by Emily Conrad
It’s no secret sex sells. The magnetism of all that’s sexy is why magazines create swimsuit editions and our malls feature life-sized images of underwear-clad women arcing their backs in luxurious beds. It’s why string bikinis come in dozens of colors but scoring a cute one-piece takes a day of hunting. It’s why dressing a certain way gets us a certain amount of attention and behaving a certain way keeps that attention a little longer.
When beauty is so often portrayed as sexy and when sexy is so often considered beautiful, the two very different traits become easily confused as being one in the same. Sure, in some ways, we know that beauty is about smiling and loving God and putting others first. But on another level, don’t we also crave the attention that comes from the other kind of beauty? The sexy kind?
In a culture that is literally buying the lie that sexy=beautiful, choosing modesty is inconvenient, time-consuming, and puts us out of step with our friends. Should we even bother?
Absolutely. Here’s why:
Our girls need us to. Their young eyes are watching us. If we dress a certain way, why shouldn’t they? If they watch us go to unhealthy extremes to obtain the ultimate sexy body, they’ll want to, too. And as they get older, unless we can set an example that separates sexy from beautiful, what’s to stop our girls from rushing into physical relationships with the boys they date?
Our boys need us to. If we don’t live like there’s more to a woman than how she looks, why should they? The world needs more men who treat women (and their bodies) with real love and respect. There’s a reason childhood is called the formative years. Early experiences shape a person’s thinking. Proverbs 22:6 applies to both boys and girls: Train up a child in the way he should go; even when he is old he will not depart from it. (ESV)
Our men need us to. There are single fathers taking their daughters to the mall, men who worry about what their daughters see exemplified there. And some men would rather not be bombarded with unnecessary displays of skin for the sake of their own thought lives.
We need to for ourselves. Sexy beauty is based on fleeting physical appearances. Even if we stay in great shape or have plastic surgery, the sexy-beautiful window is small. Aging becomes a big disappointment, and the battle against it could bankrupt us—financially and emotionally. Also, if we pair modesty with true beauty, we’re more likely to attract the right kind of guy—one more likely to have staying power, who appreciates us for more than our looks.
So, how can you support true beauty in a culture that prizes sexy beauty?
- Talk to the girls in your sphere of influence. Help them find clothes that meet the trends while still being age-appropriate.
- Compliment true beauty when you see it, whether just to remind yourself or to point a girl or a friend in the right direction.
- Be careful that your actions and words put the emphasis on true beauty rather than surface beauty, especially in front of children—and children are most everywhere.
- Choose clothes that reflect who you are and how you want others to think of you.
- Be appropriately sensitive to those you’ll come across. No, we can’t be responsible for the thoughts others have, but Romans 14:13 does tell us not to put stumbling blocks in front of each other. There’s lots of debate about what this means in terms of modesty. What you decide is between you and the Holy Spirit. It’s easy to stray from that and make the decision between ourselves and fashion or ourselves and our friends, but bring it back again to you and the Holy Spirit.
- Take a look at where and how you shop. Also between you and God, consider if the culture of the business promotes an appropriate level of modesty. Can you be modest while shopping there? Are there alternatives that might be more in line with your beliefs?
- Meditate on 1 Peter 3:4, which says, but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. (ESV)
- Examine your motives. Why did you choose that outfit? What kind of attention do you hope to attract? Are those motives something you’re willing to publicly stand by? Because your clothes—those are public.
- Remind yourself of your best true beauty features. When we don’t feel good about who we are, we start trying to bolster our confidence using the wisdom of the world. We treat our insecurity by attracting a few interested glances with a low-cut blouse or a tight skirt when what God says is truly valuable is in “the hidden person of the heart.” You were created by God, and he sent his Son to die for you. You are valuable. It doesn’t get more beautiful than that.
In some ways, it seems modesty is a dying art, but when we believe in our own true beauty and value, we don’t have to flaunt everything we’ve got. Instead, we can save that for appropriate places, times, and relationships, and we can devote our energy to celebrating true beauty.
What is one thing you wish a woman you’d looked up to had told you about beauty when you were young?
PS- This post is part of the 12-week series Beauty Rewrites featuring Christina Hubbard of Creative and Free, Ludavia Harvey of Nifty Betty, and myself. Join us on Tuesdays to get on good terms with the real you. For all the Beauty Rewrites posts, click here!