Conversations in Modesty: Man Asks, Woman Responds…Take Two

This is the second installment of a five-part series on modesty. Check back each day to read the latest.

In our last conversation on modesty, the woman responded negatively to the Christian man’s request that she dress modesty, whether for his own sake or as an organizer of an event. She felt objectified, angered at the implication that she is for man’s consumption, or angered to be judged only in relation to him, as if her motivations centered on caring about what he thinks.

How could the conversation go differently?

Man Asks, Woman Responds, take two

He acknowledges her standpoint.

  • You are beautiful, regardless of the style in which you dress.

He explains his weakness.

  • The media bombards us with images of women sexualized and objectified. Growing up, I was taught…
  • Now, I realize…
  • This is my struggle, this is my problem, I should never have begun this horrible way of thinking because you do not deserve to be objectified in any person’s mind or action.

He asks, humbly, for help.

  • I’m trying to grow. I’m trying to treat every person I encounter with dignity and respect, especially women. I was taught the opposite growing up and am committed to overcoming it.
  • I’m asking, as your brother in Christ, to help me.

I’m not trying to make a villain of the man, but if Christian men want to ask women to help him, it would be better that he seek a way to do it in the most effective way possible. It will not help to tell the woman she is sinning, perhaps sinning mortally by leading him to sin. It will not help tell her that she is the temptation. To say that she is the temptation or temptress implies an act of the will on her part, at least it may seem so to her.

Before the Wedding – Firs Sergeevich Zhuravlev 1874

Thus the reason for acknowledging her dignity and her existence separate from man first in the conversation.

If he is asking for his own sake, perhaps a boyfriend to a girlfriend, he does not need to spell out everything about the sexual psychology of man. But a little information will help motivate the woman, keeping the blame squarely on the one who’s asking. If he wants to attack her for her sin, he’d be a fool to then turn around and ask her to help him.

If he is asking for the sake of the virtue of others, a youth minister to a group, then again, a little information can go a long way. This won’t be appropriate in every setting, for example, a conductor stating the dress code to the orchestra. In either type of setting, time should be taken to apply the concept of modesty to both sexes.

And then, how might a woman respond? If she responds positively, it may be that she sees the value in helping her brother, working as a team to help each other get to Heaven. She may think the effort it will take her to dress a little different worth the impact. She may like the idea that men who desire to lust will pay less attention to her, but men who seek virtue will be more interested in her as a person.

These are some ways she may respond to a more carefully crafted request on the part of the Christian man to the woman.

Nevertheless, she may still respond negatively. In this instance, the man should continue what he should have been doing all along. Praying for her, striving to see her in her complete personhood (which can be helped by praying for her), praying for help for himself to overcome sin.

What about conversations among women? These could take place in a youth group, in a family, in some situations in the work place. How might these look? Next time we’ll discuss approaching the conversation of modesty in a more general setting.

Comments are welcome!


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