Whatever Happened to Modesty?

I watched MTVs VMA awards last night. Some of my daughters’ friends are in the band Paramore, and they were nominated for an award. And—to be honest—I wanted to see how Britney Spears would do, since we are publishing her mom’s book next week.

A Women with a Veil - Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/hidesy, Image #886115

Photo courtesy of ©iStockphoto.com/hidesy

It’s been a while since I’ve seen MTV, but I was flabbergasted. I could not believe the sensuality and decadence I witnessed. Gail and I finally had to turn it off. We just couldn’t take it any more.

As I thought about my experience later, it made me sad. I am the father of five daughters. So perhaps I’m just a little overly sensitive. But I was shocked at the complete absence of modesty, the ridicule of virginity, and the latent misogyny displayed by Russell Brand and many of the artists themselves.

One of the few redeeming moments in the evening was when Jordin Sparks, referring to Brand’s contempt for chastity, said,

I just have one thing to say about promise rings: It’s not bad to wear a promise ring, because not everybody, guy or girl, wants to be a slut.”

Touché. It must have struck a nerve, because the next time Brand appeared, he apologized for his comments. Sort of.

Regardless, it got me to thinking, Where are these girls’ fathers? Has anyone ever taught them the concept of modesty? Or have all the men in their lives simply exploited them as sex objects

Don’t get me wrong; I’m not a prude. But I do think some basic guidelines are in order. These are not rules about skirt length or the amount of cleavage you can show. I’m just not a very good legalist; they are simply guidelines.

I gave these to my girls when they were growing up. Frankly, they haven’t been perfect in following them. Modern culture exerts a powerful influence. Nevertheless, I wanted them to have something that would transcend current fashion and guide their attire once they were older and, perhaps, a little wiser.

Here they are: “Four Guidelines for Modesty”:

  1. If you have trouble getting into it or out of it, it is probably not modest.
  2. If you have to be careful when you sit down or bend over, it is probably not modest.
  3. If people look at any part of your body before looking at your face, it is probably not modest.
  4. If you can see your most private body parts or an outline of those parts under the fabric, it is probably not modest.

If you think these guidelines are helpful, you might want to pass them along to the young women you know. Evidently, not many are getting the message elsewhere.

Question: What advice would you give young men or women? You can leave a comment by clicking here.
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  • Angela Bickford

    Great message! I agree wholeheartedly, but you might not think that if you read my latest post. I wrote about self-image and how you should love your body no matter the state it’s in. It was a bit of a risque post because of the images I used, but I thought, prayed, etc. before I posted it and felt the message was bigger than my fear. I knew I would possibly lose some of my Christian audience, but I also knew that I had something that couldn’t go left unsaid. It’s a very fine line…

  • jesse

    I don’t watch MTV or any of the awards show because they have no decency at all. All these modern day singers want to do is grab themselves when they sing. Personally I think it’s disgusting. Then they wonder what’s wrong with our youth.

  • tmg

    I agree, just one thing..It’s not fair to women who have breasts, they get stared at, in a sweater, in a tank top, in a puffy coat..unavoidable. I wore huge sweaters when I was young and it didn’t stop someone who wanted to look, trust me I tried.

  • Irene Belyeu

    Immodest dressing creates lust. 1John 2:15-16: “Love not the world, neither the things that are in the world. If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world.”
    Lust ultimately brings death. James 1:14-15: “But every man is tempted when he is drawn away of his own lust and enticed. Then when lust hath conceived it bringeth forth sin: and sin, when it is finished bringeth forth death.”

  • http://www.jackiebledsoe.com/ jbledsoejr

    Great stuff here Michael!! Thanks for sharing. I have not been able to pull my thoughts together after watching the YouTube clips of it…I’m embarrassed, amazed, and saddened all at the same time. But this is the culture, the society, are kids are growing up in today. I loved when you said, “Where are these girls’ fathers?” I can’t imagine…

  • http://moyomamora.com/ M.Mamora | Discovering Purpose

    Great to see fathers who stand up for truth as unpopular as it may be!

  • http://shops.half.ebay.com/booknookatl_W0QQ Book Nook Atlanta

    WOW! STUNNING! Thank you for sharing your heart, Mike! As I shared this with my facebook readers, I made it clear to say that I’d be heartbroken if this message wasn’t shared and went viral! EVERYONE NEEDS TO READ THIS!

  • Aileen Rodriguez Price

    I love the guidelines, Michael. They’re simple and on point. Another guideline my mother gave me was: “Just because it’s a style, it doesn’t mean it’s a style for you.” I was raised very old-school, and it shocks me when people don’t seem to understand they can look stylish and attractive while being modest.

  • Judi G. Reid

    Modesty helps to generate respect & dignity as criteria for the value of women. Launching in Oklahoma City in October is a project, She’s Somebody’s Daughter. Wouldn’t that concept change the thinking and behaviors of many who see only flesh? http://www.somebodysdaughter.org (soon to be shessomebodysdaughter.org) Thank you Michael, women and fathers who supported this post.

  • raisingrealmen

    Good post! It’s a shame that stuff isn’t obvious anymore. Here’s our take on it: there’s something behind it we all need to understand, especially parents. http://www.raisingrealmen.com/2013/08/miley-cyrus-mtv-and-why-it-matters-to-christian-families/

  • Cathy Hamilton

    I love this. But, It’s not just dressing modestly, it’s more important to behave modestly. They go hand in hand. I have 3 daughters and a son. I think I’m most concerned for my son because girls are very very aggressive in their behavior towards him. He’s only 15 but he has girls from 13-25ish getting way too close and saying inappropriate things. How’s he supposed to contend with that? And he spends most of his time in church and christian school related activities. So parents, please talk to your girls about their behavior as well as whether wearing a bikini or tank top is okay and how high a hemline should be. And talk to your sons about how to keep the girls at arms’ length. Something we’re still trying to figure out.

  • http://www.5toolgroup.com/ Jay Oza

    This was nothing but great marketing and it always works. Marketers don’t think of modesty as long as there is no penalty for being immodest. Just look at Kim Kardashian and many others. It is hard to get people’s attention today, and Myley Cyrus got lots of attention with her twerking (didn’t know what this meant till this week). I don’t think she cares that few parents are offended. This is the new norm now.

  • Heather

    If it’s something you wouldn’t want you grandparents to know, see, or hear, it’s probably best not to do it.

  • Lori Cray

    Love the guidelines. I have 5 girls also and 1 boy. Not only do I want my girls to be modest. I want other girls to be so that my son isn’t put in bad situations.

  • Vanessa Sundin

    first, i want to say that i was raised as a christian and still identify as christian, though i have significant issues with the church.

    i find this article, while likely well intentioned, very sexist. why is it
    always the girl’s/woman’s responsibility or fault if/when another person finds
    her attractive? what
    about expectations for boys/men generally?

    i’m so sick of christian denominations making the female form
    out to be a sinful thing or at least something about which girls/women
    should be afraid of embarrassed. how do you expect your children to
    have reasonable, healthy relationships to their bodies and sexuality?
    i’m not condoning kids dressing revealingly, but there’s a level at
    which the criticism and rules for girls/women becomes a shaming ritual
    and/or tool for oppression.

    furthermore, men are rarely, if ever criticized, for their form or presentation, other than for sloppiness, in christian denominations. i suppose this is to be expected, though, as men also rarely, if ever, bear any responsibility or accountability for anything under the dogma that many christian denominations espouse. instead, men largely are treated as kings of the kingdom and are given free reign. i think it’s about time that we start treating the sexes equally and began talking openly about sex and the human form.

    as a side note, i have no comment as to the vma’s other than i generally find them pretty despicable. i do actually like russell brand though. i find him to be funny, intelligent, and sometimes insightful, though he often presents his opinions in controversial/shocking ways.

  • Kennedy

    These arguments of modesty may be fighting against the objectifying and sexualizing stigma of women by our culture, but they perpetuate the idea that a woman’s body is shameful and needs to be hidden. It achieves the opposite purpose, by objectifying her. Rather than make a woman into a sex object to be put on display, these arguments say she needs to hide her natural curves. Sexual attraction is biological and natural. Lusting, however, is very wrong. Turning a woman into an object in your mind is terrible and inhumane, degrading them to something less than they are. And if a man sees a woman wearing something that might fit to her curves more than it would on a skinnier woman, it does not mean that he is lusting. Lust is his choice.
    In addition, this kind of thinking promotes the idea that women are responsible for men’s behavior. It follows the same kind of logic as the “you should cover up more because it distracts the boys.” Why do girls get in trouble when boys look at them inappropriately? Why are girls held accountable for men’s wandering thoughts, a domain over which we have no control? A man could have a foot fetish. Does this mean woman should not ever wear flip flops or sandals simply to protect the potential man out there who might fantasize about her feet? No. It is not her job. It is not women’s responsibility to protect men’s “innocent eyes.”

  • tessa

    Well said. I applaud you for speaking up and couldn’t agree more. As a young women I’m appalled at the sexualization and exploitation of young girls today and the simple fact that no one seems to notice or care. When will we start to realize and teach these girls they are far too valuable to simply give themselves away.. in the way they dress and the actions/decisions they make.

    For all the reasons you’ve mentioned I’ve started Five Ten Girls (http://510girls.com) in hopes to empower and educate these girls in the truths that lie hidden and go unspoken with the cultural “norms”. I loved your guidelines and will be sharing these with my audience as well! Thank you again for speaking up!

  • http://learningfromsophie.com/ Laura Anne

    Why is this only directed at girls? The amount of guys who have their jeans hanging past their boxer shorts or wearing tight fitting shirts to show off their muscles…how is that any more acceptable?

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Because the entire premise of the article was my experience as a father. Since I only have girls, that’s all I know. Thanks.

  • lnwalker

    Bravo!! Thanks!

  • Russel Polk

    When I watched TV with my girls or saw girls pulling their skirts down or their blouses up, I always pointed it out and told them, “If you are feeling the need to pull your skirt down or your blouse up, your conscience is telling you it is not modest.”

  • ORA Executive Coach

    I’m wondering if you have parallel guidelines for sons.

    • http://michaelhyatt.com/ Michael Hyatt

      Im afraid I don’t. I have five daughters but no sons.

  • Chaya

    Well said. Growing up, when we would dress up for special occasions or even when we would spend time making our hair or simply being girly, my mom would kindly say, ”it’s the beauty inside that counts most”. It was a simple phrase but it went a long way. We were taught that any part of the body that is used to be intimate with a loved one, should be covered otherwise we are giving our intimacy freely to strangers. My relationships are so real and healthy because, I know that guys won’t hit on me for the body I am flaunting openly; rather it’s a relationship that grows from the inside out. And when the roots are strong, the branches are free. Thanks again for your insight.

  • mellella

    Hey i’m a 20 year old girl who totally gets where you’re coming from! That’s why I started a modest fashion blog…to inspire women and girls that they can be fashionable AND show a respect for themselves and their bodies at the same time. Check it out at Facebook.com/MissMellalina

  • J. Plo

    Good article.

    I think your guidelines are good but could be added to. In my experience, regardless of what you’re wearing, if someone wants to check you out, they’re going to, baggy sweatpants and all. We are wired to acknowledge beauty, no matter how blanketed or uncovered it is.

    What matters is your heart motivation behind wearing what you are wearing and the manner in which we present ourselves as people worthy of love and respect.

  • Mark

    I wonder if maybe the reason so many people in the entertainment industry disregard God because of those violent nuns and molesting priests in the Church, among other atrocities. Sorry to bring that up, but the Church is once again in the news for the wrong reasons and as a result, I am in a bad mood. No really, I believe the Church has done just as much harm as MTV.

  • Anna Marion Howell

    Or, as my dad would say, “If I can see up it, down it, or through it, you’re not wearing it!”