some guy without their shirt, I always to look the other way and think about something else. Likewise, I don’t want to EVER be the picture in some guy’s mind when he is with his wife.” -LovingThem

    “If you are sexually attracted to a married man, that is sin. If a married man is sexually attracted to you, that is sin.” -Angie.

    I think these comments highlight the attitude that is at the center of this conversation: whose responsibility is your sexuality/lust/thought life/heart condition? My opinion? Yours and yours alone.

    LovingThem, I understand how you would feel terrible if you ever found out that a man thinks about you while having sex with his wife, but I am curious how that would be your fault? I don’t think you can take responsibility for that solely based on the everyday clothes you wear around that man. Of course, if you flirt with him or instigate a relationship with him, those are choices that you make that lead you to share in the culpability of his thought life, but you are not in control of what that man thinks. I think this is the freedom that Emily is talking about. I also think that I can be around men at a pool party without having to have shifty eyes. This is another aspect of this freedom that comes when you realize that just by looking at a physically attractive man with his shirt off doesn’t mean you have lusted after him. If you look at a shirtless man and imagine yourself having sex with him then go home and your husband kisses you but you close your eyes and picture no-shirt guy again, etc., etc., you have made a choice in your thought life to dwell on the fantasy of being with no-shirt guy, and that choice had nothing to do with the fact that he wasn’t wearing a shirt. Certainly, no-shirt guy shouldn’t have foreseen you lusting after him and put a shirt on. He should trust you as a sister in Christ to be able to have him in your peripheral without letting your mind go crazy with lust after him. I think being neurotic about this actually overly sexualizes the issue.

    Angie, I am curious what your definition of “sexually attracted” is. The other day, I was at a restaurant with my fiancé, and the manager came over to check in on us. After he walked away, I laughed to my fiancé and said, “Wow, that guy was like movie star attractive!” My fiancé laughed back and was like, “I know, right?” Neither of us committed lust or a sin in that moment, and we went on with our evening not having another thought about the manager. Even now, I don’t remember exactly what the guy looked like. We were both being honest about the physical attractiveness of another person. My fiancé was not threatened that I admitted the attractiveness of the manager, and I am not threatened when he occasionally does the same of women. To remain faithful to my fiancé and later my husband doesn’t mean I need to claim that he is the only person on earth I find attractive. That would be dishonest and unrealistic. He is the only person I want to sleep with, the only person I want to be married to, etc., but I don’t need to deny the fact that there are other handsome men on earth. Wanting to sleep with those men would be lust, but denying their existence is silly.

    I have seen many Christians aim for a lifestyle that is close to asexual. Though I respect the decision of certain couples to refrain from kissing until their wedding day or to only hold hands, etc., I do think it is part of a larger Christian cultural idea to almost be afraid of sex. We hide sex and deny attraction and don’t realize that we are actually giving it more power than it’s due. I am not afraid of a shirtless man jogging by me, and I am not afraid of a girl wearing a low-cut tank sauntering by my fiancé. I don’t feel the need to look away, and I don’t expect my fiancé to automatically avert his eyes either. I would be disrespecting the jogger if I oogled him, and I would be dehumanizing him if I stood there and thought about him pinning me down right there and having his way with me, and I would be hurt if my fiancé had similar thoughts while looking at the scantily dressed girl. But there is a difference between lusting and looking. Also in these instances, the sin, if we are pointing fingers, lies not with the man who went for a jog without his shirt, nor with the woman who threw on her most comfy tank on her way out the door without taking into consideration the thought life of every man she might pass.

    There are many lies that exist in the midst of this topic that tear both men and women down. I am glad, Emily, that you have been looking those lies in the face and forcing them out of your heart. I remember in youth group every year at summer camp, the girls had to wear t-shirts over their bathing suits to protect our male counterparts. I hated wearing a t-shirt while swimming because it was so uncomfortable and got heavy in the water, so I usually didn’t go. Some girls wore tight shirts that clung to their bodies when wet, which was almost more graphic than if they had just been wearing a one-piece. What angered me the most, though, was that the guys were not required to wear shirts. At least let’s be honest enough to be fair. A big lie here is that modesty is a women’s issue and lust is a man’s. I saw this proven wrong, though, when I heard some freshmen girls sitting by the pool talking about how hot each guy was and pointing out their sculpted abs and tanned torsos. If we are to go with the idea that it is helpful to protect each other from making it easy to lust, why does that responsibility begin and end with women?

  • Gina Smith

    I think that we can learn something from this article, but also from “the rules”. Where rules become wrong is when we tell everyone what modesty looks like. We can be modest, and still be uniquely ourselves. It’s good for people to be purposely thinking about what could potentially cause a brother to stumble, What makes it bad is when we make a list and then become legalistic with it, making it more than it is. There are obvious cautions we need to take in how we dress, as it can cause men a problem. That’s just a fact. What they do with their thoughts beyond that is not our responsibility. We need to be sure we are balanced and biblical in how we view this, and not react to the error that we once believed, and then end up swinging to an extreme that is also error.

  • KrystalD

    I agree that this whole idea of “modesty rules” is a bit ridiculous. I mean, how long should a skirt be? We don’t need to create another era of “Pharisees”. But let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water. I am currently at a bikini wearing (not at church!), mini skirt sporting (yes to church), low-cut, tight fitting church. I don’t need a peek at your cleavage or your ripped and tatted biceps while you sing with the praise team. And it’s difficult to pay attention to the cute preschoolers singing in the front of church while their teacher’s g-string is poking out from the top of her low cut jeans (yes, this really happened). And I’m not even speaking to the topic of lust. I’m just talking about what is appropriate and what is inappropriate. Let’s not Babylon overtake us here. I feel that all Christian people need to be the light of Christ. But that light is sometimes diffcult to spot under all the sparkle and flash of some of today’s fashions.

    • Robert Carlisle

      This is wisdom. Thank you for it amoung the noise and the choas of this world.

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  • http://www.devotionaldiva.com/ Renee Johnson Fisher

    Nailed it.

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  • http://twitter.com/mwestramke Megan Westra

    “Lust is forming people in your own image, for your own purposes, whether
    for sexual pleasure, emotional security, or moral superiority.”

    I “Amen”ed my computer screen.

    from someone who grew up similarly, thank you. thank you so much.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Love to you, Megan. Thank you for reading!

  • http://www.facebook.com/anthonyjohnferrara Anthony Ferrara

    Emily,

    First off, it seems this post is fairly old, and I hope commenting on it far after the original date doesn’t seem too odd. I apologize also if someone already said this, as I admit I didn’t read through all 200 comments. I saw that you replied to many and felt I would give it a shot in hopes of the same. :)

    It is true that the true root of sin is ultimately a heart issue. No amount of throwing on layers of clothes will fix the heart, only Jesus will. You stated this very well in the article. I also agree that God wants to re-define the way that we view personhood, and I thought the way you described lust was spot on.

    A couple questions I have though with some of your basic assumptions. The largest, I believe, is the assumption that it isn’t our responsibility to share in the burden of trying to bring others alongside us in our pursuit of holiness and Christ-like living (and in this instance, sexual purity or however else you’d like to label it). You stated that “In fact, nothing you do or do not do can influence lust in someone else.” This seems to me in direct contradiction to Paul’s exhortation to us in 1 Corinthians 8:9-13.

    “But take care that this right of yours does not somehow become a stumbling block to the weak. For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol’s temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols? And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died. Thus, sinning against your brothers and wounding their conscience when it is weak, you sin against Christ. Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.”

    Paul is there talking about food offered to idols as a cultural issue of the day, but the same principle can be applied to our current context. In fact, great responsibility is put on us as believers to take a very heavy interest in our actions and how others with a “weak conscience” will view these actions. He even goes as far as to say that this action is “sinning”. Part of our “bearing of each other’s burdens” that is so clear in Galatians, is sometimes the “exhausting” task of placing ourselves in the place of others. Of being aware of our those around us. Not by “managing” them certainly, but God clearly doesn’t abstain us from all responsibility in that process either. I guess I wonder how you would reconcile those two–what seems like to me–conflicting viewpoints.

    Additionally, you summarized that you would “absolutely encourage men and women to dress in a socially acceptable manner”. But this is kind of nebulous, is it not? What is socially acceptable? What is “socially acceptable” today might not be tomorrow. Our culture is defined by a large conglomeration of people, many of whom do not share the same values or claim to be following Christ. Should we define or base our lifestyle choices by a culture that is bent on destroying God? A culture that worships sex and lust and casual hookups and pornography? You end by stating that we should make good choices for ourselves, but it just sounds so much like the philosophy of rational self-interest, not a world-view based on a desire to sacrifice all for God. I am all for freedom in Christ and liberty from legalism, and definitely am not advocating measuring any lengths-above-the-knee, but I think its possible to be balanced here. To be respectful of others as much as we can, sharing and understanding the weakness of others, and realizing that we do have a responsibility and burden to take into account all things.

    I hope you realize that I am humbly just offering my observations, and by no means am trying to condemn the article, you, or your ideas. I am really just trying to hear your viewpoint, as I’ve had many conversations and heard many viewpoints on this. Thanks for listening and getting this far.

    • Emily_Maynard

      Anthony,

      Thank you for reading and commenting here. Yes, this is an old post, but it’s a discussion I care about deeply and I appreciate that you’re wrestling with them here. This subject matters to the women in your life, I can assure you. It roots out some deep seated cultural misogyny and while that is painful to those empowered by it, I believe that pain can bring about powerful change.

      If you can, please read the comments. Most of the issues you brought up have been addressed there. I’ve copied and pasted a few responses that deal with the typical Bible passages brought up in this discussion. You can find them in context if you scroll down:

      “As for Romans 15, I’m not exactly sure how it applies in this situation. I’m not sure how it makes me strong and someone else weak if they are sexually attracted to me. Can you explain that a little more? I think the difference in our understanding is that you’re still considering attraction and lust the same thing, while my post argues that they are distinct. I think God made our bodies in this fantastic creative way and attraction occurs on the level of chemical reactions in your brain, hormonal patterns, and even a spiritual connection. None of these things are evil in themselves. Attraction by itself isn’t an issue of power, but of various chemical reactions. Attraction is not solely visually stimulated for men or women (as someone who has less than perfect eyesight about this!)

      And the use of the Corinthians passage, again, puzzles me. I don’t equate being attracted to someone as weakness. I don’t equate being attractive as weakness or strength. I’m responsible to God for my mind and asking God to root out the control issues in my heart, just like you are. Again, don’t get me wrong. Lust is serious and lust is absolutely a sin, but not just because it’s sexual. Lust is deplorable because of the way it uses another human being made in the image of God and takes them for your own purposes. God isn’t offended by sex, but he is angry when we use each other and strip each other of the value that he gives all his creation. And we use each other and judge each other and strip each other of value in so many ways that offend God, even as we discuss “modesty” and what women should wear for the benefit of men.”

      In addition, I’d point you to more discussion about modesty on my tumblr: emilyisspeakingup.tumblr.com, website: emilyisspeakingup.com and this excellent post from my friend Luke Harms: http://lukelivingthetension.blogspot.com/2012/12/on-modesty-and-male-privilege.html

  • http://www.facebook.com/jeremy.clayton.353 Jeremy Clayton

    I think it’s important, among other things, to remember that modesty is first and foremost a state of the mind and heart.

    I spent two years as a student at Bob Jones University. (For those of you who don’t know, that’s an ultra-conservative school where rules of “Modesty” are strictly enforced.) Spend some time in a place like that, where skirt length is an enforced mandate, and you’ll quickly learn that modesty has almost nothing to do with the clothes you wear. I saw as much immodesty on that campus as anywhere else I’ve been. Not being able to simplistically identify modesty/immodesty through dress, I started to recognize the real thing when I saw it.

    Sadly, the American church has become a place where horribly immodest people can dodge criticism if they follow the dress code, and real modesty goes unnoticed.

  • C

    “I don’t think you dressing according to a set of modesty rules will ever stop another person from lusting. In fact, nothing you do or do not do can influence lust in someone else”

    I strongly disagree with this statement, I know from my own experience and from the experience of friends that what a girl wears has a big impact on the lustful thoughts that a guy can have. I know that a girl who dresses modestly and doesn’t flash a lot of her breasts or legs, that doesn’t wear tight clothes is someone that will not have as many guys lusting after her as someone who wears low cut shirts that reveal a lot or someone who wears skin tight pants. The girl who does wear the clothes that reveals a lot tends to give guys more of a look at what she has, she gives guys a better image of her body and more to lust after. I also know that seeing the extra skin can be what triggers the lusting after them

    • Emily_Maynard

      Here’s the question: why should every girl (or the Christian girls at least) dress in a way that prevents you from being sexually attracted to her? Isn’t that demanding that all the choices she makes: down to what clothes she puts on in the morning, revolve around you and your eyes and your thoughts? What about the vastly different facets to sexual attraction that go beyond clothes and body types? How can any girl please every single unique hormonal make up of every man she encounters by NOT making him sexually attracted to her? Again, why is that her responsibility?

      And besides, as I make a point in my article, lust is not the same as sexual attraction and only you and I have control over our own lusts. Nobody else can make me lust in my mind, that is something that I choose to do and am pretty good at doing no matter what clothes someone is wearing. This is why I have to stop blaming others and take responsibility for my own thoughts and the way I may use people in them.

      • Robert Carlisle

        “If anyone uses Bible verses as weapons of condemnation and shame instead of building faith in the working of the Holy Spirit, don’t believe it.” Basicly if it doesnt fit what you want the bible to say ignore it. You go ahead and live in rebellion to christ and his fathers word. I accept that his mercy makes me righteous but that I have to attempt to be righteous. Dressing up like doll and then blaming the men that lusted for you isnt going to win you points with jesus. He can see though you and knows your enjoying the attention of ungodly men. Remeber you dont live in a society with all christians so not all men will avert their eyes. You invite ungodly men into your life with all kinds of choices not just fashion. Be who god wants you to be based on his word not what you want the bible to say. Good luck ladies but if you notice you are constantly in situations with your boyfriends that shows they are not christians maybe you should change you and that will change who god sends your way.

  • http://www.facebook.com/chelseabvdm Chelsea Van Der Meersche

    Thank you for writing this!

    • Emily_Maynard

      Chelsea, thank you for reading!

  • Jess

    I appreciate your post and think maybe some people here are missing the point. Can we look at this from a spirit of the law perspective rather than a letter of the law perspective? The point that I think you bravely shedding light on in this post as well as your “guard your heart” post is the deceptive messages that have plagued so many women who have grown up in church and from which I believe the Lord desires to free us. The truth sets us free, right?

    You’ve definitely got me thinking about some of these faulty messages and the havoc they have wreaked in my own life. I think you hit the nail on the head when you talked about the core issue of control, which I believe is one of the hardest for Christians to admit and let go of, myself included. It’s one of the “more respectable sins,” along with other classics like pride and fear, which you addressed in your other post.

    I think it’s so true, though, that this attitude of thinking you are responsible for someone else’s lust actually comes from the same place and can even produce the same effect as lusting after someone else. Whenever we put ourselves in a place where we think we can control somebody else’s decisions or responses by our own decisions, we put ourselves in dangerous emotional territory. And for us women, continuing in this boundary-less manner is really fertile ground for becoming consumed by lust.

    Yes, I agree that women should be respectful towards men in all things, but as our brothers, shouldn’t it alarm you how much of the rhetoric of church culture seems to have targeted/scapegoated women (much like Adam did to Eve) for the sins of men at the cost of our wholeness–body, soul, and spirit? Women by nature already bear responsibility for so many things that we should not, so I’m not blaming men for this phenomenon by any means. But one has to take a good look at any doctrines, or seeds so to speak, that are not bearing good fruit. Yes, Eve was deceived. But Adam was also responsible for his own decision to listen to Eve. And I think what I see in that is what you’ve talked about and probably what you meant by saying that your body is your own–not that you are not submitting yourself fully to Christ but that you are responsible for your own body and the choices that you make within it, and everyone else is responsible for his or her own body and choices.

    I think that in Christian culture we so often focus on outward solutions for inward problems. Instead of asking what I should be wearing or spending so much time debating or judging others for what they wear, maybe the better question we should ask is, “How can I pursue true sanctification?” If I struggle with lust, I know that bringing that before the Lord with an honest heart and open hands will take me so much further than worrying about what I or anyone else is wearing or not wearing. Let’s not be distracted, brothers and sisters, by empty chatter that has the appearance of godliness but lacks any true power. The enemy’s goal isn’t to get us to wear skimpy clothes or feel sexual attraction. His goal is for us to stray from pure and simple devotion to Christ, and shame is one of his number one weapons. Let’s not give in to shame but surrender to the love of Christ that covers us!

  • DeathToThe Midianite children!

    I wouldn’t be impacted if people started walking around in the nude. I don’t care. I am just prepared for the barrage of bad Christian examples, of phony faith paraded around that demands respect. While Emily contemplates sharing a view of her breasts with the community AND tells us to submit our entire lives to Jesus AND tells us to believe she also has AND tells us what qualifies as lust (while not explaining how she knows), I’ll keep a trash can at hand in case the nausea makes me…

  • http://scienceandotherdrugs.wordpress.com/ physicsandwhiskey

    “Nothing you do or do not do can influence lust in someone else.”

    Love this. A++.

  • RexS

    Hey Hey wait a min what does the bible NT have to say does it matter

  • Nathaniel Smith

    This is a brilliant article, and I appreciate your voice. I agree that a person should not let the burden of responsibility for another’s sin crush them. I don’t think in spirit you take the concept too far, but I would encourage readers to take some caution. There are several ways in which I could attempt to reverse your message and give biblical evidence that we do have some level of responsibility over our brothers’ and sisters’ sin, but really, the question is this: What is the motivation for dressing in a way that might allow a brother or sister to sin? The Bible says a woman should adorn herself with good works, not jewelry. I agree that if a man is seeking sin and giving himself to lust, the way you dress won’t stop him, but you can certainly make yourself a more difficult target for his lust. And why wouldn’t you want a man to notice you first for your good works and devotion to Christ instead of the amount of your body he can imagine?

  • Jasmyn Elliott

    If I may add: “The Modesty Rules” are also insulting to men. Instead of them being portrayed as intelligent beings capable of controlling themselves, they are painted to be out-of-control savages. Therefore, the so-called “Modesty Rules” need to be thrown out for the sake of our men just as much as for the sake of our women. It’s a degrading concept regardless of gender.

    • http://ear-sword-miracle.blogspot.com/ Miles O’Neal

      Thank you. I said something similar; it’s nice to hear it from a woman! We are *all* (male and female, Jew and Greek, black and white, etc.) to submit ourselves to God. is love, his strength, and so many other attributes are available to all of us, to set us free.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100005659382479 Dan White

    lascivious, lasciviousness

    Greek: aselgeia

    Meaning: lewd; debauchery or living in debauchery; wantonness, licentiousness; lecherous; provoking or exciting lust; given to lust or expressing lust; filthy immorality / This word is derived from the Latin: lascivus or lascvia, meaning “lustful, lewdness, wantonness.”

    This word appears six times in the King James Bible, It is only used in the New Testament.

    1 Peter 4:3 (“when we walked in lasciviousness, lusts, excess of wine, revellings, banquetings, and abominable idolatries”)

    2 Corinthians 12:21 (“have not repented of the uncleanness and fornication and lasciviousness”)

    Ephesians 4:19 (“Who being past feeling have given themselves over unto lasciviousness, to work all uncleanness with greediness”)

    Galatians 5:19 (“the works of the flesh are manifest, which are these; Adultery, fornication, uncleanness, lasciviousness…”)

    Jude 1:4 (“ungodly men, turning the grace of our God into lasciviousness”);

    Mark 7:22 (“…wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness…”)

    Author: Paul S. Taylor.

  • EJ

    Can I just say, I LOVE this. Thank you so much. I’m in college, grew up in a VERY conservative home, private Christian school, the whole nine yards. I’m a little bit more curvy than most of the girls I went to school with and boy did I know it! I grew up thinking that any clothes I wore were sinful, that wearing pretty things with even a hint of cleavage was a sin and that I was a sinner for doing so. This hurt. It still does. I grew up insecure, uncertain, and unable to talk to boys. When I did, I was constantly thinking about what I looked like. It was either sin or completely unfashionable choices. College has been the first place that I have received compliments, not “come ons,” just compliments. There are so many wonderful things about this article. Firstly, thank you for the encouragement. Thank you for saying that I am not a sinner for looking pretty. But also thank you for reminding me to check my heart and to not let my resentment dictate my clothing choices. I need to check with the Holy Spirit and make my decisions, not what other people say.

    To any adult who reads this, please be kind to little kids like I was. They need affection and encouragement, not scolding and “rules.” They need to know that they are loved and it is not a sin to have larger chests, etc. I’ve never been able to have a healthy relationship with my body or a guy (not for this reason only….NOT saying that, lol).

    Thank you so much for the encouragement and conviction. I needed this. It didn’t go one way or the other and that’s what I needed to hear.

  • Allyn

    First of all, virtual high five for writing about this. While I grew up in a relatively conservative church/school, luckily my parents have always been open and supportive of sex (within context, which varies because mom’s a christian, dad isn’t), and respect for everyone, man or woman.

    I agree with all you’ve said, and want to add that this mindset of women having to stay pure to keep those nasty lustful men from losing control also COMPLETELY ignores the fact that, SHOCKER, women are sexual creatures too. We are sexually attracted to men. Women look at porn. Women lust. Women love sex. Women cheat. When women do these things, it’s no better or worse than when men do these things. We are equal. I believe that this is responsible for making a lot of women feel guilty and ashamed when they feel lust, even within a marital context, and contributes to the mindset that any woman who is sexual is any way is obviously “asking for it.” This upsets me nearly to the point of tears at times. We’ve got to fight against this mindset.

    So keep fighting! We all need to where we can. I’ve started educating my husband and friends, and you better believe we’ll make sure to the best of our ability that our future children will have a healthy and respectful outlook on human sexuality. Maybe one day we can all move past this, but in the meantime, I’ll keep wearing dresses that show off my legs.

  • Robyn Harper

    Hello Emily. I’m a little late to the party here, and I gather the articles are aimed more at twenty-somethings than my 49, but may I give a piece of Old Broad advice?

    You’re absolutely right that we alone are accountable for our responses to other people. Blaming a woman for inciting lust because she wore a short skirt is akin to blaming her for inciting a rape, in my mind. And that is ridiculous. However, we are also responsible for what we hope to incite by our words, behavior, or dress. And that is really the crux of the issue.

    Many years ago, BC, I was quite promiscuous. I bought outfits and wore them with one thought in mind- to get sexual attention. I knew which outfits got a response and which ones didn’t. And usually, if I wore something low cut and tight fitting, I was purposely aiming for a reaction. Whether it should be this way or not, certain kinds of clothes are equated with certain behaviors. It isn’t just women, either. I’ve seen men in shirts open to their navel and pants so tight they probably won’t be able to have children. Their purpose was the same as mine.

    I wish we as a culture didn’t judge by appearance alone, but the sad fact is- we do. So, as you choose an outfit, you might want to think of how it will be perceived. Not because you are responsible for another’s lustful reaction, but because you don’t want anything to misrepresent you. That said, the answer to a thousand questions is to be led. The Holy Spirit is the greatest guide we have. If you have peace in your spirit about it, wear it. If you don’t, don’t.

  • K

    I have to admit that I was really disappointed when I read this post.The reason is that I highly disagree with the message it gets across to Christians (and non-Christians). There are dozens of Bible verses that include them, but God’s instructions for us on how to dress modestly are written the most simply, yet profoundly, in the ninth and tenth verses of 1 Timothy 2. They say: “(9)I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, (10)but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God”. I have been confused in the past about this passage, because it seems as if the two verses are contradicting each other (verse nine promotes the philosophy of caring about how we dress, how we display ourselves, and being decent, yet ten says we shouldn’t worry about that, but rather our time well-spent on doing good deeds and actions). It took me some time to realize that I read the two verses together, which is what many people do, as one instruction. But they are, in fact, two different commands, each a separate source of directions for those seeking (and redirections for those not seeking) to please the Lord with the way they dress. The ninth verse simply means this: women (girls, ladies, widows, all females) need to dress modestly. Some may argue that it is the man’s fault for looking and thinking lustful thoughts, yet that is only partly true. Yes, men sin when choosing to consciously turn their heads and commit adultery with their thoughts about a girl. Yet the moment a girl puts on an article of clothing that could provoke lust from another human, they are sinning just as much as the man who is provoked into adultery in his heart about her. Both of the participants in the sin are held accountable, not just the man. That is why it is so crucially important to dress in such a way
    that we do not offer ourselves up as a stumbling block for others, causing them and ourselves to fall into sin. This is also where verse ten comes in as a perplexity to most. It is where people stop and wonder if clothing should not be taken seriously after all, and if we can wear what we want when we do good deeds for God. But look at verse ten again, this time as its own command. It says we should not spend time on enriching ourselves with amounts of clothing (“… or gold or pearls or expensive clothes”), driven by the motivation for them to make us look good, cute, or even financially rich. Instead, we should donate our time to the service of Christ (“good deeds’) AS WELL AS dressing modestly in the process (which is another form of service for Christ, a way to honor Him and the people around us). For, though we should NOT make a huge ordeal out of what we wear, nor a flirtatious scene in public or at home, honoring God with every area of our lives DOES include our wardrobe. God doesn’t hand out a booklet of what dresses we can wear, and which necklines are too revealing. But, if ladies were to get dressed with the mission of not
    choosing an article that would have even the smallest probability of causing the men around them to stumble, America would be clothed entirely differently right now. As Christians (and “women who
    profess to worship God”), modesty is our assigned duty for Christ and our brothers in Christ. It is what I believe is absolutely right, cannot be overlooked, changed, or taken lightly, and is essential to pleasing the one who made our bodies pure, holy, and sacred.

  • mee
  • bobthechef

    Do you realize that it never was about you being responsible for someone else’s lust (at least not in my sane neck of the woods)? It was always about you attracting the wrong attention. Whether you like it or not, the way you dress will select for particular people. If you dress in a way recognizes as provocative, you will be more likely to attract the attention of the creepier variety. Is that so hard to understand? Obviously, lust if the problem of the luster. But why intentionally and needlessly attract their attention? It’s common sense. It really is that obvious. Again, SOMEONE ELSE’S LUST IS NOT YOUR FAULT. But why go out of your way to dress to attract that seedy element? I can’t understand that.

    If you want to move the culture away from the puritanical fetishism that it is, you don’t do it by attracting seedy men. You do it by attacking the media. Look at how the media trains and brainwashes the masses into thinking and seeing a certain way. Advertisers do it because lust coupled with intellectual weakness makes people buy things. And stupid people are easier to control.

  • Marie

    I’m sorry that the over-obsession with modesty among certain circles has caused pain, and I do not think that we as women should dress in a socially unacceptable manner in the pursuit of modesty, or that there there should be “Modesty Rules” or “Modesty Police.” We SHOULD live in the resurrection freedom of Christ. However, just as Paul says that “everything is permissible but not everything is beneficial,” dressing immodestly in that freedom is actually detrimental to women because of the way it causes men to view us. Its been proven that the part of the brain that lights up in a man’s head when looking at a scantily clad woman is the part associated with tools and the like–not the part associated with relationships. So the very freedom that we so covet is what devalues us in the eyes of our fellow brothers, and not intentionally on their part, but naturally. Thats the way God designed their minds to operate. Sooo if we want to be viewed as equals, as people, we should dress modestly–not in legalism, but in consideration of ourselves and of our brothers. There’s a great video called “The Evolution of the Swimsuit” that has a really good argument for this–in a non-condemning, non-threatening way.

  • Born in Sin – Made to Worship

    Emily & readers, a few things…

    I understand where Emily’s coming from.
    A strict no-show policy family. Got it.
    I myself grew up not being allowed to wear shorty shorts, tight clothes, cleavage-revealing shirts, etc.

    However, from a Biblical standpoint, her words are like an immature teenagers, wanting God’s grace but slacking off when it comes to the work that’s needed to put into it.

    Consider this,

    Romans 6:1&2 says, “What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin so that grace may increase?
    May it never be!” ( http://biblehub.com/romans/6.htm )

    That Scripture directly contradicts the main point of the article!
    Nothing is free in this life, except God’s love.
    Grace is definitely not free. It comes with a price. And that price is obedience.

    Yes, God grants us grace that we don’t deserve, but He’s not blind or dumb… he sees us slacking off, making excuses and dressing inappropriately day to day, all with the “greasy grace” in tow, knowing that we could do better, but thinking, “Hey, at least I’m not dressing like so-and-so from down the street! I’m not that bad.”

    If you slip up from time-to-time with your attire, fine! We’re all sinful beings.

    But you HAVE to make a big effort to be better the next time… that’s what sets us apart from the world.

    Just sayin.

  • JesusFreak

    Angie,

    When you said, “The problem for me isn’t really HOW to be “fashionable and modest,” but
    that this whole topic of modesty is only used to abuse and control
    women.”

    My dear, when it comes to the Muslim community, you are absolutely right.
    But from a Biblical standpoint, you couldn’t be more wrong.

    • http://emilyisspeakingup.com/ Emily Maynard

      I reject this dig at Muslims. It is entirely inappropriate and inaccurate.

  • Alessia

    There’s an interesting point made on the Catholic encyclopaedia (sometimes they make a useful upbringing after all) about how the problem with lust is that it is such a strong drive for your own pleasure that it makes you commit other and worse sins in order to satisfy it.

  • LovinLifeNow

    Loved your article! I just came across your article because I was researching different views on modesty. I definitely agree lust and attraction definitely get confused within each other, and the distinction needs to be made! It all goes back to your heart and where that attraction is leading you. You can definitely be attracted to someone and have a pure heart about it.

    I went to a very conservative church for about six years with many “modesty rules”. I remember you would even get pulled aside if you wore something someone thought was too revealing! I believe we may never know what makes someone else struggle with lust and we are NOT fully responsible for another person’s actions. That pressure should never be put on someone else. However, I do believe we have a responsibility to be sensitive to other people’s struggle with sin. And I am not just talking about lust, but all kinds of sin such as alcoholism, drug addiction etc.

    I never understood the importance of modesty until I got married. My husband had a sexual addiction and he would tell me how something so small could result in triggering his lust and addiction. I am in no way saying that other people are responsible for his sin, because they aren’t. He is responsible for his sin and taking it before God. It is his burden to bear, yet burdens are definitely harder if others have no regard for what certain individuals struggle with. I think of this scripture from Romans:

    “If your brother or sister is distressed because of what you eat, you are no longer acting in love. Do not by your eating destroy someone for whom Christ died. Therefore do not let what you know is good be spoken of as evil. For the kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking, but of righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, because anyone who serves Christ in this way is pleasing to God and receives human approval. (Romans 14:15-18)We need to be aware of what others are struggling with yet act out of love not out of Judgement or “rules”. (Although I think rules do help certain individuals) But I love how you emphasize on the fact that it should come from your heart and not pressure or judgement.

  • wordofawoman.com

    Amen. Great post. Thank you. I wrote about this topic as well and would love to hear your thoughts…
    http://wordofawoman.com/2013/07/01/bikinis-sepulchres-bathing-machines/

  • Stevan Ray Richards Jr.

    if a man has a lust problem, it’s his problem. he doesn’t have the right to blame it on the woman or women he has lust for. that’s what islam does by forcing a woman to wear a burka. I was watching Joseph Prince last night, and he made an interesting statement. He said that a man with a lust problem has a ‘father problem,’ which he meant to mean that the man’s father did not affirm him emotionally as a child. If a man remembers that all women are children of God, and that if he is lucky enough to date, and to marry, that his girlfriend/wife is a gift from God, and strives at all times to treat her that way, the problem would be greatly minimized.

  • kc

    I don’t believe it’s any one person’s job to cure another’s lust. However, the way we present ourselves to the world does matter. Certain styles of dress are more likely to attract a certain kind of response from MOST people. Either we are ok with that response or we are not. It really is just that simple.

  • Holly

    I have read a lot of articles on blogs. Some are crap, some are fluffy, some are just boring, but then, there are some that speak so perfectly and precisely to my heart that it’s uncanny. I find at the end of a lot of these poignant articles is your name. I have really appreciated your writings, and watching how God is working through your journey with Him. Please feel encouraged and refreshed (Prov 11:25)

  • SopranoOne

    Emily:
    First, I want to say how very much I appreciate that you are encouraging women to break free of bearing an unbearable burden greased with legalism. Legalism was the driving force behind the Pharisaical control that Jesus so harshly rebuked. Constructing a set of man-made rules based on one’s own perception of biblical standards, and holding it more strictly to one group or person than another, is every bit as devastating to the cause of Christ now, as it was in the time of Christ. One thing I gather from your article, is that you grew up subjected to a very Pharisaical imposition of standards of modesty.

    I was raised with fairly strict modesty expectations, as well. I was not allowed to wear super-short shorts/skirts. I was not allowed to wear bikinis until I was nearly 17 – and even then, there was most certainly a “too skimpy” line that could not be crossed. I was not allowed to wear low-cut tops or tops that showed my stomach. My parents enforced this quite strictly, but in a way different from what you describe in your article. I do not recall one single instance where my parents, my preacher, my youth ministers, or any spiritual leaders in my life, told me that I had to be modest to keep boys from lusting. The only standards I was ever given, were the standard of self-respect and the effectiveness of my Christian influence on the world. Did my wardrobe choices cause me to respect the autonomy of my body, establishing it as my own carefully-prepared offering to God as a holy temple? Did my wardrobe choices convey, in the culture in which we exist today, that I was a Christian woman who was building her life to honor God above anything and anyone else?

    Our culture matters. God created our beautiful bodies, and He does not intend for us to be shamed by or ashamed of any part of them. But, our culture (as many cultures have done throughout time) has distorted that beauty and so badly and constantly misrepresented what our bodies were created for. If our culture promoted wholly that a woman’s breasts were made especially and only for 1) her own appreciation of her shape, 2) her husband’s sexual and physical appreciation of her shape, and 3) the nourishment of her offspring – then wearing a low-cut top wouldn’t matter one bit. AND…if that were the way society and culture saw it, guess what? Fashion designers wouldn’t bother making plunging necklines and cleavage-baring styles in anything but lingerie and nursing tops. Styles that emphasize parts of our bodies that are intended, in part, for sexual gratification, are designed to be one thing only: sexually gratifying to the viewer. This is really a no-brainer. Hooters girls’ “uniforms” are what they are because of the patrons they want to attract: men. Our culture has so badly distorted the proper appreciation of our physical bodies, and we cannot pretend to ignore what society has done. We cannot pretend that we have some right to expect men with hormones and sex drives, to piously ignore the very things God intended to excite him sexually, each and every time they are presented to him outside the confines of marriage.

    Don’t get me wrong. Christian men have a duty and responsibility to reject anything that will cause them to lust after a woman to whom they are not married. But, sexual desire is natural and God-created, and thus, is an expected response to visual (as well as other forms of) stimuli. Is it really the proper behavior of Christian women (who – don’t even kid ourselves, ladies – know very well what parts of our bodies are useful for sexual arousal) to partially expose or put on public display the very things that make it difficult for a Christian brother to keep from lusting? So, if a Christian man goes to church in order to worship, and a Christian woman sits next to him wearing a plunging v-neck that shows a portion of her breasts, passing the communion plate without at least SEEING more boob than he was seeing before he turned toward her, will be nearly impossible. He has the responsibility to properly process that image, yes. However, brothers and sisters in Christ are called by Jesus to lift up, support, and encourage our brothers and sisters, not put something in front of them that we know very well could make their moral commitment more difficult. If we women don’t believe our brothers in Christ (some who may even be new to a life of Christian morality and sexual restraint, and can fall away easier) are deserving of our best efforts to help them not be taken in by the immorality society thrusts upon them, then we will have to answer for that before God.

    Also important, is the consideration of those who aren’t Christians. My behavior and moral adherence (and, yes, this includes how much of my sexually stimulating areas I expose or display to the general public) MUST make clear the expectations of those who choose to give their lives to Christ. If an openly Christian woman is willing to display parts of her body that our society associates with excitement, sexual pleasure, and fantasies, what does that tell the non-Christian man about the moral standards God expects from His people? The man will not have a clear understanding of the confines within which his sexual desires are intended to operate as a self-controlled Christian.

    Please don’t misunderstand what I am getting at. Men are fully responsible for what they do with the visual images presented to them. They have every bit the ability to dismiss the sight of an image that would cause them to lust after a woman to whom they are not married. They have every responsibility to choose to NOT look at a woman’s body in an unChristian way. They will answer before God for contributing to the objectification of women and any contribution they make to society’s egregious removal of sex and sexual thoughts from the boundaries of the marriage relationship. I know many men who wear their Christian self-control like a neon sign. They have properly maintained a standard of behavior that keeps them faithful to their wives, or faithful to their bodies as a temple (if they’re unmarried), and they display impressive commitment to rejecting anything that jeopardizes their ability to keep those standards intact. That is their JOB. Women aren’t supposed to fix the whole world so that men can saunter through life without having to employ self-control, because, as many have said, most men don’t necessarily NEED to see a scantily-clad woman in order to lust. That means that if a woman is doing her part by not exposing parts of her body that she’s well aware will attract sexual attention, any lust that takes place in the heart of the man will be squarely on him to answer for. No, a woman isn’t responsible for a man’s sins. But, she is (as are all Christians) responsible for looking out for the souls of her Christian family (which includes men), and for not knowingly making it more difficult for her brother to stay away from sin. YES, I said knowingly. Because, ladies, we are not stupid. We know very good and well what parts of our bodies are sexually arousing to men, and we know very good and well that not every Christian brother is strong enough to withstand temptation. We know that we have the CHOICE to help our brothers or hinder them – just as, in the same way, they bear the same responsibility toward us to choose what will help us get to Heaven.

    Let me just sum it up like this: if the coverage (or lack thereof) of a woman’s body were not directly linked to natural sexual arousal, lingerie stores wouldn’t have their highest annual profits the week before Valentine’s Day, and we would all just wear muu-muus and ratty old sweatpants on our wedding nights.

  • Donna

    I find the greatest challenge to my modesty is at the doctor’s office. Nudity in front of a man who is not my husband is disturbing, especially after reading this article at http://www.modestyxxx.com. It is very well-written and raises a red flag for me. What do you think?

  • KIRAN

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