Modesty ... For Guys?
By T. Suzanne Eller
Google the phrase “modesty for guys” and thousands of sites pop up, and yet none of them address young men. Informative sites invite you to carefully read biblical and practical advice for girls. It tells them how to dress, how to live with purity, as well as tips to keep a guy’s thought life untainted.
But is modesty a girl-only issue?
I quizzed several guys from my youth group about this topic. Most of them simply wore puzzled expressions as they contemplated the question. After a few moments, one college student shared his thoughts. “Guys usually don’t think about modesty for themselves. If they are showing underwear or skin, it’s because it’s comfortable or it’s an accident. It’s not like you see normal guys wearing Speedos at the beach.”
Youth pastor, Jason Fullerton, agreed. “As far as guys and modesty, in my opinion its all about comfort. I don’t think any girls get 'turned on' by looking at a guy’s hairy legs.”
Which brought me back to the question: is modesty for guys a non-issue?
For most teen boys, clothing serves three purposes: covering, protection, and identification. Many times those lines are blurred as clothing serves both comfort and culture. For example, sagging pants that reveal hiked up boxers is a fashion trend that’s been around for a while. This trend was first identified with the hip-hop culture and represented a lifestyle that delved deeper than just music. It was symbolic of the urban life. In recent years it crossed over from urban gear to every day comfort for the average guy. Belts have become officially uncool.
Most guys wear long shirts, or slip on a pair of basketball shorts underneath their pants so that you have two pairs of shorts hiked up instead of one, so modesty is very rarely the real issue. You may just hate the style.
Wearing pants two sizes too big might not make sense to you, but wearing tight pants that hug your waistline is just as confusing to teen guys.
So here we are again. Back to square one. How do you address the issue of modesty for guys? Is it relevant?
Pastor Fullerton says that it is, but that we must focus on the deeper issues. “Instead of teaching a student to be modest, I try to teach every student to be pure. Modesty is focused on clothing, where purity is more of a mindset. I believe that we must teach kids to have a higher self-esteem, not just to dress appropriately.”
I can’t agree more. I attend conferences as a speaker and am dismayed when the topic of modesty is wrapped exclusively around outerwear. Though this is a needed topic, if it’s not balanced teens may leave with an idea of how to fill their closet with appropriate clothes, but miss the opportunity to have a real dialogue about modesty of the heart.
Recently my daughter and I strolled through the mall. I glanced into an apparel store. A well-built older teen stood inside the doorway. He was bare-chested and wore low-slung pants. His thumb was hitched in the belt loop to reveal a glimpse of boxers and more skin. The hired model smiled at us, crossing his arms in a “you can’t resist this” invitation. Behind him was a sign advertising the jeans that he was wearing.
I didn’t see any other guys walking through the mall with skin exposed. This was clearly a cultural message and an advertising ploy. Rather than advertise a great pair of jeans, the message was that “these things can make me cool; they define my self-image; they sex me up; you can have this too.”
Susan Linn, author of Consuming Kids: The Hostile Takeover of Childhood, said in a Boston Globe Interview on 12/15/04, that, “Today’s kids aren’t just being marketed products. They are marketed values.”
When discussing modesty, our challenge as parents is to balance cultural messages about values. Modesty for guys and girls begins first as a heart issue.
In Proverbs 23:7, it says, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” The message of youth culture says that value is based upon superficial or external appearances. Our goal is to teach our young men (and women) who they are from the inside out.
Having a modest heart is expecting and showing character and integrity. It’s demonstrating and expecting a gentle and faith-filled attitude. It’s balancing the cultural message of external value with the truth of the benefits of living as a godly young man.
But what about the low-slung pants?
What do we do about those?
Every week I watch guys walk through the church door wearing all kinds of clothing. Most are amazing young men who love God with a passion—even those showing their underwear. If you hate the low-slung pants and hiked up shorts, you have options. Wait and the style will change, or go shopping together and find a style that suits both of you.
But if we’re going to talk about modesty and guys, it’s important to take a look below the surface. Examine the heartbeat of your son. Does he love God? Is he a productive person in your family and in his community and church? Does he care for others? Does he treat others with respect?
Those are the real issues, and long after he has abandoned the oversized shirts, waist three-sizes-too-big pants, and pulled down ball cap, those are the attitude issues that will carve him into the man God called him to be from the very beginning.
Read Suzanne's past articles:
Beyond the Dos and the Don'ts
How to Have a Good Fight
A Different Type of Adoption
What You Teach Me About God
Does Your Teen Feel Accepted at Home?
Are You Really Listening?
'But I’m Almost 18!'
My Teen Won’t Talk to Me
T. Suzanne Eller is the author of Real Teens, Real Stories, Real Life; Real Issues, Real Teens, What Every Parent Needs to Know; and The Mom I Want to Be – Rising Above Your Past to Give Your Kids a Great Future. You can reach her at http://realteenfaith.blogspot.com.
This article was originally published in Dabbling Mum, March, 2005.
CBN IS HERE FOR YOU!
Are you seeking answers in life? Are you hurting?
Are you facing a difficult situation?
A caring friend will be there to pray with you in your time of need.