Friday, August 10, 2018

Keep Your Shirt On

One summer's day when I was a teenager my brother and I were working outside. The sun beat down on us and it was just us. So we were shirtless. It was more comfortable this way.

During this time our neighbor Amy showed up. We often rode horses and did other activities that young teenagers do. Her showing up was not unwelcome or really that unexpected.

My brother and I greeted her and she started talking about going and doing something. I don't remember exactly what it was. But I do remember that I excused myself and went inside and put on a shirt.

I returned and talked to her. Immediately, my brother excused himself and went inside. Amy whispered to her friend, "In a minute, he will come out with a shirt on too."

Of course, she was right. My brother and I, without planning or coordinating had traded entertaining our visitor and getting our shirts on. But I remembered this comment mostly because I realized that Amy didn't care if my brother an I had our shirts on.

What is my reaction to learning that women didn't care if I wore a shirt? Was it to rip off my shirt and prance around? Nope, I don't wear a shirt for girls anymore that I take my shirt off for girls. I wear shirts because I care about what I look like, and want people to get the impression of me that I have intended.

I have daughters. They tell me that sometimes people tell them that dressing modestly is to keep boys from having evil thoughts. As a former boy, no amount of clothing will keep a boy form having evil thoughts if he wants to.

Girls and boys should dress modestly for three reasons. Firstly, dress is a form of communication. Just as putting on a jersey or t-shirt with a team name or logo on it communicates your allegiance to that team. Putting on the uniform of a retail store communicates that you work there and are able to assist customers. Wearing clothing that is not modest is a communication about your moral standards. About which team you are on in a religious sense.

A boy or girl that wears clothing that exposes the form of their body to others is communication. It says things like, "I'm interested in getting a pass." or "I want to be touched." Or "I'm open to casual intimate relationships."

Some people want to object that they are not communicating this, they just like the way it looks. Or feels. This is the same hollow argument that you can listen to a song about murder and rape, but don't listen to the lyrics. You just like the beat. It's self-delusional.

There is a second reason to dress modestly. A person who dresses modestly is expressing their self-worth, self-esteem, and value. In a store, the display model is always sold cheaper than the products still in their box. Merchandise that has been handled and examined by the general public or anyone with just a casual interest has a perceived and actual loss in value.

People are not products. Boys and Girls are not wares that are up for sale. But the analogy holds true. Declaring that you are cheap is what you are doing when you dress immodestly.

The third reason to dress modestly is behavioral and emotional. The way a person dresses affects their behavior. It affects the way they feel about themselves and others. An athlete that dons the team uniform feels differently than they did before they entered the locker room. A boy who puts on a tuxedo feels differently than a boy who puts on a ripped t-shirt and overalls. A girl who wears a ballgown feels differently than a girl in a mini-skirt and tank top.

It's possible, that for a variety of reasons, that we have become comfortable in our ripped t-shirts. It is also possible that we have become comfortable with poor nutrition and bad hygiene. We shouldn't stay somewhere that is not the best for us just because it is comfortable.

There are specific activities and places where wearing less is appropriate. Swiming and other athletics are times and places where we may need to take our shirts off, so to speak. There are going to be others and I will not attempt to list all of them as that would be futile. But if we are holding our selves as people of value. If we are holding ourselves to a high standard of behavior. And if we are holding true to the commitments we have made to our faith, our God, and our family. If we are holding these things, we need to hold to modest standards of dress and grooming that will help us, protect us, and let everyone know that we do not yield to casual temptations of comfort and popularity. We hold ourselves up and apart from the base and common things of the world.


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