In 1921, you could be a career modesty policeman. “…Louise Rosine, a writer from California, was arrested in Atlantic City for showing her bare knees on a public beach.” This job still exists in Iran.
I remember attending a youth camp a few years back. Some of the girls complained about the one-piece bathing suit rule. Most of them didn’t own one. “Why do we have to wear a one-piece?” one girl complained. “Guys can walk around shirtless all day. They aren’t the only ones who get tempted!”
Perhaps we should rethink modesty for men. New research indicates women may be just as visual as men. 30% of porn users are women. A few days ago, my wife had me take down some shirtless pictures from my Instagram. While I just wanted to show off the hard work I’d done for the summer, she thought some of them weren’t classy.
Since last week, we’ve been discussing truly seeing women. Do You Truly See Her? talks bout finding the beauty within her, and that beauty is more encompassing than attractiveness. Seeing Women as More Than Objects centers around sexual objectification and how men should consider the humanity in her (and everyone).
Today, we finish the series by discussing modesty and a guy’s responsibility for his gaze. While modesty might conjure up images of women dressed as pilgrims for some, the term has more to do with pride.
Modesty: the quality of being modest; freedom from vanity, boastfulness, etc.
Many might point to biblical references when it comes to modesty. But, modesty might not necessarily refer to covering up as mentioned in 1 Timothy 2:9-10 from the New Testament:
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God.
As Rachel Held Evans points out, “the Greek word translated “modesty” here is kosmios. Derived from kosmos (the universe), it signifies orderliness, self-control and appropriateness. It appears only twice in the New Testament, and interestingly, its second usage refers specifically to men (1 Timothy 3:2). In fact, nearly all of the Bible’s instructions regarding modest clothing refer not to sexuality, but rather materialism (Isaiah 3:16-23, 1 Timothy 2:9-12, 1 Peter 3:3).”
The context of modesty is these verses points more to the flaunting dictionary definition than to keeping the hormones of men in check. A man’s wandering eye issue is never blamed on a woman. Jesus himself placed full accountability on the man when he stated, “…anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28).
So, what’s a man who’s easily tempted to do? Last night, during our online group, some of the guys made these suggestions.
Pray for long, cold winters
Sometimes your thoughts are uncontrollable. Accept it. Sometimes, the best you can do is say, “I can’t do this on my own.” And that’s okay. In AA, admitting you are powerless is the first step to recovery.
Train your eyes
Use the bounce technique. If you encounter a partially dressed girl you know is going to kick your hormones into overdrive, train your eyes to look away. When your eyes begin to stare, bounce your gaze to the other direction, and don’t look back. One guy from our online group mentioned he doesn’t wear his glasses to the gym so he can stay focused on his workouts.
Avoid certain situations or mentally prepare
Know your triggers. If certain environments make it tougher to control your thoughts, avoid them. Maybe it’s taking a break from going to bars, clubs, or the pool. However, you can’t live in a bubble. Some situations are unavoidable. Setting up some boundaries for yourself before you enter these settings will help you avoid future shame.
Break the habit
Maybe you just need some extra help. Talk to your friends or mentors and ask them to keep you accountable. If a friend notices you gawking, give him the freedom to call you out.
While a guy does have to take responsibility for his own thoughts and actions, we could always use a little help from our female counterparts. Modest dress doesn’t have to be viewed as restrictive or controlling. As writer Peter Chin points out, it can also be empowering:
modest dress is something we consciously do for others, not because we are forced to, but because we want to; not because we are weaker than others, but because we are stronger; not out of our hatred for ourselves, but our love for another.
Modesty is best understood not as a compulsory act motivated by hate or blame, but a conscious decision based on strength and love.