What do you think of the word ‘modesty’? Does a particular image come to mind?
I’m not a fashionable person and I strive to cover up as much of my body as possible and this word still makes me cringe. For years, generally well-intentioned people have railed on the topic of modesty. Women can’t wear anything short of a shapeless potato sack or else they’ll make their brothers stumble, while women outside the church shed more and more layers in their pursuit of love, attention, affection, and more.
So in this incredibly polarized landscape, how do we live as truly modest women while respecting our brothers? How do we do this while simultaneously honoring ourselves and displaying the beauty that God instilled in us?
“Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear— but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God's sight is very precious.” 1 Peter 3:3-4 (ESV)
These verses are often used when discussing the subject of modesty. Many people take Peter’s words at face value: that you shouldn’t wear jewelry or do your hair and remain plain all the time.
Now, if that’s your look, that’s incredible! Please keep rocking that! But, if you’re a fan of dressing up, showing off your curves, doing your hair, and wearing beautiful makeup, these verses might seem off-putting or even oppressive to women. So, let’s dive in a little deeper.
The Source of True Beauty
Peter isn’t saying that we need to ditch all the things we wear to enhance our God-given beauty, but he’s saying that they shouldn’t be the source of your beauty. Have you ever met someone who was stunning until you saw how they lived? Or you loved the way a person looked until they opened their mouth? Or, how about the opposite: have you met someone who was very plain, but after spending time with them you saw just how beautiful they were?
If the most beautiful part of you is how you dress, the jewelry you put on, or the makeup you wear, that’s a problem because you are far more beautiful than anything you can pay for, apply, or hide under.
Your character is worth far more than the way you accessorize.
Modest Hearts, Modest Minds
What if, instead of modesty becoming something that women are scolded about, it was something that everyone benefitted from? What if we focused more on the heart than we did the outward appearance, knowing that if the heart changes then everything else does too?
So, this leads me to ask: what are some qualities of a godly woman?
The Personification of Modesty
Peter lists two that he says are very precious in God’s sight. And, for me, any time I see that something is precious to God, I want to take notice. Peter says that a gentle and quiet spirit are imperishably beautiful.
Now, I’m going to have an honest moment, when I read “gentle and quiet spirit”, my mind immediately went to the negative. ‘Why do women need to be gentle and quiet? What if I want to speak my mind? What if I want to be strong and bold?’ But then I dug a little deeper into the text.
‘Quiet spirit’ can also be translated as ‘peaceable spirit’ and, I don’t know about you, but that’s a phrase I want to describe me. I have often prayed “God, help me bring peace to chaotic situations”. This is exactly what Peter’s talking about.
Do you have a calm and quiet mind? Do you carry the peace of God with you into situations? That is beautiful, attractive, and something God finds precious.
Now, I want to ask again: what do you think of the word ‘modesty’? Has your definition shifted as you’ve read this post? If so, how?
I encourage to think and pray over your definition of modesty today. It’s amazing how remnants of an externally-focused definition tend to pop up from time to time when you begin to reframe these concepts.
Let’s focus on being women of character, knowing that God cares more about the heart that he does about the outward appearance.
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Hi there! My name is Brittany..help meet to T.J. and mom to 5 little blessings. My passion lies in helping other women to see their value through the eyes of their creator. Be Encouraged...YOU are a Good Thing!