I was driving my 9 year-old daughter to gymnastics yesterday when she asked me a question. It was one that most adult women don’t understand, and I was thankful to have the opportunity to work it with my daughter at such a young age.
She wanted to know why I wouldn’t let her wear spaghetti strap tops any where but to gymnastics.
I didn’t tell her that “everybody’s doing it” is usually a good reason NOT to do something…narrow gate and all that…but all the same, I decided to level with her.
I explained to her that it was about respect. Respect for the men and boys in her life and respect for herself. She said, “I want to wear them! You should let me. I know lots of girls who wear them.”
“It’s so hot today, too, isn’t it?” I inquired. “Bet you’d like covering up less so you wouldn’t be as warm, right?”
“Well, yeah, and some of the tops are so pretty – Kari has one that has lace on the top of it,” she replied.
Reflective listening time. If I didn’t acknowledge her feelings and validate her, she’d dig her heels in and this teachable moment would be long gone. “So you like how pretty they look on your friends? And you don’t understand why I won’t let you wear them anywhere but to gymnastics?”
“Yep. It’s not fair.”
“So you don’t think it’s fair that your friends get to wear these pretty tops and you don’t, right?”
Okay, so NOW she’ll be able to hear me, because she feels heard.
I said, “I used to wonder about that too – lots of Christian women I knew thought they were terrible, and I never really understood why until several years ago. I’ll bet you don’t know this, but those tops are supposed to show a lot of skin – and they used to be worn just as underwear. Now people wear them all the time. I used to wear them too, and really short shorts. Now that I understand about modesty, I don’t wear them any more.”
“What’s the point of modesty?” she asked.
Wow. I briefly wondered if I launch into a diatribe against the lies of the culture which trick us into believing there’s “power” in being scantily clad, or should I fuss about the lies of the extreme Christian culture that communicate to women chasteness is all about depriving themselves of any comfort and “suffering” on purpose with false joy which really is just another lame attempt to control and “earn” our way to heaven? Should I talk about what I REALLY think modesty is – a heart issue – and how do I explain that to a 9 year old? I’m clearly over my pay grade here… No. Much too heavy for a 9 year-old.
So what then, IS the point of modesty?
I told her what great questions she was asking. And I talked about how she’s not responsible for the thoughts of another person, but that we need to be aware of what kind of attention we’re seeking, what kind of attention we’re getting, and choose to pursue interaction and communication that honors and respects US, and God simultaneously. “Shaunti Feldhahn did a study where she interviewed thousands of men, and thousands of teenage boys. You know what she found out? Most of them are thinking about what you look like naked when they can see a bunch of your skin. Short shorts, low cut tops, spaghetti straps, tight shirts that don’t hide much make it hard for boys to concentrate on what you are saying or doing, they just start thinking about what you look like, or even what it would be like to have sex with you.”
She was shocked. “MOM! Seriously?!”
“I don’t remember the numbers, honey, but yes, the study showed that was primarily what was going on with them. So the reason I don’t want you to wear things like that is because of respect. I respect you and don’t want boys to think that way about you. You know what God thinks about sex – it is precious to Him and only for marriage. I want you to have respect for yourself, and respect for the boys you are around. It’s not good to tempt someone else, even if you think they shouldn’t be tempted. God made boys like that, and they have to work hard at not thinking like that about girls – you don’t want to make it harder for them.”
“How is it about respecting myself?” she asked.
Another great question.
“Simple. When you are talking or playing with your friends, do you want their brothers thinking that way about you? When you are around boys in class, do you want them wondering what you look like naked, or do you want them to listen to what you have to say?”
“Duh, mom. I don’t want ANY boy thinking that way about me. Gross.”
“Something else, honey, is this: You are also the temple of the Holy Spirit – I want you to respect yourself and God enough to help others have the right perception of you. And what you wear impacts that.”
I smiled and kept driving.
I decided to save the discussion about how she’d want her husband thinking that way about her for another time. Hopefully much later…
For a moment, I regretted the years I spent wearing “pretty” clothes that were just plain seductive. My cheeks flushed with a moment of embarrassment. Then I remembered how He makes all things NEW. And that old part of me has been cast away. And my sin, even though I didn’t know that’s what it was at the time, is as far away as the east is from the west.
Dare you to daily allow Him to make you NEW.
And then, double-dog-dare you to ACCEPT His perfect forgiveness, and move forward as a new creation, forgiven. Anything other than that is like sticking your arms out for the enemy to place shackles on you. Move forward in freedom. Did you say you were sorry? Then you ARE forgiven!
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Love to you, so glad to be on the journey with you…