On social media, most people appear to be on their very best behavior. Once in a while, however, I see a profile picture that makes me cringe. Most of the time it's a really pretty girl in a bikini or wearing very little. It makes me sad for them. When I see pretty young girls baring all for anyone to see I wonder: what is going on in her head? Does she really need this much attention?
Is it judgmental to think this way? It turns out I'm not alone in judging social media acquaintances. A new study from Oregon State University found that young women who post revealing photos on social media are seen as less physically and socially attractive by their female peers. Some of you reading this will say it's because of jealousy. Whether we like it or not, the truth is that women featured in sexy profile photos come off as less competent, the study found.
It’s no secret women today are bombarded with mixed messages about what it means to be a woman in a woman’s body. Most of us are familiar with the dreaded walk down the grocery store checkout aisle, where magazine after magazine boasts airbrushed photos of impossibly thin celebrities and headlines promising to teach us how to “please our men” with sexier bodies, more fashionable clothes, hotter moves and better flirtation skills. Ours is a culture that tends to assign value to a woman based on her sex appeal rather than her character, and that’s something we need to change.
Many of us, however, are also familiar with the other extreme. If you went to Catholic School you know what it feels like to have rulers slapped against your knuckles when you did something inappropriate.
If you were home-schooled or attended school at a Christian school, your Sunday school teacher told you how the length of your skirt was too short. If you grew up Pentecostal, like I did, it was hard to do a cannonball dive into a swimming pool while wearing a giant “Jesus Saves” T-shirt over your bathing suit. Is there a middle ground?
The answer can be summed up in one word. Modesty. What is modesty? I think you would be surprised to learn modesty is more about a humble spirit than anything else.
The life verse which best explains the spirit of a humble woman is in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 where the apostle Paul writes, “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, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.”
Does this mean women shouldn't wear jewelry or pretty, attractive clothing? No, that is not what this means. Of course you should always strive to look your best. What I believe the verse says is that women should be self controlled in everything, including apparel. Don't signal yourself out by wearing a short skirt or the smallest, tightest jeans you can find. Women who want to be seen do so because they have the wrong impression about what is attractive.
In the above verse, the word “modesty” was translated from the Greek word kosmios. This word is derived from kosmos (the universe) and means orderliness, self-control, and appropriateness. It appears only twice in the New Testament and interestingly, its second usage refers specifically to men (1 Timothy 3:2). In fact, nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3). Writers in both the Old Testament and New Testament expressed grave concern when the people of God flaunt their looks and materialistic stuff above spiritual things.
Biblical modesty is about cultivating humility, propriety and deference within ourselves. Finally, I want to encourage you. Respect yourself, and others will respect you too.