It was with interest this week I read a blog post on modesty. Perhaps you’ve seen it, FYI (if you’re a teenage girl) by a blogger named Mrs. Hall at Given Breath. The post has certainly been making the rounds. I popped onto Facebook (yeah, yeah, I know – *I* got onto Facebook) just to see what people were saying. Some were for, some against, and some in between. Myself? I didn’t like it. It bugged me, and it’s been hard to put my finger on exactly why it did. It provided a great opportunity to think, though!

On one hand, Mrs. Hall is really offering a great reminder to folks, that the world is an increasingly public place. Everything ends up on the web, the information will probably remain available for years to come, and it’s not smart to assume that a privately posted picture, comment, or anything else will remain private. It’s usually pretty easy to download, right click, screenshot, copy, paste, and repost it more publicly. Barring an apocalypse, your info *is* going to be out there for others to find. What do you want them to see? Do you think you’ll still feel that way in 10 or 15 years? Heck, how about next week?

It’s also probably a good thing to remind young ladies that some young men out there actually are reaching for purity, to maintain their own innocence and modesty.

But, man, something just didn’t sit right with me. One outstanding burr is the blocking policy. One “sexy selfie” posted, and the offender gets blocked. I know – parents want to protect their kids. Good parents want to keep them safe, and social media doesn’t necessarily offer a lot of parental control tools. But… what many do offer is some form of private messaging. Why not practice a little bit of Matthew 18:15-17? Verse 15 has what I’d consider to be the important part. It says this: “If your brother or sister[a] sins,[b] go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over.” Why not talk to them one on one, point out in a nonconfrontational manner that the photo might be a bad idea, affirm their innate worth, and give them a chance to make a different choice? Why not try to win them over? Then, if they are still posting questionable pictures, send ‘em a regretful explanation and block them. Without that outreach, blocking seems like a mini shunning from an exclusive club, and that can’t feel very good.

Another thing I thought about was how I wouldn’t want somebody talking to or treating my little sisters that way. By “that way,” I don’t mean Mrs. Hall or anything she wrote specifically. Modesty is a big deal in a lot of Christian circles. I mean I don’t want them feeling confused or ashamed or hurt or guilty because they were given the idea that they’re somehow wrong, bad, or responsible for some young man’s struggle with lust.

Here’s something else. This attitude that the female needs to dress more modestly (however modesty happens to be defined by that person) in order to protect males from their own lustful hearts – it stinks. To high heaven, it stinks. Practically speaking, I don’t think it works. All it does is set up scapegoats. Emotionally speaking? Now, I haven’t ran into trouble (that I know of) regarding my state of dress or undress. What I do have, though, is a background of childhood abuse, and this issue does push some of those buttons. Part of what I learned living in an abusive situation was to try to modify my own behavior to help change my father’s behavior. I learned that he was dangerous to provoke, and I learned to try to make sure I wasn’t provocative. It didn’t work all that well. I was never able to control my dad’s behavior by changing mine. That’s not my responsibility, and I’d say the same is true for modesty issues.

Furthermore, there’s an old story that reminds me a lot of the idea that women have a responsibility to protect men. I get the stumbling block argument, I really do. I’ve certainly heard it enough (and agree to a limited extent), but what I’ve not heard mentioned too frequently in modesty discussions is this other story. It should be. As far as I know, it’s the first recognition of nakedness in the whole Bible! I’m talking about Adam and Eve, of course. Maybe you know the story. If not, here’s a link to Genesis 3, and I’ll give you a summary.

Eve, encouraged by the crafty serpent, ignored God’s command and ate fruit from a forbidden tree. She also shared it with Adam. Upon consumption, they were suddenly aware and ashamed of their nakedness, made coverings, and hid. When they eventually, shamefacedly, appeared before God, He asked for an account. Look at Adam’s answer. He said, ““The woman you put here with me—she gave me some fruit from the tree, and I ate it.” God’s response, some few verses later? He said this:

“Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, ‘You must not eat from it,’

“Cursed is the ground because of you;

   through painful toil you will eat food from it

   all the days of your life.

18 It will produce thorns and thistles for you,

   and you will eat the plants of the field.

19 By the sweat of your brow

   you will eat your food

until you return to the ground,

   since from it you were taken;

for dust you are

   and to dust you will return.”

Boy, that doesn’t sound like fun, doesn’t it? I’d like to point out a couple of quick things. The first is what Adam said is still heard today, I think. It’s somewhat different. In the case of modesty, it might sound like, “That girl You put here with me – she put skimpily clad pictures of herself on Facebook, and I checked ‘em out!” The second, sobering observation? It didn’t seem to matter to God that Adam didn’t directly pick the fruit for himself but rather took what was offered by Eve.

Think about that, huh?

There’s one more thing I don’t quite understand about Christian modesty teachings and that inclination to expect females to protect males. Maybe I just missed it, but I don’t remember any place recorded where Jesus demanded that a woman cover herself in order to preserve His purity. Seemed to me that Jesus saw people as people (even if they were lousy Samaritans!) and modeled for us relationships filled with forgiveness, provision, grace, and love.

***Disclaimer: I’m not trying to pick on Mrs. Hall whatsoever. Her post and position, a position not uncommon in the circles in which I grew up, provided food for thought. I also am not a fan of females trying to tempt males. After munching on the forbidden fruit, Eve didn’t make out so well, either, ladies.***

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