I love things that are outward expressions of inward commitment. Not because I like showing off my “righteousness” or because I want to judge others by their outward expressions, but because I love seeing how the my outward expression of something changes naturally when my inward commitment to the principle does. Something that seems difficult or annoying when I only focus on the outside happens easily when the inward commitment is solidified. Modesty is a great example of that principle.
Members of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints have a high standard given to us for our outward appearance. (Click here to read more about what they are.) Dressing modestly also means wearing the appropriate outfit for the appropriate activity. Meaning if you’re running the St. George marathon in bazillion degree heat you wear different clothing than you would if you’re sitting in church. However, without the inward commitment to the principle it is easy to follow the “neckline up to here and shorts down to here” parts of it and still be immodest. Modesty is so much more than about what parts of your body are covered or what types of clothing you wear.
“When we truly know we are children of God, when we have an understanding of our divine nature, it will be reflected in our countenance, our appearance, and our actions.”
(A Return to Virtue, Elaine S. Dalton, p. 34)
If modesty is truly an outward expression of an inward commitment, what is it that keeps us from being modest? Pride.
“The central feature of pride is enmity – enmity toward God and enmity toward our fellowmen. Enmity means ‘hatred toward, hostility to, or a state of opposition.’ It is the power by which Satan wishes to reign over us. . . . Our will in competition to God’s will allows desires, appetites, and passions to go unbridled. The proud cannot accept the authority of God giving direction in their lives. They pit their perceptions of truth against God’s great knowledge, their abilities versus God’s priesthood power, their accomplishments against His mighty works. . . The proud wish God would agree with them. They aren’t interested in changing their opinions to agree with God’s.”
(Beware of Pride, Ezra Taft Benson, Ensign, May 1989)
When we dress immodestly you are essentially telling God that your desire to look a certain way is more important than He is. We are telling him that we know what is best for ourselves and as a result we are telling Heavenly Father that we don’t really want his input.
I know some of you are thinking right now, wait, isn’t that a little harsh? It’s not that big a deal as you’re making it out to be Am-dawg! (Okay, no one actually calls me that. It’s the nickname I have for myself.)
If you’re just looking at the outward appearance maybe it’s not that big a deal (although I would still argue that it is), but while “man looketh on the outward appearance, but the Lord looketh on the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).
You may be thinking, well, that’s easy for you to say! You’re old, you have forgotten what high school is like!
True, it’s been awhile since I was in high school, and I can admit that I didn’t always make the best choices regarding modesty while I was in high school, and before high school, and sometimes after high school. But “the proud love ‘the praise of men more than the praise of God.’ (John 12:42-43) Our motives for the things we do are where the sin is manifest. . . When pride has a hold on our hearts, we lose our independence of the world.” (Benson, Beware of Pride)
It may be important to note here that it is also possible to be prideful about dressing modestly. Remember that the Lord works in balance. Don’t let your dislike of immodesty lead you to believe that being excessively modest is the answer. Pride can be found in either direction!
Are you starting to see why pride is such a struggle in my life? Modesty is a great example of an area where we can be prideful, but when I read these words from President Benson so many different things pop up as things I need to fix! I see it in the fact that I’m a procrastinator, I when I have a hard time sitting through a lesson or a talk, I see it in the way I choose to spend my money, I see it in my manner of talking, in my relationships with others, and on, and on, and on. Even my own pride works against me in recognizing the ways I’m prideful because “The proud do not receive council or correction easily. Defensiveness is used by them to justify and rationalize their frailties and failures.” (Benson, Beware of Pride)
Back to modesty – it’s true that if you dress modestly you may look a little different from those around you. But guess what, that’s not a bad thing. Yeah, it takes courage to be different, and maybe you don’t feel you have that courage yet, but “If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgement more than men’s we will have self-esteem!” (Benson, Beware of Pride.)
Don’t you just love that statement? If I had any skills whatsoever I would totally make a little subway art thingie or a pretty one of those things the kids are calling “the memes” of that quote. But I lack those skills, so let’s highlight it again in the fanciest way I can:
If we love God, do His will, and fear His judgement more than men’s,
we WILL have self-esteem!
How does that work? When we have the inward commitment and when we are confidant we are doing God’s will for us we have his power to back us up. There is nothing better than having divine power added to everything you do. Can you have divine power back you up in dressing modestly? YES!!! Guess what, with that confidence it doesn’t matter what you wear because the light of Christ in your continuance will shine so brightly that people will find you attractive.
Don’t you love love inward expressions and outward commitments? Sometimes the outward commitment doesn’t makes sense to me until I understand the inward reasons why. Dressing immodestly can be tough, and I’ve fallen to temptations at times, but when I understand the inward commitment, and how yucky the pride is that is keeping me from doing it, dressing modestly becomes less important to me than weeding out the pride in my heart!