Sunday, June 11, 2017

My Interview With Thriving In the Trenches, and Why Modesty Means So Much to Me

As the mother of three little boys and four young men, summertime is always a busy, yet very exciting season for our family.  For me, personally, it's shuttling kids to baseball games, sports camps, running meals out to my hungry crew working in the field, and doubling down on purity talks with the oldest in our gang.

You read that right.

I have come to dread the fashion so typical of summer - short shorts, barely-there swim suits, high hemlines, etc., etc.  I dread it because everywhere we go, I mean everywhere, including church (which saddens me greatly), I see my boys constantly having to avert their eyes.  I sense their discomfort in the presence of any lady immodestly dressed, and my heart aches for them -  for them, and for the girl.

I never gave much thought to the importance of modesty and fashion until I became a mom and came to understand, with great intensity, the importance of my duty to raise our sons in the way of purity and virtue.

Modest dress wasn't really a topic my parents had to discuss with me as a young person. Knee length shorts, flannels, and waist-high jeans were what everyone wore back in the day (virtual fist bump to all my 90's homies out there!).  My mom and dad had more reason to be concerned about my choice of music and the obscene amount of hairspray I went through on a weekly basis, than they did about my choice of clothing. If you saw my bangs back then, you would understand.

So, when I was asked by Becky Carter and Megan Schrieber, the hosts and founders of the incredible podcast series, Thriving in the Trenches, if I would be willing to dialogue with them on the topic of modesty, I was both excited and hesitant.

Excited, because I truly enjoy writing and conversing with others on the topics relating to authentic masculinity and femininity, and how God has created us as men and women to be true expressions of his love and beauty in this world.

Hesitant, because I don't ever want my passions for, and expressions of the truth, to communicate a lack of sensitivity toward those who may not know that their choice of dress has a such strong impact upon the opposite sex.

Although the topic of modesty can cover a variety of facets, a few of which include modesty in speech and affection, I knew that Becky and Megan were hoping to dive into the arena of fashion, which can sometimes be a hefty topic, especially amongst mothers.

If you know me, you might be wondering why a mother with seven sons would even care to begin a dialog on modesty.  The reason why I care is the very reason why I accepted Becky and Megan's invitation.  I care about modesty, because I care about my sons.  I care about their friends.  I care about the girls whom they may one day have the privilege of dating and possibly even marrying.

I care about your girls.  I care about you.  I care about us.

I've written about modesty before, but as our sons are growing well into their teen and late-teen years, I'm becoming even more passionate about the topic.  If you're thinking I can't possibly understand how terribly difficult and frustrating it is to find modest, yet fashionable clothing for a daughter since I don't have one of my own, you are right!

I cannot fully understand, but, I can empathize!

The other day I popped into a local boutique in search of a dress for my son's 8th grade graduation. To my great disappointment,  I sifted through nearly a dozen racks before finding something that was longer than the tan line from my running shorts.  Every option prior to the one I found left me wondering, is this a shirt or a dress??

Ladies, if the answer to hat question is, it's a dress, keep shopping.

I've conversed with so many mothers over the years whose shopping expeditions with their daughters require an adequate supply of chocolate, wine, and Hail Mary's.  The struggle is more than real.

But I need you to keep struggling.

Please. Keep working, keep dealing with the eye-rolls and heavy sighs, the piles of ill-fitting garments on the dressing room floor, the non-stop marathon trek from store to store to store.

Why do I ask this of you? Because, in order for the boys in this world to become the kind of men your daughters need and deserve (not just in marriage, but in friendship, in work relationships, and in general every-day encounters), they need your help.

I need your help.

My husband and I take very seriously the physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual formation of our sons.  Every day involves some kind of conversation with regards to the greatness - yes, the greatness of their calling as men to honor and uphold the dignity of every woman they meet. This is why neither belching at the table, nor form-tackling a girl for the last bite of brownie is ever appropriate (not that they do that, but they might if they had a sister).

I can go on and on about the beauty and wonder of a girl, how she is truly a masterpiece, made in the image and likeness of God, I can fill our son's minds with the highest theological truths of God's design for men and women, their complimentary roles, and what the role of man is in relation to woman, but none of it - I mean none of it will anchor into their souls unless the girls they meet represent that truth to them.

As women, we cannot speak beauty and truth into the hearts of men if our words and our actions, noble though they may be, are overshadowed by the cry for attention that comes from immodest dress. This is not meant to be a shaming or a criticism! I'm a daughter, I'm a woman, too. I speak this message to myself as well, and I share these points with a heart of love and encouragement!

Just as girls should never be criticized or marginalized for their emotional and sensitive tendencies (those are gifts!), neither should men be looked down upon for being visually attracted to women. God has placed this instinct in man's nature for a purpose, and though it is one that must be reigned by prudence and self-control, it has the potential to serve a wonderful purpose in healthy, respectful relationships.

This is where modest dress comes into play.  The mystery of modest dress not only shows respect and consideration for our brothers in Christ, but it also offers them the opportunity, or better yet, the challenge to get to know a woman.  Men love a challenge!

Guys don't need any help realizing how beautiful our bodies are.  Lack of imagination is not one of their weaknesses.  But they do need help seeing the beauty of our interior.  If what we truly long for is for a man to appreciate both our external and interior beauty, it is important that our choice of clothing ultimately directs a man's attention to our interior.

I witnessed a wonderful representation of this very fact a few weeks ago at a high school graduation party. While juggling our one year old on my lap and casually picking out the baked beans he had so generously smeared in my hair, I saw our oldest two sons conversing with a charming group of young ladies.  Each of them were modestly dressed in super-fun attire.  Their faces glowed with goodness and joy.

While our sons may have experienced severe deodorant failure over being tongue tied in the presence of such loveliness, they were eventually able to relax and be themselves, able to make eye-contact and carry on conversation within the group. Because they weren't distracted by anyone's immodest dress, they could be attracted to their goodness!

It's truly incredible to think that a woman's beautiful, yet modest presence alone is enough to make a man stand taller, think sharper, work harder, and pray for a whit and humor that will attract us to him! I call that powerful! I call that freedom - when we simply trust in the sincere goodness and beauty that God has created within us with as women, we do not have to act in opposition to our nature by dressing inappropriately, in order to convince a man that we are worthy of his kindness and respect. We simply just have to be ourselves.

Man will not rise up to the excellence he is called to by God, if we continue to diminish his potential with our lack of attentiveness to our own call to true femininity.  A world of ladies will spur on a world of gentlemen, and a world of gentlemen will give rise to a world of ladies.

Yesterday, I asked a wonderful friend of mine, a mother of teen girls, what she believes is the biggest hurdle for girls in understanding their personal dignity and how it relates to the way that they dress.

Her answer was simple: self image.

Her words are true.  I don't think any girl has ever not questioned her self worth at one time or another.  If girls do not feel good about who they are on the inside, they will naturally place a higher priority on the exterior image in order to achieve the sense of affirmation and attention they long for.

This is why I dearly long for girls to understand their personal sense of dignity, purpose, value and worth. Because when they do, the choice to dress modestly will come more naturally.  They will find that they can trust their gifts, trust who they were made to be, and in the end see that they have a great ability to inspire the men of this world to also be who they are meant to be - providers and protectors of the lives and dignity of women, men who honor, uplift, support, and acknowledge the treasure of womanhood in this world.

I pray my boys will one day become such men.

{If you care to listen to the podcast, here is the link: Modesty as an Act of Charity }


  1. Replies
    1. Coming from you, my blogging hero, that means a lot!

  2. As a mother of five boys, my eyes are filling with tears. Such truth and wisdom. Thank you for writing this!

    1. Awe, Mary, I think we could have some great conversations about our kiddos! You are an amazing mother, and I am encouraged by your great faithfulness to your vocation!

  3. This comment has been removed by the author.

  4. I was an adult pregnant with my 4th child before I heard the explanation of why women and girls need to dress modestly that included the hardwiring of men to be visually stimulated. That made an impact on me and how I raised my 2 daughters and 2 sons. This article states the case for modesty very well.

    1. Thank you! I am always searching for the right words to speak to the women who come to me in anger and frustration because they see my POV as critical and judgemental. When they express to me that boys are the problem, not girls, and that their girls should be allowed to dress how ever they choose, I feel an even greater desire to find the words that will reach them. Thank you for sharing your story with me. It encourages me to keep loving others in truth and hope!

  5. Susan I think you really hit the crux of the matter for young women toward the end here. An interior posture of modesty is FIRST and MOST important. It is a matter of knowing from where her dignity comes - and who gives it to her. I know I have commented on your blog in the past about my experiences learning about modesty in dress (it was a process...I was not a modestly dressed teenage girl). As the mother of 5 girls and we begin to wade into the world of teenage years, I just want to say - I hear you. While I attempt to teach my girls to be pure in spirit, to dress in a manner that is feminine and becoming, and to run after virtue like it's her job, I am also lamenting a world that seems to be filled up with boys with p*ornography in their pockets and affecting their brains.
    That said, I am so hopeful! Knowing that I, and other mothers are trying to raise up Godly women, and that you and other mothers are truly bringing actual men into this word gives me hope!
    Great post, my friend!

    1. Andrea, I miss you! What I wouldn't give for and evening on the porch with something to sip and unlimited hours of conversation with you! Thank you so much for sharing your perspective with me. I know that my blogs will never be perfect, and will always fail in some capacity to communicate what I feel in my heart toward this topic, but I am encouraged and inspired by you and your amazing family. Thank you!

  6. I appreciate you writing this post! I am a mom of two preschool aged boys so this is my future. I have a question for you and would love your thoughts. What exactly is modest dress? (I don't have time to listen to the podcast right now if that is something you address in it so I apologize if it is...) The reason I ask is because I left a faith tradition that requires women to cover their shoulders and wear knee length clothing. Only in the last year have I felt comfortable baring my shoulders. I wear mid-thigh length shorts now too. I know you don't have daughters but how do you personally as a faithful, virtuous woman who isn't seeking attention do this? I guess I am really asking for myself.

    Thank you in advance :)

    1. Dressing With Dignity by Colleen Hammond addresses practical guidlines for dressing, how the Catholic Church views modesty, and how to talk with others about the topic. She was a former model and image consultant. So far it's the most in-depth compilation I've found. Hope that helps!

    2. Hi Liz! Thank you for your thoughtful questions! It is late for me here, so I will address your comments tomorrow, but I want to state that, while I am sure that Emily Kelly intends only the best for you in sharing the book, Dressing With Dignity, with you, I do not advocate reading the book. Feel free to consider her suggestion, but please know that it is her opinion and is not to be mistaken for my opinion on this blog. Thank you!

  7. Very well spoken. So true... You make it almost sound simple ;-)But I find it hard to translate this message into the secular environment. This inner sense of worth is so important, and it will relate to a lot of people. Really, it's key.

    1. Hi Jascha! Modesty isn't simple! It's a challenge, but one worth pursuing! Ultimately, our inner self worth can only come from understanding that we are children of a loving Father. No one will every be able to fulfill the way that He can, and wants to!

  8. Thank you! This is excellent! Full of great talking points to have with the young men and women we are raising.

  9. How come so many women in full burkas get raped? Or nuns? Old ladies? Little girls? They weren't dressed immodestly or tempting men so what happened there?

    1. Rape has never been about modesty.

    2. I agree with Lindsay, rape has never been about modesty. It simply isn't reasonable to lump all men together into a category of potential rapists. Charles Manson said he became a serial rapist and eventually a serial killer because of pornography. That tells us, loud and clear, that modesty matters! Rapists aren't looking for scantily clad women, they've already seen their fill and more through porn. At that point, it doesn't matter what a woman is wearing, they have already decided to harm her. By nature, men are visual creatures. It is my hope and prayer that all men strive for purity, for self-control over their actions and attractions toward women. That being said, how we dress can help them, and when we help them, we help us.

  10. Nodded along to this whole post. I don't think women can truly understand the trials boys/men have to face in this area until they have sons. I know I never did!

    1. Amen, Colleen! Thank you for this beautiful post, Susan!


If you are having trouble leaving a comment, please feel free to send me an e-mail or leave a response on my Facebook page. Thanks!