A Brief Note About Modesty

As a footnote to my last post about the “Me Too” movement (see below), I want to say something about modesty.

Modesty, according to the dictionary, is about measure and moderation. It is a virtue for all of us, men and women equally. These days it mostly refers both to dress and behavior, and typically refers to women’s dress and behavior.

I will leave discussion of women’s modesty to women, perhaps especially to mothers and daughters. I will add only one note from my male perspective. I have come to suspect that many women are somewhat naïve about the effect of their fashions on men. Other women, of course, are quite conscious about that effect and quite deliberate in dressing and acting to manipulate it.

As to modesty for men, I also urge women to speak out. Men mostly are aware of immodesty in their behavior, but need constant reminders. Hopefully this might be one of the ripple effects of the “Me Too” movement. Regarding men’s clothing, I had not thought much about modesty until one day on campus, after I’d complained about the parade of tight fitting shirts and low-cut blouses on female students, a young woman caught me up with comments about similar clothing on many young men.

Yet my primary point in this writing is to recall the idea of “modesty of the eyes.”  It’s a term I first heard during seminary training so many years ago – Catholic seminary training for young men committed to lives of celibacy. The term was new, but not the idea. Anyone, perhaps men especially but also women, who wishes to have a sane sexual life needs to be measured and moderate, even carefully cautious in what they look at, the sights and images that catch and hold their eyes.

If you continue to look with lust (whether at a human body or a bottle of whiskey) you’re already in trouble.

As a life-long admirer of women’s beauty, I would only add that immodest dress is almost always a distraction from real beauty — a fashion-mandated and often desperate call for attention.

That’s it. Nothing new; all obvious. Just my brief contribution to the recovery of an ancient but perennial virtue. Modesty in dress and behavior is not a particularly Christian or religious thing. Just a form of sanity and beauty, measure and moderation.

It remains true, of course, that a there is always also a moderate need for occasionally immoderate excess.

3 thoughts on “A Brief Note About Modesty

  1. I liked what you said about being careful about the sights and images that catch and hold ones eyes. Some years ago, I’d go to the beach and see the many women in bikinis. They caught and held my eyes. I would dwell on them. I would fantasize about them. Eventually I realized that dwelling on them caused me to be frustrated. So I eventually stopped dwelling on them and found my beach experience to be more refreshing and relaxed.


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