The common phrase is “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”
This means that beauty is not objective. It is subjective.
One person may gaze upon a piece of art entranced by its beauty. And another blithely walks by (I just used the word blithely).
Objective beauty requires a criterion of beauty to exist outside and beyond personal taste and opinion. Such criterion doesn’t exist (unless you play your God trump card).
Beauty is subjective. It’s based on personal feeling and opinion. One person’s eye is drawn toward while another’s turns away.
Does the principle hold true in regard to modesty? Is modesty in the eye of the beholder?
I don’t ask simply for sake of conjecture. I think there are critical implications to our answer.
We set the culture for the next generation. How we think and converse about such things is illustrative. We need to process afresh God’s teaching as it relates to culture right here and now.
A few weeks ago, several friends shared on social media a post on leggings. It struck a nerve beyond what the author expected (hint: to strike a nerve, simply go online and say something controversial in a declarative and universal fashion). She had to attach an extra note exclaiming, “who knew that leggings were such a hot-button topic! I’m the last person who wants to defend or debate them. No thanks! (That means no more comments will be posted).”
To summarize, the author states this certain type of clothing should be worn like this, not that.
She established an objective standard based on her subjective opinion. Debate ensued.
Now the Bible does esteem modesty (1 Tim. 2:9, 1 Peter 3:3). The version of modesty presented in the Word includes not dressing provocatively. But that’s just one piece (that’s punny!) of the definition.
Additionally, the Bible speaks against extravagance and vanity. To dress modestly, beyond just sexual considerations, should include a desire to avoid flaunting wealth or ourselves.
One could argue that past definitions and rubrics of modesty have been far too limited. Skirt lengths are this. Shirts of that are forbidden. This is okay. That is not! And don’t even think of wearing leggings unless they are accompanied by that.
Yet, even in our Bibles, we don’t have an objective criterion. “Dress modestly, with decency and propriety.” Decency and propriety are subjective terms. What is decent and proper changes. It changes over time and from place to place.
Just try walking into your public library in your swimsuit. They told me to put a shirt on. The nerve of that librarian!
What is proper is not an objective standard. Propriety changes. What is decent depends.
As we discuss, I think it’s important to consider what may lie behind these biblical qualifiers (modesty, propriety, decency). For me, I see deference (respect, honor, etc.) for God and others. It’s out of a desire to honor, not please or piss off, God and others that we choose what to wear, and when to wear it, and where to wear it, and how to wear it.
For me, examining the heart in regard to this topic is a much harder, yet more compelling, conversation than, “should I wear this?” A better question might be, “Why am I choosing to wear this?”
Of course, this gets much harder within institutions who feel compelled to utilize dress codes. That’s another conversation for another day!
You must have opinions on this topic. I’d love to hear them. Feel free to discuss whatever is on your mind, even if it’s not immediately addressed herein.
Readers of this blog tend to be believers that want to help one another have conversations about Christ that intersect with real life (rather than just stir up controversy!).
So what do you think?