Monday, March 3, 2014

Dear Maggie: a letter on modesty

Dearest Maggie,

Last night your dad, Colonel Brandon, and I had a discussion on modesty. Raising a daughter kind of terrifies us at times. And recently there's been a lot of discussion about modesty. I wanted to remember this conversation for days in the future when I can no longer shop for you and dress you. 

Beginning a few days before this, I was talking to Uncle Chad and Aunt Marie and modesty was brought up. They shared a profound comment their daughter Sarah shared in seminary. She said something along the lines of: when we dress modestly we allow ourselves and others to focus on our fellow men rather than ourselves. If we are so focused on our dress and getting attention from it, both from girls and guys, we take away our focus from the needs of those around us to put in on ourselves. How profound is that? She is wise beyond her years. 

I've had many discussions about modesty in my life. In young women's it was, "modest is hottest." In seminary and Sunday school it was, "girls need to help the young men to have clean thoughts by dressing modestly." And in more recent years it's been conversations with friends about when sleeveless dresses or baby rompers should no longer be acceptable for our baby girls. Or videos that have filled up my Facebook feed like the one from Jessica Rey about the evolution of the swimsuit. 

So what do I teach you Maggie? How do I teach you the importance of modesty. This was what your dad and I discussed.

Beginning with a scripture that your dad read. 2 Timothy 3:1-5. 

1 This know also, that in the last days perilous times shall come.

2 For men shall be lovers of their own selves, covetous, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy,

3 Without natural affection, trucebreakers, false accusers, incontinent, fierce, despisers of those that are good,

4 Traitors, heady, highminded, lovers of pleasures more than lovers of God;

5 Having a form of godliness, but denying the power thereof: from such turn away.

Maggie, these are the days we live in and sometimes even mommy gets swept up in this and constantly needs to be reeled back in. It's definitely real and definitely challenging.  

There's a lot of good stuff in those scriptures but just focusing on the modesty issue - our bodies are temples. They are special and we need to love them. But we also need to realize the gift they are from God. And because they are a gift, we have to keep them protected. Thankfully our loving Heavenly Father has told us how to protect them. So why are we modest? First and foremost, because it's a commandment from God and he has given you this life and this body. 

Modesty is more than the clothes you wear or the skin you show. What we wear reflects our personality, our likes, and our focus. Some of your friends will love to dress up and wear heels. Others will live in tennis shoes and shorts. What we choose to wear really does reflect who we are. Now that does not mean everyone that shows more skin is slutty or naughty. Modesty issues should not justify the judgement of others. But I am saying we all put some of our personality in what we wear. If this were not true, we would totally accept our mothers or fathers to pick out outfits for us our entire lives and not be phased one bit. 

You will be told many reasons in your life as to why you should dress modestly. Most will be focused on how your dress has an effect on the boys around you. You'll be told dressing immodestly will allow men to objectify you and just see you as a body or object. You will be told to help the young men to not have bad thoughts when they see too much skin or too much of your figure. While these ideas are true and we can't discount the influence we have on others, those ideas cannot drive us to modesty. It has to come from within. It has to be a desire for our own well being and not the well being of others. 

This goes back to the idea that Sarah expressed. Let's not focus so much on our body and dress that we can't focus on the needs of those around us. If we try too hard to be the center of attention with regards to the way we dress, we are taking that attention away from those around us that may need a friendly hug or a caring hello. 

I want you to know I am speaking from my own personal experiences. I have had moments when I've been so focused on my wardrobe that I didn't have room in my brain to focus on the people I was with and what they needed. I have had moments when I've showed more skin and could feel the eyes on me. I didn't like the attention and I was constantly fiddling with my clothes to keep them from moving even the slightest. I have torn my closet apart trying on clothes to find just the right outfit. But is that really what's important? Do we really want to be known for how well we dress? Or how caring, loyal, and trustworthy we are. 

Maggie, I don't want you to have some of the feelings your mom has had. Those feelings of sadness for not hitting the genetic jackpot or discouragement for not getting to a size 2 after exercising for weeks or months. So join with your dad and me, and let's not be a part of these last days where we are lovers of our own selves. And covetous of those around us. Let's live the commandments and turn our attention outwards. Let's focus on our fellow men. Let's cover our bodies and dress modestly so we can allow those around us to also "lift up the hands which hang down, and the feeble knees;" (Hebrews 12:12). 

Love, mommy and daddy


Angel said...

Love it. So perfect! I think even us "adults" get caught up too much in our physical appearance whether or not it is about dressing modestly. Love the idea that we should be more focused on others and not ourselves. :)

wisp said...

One thing some missionaries (elders) said to me recently that I liked was while we were discussing this and they said people need to remember that men - and women - are accountable for their own thoughts, no matter what anyone is wearing. They said as missionaries they have had to learn how to see a woman as a daughter of god no matter what she's wearing and be able to talk to her as a person no matter what. I liked that a lot. Modesty is a good thing, but I agree with you that the motivation for it shouldn't be so that boys won't think certain things - that's on the boys, not the girls. Modesty should be about self-respect. :) Little Maggie is growing up with such a good mom and dad. ^_^