Tag Archives: modesty

Good Girls and Bad Girls

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I have two girls.  With the exception of the toddler nudey phase, my girls are very modest.  I have never had to tell either of them to go back in the house and change their clothes to something that covers more skin.  Neither of them even wear shorts- but that’s a result of living in Latin American cities where NO ONE wears shorts except tourists and prostitutes.

This last week we hosted a team of Christian university students to work with our Costa Rican students.  While hanging out on the big campus close to our house, a couple of boys took pictures of themselves with a couple of cheerleaders who were practicing on the soccer field.  Of course there was good humor from both the boys and girls involved, nothing scandalous or truly inappropriate, just flirting.  The pictures went on Facebook.

cheerleaders

When my 6-year-old daughter saw the cheerleaders, she said, “Oh Mom, those are NOT good girls.”  I blinked and pondered how to answer her.  We don’t usually point out other people’s clothing or make judgements based on their appearance, so I wondered where my Kindergartener picked up the idea that those girls were bad girls.

I gently corrected her.  I said, “We don’t know what they are really like, but they are not dressed modestly.”

“What does Modestly mean?”  She asked.

I told her that a modest girl will cover her private parts- the ones covered by your swimsuit- and not show too much skin in other places too.  (In our Youth ministry we had a “Say NO to Crack” policy- no butt cracks and no cleavage.)  I thought it was pretty vague, and I was content with that.  However, she piped up with another question, “Are those girls showing their BOOBS?”  Well, almost but not quite.  I’m pretty sure I have a headband that is bigger than parts of their uniform.  I just chuckled at how black and white her little world is.

Those girls were finding their value in being sexual symbols– objects to satisfy the lusts of young men.  That is sad.  They don’t know their value.  They don’t know what they are worth to God.  My Kindergartener understands that…  Now I just have to work on her judgemental streak!

What NOT to wear

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One of my favorite “junk TV” shows is a catty little fashion show called “What NOT to wear”.  Basically the witty, yet snotty, hosts hijack some poor fashion disaster, trash her hideous wardrobe, and then take her on a shopping spree in New York City.  They give her shopping guidelines to follow based on her body type and her previous fashion faux pas.  I have often wished that someone would give me some fashion guidelines for dressing myself in another country.  It would make things a whole lot easier.

I stand in my closet and think, “Hmmm, What to wear, what to wear…” If I were in a country where the locals went naked, would I consider following the local trend? Probably not, but how “native” am I willing to go?  Sometimes that’s not a difficult adjustment to make and sometimes it’s super challenging.  For example, here in San Jose, Costa Rica a modest woman does not wear shorts in the city.  I wear pants, jeans, capris or longer skirts.  Now the locals can also wear super short skirts if they want to, but not shorts.  I personally get stared at enough as it is, being a white woman with blue eyes, so I prefer not to wear mini skirts and get too much of the wrong kind of attention.  It’s not a sacrifice; it’s my preference.  Actually it’s the jeans that cause me the most consternation.  When it’s hot, jeans feel like insanity!  Yet people wear them… and wear them tight!  UGH!  This American thinks that is crazy uncomfortable.

As a Christian we also have a tighter set of fashion standards that we have to think about too.  For example, I have a friend who grew up in Africa.  His parents were missionaries to a tribe of people who basically wear strings tied around their waists and nothing else.  In an early attempt to bring Christian modesty to the tribe, the missionaries imported a box of T-shirts and passed them out to everyone.  The people were thrilled!  However, the missionaries were less thrilled with the results.  The following week all the women showed up at church with circular holes strategically cut in their T-shirts to make nursing their babies a convenient activity while the pastor preached with a tomato-red blush on his white face.  Fail!

So the question remains for the conscientious missionary:  Are you going to “go native?”  Do you wear what the locals wear?  Or do you require that they convert to Western clothing when the convert to the Western Jesus?  If I am a woman in a Muslim country, do I veil?  What is Biblical and what is my culture and what is my responsibility to the people that I want to minister to?