A friend and I have recently spent some time talking about modesty. It’s not something that I had given an over amount of thought to previously so it was an interesting experience to write down my ideas about it and to talk it out.
“Modesty protects the mystery of persons and their love. It encourages patience and moderation and loving relationships; it requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of men and women to be fulfilled. Modesty is decency. It inspires one’s choice of clothing. It keeps silence or reserve where there is evident risk of unhealthy curiosity. It is discreet.” (CC2522)
If modesty protects the mystery of the person, what is meant by this mystery? I think it is the mystery that each person is made in the image and likeness of God, that we have value not because of our intelligence, kindness, actions, contribution to society or our ability to form relationships with others, but because God has endowed us with an inherent dignity. The mystery of the person is not what we do but who we are: cherished creations of God. The mystery is who created us and why we were created, that is to say by God for love.
Modesty then is a counterpart to objectification. The latter is when a person is not seen in light of who they are – a unique creation of God – but when they become a thing to be used.
Modesty protects against objectification in order to protect the mystery of their person and their love.
When a person is dressed immodestly, it is tempting to say that they have been cheapened but this is not so. The exterior way in which we clothe ourselves cannot strip away our God-given dignity; it cannot cheapen our intrinsic worth. What it does do is show that we not value this gift; it is cheapened in our eyes even if not in and of itself.
In actuality, we cannot cheapen ourselves through immodesty for we say of the Lord, “with your blood you purchased men for God” and there is no price, no cost, no sacrifice more dear than the Blood of Christ, than his offering on Calvary. Immodesty then cannot cheapen us but it shows disdain towards God: it shows how little we value the gift of our dignity and it shows how little we value the price at which our redemption was gained.
To finish, modesty is important. Why?
1. To avoid objectification – including objectifying yourself
2. Out of charity for our brothers and sisters
3. To bring beauty into the world
4. It teaches us self-control and requires sacrifice so it is good for growing in virtue
5. Most of all, dignum et justum est: we need to give our due to God and show reverence to Him and for His creatures