We live in a world where the body is overvalued and very exposed; everything revolves around looks. Men and women spend hours in the gym defining their muscles; people make sacrifices with all types of diets; plastic surgery clinics are getting busier every day — all this to have the “perfect body.” And, of course, if they spend so much time, energy and money to have that kind of body, they “need” to exhibit it to be admired.
To speak about modesty seems like an outdated, meaningless thing; after all everybody wants to show off their bodies without any restriction. But what is modesty for? What is the problem in “showing off what is beautiful”?
Well, the origin of the problem comes from original sin. Before they sinned, Adam and Eve were naked and there was no shame and no need for prudence. Their instincts were perfectly ordered and one looked at another, desiring only the good of the other, to love and make the other happy. With the disorder caused by sin, concupiscence came into being and vision opened the door for the desire to use one another for their own pleasure.
So, in order to avoid awakening the desire in the other to use me, I should cover my body properly; after all, we were born to love and be loved and not to use and be used. The one who uses and is used might certainly have pleasure, but deep inside, will feel a void that can’t be explained, a feeling that he is useless, that he isn’t loved, that he is only a worthless thing. Then comes the vicious cycle of taking more care of the body in order to look more beautiful and then be more valued. But true value doesn’t come from the outside, but from the inside, from the soul, from who the person really is, what she thinks, what she feels.
The more you expose your body, the more you hide your soul. And our culture needs to value again what is really important: the human being as a whole: body, soul, intelligence and affections. Here, women have a huge responsibility.
Men are excited more by sight and women get excited more by hearing. Knowing this, women should take care with the way they dress, so they won’t awaken in men the desire to use them. A woman may want to be admired (woman have this instinct to want to be attractive), but she must lead a man’s look to the beauty of her soul and not only for her body. A useful piece of advice when a woman gets dressed is to ask herself: with this outfit, will I call more attention to my body or to what I have to say?
It’s a matter of love of neighbor, of charity. To wear clothes that are very short, transparent and low cut, even if a woman does not have any wrong intention (and many really don’t have), she may lead a man into sin. And we will be held responsible for that sin!
Men, in this aspect, need to learn the art of looking away. It is difficult, because on almost every side there is a woman showing more than she should. But is necessary to try: to look to the other side (or even up!), to change the TV channel, to close that internet page. The more he avoids looking, the more incorrupt, the purer, he will become.
And purity attracts.
Modesty is made to ennoble, to elevate our nature, to enhance the dignity all human beings have. It includes not only the way we dress, but our words and gestures, the places we go, how we have fun. It’s no use to be elegantly dressed and when we open our mouth, we only use dirty, sensual or rude words.
For those who are beginning to get interested in trying to dress with modesty, my advice is not to give up, to look for modesty fashion sites so you can have an idea of what matches you best, and continue to walk in this way, despite the criticism that you might get. And you must know that the exterior influences the interior and vice versa: as much as dressing modestly makes a person modest, a modest person dresses modestly.
I end with some advice from Fr. Paulo Ricardo about this subject:
“In fact, the use of clothing can be abusive or excessive in three ways, namely: 1) by excessive solicitude, when too much time, attention or money is spent in the search for elegant clothes and ornaments; 2) by vanity, when one seeks only to attract glances and the admiration of others; and 3) from lust, if the desired end is to stimulate the imagination and sensuality of others. One can also sin by defect, and this in two ways: (1) if by negligence the order and care due to the body and the decency with which it is appropriate to be presented to the people are neglected; and 2) by vainglory, if the disheartening and the poverty of clothes serve as a pretext to simulate a false and hypocritical humility. All these vices can be combated if we bear in mind the humility, the simplicity, and the due diligence due to external care, because, although simple and discreet, our clothes must be cleaned and minimally well cared for: “Preserve”, St Francis de Sales says, “a fine cleanliness, Filoteia, and do not allow yourself to use anything torn or deranged. It is a scorn of the people with whom one lives to walk among them in clothes that may displease them; but guard carefully yourself from vanities and affections, curiosities and frivolous fashions.”