July 2, 2013

What our Daughters (and sons) Need to Know about Modesty

Every year around this time I see articles circulating facebook and blogland that detail exactly why a christian woman ought not to wear a bikini or some other "immodest" article of clothing and I am reminded, as much as I love the church, how broken our view of womanhood and modesty are.

The argument goes something like this: Men are visual creatures and immodest clothes cause men to lust over you. And since the apostle Paul says not to cause a brother to stumble, you need to cover up.

I can see at least four major problems with this line of thinking.

First, it's legalistic. It's tempting to chose rules over relationship, isn't it? The maker of the universe who begs for our every devotion is a little intimidating and it is so much easier to make rules and follow them than to walk in freedom and follow Christ. So we make rules in place of relationship. I do it, you do it, we all do it.

But the rules suck. They don't make sense. They don't account for cultural differences and personal convictions. They don't get to the heart of the issue and they don't have any power to set us free. Jesus came and died and rose again because rules weren't enough.

How much thigh should a swim suit cover? Or how much leg can a skirt show before we turn ourselves into meat for the male mind? These are impossible to answer because modesty is not a type of clothing, but a heart issue.

Secondly, it objectifies women. You heard me. Biblical modesty is about valuing a person as much more than a body, but the above mentioned legalism combined with the shame and manipulation used to get women to cover up is really just telling us that our hearts don't matter, our bodies do. That ultimately our relationship with Jesus comes down to how much cleavage we are showing.

Thirdly, The scriptural defense is weak at best. Let's look at what the bible has to say about modesty.

I desire therefore that the men pray everywhere, lifting up holy hands, without wrath and doubting; in like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works. 1 Timothy 2:8-10

It seems pretty clear to me in this verse, especially in light of similar verses like proverbs 31:30, that the discussion is more about not gussying ourselves up to impress the world, but seeking to please God with our lives instead. To care more about God's definition of beauty than the world's. And like it or not, it leaves a ton of room for cultural and personal interpretation.

What about not causing a brother to stumble? That's what this is all about, right? The whole reason we aren't supposed to wear bikinis or short shorts or anything that someone could possibly call immodest is supposedly because these items, in conjunction with the female form, cause men to stumble. This claim seems to have been hijacked from 1st Corinthians chapter 8 and Romans 14 where Paul says not to dress like a hussy lest you cause men to stumble.

Oh, wait, that's not there?

Actually, he's talking about eating meat that has been offered to idols, which is no big deal because idols aren't real. He says to enjoy your freedom and go ahead and eat. But if someone else doesn't realize how free they are, use caution. It would be better to never eat meat again than to have someone who looks up to you follow you into something they think is sin. Even if it's not.
If we were going to convert the food-offered-to-idols example into clothing choices instead, it seems to me that a better parallel would be that we aren't to tell a friend who has chosen not to wear a bikini that she should wear one.  Or to tell a friend who chooses to cover her head for worship to stop. Paul is telling us to be careful how we influence people; not to use our freedom to lead them into something they consider sin. Applying this verse to a woman's clothing choices somehow being responsible for a man's heart is a big stretch. If you want a verse that deals specifically with lust, look at 1 Thessalonians 4:3-5

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God.

And lastly, it paves the way for victim blaming and rape culture.  Victim blaming is the act of accusing a woman of somehow bringing about the violent crimes committed against her. Rape culture is a society where prevalent attitudes and practices normalize, excuse, tolerate, or even condone rape. When one in four women will be sexual assaulted by the time she finishes college and nobody talks about it? That is rape culture.

Now tell me, how much of a leap is it to go from "Don't wear a bikini on the beach because you will cause men to lust after you" to "Of course she was raped, did you see that dress she was wearing? She was practically asking for it."

By telling young women that wearing certain clothing causes men to lust after them we are setting them up to believe that their actions can cause violence and sexual assault against them. As much as it sickens me to even type these words, we are grooming them to be good complacent victims. 
 
And what message are we sending to our sons? That they are untamable animals, subject to their bodies desires? We ask them to grow up to be godly men, the whole time saying oh, boys will be boys. Don't we want freedom for our sons too? freedom that doesn't depend on what the girl next door is wearing?

I was at a church once where a teenage girl was asked to change the way she dressed because some of the older men in the congregation were being tempted by her sweet summery dresses. The young lady was both livid and ashamed. There is something wrong when the young woman in that scenario is shamed and asked to change but the older men aren't called to repentance, accountability and self control.

Bottom line? You are not responsible for another person's choice to violate you; whether with his mind or his eyes or his heart or his hands. None of it is your fault. Ever.

Here's what I most want my daughters to know about modesty: Girls, you are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are treasured and valued. It is not your clothes that make you beautiful, but your spirit, your love, your joy and service and the very fact that you are a creation of The Most High. And although there is forgiveness for sin and God is in the business of redeeming our mistakes, there is great beauty and blessing in saving certain pieces of yourself,physically and emotionally, for the man you will spend your life with. God cares what you wear, because he cares about your heart. Seek him first, and whatever you do, do it to the glory of God.

And son, I want you to know that ultimately lust stems from the human heart, not a woman's body. You are responsible for where your eyes go,where your mind goes, what your heart chases after. But also that you are capable. The world is trying to brand you as simple and weak, but that is not who you were made to be. You are not a hopeless pawn in a world saturated with sexual desire but are able and equipped in the strength of the holy spirit to see your mind renewed.

And to all of us, His mercy is new each morning.

Thank you.

176 comments:

  1. Kelly, I am not a Christian. In fact I'm fairly anti-Christian, if the truth be told. (I grew up in the church and there are a whole slew of other stories/issues there).

    However I preface my comment with that so you will know that my THANK YOU is straight from my heart. You are the first ever Christian who I have heard publicly come out and say that continuing to tell women that they need to dress modestly so they don't "tempt" men is victim blaming and slut shaming.

    Thank you thank you thank you. Thank you for being a Christian who gets it. Thank you for speaking out. Thank you for expecting Christian men to be accountable for their own thoughts, urges, and desires.

    Thank you.

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    1. Kara, you stole the words right out of my mouth. I was raised a Christian but as an adult I am now agnostic. This was well written and I can certainly appreciate the message. Thanks for a wonderful post!

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    2. I am a faithful Christian, but I am often ashamed of the Church. It breaks my heart to know that the loving, forgiving Father is shunned because His children are so bad at following His example and twist His words to condone their own immorality. Yet, He still chooses to forgive, even when we shame Him. You may not like most Christians, but please consider that many are like rebellious teenagers not yet understanding their Father's guidance is for their own good.

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  2. Love love love this! So true! I have three girls and these are the same truths I want them to hang on to. Thank for writing this!

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  3. Wow... when I saw this title in my feed reader, I heaved a big ole eye roll and started to pass, then went back to see how much of a giggle I would get out of it.

    I'm happy to say that I was 100% WRONG! As a girl brought up in a very strictly Christian home, enrolled in a Christian school, very limited in what we were allowed to wear any time, this was an awesome take on a subject that has bothered me for years. I still feel guilt when I wear a swimsuit in public - no kidding. No matter how "modest" it may or may not be.

    I'm going to bookmark this to read in the future as well. Thank you!

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    1. That was my response, too! I have heard so much nonsense espoused under the guise of Christian modesty that I was about to pass on this article. I'm so glad I didn't.

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  4. Preach it sister!

    The only thing I would add is that this is not just a Christian issue. Look at the way women are expected to dress in some Muslim countries. Legalism, too, stems from the heart. We have to constantly check ourselves and the rules we so quickly make up to make ourselves feel righteous.

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  5. I just wrote a very similar post about modesty! you are spot on here!

    http://beautifulinhistime.com/2013/07/02/modesty-a-picture-of-grace/

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  6. I really like what you wrote. It's hard to get what you've been taught your entire life out of your head...or at least tweaked. It is all about the heart and your relationship with God. Thanks!

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  7. I came upon your blog via pinterest or some way of the sort and put you into my bloglovin feed. I saw the title just now and as another person said, "rolled my eyes" I only clicked to see how much it was going to tell us that we should cover our kids, etc. And was so surprised to see this article. I think you are 100% correct and I love hearing a lady of faith understand that IT IS NEVER OUR FAULT THAT MEN CAN'T WORK THEIR BRAINS CORRECTLY. I am an atheist and enjoyed this article very much. Keep up the common sense and I'll keep reading.

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  8. My husband has struggled with lust issues in the past, and praise God he has made great progress. He dreads this time of year because the clothes are much more revealing than in the cooler months. He purposely tries to look away the moment he realizes that a woman is dressed inappropriately. Sadly, because if the way so many women dress these days he spends most of his time looking at the ground when we are out in public. If you hear it from a man's perspective, particularly a man who has struggled with lust issues, when women dress more modestly it is much easier for them to just function normally in day to day life. I cannot hold non Christian women to any sort of standard because they do not understand where we are coming from. however it is extremely disappointing to me when women who claim to be Christians dress with cleavage-baring outfits or bikinis when they know that it causes men to stare at them. the question is what is their motive for wearing such clothing? how can we glorify God with our bodies when we are causing our brothers in Christ to stumble? of course they are accountable for their hearts & thoughts, but why should we make it harder on them than it needs to be? my husband and I have read many books and studies on this subject and I do believe that women should own their part in this issue with lust and the over sexualization of our society.

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    1. I agree with you on this one, anonymous.
      I also agree with Kelly that we are responsible for our own thoughts and actions, but what we wear and how we carry ourselves does affect others whether we like it or not. What is wrong with being modest and not being like the world by dressing like the world? What is wrong with wearing a more covering, one piece? Why make it ok to wear a bikini, so Christian ladies can dress like everyone else? I say dress like what the Lord gave you is for you and your husband/future husband not like you are advertising what you were given!

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    2. So basically your husband has no internal self control and blames everyone else for his inability to control this thoughts. This is the typical Christian mantra that has turned me away from religion and the church. Blame the woman. The man is never responsible for where his mind goes.

      A woman should be able to wear WHATEVER she wants and not be shamed for "causing lust" in a man. If the man can't control his lust, then shame on him. A woman's body is a normal, wonderful, natural thing. And if all he sees is an object then he is to blame.

      You are the Christian that has driven me away from the church with your judgement and your blame.

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    3. My husband does have self control ( hence the looking away from inappropriately dressed women/ images). He knows that seeing such things sparks inappropriate thoughts that as Christians we consider sin. He absolutely takes responsibility for his own thoughts and actions. He is mature and aware enough to know what his own personal boundaries are for maintaining a pure thought life. Of course we wish women dressed more modestly, but are completely aware of the fact that we can't control what other people wear. so what is a man seeking to honor God with his eyes and thoughts to do? Look away. There is no blame shifting, as you suggest. our sole purpose is to bring God glory, and as a woman, I don't understand how I am bringing my Creator glory by displaying my cleavage/ stomach/upper thigh for any and all to see. It comes down to your world view, and I believe God does not desire me to dress in inappropriate ways. It is a heart issue - for women, what is your motive? For men - are you honoring God with your thoughts/ eyes. I choose to do my part to not cause others to stumble as best I can.

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    4. Lusting is different to appreciating beauty. There have been times when my husband and I have both commented on how lovely a woman is.... that isn't lusting..... and the woman has every right to celebrate that by wearing clothes she feels nice in. They aren't necessarily revealing clothes, she just looks nice! I dislike any forms of shaming as it runs so deeply through out someone's life and affects many aspects, not just what they wear.

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    5. Have to agree with Anonymous- I am seeing a lot of blogs on modesty written by women who are crying legalism, but it is important to hear it from a man's perspective. Of course modesty will always have an element of subjectivity to it, however, a deeper study in the passage referenced will show more than just finding your beauty in God. Paul really did mean concrete things with his choice of wording to Timothy. Our questions should always be how does (fill in the blank) point others to Christ (1 Cor. 10:31)? If the majority of the honest male population says a bikini doesn't at all, then I think there is something deeper to look into there. There is a vast difference between an attractive woman and a 6/8th's naked woman, let's be real. In scripture there are several references to attractive women (Sarah, Rachel, etc) and the Greek in the Timothy passage actually means "As you adorn yourselves"- meaning women will be looking nice and that's part of being womanly. However, there are limitations on what is good and helpful when we adorn ourselves. To argue that it is legalism to say a bikini is immodest is to also argue that nothing is immodest- because any rule would therefore be legalism. Yes we have freedom in Christ, but we must use it for Christ and his purposes. I don't see anywhere in the NT someone saying they can now do what they want and people just have to get over it! Is it lawful to wear a bikini? I don't know. Is it helpful? Ask your husbands! ;-)

      Shelley

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    6. Agreed. Both men and women should dress modestly. It's not about judging. It's not about blaming one another. We are called to be different from the world.

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    7. As a man writing this, I'm going to agree with the first anonymous poster here. I am a Christian, and it is of the utmost importance to me to recognize the person-hood of everybody around me, especially women. The idea of objectifying, controlling, or manipulating women as opposed to honoring and valuing them is repulsive to me in the extreme. However, these articles make me weep given their incredible ignorance and indifference to the men within our culture. I will grant that there are other ways in which these referenced scripture passages should be understood, I will grant that there is a lot to be said for differences of culture and society, and I will back the idea that the woman is not responsible under circumstances of rape or sexual assault or abuse of any kind. I agree with these whole-heartedly.

      However, considering that no man has the right to tell a woman what it is like inside her mind, I find it extremely hurtful that so many women would like to claim to understand how hard it is for a man to resist the temptation to lust, especially given the way women dress in our culture. I personally try to avoid the pool or the beach at all costs during this time of year because I spend THE ENTIRE TIME THERE policing and controlling my thoughts, which is exhausting, thankless, and emotionally painful for me over extended periods of time.

      Kelly here writes that she would like to see questions of modesty seen as being the result of men and women being in relationship with each other, and for men to be in relationship with women naturally requires men to work to respect the personhood of the women around them despite their dress, but she categorically ignores the idea (except in passing) that women should consider their outfits and the impact that their dress will have on men.

      I by no means think our society should start wearing the burka at all times of the year, but is it too much to ask that women wear shorts that cover more than just barely their behinds and shirts that aren't practically leaving their breasts exposed?! I would advocate that modesty involves a level of common sense and respect and should be won back to mean these things again instead of continuing to hold on to the damaging stigma of a legalistic guideline for "get out the measuring stick and check".

      And to the anons posting in support of Biblical modesty, thank you from the bottom of my heart!

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    8. Dear anonymous man,

      Do you really think that if all women covered up you would not have these thoughts? Thoughts of lust are adressed multiple times in the bible when women wore "biblical clothes" so they happened then too. You need to be the one to learn to control your thoughts not control the actions of others.

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    9. So now you're going to shame the man?

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    10. the problem is that you keep saying your husband has problems with women who are dressed inappropriately. this is why you seem hypocritical...on the one hand you say you aren't blame-shifting, but on the other hand you say these ladies are not dressed appropriately. you're judging them for dressing in a way that YOU consider to be inappropriate, which is kind of the whole point of the post in the first place. "appropriate" and "inappropriate" depend on who you ask. further, an outfit your husband has a hard time with might be an outfit another man has no problem with, on the continuum of how easy it is for him to look away.

      to the man who said we ladies can't understand what it's like to be a man, so we should think about what men are going to think when they see how we are dressed: how are we supposed to predict what you're going to think of our clothes when you literally just said we can't possibly understand what it's like to be you? this is a statement i generally agree with: no human being can predict the thoughts or feelings of any other human being.

      that said, women are not responsible for your thoughts, and we can't be expected to predict your reaction to our behavior. i choose to give men the benefit of the doubt and assume they're not going to lose control because of anything i do or say, because i prefer to believe that men are equal to me in their ability to remain composed and operate under the rules of our society. if, for some reason, another person can't control him- or herself, they would have an extremely difficult time trying to convince me that their lack of self-control was, in any way, my fault. i manage myself every day without sexually assaulting or objectifying or lusting after anyone, and the vast majority of people i have associated with (male and female) has also managed to do this. the clothing choices other people make are not made for your benefit, and therefore they should not have to be made with your thoughts or feelings in mind, even if predicting your thoughts or feelings were possible.

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    11. From my experience it doesn't matter how covered up I am, I have still received unwanted attention from men. Overly sexualizing and objectifying the human body has led to this kind of behavior. A certain amount of arousal (as in increased activity in the brain) is normal, but the kind of stuff some of you are talking about is just flat out neurotic, and isn't normal. If it's causing you so much distress you should get help. I recommend applied behavior analysis therapy for anyone who can't stop looking at another person's bare thighs or covered breasts with barely controlled lust.

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    12. To the men who are having trouble with lust issues in the summer because they can't help but look at a woman's breasts/legs/etc. when she is in summer clothing: why not try looking at her face instead?

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    13. If you are a Christian, you are called to be different from the world, period! Why do women have to wear bikinis? It cannot be because it is fashionable. There is nothing to them. At least if a women is being modest, then the rest is left to the imagination. If the mind turns to lust, then it is all on the person looking at the modestly dressed person. If a women dresses immodestly, she is part of the problem. Take a look at Rey Swimwear on facebook. There is a good video regarding modesty and a good selection of modest swimwear.

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    14. I think another interesting thought would be to look at the world if the roles were reversed... say if "Magic Mike" were the norm instead of "Charlie's Angels" or whatever other movie has a tendency to objectify women's bodies.
      Can all of us women say that if men typically ran around in super-tight Chippendale outfits like those on a daily basis or if speedos and banana hammocks were a common bathing suit of choice among men on the beach that we wouldn't have more lust issues? I highly doubt it. Thoughts are a lot harder to control than actions-- they are instant and often primal, and often visually tiggered [Please note, that I believe that there is a firm difference between thinking lustfully and acting lustfully]. No matter how strong our resolve to treat everyone independently from their bodies, I think it would be much harder, even exhausting, if we were forced to do it every time that we went out-- which I think is the point a lot of the above posts were trying to make.
      I think that we, as women, are lucky that in our society we don't have to face this lust battle nearly as often as men do and that there is no shame in trying to help a brother out.

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    15. In this world there seems to be a force called cause and effect. I think it's foolish to believe that the way you dress is somehow magically above this force and therefore entirely void of consequence. Generally if you wear revealing clothing, this garners a lusty effect on those around you.
      I feel like this leaves 2 choices:
      1)If you don't like the effect, then affect the cause. (AKA: don't wear revealing clothing to avoid causing the lusty effect)
      or
      2) Work to condition a difference effect stemming from that causal action. (AKA: condition society to react differently to revealing clothing).
      Just because the current cause and effect relationship of revealing clothing and lustful thoughts might be "wrong" in an of itself, it doesn't change that that connection is there for most of society. Although in a perfect world we could dress however we wished without consequence, that's not the world that I function in, and I recognize that. Therefore it is our own responsibility to balance our freedom and our safety... whether or not we think that we should have to.

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    16. "how can we glorify God with our bodies when we are causing our brothers in Christ to stumble?how can we glorify God with our bodies when we are causing our brothers in Christ to stumble?"

      I COMPLETELY agree with you! If someone is saved and belongs to the Lord, they will understand. Non Christians will not understand this. If you are a Christian, you are to be set apart from this world. What "you" feel is inconsequential. What matters, is if your are glorifying God, period!

      Mark 9:42
      Temptations to Sin

      42 “Whoever causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him if a great millstone were hung around his neck and he were thrown into the sea.

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    17. To the first anonymous thank you for posting, I completely agree, and to the one who quoted Mark 9:42 above me, amen! It is all about loving God and loving one another enough not to cause one another to stumble. We should be sensitive to one another's struggles.

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    18. I agree! I know my child struggles with dressing immodestly. So thankful she could tell me such things. I agree we are not responsible for the lust of men, but like you said why make it easier. My husband does the same and has to look away. But women who know better, you know who you are, what is the motive? Why wear bikini? Because its your choice? You can cause a brother to stumble. Its not completely you're fault, but you doplay part. i struggle with this as well. Its something I have to fight sometimes daily. But I did tell my daughter that God made men visual, and it does cause then to stumble. The power is intoxicating! I don't believe I have set her up to feel as though its her responsibility and none of the mans if they fall. Or harass her etc. Take responsibility for you're part! I don't, however, Feel the same for those who don't have a relationship with the LORD. I don't judge and i do pray for them. But must of them know what they do for men. I should know. I did it myself.

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    19. I think the problem here is that "modesty" is relative. What seems modest in some communities might seem scandalous in others. And even the most concealing swimwear of today would have been considered immodest at the turn of last century. I think the best thing to do is avoid trying to enforce ridged modesty guidelines on others. Let women's swimwear choices be guided by their own consciences, and then leave 'em the heck alone.

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  9. As A Mom of 3 girls, Thank you for writing this! Well Said!!

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    1. Michele, as a mom of 2 little girls myself, I HIGHLY encourage you to watch this video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJVHRJbgLz8

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  10. I agree got the most part, but after being a victim of pedophiles I personally want my kids to cover up! But I do really think that the world does need this addressed as a heart issue, people rarely if ever blame a man for looking at a woman with lustful intent and that us seriously disgusting! I don't find that appropriate at all! However I can't use that to justify running around looking like I'm for sale either. There needs to be a level of respect from both sides of the coin, women shouldn't run around town showing off as much skin a they can without any regards to anyone around them AND men need to be held accountable to their own lustful thoughts. . .

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    1. I loved the blog article...gave me some things to think about.
      You nailed it here Stephie N.....I agree.

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    2. Thanks for taking a balanced approach, Stephie. I appreciated your comment.

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    3. To me, the point is to dress in a way that shows respect for yourself and your body as a gift from God. If you don't feel respected and respectful, then by all means, cover up more. The point is that it's a choice and a blessing for you how you dress, not a responsibility to others so they won't make bad choices.

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    4. i'm so sorry you were victimized. you might already know this, and i'm not trying to say don't cover your kids, but pedophiles don't generally care what kids are wearing. they have sexual thoughts about kids who are fully and conservatively clothed. for them, it's not about desire in the same way that a sexual relationship between two people is about desire. instead, it's about controlling someone who is weaker than they are...it's a power thing much more than it is a sex thing. this is also often true of rape. it doesn't matter what you wear, but because most people in society don't understand that because they don't think that way, we use a person's behavior to try to make sense out of what has happened to them. basically we apply society's (highly subjective) morals to explain away the violation, and that is why we call it rape culture.

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    5. we personally ask our girls to adhere to the "three B" rule...no boobs, no but, no belly. Not because there is anything there to be ashamed of, but because, in my opinion, there are areas of our bodies that belong to us alone and don't need to be shared with the entire population. Having said that, I so agree and respect what Kelly has written here. Modesty for both men and women is a heart issue. My husband says that he knows when his own walk with God is weak as he is much more prone to lustful thoughts, whereas when his heart and mind is in a right place, lust is not an issue for him. Like many here, I don't want either my boys or girls be objectify others or be objectified.

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  11. Amen! Thank you for sharing these intense thoughts (and quoting scripture). Love an educated woman that can think with her own head!!! And, that is what I hope to pass on to my children!!! You are not judged by your looks but by your spirit! Your spirit will shine through to your 'looks'.

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  12. OH MY GOODNESS!!! THANK YOU for writing this!!!!!! I made the terrible mistake of taking a friend's advice and giving my 13-year-old daughter Dannah Gresh's book The Secret Keeper. I didn't read it myself first; if I had I would have thrown it in the garbage. It is "The Bible According to Dannah," a twisting of scripture that is just awful and abusive. My daughter came to me in tears saying she was afraid she didn't love God enough because she didn't see anything wrong with, say, wearing a tank top. (By the way, I should mention that my daughter dresses very modestly. I just felt -- after hearing my friend's recommendation -- that it was a good thing for her to read at the beginning of the teen years. I felt like when I was growing up, I was given a list of rules without any explanation as to why we would do them). I asked why she thought something so silly, and she showed me where Gresh says as much in her book.
    I sit here wearing a tank top, by the way.
    Anyway, after reading through it, we tossed it in the recycling -- nope, didn't even donate it to a thrift store. Since then, I have been showing her articles that are about freedom and grace, untying these ropes of legalism I had unintentionally bound my daughter in with my "gift" to her. I will definitely show her this one. Thanks so much for writing it!!! Another reason to love your blog!!!

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    1. Just need to interject here, that Secret Keeper can be an AWESOME tool for helping our daughters learn to respect and value themselves as precious daughters of the King. I know Dannah personally and she never EVER EVER in any of her books say OR infer that a girl who wears a tank top doesn't love Jesus.
      Her focus is entirely on helping girls know that they are beautiful, they are loved and wholly accepted by the God of the universe. Her books (and she has several good ones) are neither abusive or Biblically incorrect.
      I think there is value in the blog post Kelly wrote above AND in many of the things that Dannah Gresh shares with girls and just needed to defend her here. Your conclusions about Secret Keeper girl are just plain wrong.

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  13. I agree for a large part. It really hurts my heart to see women piling law on top of law on each other and themselves rather than depending on grace. After all, if we use the excuse of not inflaming men, isn't any woman with a naturally pretty face naturally a trap and therefore an evil? Shouldn't we all be cutting off our hair and trying to fatten ourselves up for fear of being too attractive?
    I do think that, as a mother of daughters rather than sons, that modesty is a heart issue for girls as much as lust is a heart issue for boys.
    Just as I want women with sons to teach them to respect a woman no matter what she is wearing, I want to teach my girls to have respect for men and themselves and not wear clothes with the intention of drawing a man's eyes in a lustful way.
    I love C.S. Lewis's example that modesty is cultural comparing a covered up woman in western culture who is still flaunting herself in a way to draw attention is less modest than a mostly naked woman on some tropical island who is conducting herself like a lady. Modesty is a heart issue. Lust is a heart issue. They are, as another replier said, two sides to the same coin.

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  14. THANK YOU! It is so hard to get people to understand this! Christian or not. I'm Mormon, and we have a specific standard for modesty in clothing, but we as a culture have over the years, just as you say, put more stock in the letter of the law than the spirit, and fail to explain to our children the reasons why the standards are standards. But what you have said is EXACTLY why, and I am going to bookmark it and share it and perhaps copy and paste it (if that's okay) so that I can REMEMBER it and teach it to my children.

    There are definitely differences in our faiths (from what I've read on your blog thus far) but I always love it when I find that there are always more similarities than differences in faiths that love God. Keep up the good work! Love it!

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    1. "Christians or not. I'm Mormon,..." What?? Mormons are Christians too!!

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    2. I think she's saying "Christians or not. I am THIS kind of Christian, a Mormon."

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    3. Mormonism is not a denomination of Christianity. It is its own religion with very different beliefs from Christianity about who God is, salvation, etc.

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    4. FACT: The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (the Mormons) ...accept Jesus Christ as their Savior & Redeemer. They believe that God sent his son, Jesus Christ, who died and atoned for each and EVERY person. This is why His name is in the NAME of their church! HE is the center of their religion. This makes them Christian- even if they don't 'pay' or are accepted as part of the Christianity community. =)

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    5. Accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior while believing that you can become a god is necessarily not Christian. Mormons are not Christian and should rejoice in what they are (if they believe it to be true) rather than trying to claim to be something they fundamentally are not. It is deceitful to claim otherwise.

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    6. I think these sentences go together " It is so hard to get people to understand this! Christian or not." and I'm a Mormon is a new thought... just saying

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    7. She is saying it is hard to get ANYONE, Christians or not, to understand. "I'm Mormon" begins a new sentence, and therefore, a new thought. Come on people!

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  15. Kelly, I love your blog. Thanks so much for all you do here.

    I very much sympathize with the issues you address here. You are absolutely right that another person's sin is not my sin; that Christian men are responsible for their own thoughts and desires; that there is a great danger of objectifying and blaming women for others' sin; and that the Bible's focus is on caring about God's definition of beauty and not the world's. Thanks so much for bringing out these truths!

    However, I do think you're only seeing part of the issue here. In ethics, one considers three different aspects of an act in order to evaluate the act: the normative (is it right or wrong?); the motivational (why was the act performed?); and the situational (how did the act affect others around me?). It is not invalid or legalistic or wishy-washy subjective to consider the situational aspect of an act. In my time and place, I live in a country (America) that is saturated with sex; where statistics say that the majority of men have viewed porn; where sexual abuse appears to be rampant. Jesus specifically laid out the two greatest commandments: Love God with all your heart; love your neighbor as yourself. I believe that a piece of loving my neighbor as myself includes considering the physical and emotional makeup of the people around me, both men and women. As I would choose my words so as not to cause offense, so I would also desire to choose my clothing so as not to cause offense. Therefore, I do choose to dress modestly. (For me that typically means a t-shirt and capris.) But I don't do this out of legalism; I don't do it to be superior; I don't do it to avoid being objectified (I know perfectly well that if a man wants to lust after me, he can do it no matter what I wear); I don't do it to earn favor with God. I try to let my clothing choices be shaped out of love for God and love for the men around me, and out of love for my husband. I choose freely to consider others more highly than myself in the question of dressing modestly, not because someone is laying down the law to me, but because of Christ's commandment of love.

    Several commenters have stated that it's all about the heart and your relationship with God. I completely agree. I would just add that loving your neighbor is part of your relationship with God, because it is obeying God.

    Again, I appreciate so much the wisdom with which you see that if we frame our discussion about the nature of modesty in the wrong way, we may inadvertently teach our daughters all the wrong lessons. Thank you.

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    1. I love that you brought loving our neighbor to the discussion, it makes so much sense, thank you :)

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    2. I second that dead on!!!!!

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  16. Wow - thank you so much - you said this from the heart. Praise the Lord for women like you on the internet!!!

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  17. God bless you for writing and sharing this!

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  18. Thank you! I don't think you can be told that enough or the fact that this needed to be said and that you did it so tastefully. So again thank you.

    So many Christians want to put all the responsibility on the woman and leave the men to get off scot-free. And that isn't an any shape or form the Christian way to act. I firmly believe that men should be held for their thoughts just as much as women are held for the way they do or don't dress.

    As Stephanie said it's a two way street. Women shouldn't put themselves out on display (by that I mean arse hanging out, va-jay-jay in view or nipples showing) but at the same time if a woman is covered by our civilization and country standards (what's the norm now days) then we are doing nothing wrong and should not be made to feel so ashamed.

    At that point it then falls on the man to keep a Christ like heart and to refrain from rude thoughts.

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  19. So nicely said, as a mother of two sons I appreciate that you looked at this from both perspectives. I love reading your blog :)

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    1. Also isn't a blessing and a treat that we can share our opinions and gain perspective by listening to other views?

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  20. I would just say that I appreciate this blog post and it gives a great form of reference for how to explain modesty to your kids. I would also like to point out that it seems men are being sterotyped into one entity in these comments as lusters and sinners because they are male. My husband typically takes a different stance when he sees women who are scantily clad. He appreciates a woman who feels the need to cover more because he feels it means she values her body. When he feels too much is being shown, he would rather look away, not because of lust, but out of respect for her body. We have specific standards for clothing and modesty in our family and we have, at times, been judgemental of others' apparel and that is why I appreciate this post, but I also appreciate that there are good righteous men and generally respectful men that do not lust after every female body that walks by that doesn't fit their idea of what modesty should look like. Kelly, I love that you understand your faith so well to post something so profound and non-judgemental about how women view their own modesty. I believe your heart is turned toward Christ and may we all learn to take the time understand the Gospel a little more each day.

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  21. As a mother of three girls and one son, all I have to say is AMEN!

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  22. I love you;o)

    This post reminds me why and makes me thankful to be one of your readers.

    Thank you for once again spurring us towards Godliness!!

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  23. A well thought out consideration of the matter, beautifully expressed. Thank you for this.

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  24. Yet another reader who saw the word 'modesty' in the title and flinched - and was very pleasantly surprised after reading to the end. Until the old adage of 'never read the comments' proved as true as ever. But thank you for addressing this topic with such grace, wisdom, and understanding.

    Having grown up with a very strict dress code at home and school, I say with confidence that people who have lustful thoughts about others will, regardless the amount of skin that happens to be visible or the attitude behind the skin. Concealment can be just as alluring. The thoughts and actions of others are not under my control - nor the control of anyone but those individuals. To suggest that if I only covered up more I'd be a better christian or less of a temptation is exactly the kind of slut-shaming we cannot tolerate - unless we believe people (men) to be control-less creatures driven beyond reason by the sight of some skin. God had a hand in making me look the way I do; Treating my body with shame and loathing, as an imperfect vessel to be covered in sackcloth, has a direct and negative impact on my sense of worth. How can I lay claim to a personal, loving, creator god who values me, while rejecting one of the things that very god gave me? I cannot. My body, from the bumps and curves that draw attention regardless my outfit to the hair I struggle with daily, was created. I do not flaunt my body, I do not want attention, but I will not hide my body, reject my body, or wear turtlenecks year round to make others more comfortable.

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  25. A person can have a wonderful body image without flaunting their assets. I am a modest dresser. My Mom never forced it upon me, I just saw her example growing up. I will not force it on my Daughter but she is already choosing modest clothing for herself just by my example. She looks a lot better walking around than most her age. I know we will never control how a man or women looks at us and their thoughts when doing so, but I do know that I don't want to project myself as a sex symbol. We are beautiful creatures made in God's image, but sin causes that image to be distorted and abused by culture. Sad but true and I don't want to add to that sin.

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    1. Whether a woman is a sex symbol or not is determined by her attitude and actions, not by the clothes she wears.

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  26. Wow! I do believe you've juste sumarise the blury mass of my feelings about the subject. Thank you! I'm gonna translate this for my family to read.
    Marie

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  27. Well said! I'm posting this on my fb page and sharing it with my lovely, bikini-wearing, faithful Christian daughter (who has a tattoo & purple hair, btw). Thank you!!!

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    1. Best comment ever! Your daughter sounds super cool. :)

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  28. Insightful post and comments. It strengthens our views when we reexamine and question them.

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  29. I would not consider myself a Christian and I have to say, I was reluctant to read on when I saw the title of this post. But, as always, you surprised me in the best way! I agree with your ideas and love the way you presented them. I've always shied away from organized religion and religious folk because "they" (totally generalizing here) seemed to use their religion as a free pass to excuse men's inappropriate actions and as a way to shame women, among other reasons. I enjoy that you are such a free thinker and value your religion and spirituality as a personal relationship with your god. You really are a Christian, in the truest meaning of the word. Rock on!

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  30. Completely atheist follower here, and I say: yes yes. I am so happy and enlightened to have read this post today, especially as the mother of 2 little girls.

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  31. Also, I believe that the over-sexualization and the demonization of the female body is in the eyes of the perceiver and culture, not the fault of women. Want proof? Watch any new mother struggle with breast feeding her child in public and the way that some people treat her.

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  33. Thank you! I was so afraid when I saw the title that I was going to read another blog post about how women need to dress for men and how it is somehow our responsibility to control their thoughts. It was such a relief to read your take on it.

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  34. Kelly, I appreciate your boldness in writing this post. I totally agree that women should never be shamed into thinking that sexual crimes committed against them are their fault. That sin is the fault of the one who commits it. I also agree that men should be held more accountable for their thoughts and actions, and those speaking about modesty should take a more balanced approach in addressing both the male and female responsibilities and perspectives.

    We do live in a sexually-driven society, though. Men AND women are bombarded with it each day. It's hard not to look or stare when it's in your face everywhere you turn. Quite honestly, most godly men I know find it disgusting rather than a turn-on. I find it personally humiliating that my fellow females portray (through their immodest dress) that their value lies solely in their outward appearance. How sad.

    God HAS given us freedom and liberty. But freedom and liberty for what? Personal expression? Certainly! But can we not express ourselves within the guidelines of Scripture and in a way that encourages and builds up others (male or female)?

    I personally choose to use modesty as my dressing guideline for a variety of reasons.
    1. My body belongs to my husband. He doesn't like to share. :]
    2. Modesty is also a matter of not drawing undue attention to yourself. Others should see Christ in us, not just us. Our clothes should be pointing to Him.
    3. I can express myself with my clothing and still be covered. I love long flowing skirts, frilly scarves, unique tops layered with comfy crew-neck tanks, funky jewelry, and an attractive haircut. No cleavage-showing, sausage-casing inspired outfits needed.
    4. I love the Lord and I love others, too. If I can help point someone to Christ or encourage them in their walk with Him, then I'd like to do so. If that means that my attire should not be a stumblingblock, then I am happy to oblige. My life is not about me. It's about God and people. When I dress myself, I think about everyone that my outfit affects. Not just whether I like it or not.
    5. Men (and women nowadays) can still lust over a woman that is covered from head to toe. I do my part and trust that God will deal with the hearts and thoughts of others.

    Something I did feel was lacking in Kelly's post, was a bit more explanation in regard to the meat-eating analogy. No, we shouldn't tell others who are more conservative in modesty to discontinue their practices. However, we should be willing to modify our own practices if it causes another to stumble. In I Corinthians 8 Paul said, "But take heed lest by any means this liberty of yours become a stumblingblock to them that are weak... when ye sin so against the brethren, and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ. Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend." (verses 9, 12 & 13) Paul also says in Romans 14, "So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God. Let us not therefore judge one another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. But if thy brother be grieved with thy meat, now walkest thou not charitably. Destroy not him with thy meat, for whom Christ died. Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another. It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak." (verses 12, 13, 15, 19 & 21)

    Oh, and don't leave out Romans 15:1. "We then that are strong ought to bear the infirmities of the weak, and not to please ourselves."

    Our lives should be about Him and others, not about pleasing ourselves. Does our dress reflect that perspective?

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    1. Perfect Erin! Thank you!

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    2. This is a really great view of modesty, especially Romans 15:1's reference about not just pleasing ourselves-- which often would be the only real reason to actually dress immodestly.

      Shelley

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    3. I'd like to add a #5: If men want women to cover up, then shouldn't men be required to cover up as well, such as wearing shirts with their swimming trunks? Male bodies can be tempting as well, the world has just always been written from a male point of view, but my (and some other women's) point of view on this topic is quite the opposite. ;)

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    4. (Posted the above in the wrong spot- sorry! I'll repost above)

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    5. Erin, I respectfully disagree with the idea that your body belongs to your husband. Your body is yours. What you decide to do with your body is your business. Men assuming ownership of women's bodies is a core cause of rape culture.

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    6. Anonymous above me,
      The Bible actually states that when a man and woman become husband and wife, their bodies belong to each other. "The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does; and likewise also the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does." 1 Corinthians 7:4. This is in no way approving or allowing rape. It simply means that when a man and women get married, they belong to each other.

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  35. Thank you thank you Kelly for writing this post!
    It may sound silly, but I was almost to tears when I read the end when you said what you really wanted your daughters to know about modesty. It is exactly what I want my children to know (once I have any).

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  36. Thank you thank you thank you for writing this. It's absolutely perfect.

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  37. Thank you for writing this. You've obviously given this a lot of thought, prayer, and Biblical research.

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  38. I read this article earlier this week: The Danger in Demonizing Male Sexuality

    http://goodmenproject.com/featured-content/the-danger-in-demonizing-male-sexuality/

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  39. Thanks for posting this. It's making me think. :) I am the mother of 3 daughters, so I have to think about both sides of the issue.

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  40. This was fantastic! It's so refreshing to have a woman of God empower women instead of shaming them about their bodies. Also, as a mother of 2 boys, this was spot on.

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  41. I am agreeing with you that what women "should not" be blamed if a man is tempted by what she wears. I do agree that this also screws up our boys. Forgive my incomplete thoughts... but can you explain/defend that like it or not, women have the knowledge of how dressing skimpily affects men... Like it or not, that is the way it is. I believe that women have this knowledge and might purposely dress to tease men and that is not right. I'm not saying that men are justified if they chose to rape a woman because of how she is dressed, but are you saying that women should walk around publicly the way they do and not take responsibility for it when she knows full well the effect has on everyone around her? Why would a woman do that? Why would a woman seek to dress herself scantily and display herself publicly for men to see, knowing full when that they will be sexually affected? Because they WIIL be.

    Why? Because she is an exhibitionist? Really, what is the purpose? Yep, I'm an old person, conservative now; but when I was younger, I dressed for the sexuality.... Mind you, not half naked, just what would make me feel confident....SEXUALLY. So, at this point in my life, with my experiences, I can never believe that a women is not trying to create some kind of response with the way she chooses to dress herself.

    Honestly, I'm not trying to offend. I just thought that maybe you could share your views on that; and again I apologize for some of my writing that could be more explicit in conveying my thoughts.

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    1. I'm not suggesting that anyone should wear whatever they want without considering other people. I'm saying that we shouldn't bind each other with shame and legalism that doesn't come from God. Please take a second to re-read my last two paragraphs, the part about what I want my son and daughters to know. What you wear DOES matter. And everything should be done to the glory of God. Thanks for commenting :)

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  42. This was just great. As a male, feminist Christian, I really appreciate your having written this, and I hope this sort of thinking catches on. Thank you!

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  43. I grew up Southern Baptist, very conservative in a lot of ways and heard more "modesty" lectures than I care to count. I'm now an atheist and I have a different perspective on it, but not one that it doesn't matter. More like it has to fit the situation. Going out with your friends you can wear something you can't wear to youth group, or whatever.
    I could write a book on it, but I just wanted to say, as an atheist who grew up hearing too much drivel about women controlling men's thoughts about their dress, this was a refreshingly realistic, non-slut-shaming, no shame in the female body perspective. I wish every one could read this. Take a break to judge what other girls wear and think it through. Thank you.

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  44. I cringed when I read the title of this post, but kept reading and was very pleasantly surprised. Great post Kelly.

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  45. Ultimately, the one responsible for the feelings of lust, is the one doing the lusting. I would like some women to consider, though, why they like to wear certain things. Is there any reason to show off cleavage, other than because it makes you feel pretty because men notice you more. You may know that you have a beautiful body so you want to show it off by wearing a bikini, but isn't that still trying to call attention to yourself in way that will get others to look. I am not saying there should be specific rules about what exactly a person should wear. I just think that a woman should examine her heart to really find the reason that she wants to wear revealing clothing. I really like how someone in the above pointed out how we should consider if something is bringing people closer to God or leading them away. It is not a woman't fault if a man looks at her lustfully, he could do it even if she was wearing a parka. However, if she is wearing clothing that flatters certain parts of her body above others because she knows she looks good, I am not saying she is sinning, but she probably isn't leading others closer to God.

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  46. I am in absolute agreement with the writer, Kelly.
    It's high time we called it the way God sees it. I am appalled by the scantiness of Christian women's summer apparel. I don't think we should go from one ditch to another. Thank you Kelly for being brave enough to write the blog. Psalm 23 Blessings, Carole

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  47. Ironically, I read a very similar blog post with many of the same points just yesterday, except from the male perspective. That can be viewed here:

    http://tostopandthink.blogspot.com/2013/07/on-modesty.html

    The only place with your article that I disagree on is that women don't need to be concerned with causing their brothers to stumble.

    Now, you're correct in bringing up the context of 1 Corinthians 8, but that doesn't mean these principles do not apply in different contexts. For example. every principle in this chapter works perfectly well when also applied to drinking alcohol. You are correct that the main problem with lusting comes from the heart of he/she who lusts, but why can't we have Paul's attitude? If he said something as drastic as, "If what I eat causes my brother to fall into sin, I will never eat meat again," then I'm sure he would also state, "If wearing bikinis causes my brother to sin, I will never wear a bikini again."

    Now we've got a picture of Paul the Apostle in a bikini. That's lovely! Sorry about that.

    But moving on, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, in his famous book Life Together, talks about how when one person in a Christian community sins, it affects the whole community. We are not here trying to focus on ourselves to be as good as we can be. We are all collective parts of a larger, functioning body - when one part is sick, the others help bring healing. We need to be Christians who understand our own sinfulness and are willing to bear each other's burdens even as our own burdens are taken away by Christ and fellow Christians, offering confession and forgiveness to each other freely.

    Point: none of us should be alone in dealing with our sin struggles.

    If you want to dress cute, please do! Even men should have modesty when they dress. But there are some things, like bikinis, which do seem to cross all lines. If you want to be in small bikinis with a group of girls, go ahead. Skinny dip for all I care. But if your with brothers at the beach or at a pool, are you really harming anyone or doing yourself a disservice? On the contrary, you are doing a noble thing and being a Christian leader.

    Here is my favorite point from the blog I posted above. He points out that a man doesn't always lust after a girl every time he sees her. He doesn't even lust after every scantily-dressed or bikini-wearing he sees. However, " willpower is a limited resource, and I have a very good memory." When you dress in ways that are obviously attracting towards lust, you are giving a man memories that might fuel his sinful struggles at future times. And the shame that is attached to thinking upon beautiful memories of friends, of Christian sisters is a heavy shame and an awful burden, one that we should be carrying for each other, not making matters worse.

    The overall emphasis of this blog is great. But let us not lose our view of community, nor let even the smallest hint of pride develop through any effort to be individualistic.

    Phil 2:4, "not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others."

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  48. Why do so many articles on modesty focus on women wearing revealing clothes, and yet few to none mention plumbers bearing the top parts of their behinds or teenaged boys wearing baggy pants that aren't pulled up? These articles are about women controlling women, and men controlling women. Martin Luther King JR had it right when he said we should judge others by the content of their character. The clothes one wears, their race, sex, sexual orientation, financial situation and all other factors should be irrelevant.

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    1. Probably because not to many women have problems controlling their lust over plumber crack or dirty under-roos...

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  50. This was a really powerful post, Kelly, and thanks for addressing what can be a controversial topic. I especially appreciate that you acknowledged an often ignored factor: victim blaming. We as Christians need to be having these conversations and well done for starting this one off.

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  51. Hey! I normally lurk, but I wanted to thank you for this post and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with you against any backlash, to help you know you're not alone in defending women's autonomy and men's responsibility for their own behavior. Every time I see one of those modesty things going around, I just want to scream. It makes me feel angry and helpless, and I wanted to support you voicing this thing that is so important.

    As an atheist, people tune me out instinctively, so I can't get through to most people who profess a belief in a deity. Now I have somewhere to link people when they start slut-shaming women because of what they're wearing.

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  52. Well done! This is the round and round conversation I have constantly.

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  54. Thank you. I love this article. I understand that men will notice a beautiful woman, but he is responsible for whether or not he lusts after her. As Martin Luther (at least I think it was him) said "You cannot stop the birds from flying over your head, but you can stop them from building a nest in your hair."

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  55. I really appreciate this post and am excited to share it. Thank you for taking the time to write it out.

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  56. I do not profess any faith, but Kelly : very well said and stated. You are a beacon for your children and those around you.
    Thanks

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  57. I just want to say that I love your blog! I've stumbled upon it a couple times through Pinterest and I just finally added it to my Reader so I don't miss any posts. You are truly talented!

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  58. I'd like to add a #5: If men want women to cover up, then shouldn't men be required to cover up as well, such as wearing shirts with their swimming trunks? Male bodies can be tempting as well, the world has just always been written from a male point of view, but my (and some other women's) point of view on this topic is quite the opposite. ;)

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  59. "God cares what you wear, because he cares about your heart. Seek him first, and whatever you do, do it to the glory of God."

    Don't overlook this part. I think we are wise to make our hearts right with God, and the rest of our lives fall into place without so much manipulation.

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  61. 1. thank you for writing this, kelly. as a mother of a young daughter, it's helpful to think about this now.
    2. did you (Kelly) ever think this post would get so much feedback!? woah!!!
    3. "and THEY (non christians) will know WE are Christians by our love." be careful, Christian friends about how you speak/ write, even on the internet. by our love. by our love. that's how others are going to take notice of jesus.

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  62. Wow. Great blog post and really interesting comments/discussions.
    I'd start with what is lust? How do you define lust and where does a natural and immediate appreciation of the opposite sex end and lust begin? I have so problem with my husband having a natural reaction to an attractive woman, but if he continued on that thought, consciously, into a fantasy about being with her then I'd have a big problem with it. As an atheist this would be my understanding of lust, but maybe the Christian teachings say even that initial reaction is lust?? I'd be really interested to know, as if it's the continuation and fantasy forming then I really believe that a man can control that, that is entirely down to him and if he can't then he needs help. If it's that immediate response then, for me, that's taking things too far. You cannot control a natural reaction. It would be like telling you not to drool when a delicious meal was placed I front of you. It is a purely natural and biological reaction.
    And someone doesn't need to be scantily clad to be very attractive or desirable. George Clooney in a well cut suit anyone??!!
    My other thought, as I lay awake last night thinking about this, for those men who say they need to avoid the beach, did you watch the Olympics? Plenty of scantily clad women there leaving not much to the imagination. Maybe not flaunting it in the same way, what they wear is practical for sport, but there's a lot on show. Do they avoid that too?
    And there is a time and a place. In most western cultures it is ok to wear a bikini. Why not on the beach if you wan to get a nice tan (having had two kids, my midrif will never see the light of day again, but it is, on occasion, in the past, although generally I'm more comfortable covered up a little more) but wearing a bikini to go to the supermarket is not appropriate. I do also agree that there is rather more on show these days than needs to be. I wonder why that is so? Insecurity of women in their own self that they feel the need to flaunt their body to feel confident?
    Ultimately though, whatever your definition of lust, any form of attack on a woman, no matter how scantily clad, is no excuse for violence. Men do have control over that. It is not necessary. It is not the woman's fault. And it is appalling and hideous.

    Apologies for any mistakes above and any rambling. I'm unable to edit without the whole thing freezing up. For some reason I can't even write my post elsewhere, edit and then copy&paste into here. I hope my comments on lust definition do not offend. While I am an atheist I do also believe in the right of anyone to hold their own beliefs and actually find learning about different religions (their similarities and differences) very interesting.

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  63. I was reluctant to read this, but I was intrigued, so I read anyway. I hope I can get my comment out in a way that expresses how I feel and says completely what I want to say.

    I truly enjoyed this and you took the thoughts I can never seem to find the words for and put them out there. As a mother of a boy, that's what I want him to know.

    Now, I want to talk about these comments.

    1. People seem to forget what "in the heart" means. If a woman wears a bikini for the reason of making a man lust (other than her husband) - that is wrong. If she wears it because she likes it and it makes her feel good- what's wrong with that- good job to her parents for teaching her confidence.

    2. I refuse to think about every item of clothing and how it might make men that I will never see again feel. Those men do not matter in the grand scheme of things. The only man I should think about when getting dressed is my husband. If he doesn't have a problem with what I am wearing, then no one else should.

    3. To all these that call for women to cover up because their husbands cannot help themselves. I call for men to not be in public without a shirt, do not wear a shirt that shows muscles, do not have a goatee, do not have piercings. Why? because I am attracted to those things and I might be having an off day and find a man attractive that has those and is not my husband. That's pretty ridiculous isn't it? Is it that much more ridiculous than expecting a woman to not dress a certain way because a man might lust?

    Remember that what is in the heart is what counts. People who do not know me look at my piercings, tattoos, paranormal investigator shirt, and assume that I am not a christian because, but they do not know what is in my heart.

    Thank you for this article, and I truly hope that this can save some young girls and boys from a lifetime of misery!

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  64. I think we need to remember that modesty in culturally relative. I grew up in a church where women had to wear long skirts. Once when I was a child, I was in church for a non-church activity, and wore jeans. I felt incredibly guilty over that experience, and now as a college student, I almost have to laugh because I could never imagine the idiocy of inflicting guilt on a girl who wore pants in church.

    Not everyone thinks bikinis are inappropriate for Christians. If you feel that bikinis are fine, then don't allow them in YOUR house, but don't judge other people who disagree with you. My boyfriend and I (we are both currently almost done with college) are planning a trip to the beach next week. I called him the other day and said, "what would you think if I wore a bikini?" And he said, "Wait, why would that even be a big deal?" And he is one of the most devout Christians I know, he is even pursuing a career in ministry.

    My point is, no matter what article of clothing you wear, someone will find it inappropriate at one time or another. Skinny jeans? Too tight. V-neck shirts? Too low. Heals? Too suggestive. Pants? Too manly. I'd pretty much have to wear a bed sheet in order to keep everyone's rules. And really, is a one piece really that more modest than a bikini? You are still wearing skin-tight fabric that is dripping wet and exposes all of your legs, your entire figure, and most of your chest and arms. The only thing extra that is exposed by your bikini is your stomach...which at that point there isn't a whole let left to loose.

    There was a day where a woman showing her ankles was a terrible breach on modesty. That day is over. Just wear whatever you are comfortable with, and no matter what you chose, realize that you still have the same dignity and value as the person who chooses to wear something else.

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    1. I meant to say if you DON'T feel bikinis are fine, then don't allow them in your house...

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  65. Thank you for writing and sharing this!

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  66. What I find remarkable is that women rant and rail about men looking upon women with lust, but evidently we women are so pure we don't look at good looking men and have impure thoughts about them? This just a little strange to me.

    SJR
    The Pink Flamingo

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    1. and not all men look at women and not all women look at men. some women look at women, some men look at men.

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  67. I found this article on Reddit (site primarily used by atheists/agnostics) ironically enough and I was overwhelmed by the positive feedback from the non-Christian women. In a time when Christians are constantly getting a bad name and reputation you are an inspiration. Here's the reddit link if you'd like to view the lovely things they had to say about your article and your blog.
    http://www.reddit.com/r/TwoXChromosomes/comments/1hkemc/what_our_daughters_and_sons_need_to_know_about/

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  68. Let me add a thank you Kelly and that I am praying for you :) You wield a mighty influence....

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  69. Thank you for this! More Christians ought to speak up about this issue.

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  70. Yes, yes, yes! Thank you for writing this. Too many women have been shamed or made to fear our bodies because of what it supposedly makes men do. They lose their femininity and stifle their God-given desire to be beautiful. But they forget that God says we are fearfully and wonderfully made. You are right when you say that he sees our hearts and we should dress is a way we think is pleasing to the Lord. For some of us that may be a bikini, and for some of us it may be a one-piece.

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  71. I know a million others have said this, but THANK YOU!! I recently stopped attending a church after I was told to cover up with a blanket in the middle of church, so as not to tempt the men and boys. 1st) I was in a pretty modest dress. I had gained some weight that made it tighter than when I first bought it, but it would have been appropriate for a job interview. 2nd) The girls who told me to cover up were the kind that wear skirts down to their feet, no makeup ever, and turtlenecks in the middle of Florida July. I have nothing against that, but it wasn't how I was raised.

    So, after feeling ashamed that I would never be good enough, I left that church. I haven't gone to church in a few months from fear of rejection again (something I am working on with God).
    But, the other day I was wondering why I have to responsible for what those guys minds think? Why do I have to keep them on track, as well as keeping myself on it? Why do I have to cover up from head to toe, when guys can roam around with shirts off and no one bats an eyelash? If I am helping my brothers, shouldn't they in turn help us not stray by covering up as well? Why are they the "helpless" ones?

    I felt I was the only one, but your article has only strengthened my view. I still dress modestly compared to others my age, but I will no longer be shamed into modesty. My modesty will be for myself and God...NOT MEN! I will no longer coverup to hide. I'm not condoning that we dress provocatively, but I will no longer dress like an amish woman.

    Thank you again!

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  72. Gotta say: "Modesty," in the New Testament, actually has nothing to do with how much skin you're showing. It has to do with being economically modest. Note the context of 1 Timothy 2:8-10: Right after Paul instructs women to wear modest apparel, he describes such clothing as proper and moderate, without fancy braids, gold, pearls, or other ostentation. The rich in the church weren't to show off their wealth. Not so much their skin.

    Of course, now that our culture has so widely misinterpreted that passage, people are praising those who come to church in their most expensive Sunday best, and shaming those women who bare their shoulders, on the grounds that it's their fault if men can't control themselves. And so we've gone doubly wrong.

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  73. As a nontheist, I would like to add that much of this can be taught without the use of the bible, which I personally reject as nothing more than an interesting historical document. What worries me is that when people preach common sense topics like modesty with the use of the bible, if and when a young person grows to adulthood and rejects the subscription to a religious teaching or god, they are tempted to throw out everything that they learned in conjunction with that teaching. Modesty is necessary because we live in an overly sexualized society where so much of this is taboo and as a result, we label and objectify those who don't fit our categories. In some ancient civilizations, those who had little or no value beyond their bodies, like laborers or concubines, walked around nude. So did children. Clothing was intended to communicate education, social standing, and, in essence, value. People used to be able to look at a naked person of either gender without sexual implication. There remain many places in the world where people go without clothes because there is no purpose for them beyond artificial modesty, such as native tribes or beaches in certain countries. We have in fact CREATED the need for modesty because we have artificially associated nakedness with sexuality. And yet, to be without clothing - or without socially appropriate clothing - can still communicate a lowered worth or value to others. God or no god, we should dress modestly in order to communicate to others that we believe we have a value to our selves beyond what our bodies can provide in stimulation or tantalization. IMO, those who bare themselves inappropriately communicate that they do not believe their minds or their wits can keep another person's attention as well as their bodies can, and I just find that sad. And when I mean inappropriately, I'll say that I think a turtleneck and overalls in a nightclub is really just as inappropriate as a bikini in a courtroom. Then again, I also don't understand body art such as tattoos, I see no reason anyone's bra straps should ever be visible, nor do I think women my age (43) should be wearing rhinestones on the rumps of their jeans like their teenage daughters. We can each dress attractively and confidently without being inappropriate for style and situation, and we shouldn't need the bible or religious doctrine to make the only argument in that favor.

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  74. This really hit home for me: "be careful how we influence people; not to use our freedom to lead them into something they consider sin." That makes so much sense; I'm having a duh moment.
    And what you said about our culture and victim blaming touched me as well. It breaks my heart that so many women are assaulted and we don't talk about it or when we do it is to blame her. That just isn't right.

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  75. Modesty is about loving others enough to make them feel comfortable in our presence!

    An important part of modesty is that modesty helps others feel comfortable. A modestly dressed women isn’t a distraction for men. She doesn’t make those around her feel uncomfortable. Even other women can feel uncomfortable around women who aren’t modestly dressed. I know I was at a friend’s house for a birthday party and another Christian lady was wearing a really revealing dress and her boobs were hanging out the whole time at the party. It was very uncomfortable talking to this lady. If she would have been dressed decently, it wouldn’t have been uncomfortable talking to her. Of course for men it can be even more uncomfortable (fighting lustful thoughts). Christians should definitely show enough love and respect for others to keep their bodies properly covered.

    A second part to dressing modestly (besides being properly covered) is not dressing in a flashy, look at me sort way- wearing fancy expensive clothes and jewelry. 1 Timothy says that this is not proper for God’s holy women. I think overdressed or flashy dressed women can also make others feel uncomfortable, which is just the opposite of what modestly dressed women do. If people make themselves look super rich with their expensive clothing and jewelry they make others feel uncomfortable. Someone who is rich, but modestly dressed won’t make others feel uncomfortable. I’ve heard it said that a sign of a woman who wears her make up well is that you don’t even notice it. It should accent her without being overly noticeable. I think the same goes for dressing well. People should barely notice your clothes (not because you are not wearing them, lol, but because you are dressed classy enough that your clothes look nice, but don’t distract from you)

    Modesty also shows a women respects herself. My parents (who weren’t Christians at the time) taught me as a young lady to dress decent. They taught me that if a girl or young lady dresses revealing- they are going to attract the wrong kind of guys that only want one thing. By dressing modestly, a women shows respect for herself. And if a women has to reveal her body in an immodest way to feel good about herself, then she definitely has some self-respect issues.

    Dressing modestly shows respect for ourselves and respect for others.

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    1. Totally agree. Thank you for posting!

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  76. A few practical modesty tips for Christians who desire to dress modestly-

    since the Bible doesn't give one set or rules to follow for modesty...how does one decide how to dress modestly? I studied this for a long time and concluded that their is a modesty spectrum. There is a "minimum modesty" and a "maximum modesty" standard and Christians can choose where they feel most comfortable being on the modesty spectrum (of course, Christians who love Jesus and God's Word- should desire to be modest. It makes me sad when Christian women don't desire something that God says we are to do, but I also realize that sometimes women just have never been taught about modesty and they just go with our cultures unmodest standards)

    When I began studying modesty- I learned that many non-Christian organizations even have modesty standards. Some prisons for example have a modesty standard for visitors. Some schools have modesty standards. After looking at many of these list of rules, I concluded that these are "minimum modesty" standards. Then I've read Christian blogs who promote modesty and concluded many of these are "maximum modesty" standards (like you can't really get any more modestly dressed than what these women suggest).

    Here is a great link to a short article on modesty and prison rules on modesty...thought provoking....also, interesting that modesty rules are for men too!
    http://banickfam.tripod.com/dress.html

    So if you desire to follow a "minimum modesty" standard then you won't wear clothing that reveals your cleavage/boobs, you won't wear clothing that is too tight or too short. If you follow the "maxium modesty" standard- you probably wear dresses/skirts to your ankles and shirts that cover you up completely. Many Christians including myself are somewhere in between these modesty standards.

    I personally consider myself in the moderate range of the modesty spectrum. We wear shorts to our knees (yeah for bermuda shorts being back in style!), short sleeve shirts (no sleeveless or tanks- except for undershirts), no low cut shirts without white tank tops for undershirts, etc. My daughters have to wear skirts that touch their knees or are longer. I personally feel most comfortable with this level of modesty. I know their will be some who dress much more modestly and others who dress modestly, but not quite as modest (like maybe they don't wear short shorts, but they are shorter than what we wear for example, or maybe some wear tank tops but they don't show off cleavage, so they are modest).

    Anyways, I just share this to encourage others that some things are NOT modest, and other types of clothing fit on the modesty scale, which different Christians will feel comfortable or uncomfortable in depending where they are on the modesty spectrum. We should remember to be gracious to those who dress more or less modest than ourselves.

    Oh yeah and two other tips...swimsuits bikinis and one pieces both aren't modest and there is alternatives. Many wonderful Christian ladies have websites and sew modest swimsuits. They were a bit pricey for our family...so this is what we do... my little girls wear swimsuit shirts and shorts (we got ours cheap at walmart...around $7 for a swimsuit set). The tops are called rashguard swimsuits. For myself, I bought a rashguard swimsuit top on Amazon.com for around $20, got a pair of swimsuit shorts for $1 at the thrift store and wear my old two piece under them for underwear and a bra! Cheap and modest!!!

    Another modesty tip- my little girls are required to wear shorts under skirts/dresses to be modest when they are playing. (I learned this tip from my mom who had this rule when she had a daycare- girls had to wear shorts under dresses when they came).

    Hope these tips might help some!

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  77. I love this! Thank you! I love how this can apply to anyone, even those who are not Christian. I love how you include your faith in your posts, however I never feel that is overbearing or judging to those of us who may not share the same religion as you. I admire your strong faith and can find it beautiful even though mine is not as strong as yours. As a blogger you are able to express your views however you wish. We, as readers, can decide if we want to read them or not and take what we want from your messages and all your amazing organize/home making ideas!

    I love this message, pointing out how wrong it is to blame the female instead of a males wondering eyes/mind. How this will only enforce the idea of objectifying women and victim blame.

    Thank you. I just love you!

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  78. Kelly, thank you SO MUCH for talking about rape culture from a Christian perspective. I'm not religious myself, but I believe more people in the Christian world need to hear these thoughts over and over again. Stop blaming women for being raped, and start expecting men to treat others with respect. Don't force guns on women as self-defense; instead, teach men not to rape or violate. This challenges the way we've defined gender, but it's time.

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  79. I am absolutely in awe of such a powerful topic! I have to admit, I haven't read all of the comments, but I have saved this post so that I can at a later date. One thing I would like to add to the conversation, though, is that while I agree completely that men should be held to a higher standard and expected to act in a kind and caring manner around women who are scantily-clad, but that as women we must understand that not every man out there is Christian, not every man is moral, honestly...there are a lot of sickos out there too. I agree women should wear what makes them feel good about their bodies...and honestly...I don't like the attention I get when I wear certain items of clothing. Our bodies are gifts, but they're powerful gifts and I think should only be shared with the people we're most comfortable with. I'll wear a pretty sundress when I'm hanging out with friends and family, but will dress more modestly when I'm going out in public. We can't police other people's thoughts or minds, all we can control is ourselves and what we present to them. I will raise my daughter to know her body is a temple, and better shared only around those she trusts.

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  80. This post was great! I have several women friends who agree in dressing modestly and several who do not. I was raised in a modest culture and now living outside that I struggle to find cute but modest clothes.

    Thank you for the fabulous insight and reminder about why it's important to be modest in all things!

    http://themissyg.blogspot.com/

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  81. BEST Christian article about modesty EVER!!! And just so you know, I am a born again, Pentecostal Christian. I always dressed very modestly, but since becoming married, my husband likes me to wear a two piece suit, and I do. I don't feel forced or pressured to do it. He likes how I look, and I do it for him, no one else. It is totally a matter of the heart. God can be my judge.

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  82. I absolutely love this post. Fantastic insight, and I love the "rules instead of relationship" concept. I think it applies to a lot of what is hurting Christianity in the eyes of the public today. Thanks for sharing.

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  83. Having been involved in ATI when my kids were younger, it took a long time for me to recover from it's principles. Some of the same things are at work in the church world today and I remember being invited to a baseball night at a new church I was attending and wondering what I should wear. It was a very warm night and I debated, jean skirt, capris, jeans, etc. I finally wore capris only to get there and find many women in shorts. Should have never been an issue and I was glad to finally find a place I could be free. I've turned one of my daughters on to a website called Recovering Grace which has helped her out lots. http://www.recoveringgrace.org/

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  84. this was beautifully written and well said. I love that you applied it to our age group and our kids.
    On a side note the excuse that, "she was asking for it" in rape cases is inexcusable. It doesn't matter what someone has on, no one deserves to be assaulted. Love your blog hun!
    -lauren
    http://realhousewifeofnova.blogspot.com

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  85. I am so glad you wrote this article,

    I grew up in a Christian home and attended youth group, and in one of my classes we were taught to dress 'modestly' so as not to give men the wrong idea. I always thought something was wrong about the lesson... we should have been taught to dress in a way that is pleasing to God, not to adhere to a strict set of rules of what we should and should not wear. I was already struggling at the tame with slut-shaming and victim blaming at high school and this lesson just added fuel to the fire.

    Now, as a bit of a feminist, I look back on this lesson and am disgusted. You wrote an article that sums up all my thoughts perfectly! Thank you so much. :)

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  86. Something that I have not seen addressed is the fact that some women wear clothes considered immodest by others because that is all they have, They can't afford new clothes without sacrificing something else (like fresh fruits and vegetables, or electricity.) and have to work when thrift stores are open if they can even find something appropriate at a thrift store. Children have to wear hand me downs, even if those are sometimes ill fitting because that is all there is.

    Also, don't ever think you know why someone is wearing or doing whatever it is they are wearing or doing unless you ask. Most people think they know a lot more about the motivations of others than they do. Just because your only reason for wearing revealing clothing is to get attention from men, that doesn't apply to all other women. Some woman wear bikinis because they like bikinis. They like the freedom and the feeling of sun on their skin. It has nothing to do with wanting attention from other people but all about them expressing their joy.

    I was taught that God doesn't care what I wear or what I look like. God cares about what it is my heart.

    It is not my responsibility to keep random men/boys from "stumbling" any more than it is anyone else's responsibility to keep me away from carbs and sugar for my diabetes. It's my issue. If there are donuts and danish at church, I don't eat them; I don't demand the church stop offering sugary treats because they tempt me. If a co-worker brings in cookies, I don't eat one; I don't berate the co-worker for not catering to my specific dietary needs. When I go to the grocery store, it is up to me to make the right choices to deal with my reality. I certainly don't expect stores to not sell baked goods and pasta just because they cause a problem for me.

    Also, I get kind of creeped out when women talk about having jealous husbands as a good thing. Jealousy is not a positive character trait.


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    1. I know this isn't about this post, but not sure where else to ask the question. I like to read blogs from the beginning rather than backwards, but I cant find any archives here. How can I get to your first posts?

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    2. I find your comparison interesting Julianne. I agree with not "expecting" everyone to accomodate your dietary restrictions. However, if you were my friend and I knew I was going to be at a potluck or dinner party with you, it would be my desire to bring food that you could eat without harm. Not out of fear or duty, but because I cared for you as a friend. In the same way, out of care and concern for men I know who struggle with lust or other issues, I take care to dress modestly. The thing that I find disheartening in many of these comments is a complete lack of care/concern for men who struggle - the whole "that's his problem and he should just get it together" attitude is NOT what we are called to as those who follow Christ.

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    3. Kelly, Thank you so much for this article!

      Julianne, about the jealousy character trait:
      Many years ago when i was young and impressionable I was in a very dysfunctional relationship with a man who became abusive ( verbally and eventualy physically, i left when that happened).He was abusive because of the way I dressed ( which wasn't overly sexual, but even tank tops or summerdresses he would find inappropriate). He was extremely jealous and didnt want to share, so when he thought other men lusted after me he blamed me for the way I dressed or if i wore make-up, or too tight pants, or underwear contours showing through fabric....

      I got brainwashed for a while thinking it was all my fault, when in fact it was him who had the (lust) problem. He had a porn addiction, so probably thought every man felt the same way.

      Luckily I left and now have a wonderful man, clothing or jealousy has never been an issue.

      Anyway what I learned is no one is responsible for another persons thoughts.

      Also, very valid point you made about bikinis.

      If i wear a bikini when going swimming it's because I like wearing one because it's far more comfortable than rashguard type wear, which feels horribly restrictive. Also I hate the feeling of wet fabric on my skin, so a bikini feels more natural.
      I'd say most women who wear bikiki's it's just a practical thing, and it's not to show off or get attention.

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    4. "The thing that I find disheartening in many of these comments is a complete lack of care/concern for men who struggle - the whole 'that's his problem and he should just get it together' attitude is NOT what we are called to as those who follow Christ."

      I get where the poster of this comment is coming from, in a way, even though I agree with the original author ultimately. We should care about the sins of others as Christians - we should be living the very best life we can that not only keeps the sins out of our lives, but inspires other Christians to do the same and encourages them to lead a Christ-like life. We should be helping, rather than hindering, each other in our quest to be the best Christians we can be.

      However, what a heavy burden we're putting on women (and it seems to be a burden only for women)to be able to control the thoughts of others. Not to mention what a horrible role we've given men, deeming them so out of control of their own thoughts that women are now responsible for ensuring they stay in control. How sexualized we've made women's bodies that the mere sight of flesh (in a completely nonsexual situation) titillates men beyond their control.

      As a Christian, I believe in living a Christ-like life and inspiring others through my actions. While I do not wish to be a "stumbling block" to others, I have no way of knowing if I am unintentionally causing thoughts in others merely by living my life, and ultimately I feel I have to draw a line somewhere. If someone were approached who was already modestly dressed but was told their exposed skins or collarbone was causing lustful thoughts in the man, would the only possible reaction of the Christian woman be to cover up more in case a man like this were around her in the future? What if a man told you that your long hair cause lustful thoughts - would you cut it off? Or your pretty face - would you cover it up? At some point, you have to decide that you cannot control the thoughts of others and pray for those struggling with this problem.

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  87. It makes me really sad to see so many women agreeing with this article. It's just sensible to cover up your body. God definitely cares about what you are wearing. Does what you are wearing affect other people? YES! If you are a Christian and you dress immodestly, you are giving Christ a bad name. Please, grow up people!

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    1. If you are judging someone else based on what they are wearing how can you call yourself a Christian? Why would God care what you wear? He cares about your actions and the way you treat other people. I have five daughters and while I don't want them dressing too skimpy, I don't mind them having the freedom to express themselves. Its more important that they be raised knowing how to treat people right, not worrying about covering their body!

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  88. I live in Utah where a majority of the population is Mormon. Mormons believe in modest dress. Sleeves on shirts (no tank tops), shorts to the knees. and one piece swimming suits. For all that modesty it is the state with the highest rate of online pornography use, affairs a plenty, and teen sex the same as in other states. I myself am a Christian and was raised in a Christian home, but I live daily with a religious group (Mormons) adhering to rules of modest dress and these rules are mostly put on the shoulders of young girls. They have RULES in place of a RELATIONSHIP with Christ.
    I like the point that Kelly was making that a shift needs to be made to stop putting the responsibility on girls and woman for how a man behaves. Go here http://fox13now.com/2013/05/06/video-elizabeth-smart-speaks-at-johns-hopkins-university/ to see Elizabeth Smart speaking along these same lines. Thank you, Kelly for sharing this. It isn't just a religious issue it is a societal issue.

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  89. There's always a reason for everything we do. It all does boil down to our motives in every area of our lives. There is a pay-off. We need to search our hearts for it. And deal with it and not push it down or hide it. We'd all be better people for it.

    I do feel it is a little sad that we don't consider others over our claims to do whatever we want. I appreciated the comments that did consider "our neighbor", such as the one that stated, "if you were my friend and I knew I was going to be at a potluck or dinner party with you, it would be my desire to bring food that you could eat without harm. Not out of fear or duty, but because I cared for you as a friend."

    Though your last paragraph did mention your sons, it was still from a mature responsible point of view. But, the little ones are the ones that have not been spoken for. What about our little boys? I have been a pastor's wife for a very long time. So, I have probably heard a few more stories than most. Hurting stories. A six-year-old boy should not have to be burdened with things he is not capable of handling. Are we still more concerned about our rights than his little heart?

    Considering millstones and all that. (Matthew 18:5-7)

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  90. Everyone saying things against her are acting like she's telling everyone to wear bikinis and see through clothing. If you look at the picture of her she's not wearing any of that what she's saying is it's your choice to wear what clothing you feel comfortable in and you shouldn't feel shamed for that. I typically don't feel comfortable wearing shorts or skirts but I have large boobs so I do tend to have some degree of cleavage showing most of the time. Any time I talk to a Christian person or my own mother I am told its wrong, why? Im not doing it to attract attention its just more comfortable for me. I don't like having things close to my neck plus I get really hot if I cover too much of my cleavage. I don't have my whole boobs hanging out in fact typically only my lower arms and cleavage and face are the only skin un covered. Why should I have to suffer and be hot and sweaty because someone else cant control themselves?
    ps 6 year old children still have very little gender/sexual identities if they are having issues at that age there needs to be further investigation into what's going on in his life.

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    1. I did not mean to imply that seeing someone's cleavage was going to GIVE a young boy issues. However, it can add to the burden he carries. And, THAT is something of which I want no part.

      According to Galatians 6:2, we are to share each other's burdens. Proverbs 31:8 tells us to speak up for those who cannot do so for themselves. That's all I'm doing.

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    2. I'm saying if he is carrying that burden already at 6 years old there is a reason for that beyond seeing some girls cleavage. Someone has abused him either physically or emotionally, children that are 6 shouldn't know enough about sex to be bothered by things like that. My stepson had only just realized that girls and boys peed differently by the time he was 6 and there was no comprehension of anything sexual at all even with that.

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    3. I agree. They should not.

      But that doesn't mean that in our culture they don't.

      Just because they should not, also doesn't mean we can just sweep their struggles under the rug.

      Just because they should not, also does not mean that there are not thousand upon thousands that do.

      My "rights" don't trump their pain. I'll cover up, thank you.

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  91. I'm going to have a variety of random thoughts in response to a lot of the comments, so forgive me if most of it doesn't make sense.

    I don't dress in a way that I would consider immodest at all, but judging by some of the comments, my tank tops, running shorts, and bikinis would certainly put me on a list of "bad Christians."

    Why do I wear what others would define as "too revealing"? A variety of reasons, none of which include a desire to inspire lustful thoughts in men. I wear the running shorts I have because they don't cause discomfort when I run like the longer shorts do. I wear bikinis because it's incredibly hot when I go to the pool and I want to be comfortable, and I've never found a one-piece that even remotely fit me.

    I wear my clothes for comfort, because they make me feel beautiful, and because I don't find my body to be shameful and in need of covering. That being said, I can understand the idea of not wanting to be a "stumbling block" for those around me, yet I can't help but struggle with the application of this idea in this conversation. Taking responsibility for the thoughts of others is a hefty burden, and one that women disproportionately seem to yield in our society, especially in Christianity.

    Don't wear the wrong clothes, lest you inspire lustful thoughts. Don't have too many nice things, lest you inspire covetous thoughts. Do your best to live your life in such a way that no one in the world will ever think in a way that they don't want to, because your actions control their thoughts much more than they do.

    I think there's a big difference between wearing clothing to intentionally excite your friend's husband and wearing clothing that you feel comfortable in but may cause a man somewhere to think lustful thoughts. I think there's a difference between owning nice things and showing off said items to the neighbor you know will be green with envy.

    We cannot control the thoughts of others and we can't amend our existence in a way that will please everyone, but we can eliminate attempts to intentionally create sinful thoughts in others, and I believe that is the intent behind the idea of not being a "stumbling block" for other Christians.

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  92. I find it alarming to see comments that seem to suggest that women merely wearing bathing suits to a pool are inspiring such lustful thoughts in a man that he can't go to the pool. I guess it's good for him that at least he recognizes that this is not a normal reaction and the best thing for him to do is not go to a place that he finds so tempting. But truly, it is not a normal level of reaction for a man to be so filled with lust in a fairly benign location with women just dressing for the heat and the water. If it were, pools and beaches would have very few men in attendance. Surely we have done something wrong as a society if we've sexualized women's bodies to such a level that men can't view them in completely nonsexual situations without becoming filled with lust.

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    1. I wanted to second your comment, as this is dead-on. I would even go a bit further and suggest to the males who are so overcome with lustful thoughts, to the point that they can't even go to a public pool with the opposite sex, they may want to consider seeing an endocrinologist to rule out any hormonal disorders. I don't say this sarcastically. I am being serious. Normal people do not avoid social situations like a pool or beach because they cannot "control themselves." When I go to a beach, I am there to play in the water and soak up the sun. Ogling at men is the last thing on my mind.

      Also, as a now atheist who was raised as a nominal Christian, could someone explain to me what it means to have "lustful thoughts?" I guess I think of "lustful thoughts" as having a physical attraction to someone. Is this really a bad thing? A physical attraction is usually the catalyst which leads to a relationship, marriage, and reproduction. Without it, our species would die out. It's biological, not sinful. Some of you folks have really been screwed up in the head to think otherwise.

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  93. Loved your article. I AM the mom that doesn't allow my daughter to wear a bikini and that's not going to change HOWEVER I will NEVER use the phrase "make men lust" again. It's definitely time I had a conversation with my boy's about controlling their own lust & less time referring to their female facebook friends as prosti-tots. Though with that said, you cannot convince me that when a 16 year old girl posts a picture of herself sprawled out on a bed in the smallest bikini ever that she doesn't want the boy's to lust after her. This brings me to why I wont change the dress code in my house. Christian or not, ALL young ladies need to know that they don't need to weigh 90 lbs or dress in a certain way etc to be loved. We women have value that far outweigh "sexual appeal".

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  94. (warning language)
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=t-z9XuuyLEY
    This is why we shouldn't teach our little girls to be ashamed of their bodies. We learn to hate them and by extension hate ourselves. You can't tell me that God wants us to hate ourselves? If we dress as we feel comfortable and not to attract attention we are in fact honouring God and the body he gave us. If anyone has a problem with that, that is their issue not ours we can not be held accountable for what others do and think. If we follow that road than the abused woman is responsible for being hit and the child that was raped is responsible for tempting the person that hurt them?

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  95. This is my first time reading your blog and am now following you on Pintrest. I truly appreciate your blog post on modesty. My daughter is a grown woman now but I still remember the condemnation of some parents over clothes that she chose to wear as a teenager. I also remember the same condemnation over clothes that I chose to wear as a teenager - attitudes haven't changed much in 40 years! I agree that men and women need to be accountable for their own thoughts and actions. To suggest that another's actions "caused" you to behave badly is a cop out! Thanks again for a very thoughtful post!

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  96. The idea that "rules suck and they don't make sense" doesn't make sense, from a biblical perspective. Jesus says if we love Him we will obey His commands (Jn 14:15). There's a fine line between legalistically following rules to earn brownie points and following them because we love God and want to obey and shine His light. Can the verses in question be interpreted legalistically? Sure. A pastor might say, "See? Braided hair is a sin!" If he and his flock agree to interpret it that way, well okay, but I don't think that's what the Holy Spirit is trying to communicate. Yes, it is primarily a heart issue, and I think that is why no "measurements" are given as to what exactly is modest. We shouldn't need measurements. We should have discernment and common sense to know when something is appropriate and when it is not.

    Kelly complains that cultural differences make it hard to tell, but the church shouldn't follow the ways of the world anyways, so defining modesty based on the culture around us is backwards. Are there certain cultures where a woman would be REQUIRED to dress a certain way? Yes. A friend of mine doing missionary work in the Middle East had to wear a burka when she went out in public. But in most western societies that's not the case and we should use discernment. A bathing suit is appropriate at the beach, not church. Walking around your house in your underoos is fine, but not walking to the mailbox. Situation dictates. Why? Because men who go to the beach go fully aware that they will need to keep their eyes disciplined. They make the choice to put themselves in the situation. If that's an issue for them, they should avoid such a setting. But if you decide to walk into church wearing a bikini (or more realistically, a shirt that's slightly revealing or shorts that draw attention to your legs or bum) well the men at church didn't willingly put themselves in that situation, you just brought the situation to them. See the difference? It's not thoughtful.

    Men are ultimately responsible for our thoughts and what we indulge, but our sisters in Christ should not make it harder than it already is. If you ladies love us you should happily oblige. That is the point of the Romans 14 and 1Cor 8 passages. True, Paul is speaking of food offered to idols, but then he expands the meaning to encompass "ANYTHING that causes your brother to stumble." (Rom 14:21). This means that if I have a friend or relative who I know struggles with alcohol addiction I'm not going to crack open a cold one in front of him because I love him and know he is weak in that area. Are Christians free to enjoy alcohol in moderation? I believe so. But if I use that freedom in a way that causes my brother to stumble, it actually becomes sin, even a sin against Christ (1Co 8:12). Same with how a woman dresses. Kelly says "a better parallel would be that we aren't to tell a friend who has chosen not to wear a bikini that she should wear one." This just sounds silly. The passages are about one's personal conduct, and how even if it is something not necessarily wrong, it becomes wrong if it causes someone else to stumble. Period. To deny that women have such power with their bodies to cause men to stumble is to deny reality.

    I avoid women who push the boundaries when it comes to this, because it's something I definitely struggle with. I have a good imagination. That's no woman's fault, but I personally would rather be around women who don't make it any harder than it already is to keep a clear conscience while I talk to them.

    Overall I agree with her point about it being a heart issue primarily, but I think she obscures some of the responsibility on the woman's part and files the edges down a bit when it comes to the idea of rules "sucking." Rules don't suck if you're following them out of love.

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    1. Hi Jason. You just said that a bathing suit is appropriate at the beach, but other commenters have said that no bathing suit is modest enough and we should all get them specially made. Do you understand now why the rules suck and don't make sense? What is a young woman supposed to do with all these mixed messages about what is and isn't "allowed"?

      I'm not saying I don't think people should dress modestly. I said clearly that God cares what we wear. I believe I dress modestly, and the clothing I choose for my daughters meets my definition of modest as well. I just don't think we can go around making hard pat rules about the topic (ie "why christians shouldn't wear bikinis" or "tank tops aren't modest") without completely missing the heart issue and stepping dangerously over the line to victim blaming and rape culture.

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    2. Kelly, in your opinion, is it glorifying to God for Christian women to wear a G-string bikini with a top that barely covers the nipples?

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  97. You are a bright, lovely light, and a "maven" of common sense and plain, wise and spiritual thinking. My daughter-in-law reads your blog, and she picked a winner to shore her up through her difficult life as a mom and wife. Love your honesty.
    I am a convert to Judaism, and many of my friends spend way too much time measuring sleeve lengths and sweating over how much hair to cover. It takes a brave person to mix free will with Torah. Seems like you're definitely on the right road. Keep it up - yasher koach (means well done)
    Donna aka Aviva Malka

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  98. Thank you Kelly for writing this! I agree with you 100%! I always thought it was unfair that women had to cover up but men can wear whatever they want! I have the same thought as you but I could never put it into words thank you so much for putting into words what I can not!

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  99. I cannot support this blog. I think it is way off base. Modesty, for one, is NOT legalistic. I don't agree with any part of this post other than the last two paragraphs in teaching children of the heart issue on the matter. We have a responsibility, each in and of ourselves, to maintain Christian principles and not revealing sensual parts of our body is one of them. We should NOT be doing ANYTHING to cause a man to lust. I am in no way saying that if a woman is raped it is her fault but lust is at the heart of rape and shouldn't we be careful not to cause a man to lust, a man who might be given over to an evil such as rape? "... and on those parts of the body that we think less honorable we bestow the greater honor, and our unpresentable parts are treated with greater modesty,"
    1 Corinthians 12:23 (ESV)

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    1. I believe you mean well, but I strongly encourage you to research your position that "lust is at the heart of rape". The root of rape is a desire for power and the humiliation of a victim; this is why rape is used in times of war as a weapon. I trust that if you do some research into the topic, you'll find many reputable affirmations of the cause of rape being the desire for power and the shaming of a victim.

      Case in point; the woman in India who was gang raped for 5 hours on a bus, and sexually assaulted with an iron rod until her organs burst (she later died in the hospital), was not being "lusted after" for 5 hours, she was the victim of men who wanted to feel powerful.

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  100. I just found your blog by a search for an organized home, then I went to the beginning of your blog to see what it was about. Then I saw it... a post on modesty and I thought oh no, not another one. Then I read your post and we have very similar views. Thank you so much! I hope more women can take this view. I have sons and I have told them they are never to disrespect a young woman no matter what she has on and that what they do/think is their responsibility no matter what a young woman is wearing. It is great to find people who really understand what modesty truly is. Love your scripture references as well.

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  101. putting lust to the side for a moment... I as a woman am ashamed to see how some woman want to dress they look like street walkers ...bearing it all ...whether you want to see it or not... people who want to show off what they have or think they have want everyone else to say its ok... I do not believe dressing as you please actually pleases God if you chose to dress to show you nudity... usually its because they want to be looked at... you are correct that rape victims do not ask for it or dress for it... thats not the issue either... people with out class dress too naked... its usually not pretty and its usually people that think its a complement to get stared at... we do not need more reasons to encourage people (especially christians ) its ok to dress like strippers... I will not pat you on the back and say its ok... its not...

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  102. A.M.A.Z.I.N.G. :D

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  103. Amen. Amen. AND Amen. If we each work toward controlling our own body the world would be in a better state for many reasons. When we are focused on controlling ourselves, we are not as apt to disrespect others.

    Also, covering up to a certain degree does not prevent sins from happening. Otherwise we would not hear about the terrible things that happen in places where women are covered except for their eyes. Also in the Victorian age there were plenty of terrible things happening to woman. It may have been more hidden but it was still happening.

    I think some of these commenters are missing the point. Either way I am so glad you wrote this. I have felt the same for many years.

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  104. You just summed up everything I wanted to say on this subject. I hope I can use your wisdom to talk to my youth students about this issue. I get all fired up just reading about it!

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  105. Thanks for your thoughts on this issue! I think we need to start seeing modesty from this perspective. When I choose clothing, I should say to myself, "I am a woman of God who does good deeds. Does this represent me well?". Letting go of "Could this be a problem for someone?" standard doesn't mean that we should give up on modesty. It means we as women need to take control of our heart issues and dress appropriately as women who are confident in our identity in God with no need to call undue attention to ourselves.

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