Modesty: Victoria’s “Real” Secret
About the Guest
What does it mean to dress modestly, and why should we do so? Today on the broadcast, author Sharon Jaynes, actress and television host Nancy Stafford, and radio host Nancy Leigh DeMoss, discuss the meaning of modesty.
books, and two daily nationally syndicated radio programs—...moremoremore
What does it mean to dress modestly, and why should we do so?
Bob: It seems as though, our standard for what we consider decent or modest or appropriate has been shifting in recent years. But, where exactly is that line, and how do we decide? Here is Nancy Leigh DeMoss.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: When we talk about modesty in the sense that most of us hear that word today, I think we have to go back to why did God even make clothing? There wasn't clothing until there was sin. Then after sin came shame over our bodies, and God made for the man and woman clothing with a purpose, and that was to cover their bodies. And so the world says, "Uncover," and that's where we run into trouble, I think. That's what becomes immodest–when we are exposing parts of our body that God intended to be covered in a public setting.
Bob: This is FamilyLife Today for Thursday, August 5th. Our host is the President of FamilyLife, Dennis Rainey, and I'm Bob Lepine. Modesty and true beauty go hand in hand. So why is it so many women today are headed in the wrong direction? We’ll talk about that today.
And welcome to FamilyLife Today, thanks for joining us on the Thursday edition. We’re going to talk about modesty and beauty today.
Dennis: Yes, and I can pound the table about that.
Bob: Yes you can.
Dennis: I really can.
Bob: I’ve heard you pound the table about it.
Dennis: Because this culture is over the top on immodesty. I mean, totally over the top!
Bob: OK, we get the idea.
Dennis: Summertime is a killer!
Bob: You have a somewhat modest request to make of our listeners today before we talk about beauty and modesty right?
Dennis: I do. I do have, actually a powerfully modest request. Over the years, FamilyLife Today, as a broadcast, has been supported and is being supported by about one out of every ten people who listen to this broadcast. The problem is, the one out of ten, they need the other nine to help out.
Bob: At least a few of them.
Dennis: Yes, well it would be really cool if all nine helped.
Bob: If everybody did, yes!
Dennis: But, here’s what we’re doing, we’re challenging the nine out of 10 of you who have never given to FamilyLife Today, to either go online or call 1-800-FL TODAY and say, “I want to be one of 100 people today and one of the 2500 new first-time donors to FamilyLife Today who say to Dennis and Bob, ‘Keep going, I stand with you, we want to make this broadcast possible.’”
Bob: This week we have a special incentive to try to encourage those of you that have never made a first-time donation. If you’ll call or go online and make a first-time gift, you can request the brand-new VeggieTales DVD called, “Sweet Pea Beauty”. This is a great new DVD that ties in with exactly what we’re talking about this week. How do we communicate a message about true beauty to a generation of young women who are being bombarded with cultural messages that are not biblical on this subject?
If you make a first-time donation, either online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or when you call 1-800 FL-TODAY, just say “This is the first time I’ve ever given and I’d like the DVD, we’ll send it out to you as a gift for your support, and we’ll be happy to have you on the team.
Dennis: I want to say thank you, to the one out of 10 of you who continue to stand with us in making this broadcast available. But today, I’m talking to the nine out of 10 who have never called, never made a donation, and want to be one of the 100 people today and the 2500 people this month. In fact you can check all this month how we’re doing online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and see how we’re doing in terms of raising up 2500 new supporters to this ministry, and you can be one of them. I want to challenge you to do it. We need your help today, if you can.
Bob: 1-800-FL-TODAY, is the number. Or go online at FamilyLifeToday.com, and make a donation. We do hope to hear from you.
I was on an airplane not too long ago, and there was a woman seated next to me who was thumbing through a rather thick fashion magazine. I mean–this had to be a couple of hundred pages of pictures. It was huge. I was reading my book, and every once in a while I would kind of glance over and look at what she was looking at in her fashion magazine, and after I did that two or three times, I thought, "I can't look at her fashion magazine. I need to keep looking at my book, and just not glance over there." I mean–the stuff I was looking at in her fashion magazine …
Dennis: … immodest?
Bob: It was inappropriate. And then I thought, "What is she doing looking at it, and what is she thinking about while she's looking at it and how is it going to change her worldview? I mean–she spent the whole flight kind of studying these pictures in this magazine. And I thought, "Haven't you got better things to read? Isn't there better stuff for your mind to be focused on?"
Dennis: Bob, you know, as you were talking about that, I thought back to a series we featured here on FamilyLife Today. We featured a message by C.J. Mahaney …
Bob: …on modesty.
Dennis: That's right. So we decided we're going to talk about it some more. Our listeners want to talk about the subject of modesty, so we invited three women who, all this week, have been talking about the subject of beauty and getting a biblical perspective of beauty. And, you know, you can't talk about beauty without talking about the subject of fashions and modesty. In fact, one of our staff guys here at FamilyLife, he asked a question–he said, "Why do women expose parts of their bodies in public?"
So I'm going to ask our beloved panelists here, Nancy Stafford, Sharon Jaynes, and Nancy Leigh DeMoss to–well, first of all, welcome back to FamilyLife Today. Thanks for trusting us enough to come back here on a fourth day to talk about the hot subject of modesty. Who would like to take a pass at this? Why do women dress immodestly?
Sharon Jaynes: I think probably the obvious reason is they want to get a man's attention. And women know that when they show parts of their body that a man is going to look. Unfortunately, even Christian women are doing this, and we are really getting two words confused. One word is "beauty" and the other word is "sexy." They are very different. What we need to realize is when a woman does show parts of her body her real desire is to appear sexy and to make a man think certain thoughts, and he's probably not going to be thinking she's beautiful. He's probably going to be having other thoughts.
Dennis: Okay, here is another question from one of our men here in the ministry. Why is the church so afraid to preach from the pulpit on the issue of modesty?
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I think some of that goes back to another reason that women may dress immodestly. There may be the conscious desire to be sexy or be attractive to men, but I think, also, that's the culture. Those are the styles. I think of these young women growing up who have never seen or known anything different. There has not been an attractive vision of modesty given to them.
Some of these girls, and I'm talking in the church–their mothers don't know how to dress modestly. And so all they've ever seen, all they've ever known is something that has come to be the acceptable standard–it's the world standard, and it's not God's standard, but I think that makes it difficult for someone who is going to preach on this subject. You have to really have thick skin and be willing to go counter the culture, to address this subject.
But I have found in our ministry, as you have, when you aired that tape by C.J. Mahaney–that when we talk about this, people really do–they want to hear a certain sound. We've talked about it on our Revive Our Hearts, broadcast, and we got an overwhelmingly positive response, and I think if pastors and Christian leaders could hear that, they may not be so afraid to address the subject.
Bob: Well, I'll tell you what, we've got to step up and address it, because in the past week I have been to the mall. I couldn't walk by the Victoria's Secret store because of what's in the window at Victoria's Secret. I couldn't walk by Abercrombie and Fitch because of what's in the window at Abercrombie and Fitch. I'm going, " I want to be able to go buy a sweater at the mall, and somebody please turn off the spigot of this stuff so that we can live in this culture without being inundated by it."
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And, really, the culture is a problem, but it's not the only problem. As we have talked about modesty in our ministry, we have had many men write to us, saying thank you for addressing this issue, but my biggest problem, these men say, is not in the malls, it's not on television, it's when I go to church. We expect the world to be immodest, they're saying, but it's hard for us to come to church to try and worship the Lord and to be faced with women on the worship team, with women sitting in front of me at church, who are dressed in a provocative or revealing way.
Dennis: Okay, Nancy, here is your assignment–so that we can all embrace a working definition from this point forward in our broadcast today, all right, because if we're in a culture that doesn't know what modest dress is all about, then before we continue on talking about this subject any longer, we need a definition. We need some kind of plumb line. Take your shot at defining what modest dress for women is all about.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: Well, first of all, the word "modesty" in a contemporary way has come to relate to only that which is sexually modest or immodest but actually the word, as it's used in the Scripture, is broader than that. It has to do with what's appropriate, what is respectable, what is not extreme but is balanced. So something in the Scriptural sense could be immodest just because it's ostentatious or it's outlandish or it's extreme. But when we talk about modesty in the sense that most of us hear that word today, I think we have to go back to why did God even make clothing?
When you go back to the first chapters of Genesis, there wasn’t clothing till there was sin. Then after sin came shame over our bodies, and God made for the man and woman clothing with a purpose, and that was to cover their bodies. And so the world says, "Uncover what God has covered," and that's where we run into trouble, I think.
That's what becomes immodest–when we are exposing parts of our body that God intended to be covered in a public setting, and so what is immodest for a woman walking down the street would not be immodest if she is at home in her bedroom with her husband. There, it becomes appropriate for her to uncover her body, because God has intended that the woman's private parts should be preserved, reserved for her husband where they should be enjoyed in the context of marriage but not for the rest of the world to touch and feel and be exposed to.
Nancy Stafford: I like Nancy's definition in that she didn't say that modesty is dressing appropriately, because, right now, obviously, we have watched an erosion and seen that the kids we're looking at now, from young kids now to women in their 30s–this is appropriate in their point of view, as you were saying before. In the culture, they're not dressing any differently than anybody else in the culture. So I like that definition of covering what God intended to be covered, rather than just talking to them from the pulpit about what is appropriate.
And I want to echo, too, that young men, especially in churches, and my husband, too, has talked to me many times about how it drives him crazy being in our church, and we are watching these 20-something gals come in. It is a huge distraction. A young man actually went to our pastor—a 20-something young guy—and begged our pastor, "Please talk to these girls about how they're dressing. I cannot worship."
It is sad that they are feeling like they don't have the courage to discuss this from the pulpit, and I don't know whether churches are trying to blend so much into the culture that they are so afraid to offend so they don't address it in fear of driving people away or why, but we really do need to get a clear definition for our girls.
Bob: Let me just say here, there may be some guys who do have some perverted thinking as they look at women and so anything would be considered immodest for them. Maybe they've fed their mind on pornography, I don't know what the issue is, but they're not normal and natural in their thinking.
Dennis: And the problem is with the man…
Bob: …it's with the guy…
Dennis: …not with the woman.
Bob: Right, but I've got to tell you that there are a lot of normal guys who are looking around and having a hard time, whether it's at church or whether it's in the culture. I don't know if women just don't realize that it's an issue …
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: I think a lot of women, Bob, don't realize how men are wired differently than the women are. So they say, "Why would a guy have a problem with that? Why would that be something that would be provocative? It doesn't do that to me. Why would it do it to him?"
And that's where, if we love our brothers in Christ, we need to hear and heed what it is that affects them in certain ways and not assume that they are necessarily perverted, it's just because they are stimulated by something that would not stimulate us, as women.
Bob: Can I just say then, as a guy—and I think I’m a fairly normal, average guy—you can affirm if I’m on the right track here. Okay?
Dennis: It’s mine to affirm whether you’re normal? Is that right?
Bob: I’m hoping for it.
Dennis: Okay, I’ve got the assignment.
Bob: I would just say that: Women need to understand that the way God has wired a man is that we are provoked by those things. That's a godly thing, and it's an appropriate thing in the right context, and it would be helpful if you, as my Christian sister, would not be provoking me, as your Christian brother.
Sharon Jaynes: Bob, I want to address something as you were so honest in sharing what would stimulate a man, I think that goes back to one of the questions you asked earlier in the broadcast–why are pastors not addressing this issue?
I think that many pastors don't want to stand up in front of a congregation admitting that they have problems; that they are having problems looking at some of the women in their congregation; that they are having problems when they walk through the mall and seeing Victoria's Secret, because they don't want to appear they are perverted. So in order to not appear that way and to appear that they are holy men who don't struggle with that, perhaps they are, indeed, themselves, just not addressing it. They are ignoring the issue.
Dennis: Okay, we have mentioned it enough on this broadcast. I want to throw the gauntlet down to any pastor who is listening. Sometime in the next six months, would you go to the Scriptures and would you preach a good, compassionate, balanced, realistic sermon on modesty? And, in that, appropriately put responsibility on men to control their thoughts and to walk in the power of the Holy Spirit but also talk to the moms and dads about not only how they dress but also how they allow their daughters to dress.
One of the biggest battles we faced–not every Sunday, but I'd have to say at least once a month–was how our daughters dressed to go to church. On more than one Sunday, I would have to say to a daughter, "You are not going to church dressed in that. I don't know where you got it. I don't know why it's in your wardrobe but you're not wearing that to church."
Nancy Stafford: Also, I want to say, too, that it's not always just an issue of the teenage girls that we're seeing. We are sexualizing young girls, and I went the other day to find a little gift for my five-year-old goddaughter, and I was shocked at the clothing. I could not find anything that was not midriff-baring or low hip-slung, and you mentioned the Abercrombie and Fitch thing–we all know the brouhaha that has caused, and they finally, fortunately, because of a lot of protest, scrapped that catalog.
But we're watching images of sexualization on MTV. We're being bombarded on all sides, so we have to start young. We can't start with girls when they are in high school. We need to start with our very young girls.
Bob: You've been in movies and on television–has wardrobe been an issue?
Nancy Stafford: Yes.
Bob: And have you had to draw a line?
Nancy Stafford: Yes.
Bob: Have you lost parts?
Nancy Stafford: No.
Nancy Stafford: No, if you're good about it–the same way with language. A few times, I've–you know, you're winsome about it, and you go to the director or you go to the costume designer and you say this–you say, "I have an idea. I've got this idea," and then you just change it. You exercise a lot more control, especially over a wardrobe and things. And just a little thing–we were talking about the kind of clothing we can dress our girls in or take them shopping certain places.
I saw a gal the other day that I thought this was a clever sort of way to get around some of the issues of little spaghetti straps and bare shoulders. She wore a t-shirt, a short-sleeved white t-shirt under a little tank dress that normally you'd see another girl out there wearing just the tank dress–a little flirty, a little flippy tank dress. She wore a white t-shirt underneath it, wore the tank dress she wanted to wear, and then wore some bicycle shorts under it. She looked adorable, and this was a 19-year-old gal.
Bob: Way to go.
Bob: Way to go for her.
Nancy Stafford: So I want to also challenge clothing manufacturers and stores and mothers how to shop for your daughters and find cool–the other extreme is this–we're not going to get anywhere if we don't somehow stay as part of the culture. The other extreme would be, “We’re going to put you in a gunny sack, and you’re going to look horrible.” So it’s good to be able to find creative ways that your kid can still be modest but yet they still look cool, and they're part of the gang.
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: And that says, too, that we need to be talking to these young women and their parents need to understand, it's not just a matter of the clothing they wear. We need to talk about the heartache and the heartbreak that is going to meet them down the road if they dress in a way that is going to attract the wrong kind of attention for the wrong kind of reasons.
I look at some of these gals in church in the youth groups, and I think, "Sweetheart, you don't know that three, four, five, six years from now, you are going to be pregnant out of wedlock or maybe, and your heart breaking and your parents' hearts breaking. You are going to take issues with you potentially into all of your life that you're not thinking about right now." But let's help them see what can be some of the outcome and the consequences and that those really can be avoided.
Dennis: They really can. You know, the issue of modest dress is ultimately a reflection of where your heart is and where your hope is and young ladies or, for that matter, women of any age who dress immodestly, are actually drawing attention to the body rather than to the person. And just a couple of questions would be appropriate in determining if clothing is modest or not.
Where does a relationship begin? A relationship begins in the face–face-to-face, eye-to-eye. Immodest clothing draws the eyes away from the face to other portions of the body. If you want to train your daughters to have a real relationship with a real guy who is looking for the real thing, a real woman …
Nancy Leigh DeMoss: …and something that will endure.
Dennis: Yes, a beauty that will become more beautiful with each passing year. We've been talking about that all this week. Then encourage your daughters to cultivate the inner beauty and to dress in such a way so that her face becomes the center of attention, the place where the relationship begins and is sustained.
Bob: And begin cultivating that in the heart of a young girl early. Don’t wait until she blossoms to start having that kind of conversation. I so appreciate what our friends over at VeggieTales have done with the new DVD that they have created called “Sweet Pea Beauty: A girl after God’s Heart” that tackles this whole subject of beauty, and tries t send young girls a more biblical view of, just exactly what we’ve been talking about this week.
In fact, we were talking to our friends over there, and we were telling them about what we’re trying to do this month—our goal of getting to know 2500 listeners who have been listening but, we’ve never met. Those of you who have been tuned in, but have never made contact with us, or never made a donation to help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today.
We asked these folks over at VeggieTales if we could give some of these DVDs to those of you who would call in or go online and make a first-time donation to the ministry of FamilyLife Today, and they agreed to help us out with that.
So, that’s what we’re hoping to do here today. We’re hoping that those of you who have been listening for a while, if you’ve benefitted from the ministry of FamilyLife Today, you’ve just never gone online or called us to help support the ministry, and never made a donation before; if you’ll make a donation today, either online at FamilyLifeToday.com, or calling 1-800 FL- TODAY, just identify yourself as a first-time donor to the ministry, we will send you a copy of “Sweet Pea Beauty” as our thank you gift for stepping forward.
We’re in kind of a challenging spot here as a ministry, and that’s one of the reasons we thought if we could maybe encourage those of you who are regular listeners who have never made a donation to join the team, and help support the ministry of FamilyLife Today, we wanted to at least let you know that we need you, and we need to hear from you.
So, again, if you can go to FamilyLifeToday.com, and click the button you’ll see on our website that says, “first-time donor,” you fill out the online donation form, and we’ll send you the “Sweet Pea Beauty” DVD as our thank you gift to you for supporting FamilyLife Today. Or simply call 1-800-358-6329, that’s 1-800-F-as-in-family, L-as-in-life, and then the word TODAY. Identify yourself as a first-time donor to FamilyLife, and we’ll be happy to send you the “Sweet Pea Beauty” DVD. We do appreciate your financial support.
In fact, we appreciate all of our listeners who help support the ministry. Those of you who have made donations in the past, and who continue to support the ministry on a regular basis, thanks so much for your encouragement, and for your support of what God is doing, through FamilyLife Today. We appreciate hearing from you and we’re glad to have you on the team.
Quickly, let me also mention that we have in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center, books that our guests today have written on the subject of beauty. Nancy Stafford has written a book called Beauty By the Book¸ Sharon Jaynes, has a book called Becoming Spiritually Beautiful, Nancy Leigh DeMoss has a booklet called A Biblical Portrait of Womanhood. All three are available in our FamilyLife Today Resource Center. You can find more information online at FamilyLifeToday.com.
Finally, there is link on our website FamilyLifeToday.com, to the True Woman ‘10 website. Nancy Leigh DeMoss, and the Revive Our Hearts team are hosting two conferences for women this fall. One in Indianapolis, in September, and then in Fort Worth in October. I’m going to be at the conferences along with a great lineup of speakers and workshops. You can get more information about these upcoming conferences for women, the True Woman ’10 conferences, when you click the link you find on our website at FamilyLifeToday.com. And we hope you’ll make plans to come out and join us for one of these two conferences.
Now, tomorrow we want to spend time talking about the author of beauty, the one who has an eye for beauty, who created a beautiful world, who is the sculptor of beauty. I hope you can join us for that conversation as we are back with our guests this week.
I want to thank our engineer today, Keith Lynch, and our entire broadcast production team. On behalf of our host, Dennis Rainey, I'm Bob Lepine. We'll see you back tomorrow for another edition of FamilyLife Today.
FamilyLife Today is a production of FamilyLife of Little Rock, Arkansas.
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