Because if we love someone, we should honor him with both our souls and our bodies.
Why do we dress up for weddings, funerals, and certain jobs? To honor those whom we love or those whom we serve. In the Scriptures we read: “Worship the Lord in holy attire” (1 Chronicles 16:29, Psalms 29:2, 96:9). And, the Catholic Catechism teaches that our gestures and our clothing “ought to convey the respect, solemnity, and joy of this moment when Christ becomes our guest” in Holy Communion (CCC 1387).
Clothes say something about what we think, what we value. They also influence how we behave and feel. Sunday is special, and God's House is special. Some things are really important, and our clothing and demeanor ought to reflect this truth.
The exterior reflects the interior, and God definitely deserves the best we have inside and out! This is also why altar dressings, items for the Mass, vestments the priests wear etc., are normally the best we can manage … made from expensive materials and adorned with gold, silver and jewels. However, we have to remember that our fancy dress clothes should be reflecting that our soul is just as dressed up.
Dressing properly for Mass means nothing if we have no love in our hearts.
And not just little brother level of annoying. It's like stand-still traffic, spilled hot coffee, only AM radio, and little brother in the back seat level of annoying.
I really, truly, feel this way. Dressing modestly is not easy. You have to search longer when you're at the mall. You can't always embrace the new fashions without a little (or a lot) of modification.
And sometimes being modest is hot. Not like, 'Oh, I'm sexy, look at me' hot. I literally mean it's hot. Adding layers to supplement an insufficient (but adorable) piece of clothing is a sacrifice especially in the summer months.
Let's not forget to mention that it's hard to be the odd one out when everyone else is in booty shorts, see-through and 'draping-off-your-body-to-show-off-your-under-garments' shirts, bikinis, and other styles that are barely anything.
I think it's fine to just admit that it's annoying. Go ahead, you can say it too. In fact, let's go stand in the middle of the mall and scream it together. 'Modesty is ANNOYING.'
Of course after we scream this, let's follow up with a nice, printed handout that we'll give to all the men who are staring at us screaming in the middle of the mall. It'll say:
'But we're making this sacrifice because:
We want to be appreciated for the people we are, and not the bodies we have.
We want to dress modestly because we don't need attention to feel validated.
We want to make this sacrifice because we care about you and your purity as our brothers.
We want to give the gift of our bodies to our husbands, not every man we pass on the street.'
. . . Or something along those lines.
Girls, I could commiserate all day with you about the annoyances and frustrations of modesty; but let's also talk about how we're not going to give up. When you're tempted to throw your hands in the air and give up, remember these reasons why. Let's help each other stay strong. It's so worth it.
Now what do you think? Would you rather be called beautiful or sexy? Exquisite or provocative? Lovely or tempting? Gorgeous or beddable?
I almost gagged when I saw 'beddable' as a synonym for sexy. It's pretty disgusting that if a man sees you as 'sexy,' he sees you as a target with whom he can get into bed easily.
It may not seem disgusting if you're picturing your handsome boyfriend seeing you as 'beddable,' but what about the old man walking down the street? Yup. Now you're grossed out.
Sex, Sex, Sex
When a man sees a woman whom he thinks is sexy, he's looking at her with one thing in mind: sex. This might be great if every man walking around had a beautiful vision of sex as “a glorious thing created by God to be an act of selfless love, a gift of oneself created for marriage to be an icon and foretaste of the joys of the marriage of Christ and the Church in Heaven!”
But, I'm assuming that isn't the case in our pornographic culture where airbrushed, scantily clad women are used like objects to sell cars and beer, and sex is seen as something 'dirty' that can be thrown out with the trash on a first date.
Why do I care if you’re seen as beautiful or sexy?
Because I want you to know how good and beautiful you are, and to use your beauty to draw others to God (who is authentic Beauty), rather than to use your beauty to manipulate and draw others lustfully to yourself.
Because I never ever want a man to treat you like an object to use for his own lust/pleasure. I want you to guard your beauty in a way that humbly commands the respect of who you are as a person (a daughter of God, which makes you royalty and a Princess), rather than to disregard your beauty, and throw it away like one who prostitutes her beauty and body to any man who desires it.
And how does this relate to bikinis?
Well, an interesting study was done at Princeton University (and thank you, Jason Evert, for bringing this study to my attention), where men viewed pictures of both women in bikinis and women more fully clothed. The study on the male undergraduates found that:
'Men tend to associate bikini-clad women with first-person action verbs such as I “push,” “handle” and “grab” instead of the third-person forms such as she “pushes,” “handles” and “grabs.” They associated fully clothed women, on the other hand, with the third-person forms, indicating these women were perceived as in control of their own actions.'
Also, in some of the men (those who scored higher on a survey having 'hostile sexist' beliefs vs. 'benevolent sexist' beliefs), the part of the brain associated with analyzing another person’s thoughts, feelings and intentions was inactive while viewing scantily clad women. These brain scans showed that the men who viewed women in bikinis tended to de-humanize them and viewed them, rather, as tools and objects.
So are all guys this way?
From this study, a conclusion might be made that there’s some hard-wiring there that can interfere with the average man’s ability to interact on deeper levels with a stranger in a sexy bikini. What goes on in a man's brain is automatic, and not purposeful, thus some men may choose to yield to lust, while others may choose to love and see women as human beings.
For instance, I have a lot of 'non-average' guy friends who are striving for holiness and allow God's grace to constantly redeem their sexual desires. One guy friend, when he is tempted to lust after a female stranger, gives her a name so as to make her a real person to love, rather than allowing her to be an object of lust.
Obviously, these kinds of men are stellar guys and not the 'average man' who sees women in bikinis as walking pieces of meat over which to ogle and drool.
What do you want for yourself?
However you look at it this study though, women in bikinis were seen as sexy, beddable, and tempting and fully clothed women weren't. I don't know about you, but even if I disregarded the holiness of my brothers in Christ, I would want to guard my body against being seen as a tool!
But I do care about my brothers' purity, and want to help them out by not wearing what is basically a bra and underwear to the beach and inviting them to lust over all that is, ahem, 'hanging out.'
Also, I want to be the type of woman who inspires men to holiness and beauty and not lures men to lust and my booty. See what I did there?
Your body is so good!
Modesty isn't just about clothes. It's a virtue that guides who we are, how we act, how we dress, etc. We don't dress modestly because our bodies are bad. In fact, we dress modestly because our bodies are so good, and in fact a 'temple of the Holy Spirit' (see 1 Corinthians 6:19-20).
Some girls dress immodestly because they want the attention. Other girls dress immodestly because they are following the trends of the culture and don't know any better. This is what the Catechism of the Catholic Church has to say about modesty:
' . . . Modesty protects the intimate center of the person. It means refusing to unveil what should remain hidden. It is ordered to chastity to whose sensitivity it bears witness. It guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity…
“Modesty inspires a way of life which makes it possible to resist the allurements of fashion and the pressures of prevailing ideologies.' (CCC 2521-2523)
But everyone’s wearing it . . .
The 'fashion' of our culture right now definitely leans towards immodesty on and off the beach: short skirts/shorts, tight, see-through, low-cut, and low-riding clothing.
Thankfully, there are many amazing young women who are standing up against the culture and developing modest, yet stylish clothing (and bathing suits) so that women can maintain their dignity.
While I admit that I loathe shopping for modest swimwear because it does take more time and effort (and is often more expensive than the itty-bitty centimeters of fabric they sell at Forever 21 and Target), I believe it's worth it.
I ditched the bikini a few years ago and have not regretted it. Modesty is a sacrifice that I'm willing to make to be seen as a whole person to be loved, and not a tool to be used.
My sisters, I love you and want the best for you. I pray you know how good and beautiful you are, and that you use your beauty to always lead others to Christ.
My challenge to you: join me in ditching the bikini this summer in favor of more modest swimwear to be seen as beautiful, not sexy.