I have issues with a few words that are perfectly good ones to use. They were mixed with so much human clutter while growing up, that I learned to resent them. Yet, I am finding as I near the age of forty and am trying to guide my daughters through the mire of growing into wonderful little ladies, ladies that honor God; I can no longer ignore the need to teach them some very important basic concepts like modesty, discretion, and submission.
Perhaps that is the way to teach them. Instead of teaching those words, maybe I could teach them the concepts behind the words. I still cringe when I hear them because of the visual images of my upbringing, not in the home where I grew up, but rather the group we were a part of at the time. However, modesty, discretion, and submission are biblical words that are very good words for women to embrace.
Modesty was not shown to me in a way that made sense. The common teaching when I was growing up was that modesty meant long and baggy clothing; something resembling a sack of potatoes with a piece of twine cinching the middle a little. That would be the equivalent of modesty for the teaching of my time. You bet I got a little bitter about that. If an attractive, thin person was attired in this ‘modest’ kind of clothing, they still could not hide their God given shape enough to be spared being noticed or talked to. If a man lusted after this, it was the woman’s fault for being attractive and not able to hide her beauty. This produced shame instead of acceptance and gracefulness.
Modesty is a little bit about how a person dresses, I won’t deny that, but it has a lot more to do with how a person behaves herself. Trying to hide ones natural beauty isn't modesty. The Bible says Sarah was a beautiful woman and it was known that men liked to look at her. It was a fact and it wasn't shameful; further, I really doubt it was only her face that was beautiful. Read it for yourself: Gen 12-23
Modesty is grace and beauty that shines with a gentle and quiet spirit. Modesty is discreet. It is not overdone. It knows how much is right and also knowing how much is too much. Modesty does not draw attention to oneself. It is attractive, not drab. Modesty covers speech, actions, and demeanor. I have seen plain, conservative women behaving in very controlling and domineering ways, which is neither modest nor discreet. I have also seen women of non-Mennonite background that dress according to personal taste, while behaving in calm and quiet submission to their own husbands. Yes indeed, it is more about action than what one wears.
The Bible teaches all three concepts/words in combination. It is talked about as being a personal thing. By that I mean, it talks about submission to their own husbands and that women should ask their questions at home to their own husbands. A woman that is seeking to please God by learning what respect and submission means to her husband will know what modesty and discretion is. She can have the greatest expression of her own personal beauty by following God’s design in this.
I have friends of many different personalities and from many different cultures. Each one has a different idea of how God wants modesty, discretion, and submission to look like in their own lives. One southern belle, feels it is indiscreet to ask too blunt of questions like: whether a person was napping when they were telephoned by a friend. Another friend, feels it is an infringement on her personal space if you stop in on her in the middle of the day, unannounced. I have friends who are blunt like myself, who have learned to accept that God needs me/them too. We are the ones who will say what others are thinking. Believe it or not, we try to do it with discretion.
If you are learning what God thinks is discreet and modest and submissive, you will find all you need to know about behaving in character and demeanor that honors God and your husband. You will be convicted of gossip, slander, envy, and those kinds of things. They are the things that show if you are modest or discreet. You will have to study. Husbands are nice to depend on for leading, but nothing shows God’s desires for you better than the Holy Spirit convicting you while you read His Word. Do your husband a favor and grow in your Saviour’s wisdom and knowledge by studying the Word.
Modesty matters first in the heart. Teaching my daughters how to seek out a heart after God and His ways will go much farther than giving them orderly outlines or written lists of what I believe these words to mean. When we start to give details of what we believe modesty, discretion and submission is, there is the chance it will be a shallow decision to follow after rather than a heart decision.
Everyone knows women are beautiful in the eyes of men. There is no shame in this. God designed it to be this way. If I make my daughters feel their bodies need to be covered because of lustful men, they will only feel resentment toward men. If my daughters know their bodies should be covered to honor God and for showing respect to the men in their lives, they will not only have a better handle for getting along with their husband but also have the deeper meaning of what true modesty is, which is submission to God and his plan first and foremost.
A challenge for the mom's out there: Sometimes, it is helpful to read the Word of God as if it new to you, presented to you without all the wonderful Biblical teachings we grew up knowing. Sometimes we know too much. We just know what we believe because we have always known. What if you read the Word of God without any other voices chiming in? Think about how many of your beliefs and ideas are just human ones. Think about whether they are really Bible based. This is not a scary exercise. It shouldn't feel like a threat for you to do this. When we lose our own thinking and let the Holy Spirit show us God's truth it will have a deeper, lasting effect on how and what we teach our daughters.