That Day I Wore Yoga Pants: 5 Myths About Modesty

by Phylicia on August 19, 2013

girl

(Since the writing of this post, a sequel has been written, The Motive to Modesty.)

Hurriedly I raked through my second dresser drawer in the dim light of the unlit closet, scrambling for pants of some kind. Finding some, I grabbed a work out shirt, jammed feet into tennis shoes and breathlessly answered the door for Mr. M.

“Ready for breakfast?” He asked.

We cooked breakfast together and headed downtown to go for a walk by the James, where a paved path was perfect for running. By the time we got there, however, our plans changed to the farmer’s market (our Saturday favorite), Estate Consignments and coffee at a little shop beside the bank.

As we walked into the estate store Mr. M glanced at my outfit. The pants I had found in my harried search were work out capris – otherwise known as yoga pants. “You know…” He said. “You are dressed a lot like those girls you always comment on at the gym.”

We had talked about this before. Mr. M has requested, not commanded, that I refrain from wearing the pants to the gym, and really not in public at all.  But I’d ignored the request, and here I was walking down the sidewalk in them.

“I was kind of surprised you wore them.” He said sadly.

I picked at the tag on a buffet table, glancing at myself in a mirror in the corner. It was just one request he had made – a request based on what he knew of his own male mind and the minds of the men around him. But I wanted MY way, so I ignored it.

(For those who wonder why my husband felt comfortable advising me on my clothing, read That Day My Husband Told Me What To Do)

I like those pants. I like them because not only are they comfortable – as all yoga pants are – but I look trendy. I look like one of those suburban moms with a ponytail, pushing her children through the market in a twin-seat stroller. And I like that look, regardless of the consequences.

But there are consequences.

The issue here is not that I wore yoga pants. The issue isn’t yoga pants at all, but the principle of the matter. The pants are skin tight. You can see every curve of my lower body. Not only is it attractive to Mr. M, but from several informal interviews, comments, and input from other men, it’s a recurring blind spot with Christian women everywhere. It’s about how hot I look, or how I want to dress, regardless of what anybody thinks.

Let’s be real: I have failed and still do fail at modesty on occasions like I just depicted above. The journey toward true femininity is one we all share as Christian women, and today I’m going to share some truth I’ve learned through my own mistakes and the studying I’ve done because of them.

I recently saw an article shared on Facebook written by a woman’s husband concerning modesty and the church. While the article addressed young men, it was primarily ‘shared’ on Facebook by… women. Why is that?

The content of the article reflected two concepts:

1. Men are not keeping their eyes to themselves and honoring their Christian sisters, and

2. Women are unfairly singled out about their clothing in the church and workplace.

There is certainly truth to the first point, and the bulk of this man’s article was very valid in its address to men and the issue of lust. But the reality is that many Christian men – at least the ones who truly seek after God and are convicted by His Spirit – are not only aware of their lust problem, but guilty about it. They are not all shameless beasts looking for an opportunity to undress women in their minds. In many cases, the very women offended by the negative attention of men are dressing in such a way as to earn it.

The issue of modesty gets heated, as fingers are pointed and hemlines discussed, but I’m going to skip all that fuss and speak woman to woman, because I think we can handle it!

#1 Myth of Modesty: ‘It’s His Job Not to Look’

It’s true, lust is a sin, and men shouldn’t entertain it.

But the level of their lust is directly related to how much of our bodies is available to lust after. The less we advertise, the less opportunity we give them to covet our bodies.

The article I mentioned earlier said women have been unfairly singled out concerning modesty. While men are responsible to honor us with their eyes and minds, when we dishonor ourselves by what we wear, the real unfairness is to the men. Do we really expect to wear whatever we want and then tell them not to look at us? Do we really expect to fit in with the latest (often sexually promiscuous) trends and NOT be viewed as an object of sexual desire?

It is not just his job not to look: it is our responsibility to provide nothing provocative to look at. We cannot blame men for what we instigate, and it is time for women of God to start acknowledging our responsibility in this matter, taking up our cross, and honoring God with our dress.

#2 Myth of Modesty: Setting Standards is Legalistic

I will always have a reader who emails me about my modesty posts saying that she wore yoga pants and it wasn’t a big deal. “I understand you were convicted that it was wrong,” The email might kindly explain. “But I haven’t been convicted yet.”

I’m not here to write a list of rules to be broken or ignored, but rather to talk about real issues that address real young women. I realize that it is not my job to write your personal standards of modesty. But since we are on the topic of yoga pants, let me share some things Mr. M commented to me when I was writing this post:

“Yoga pants make it difficult to work out when the girls are right there and the pants are so tight, it’s basically like the woman is naked. A friend of mine even said when a girl wears yoga pants… it shows all the form and features while covering up flaws, like imperfections of the skin or cellulite. They are designed to be appealing.”

Additionally, a young man in a men’s group Mr. M once attended upheld this view. He told the men it was tough for him to try to work out, where there are girls wearing yoga pants doing stretches right beside him. It was a struggle not to lust after them. He would have to make himself leave the vicinity to do his workout with the still-present threat of remembering their image and stumbling later on. Yet another friend told Mr. M that it pained and concerned him that his girlfriend would go to the gym in her yoga pants to work with her personal trainer, but he didn’t feel he could ask her to stop without being perceived as controlling.

What is the real issue here? Is it what not to wear? In our hearts we know it isn’t. It’s a standard of behavior, not a standard of dress, that is ultimately missing from our lives when we fail to be modest.

I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. (1 Timothy 2:9-10)

Paul wanted women to dress with ‘decency and propriety… as appropriate for women who profess to worship God.’ This high calling is our standard of behavior, which directly influences our standard of dress. It calls us to be different from the trends, the culture, and the leanings of the modern church. It calls us to align our spiritual life with our outward life in all things, willing to make personal sacrifices in order to do so.

Setting standards is not legalistic; regulating others BY our standards is legalistic. Many of us spend a lot more time telling the men of the church to quit looking and the other women in the church to quit dressing the way they do, and we never evaluate our own closets.

#3 Myth of Modesty: Men Don’t Care What I Wear

Oh, they do. They care. Why else would we care so much? Why do we place such value on being told we are pretty or beautiful by a man? Why do we spend half an hour getting ready before a date?

Because men DO care what we wear, and we know it!

Men care so much what we do (or do not) wear, they are very conscious of it at all times. While the level may differ man to man, the concept remains the same: extra skin, extra form, extra cleavage or extra leg will draw either subconscious or conscious attention from them. They are designed as visual creatures (we have had this taught to us many times over, have we not?) so a visual stimulant catches their eye.

On an innocent level, men simply like pretty things. My brothers notice when a girl looks put together. My dad has commented on movie actresses who are classy and well-dressed. Mr. M has commented to me that a passing woman’s dress was pretty. They like pretty things and they like when we wear them.

Because of this, we have a great power. We have the power to draw their eyes toward us for one of two reasons:

  1. For the appeal of their desire based on revealing enough of our bodies to entice them; or
  2. To appear attractive in personality as reflected in how we dress.

This leads me to my next point.

#4 Myth of Modesty: Lust is HIS Problem

Lust is a rampant problem in the church and in our culture. Most often lust is addressed with men, but it is also a major issue in the lives of women. It simply looks different for women than it does for men.

In Myth #3, I listed two ways we can turn a man’s head:

  1. For the appeal of his desire based on revealing enough of our bodies to entice him; or
  2. To appear attractive in personality as reflected in how we dress.

Don’t think I can’t relate with a desire for attention. I am acutely aware that there are certain items I could wear that would draw Mr. M’s attention to my body, and I would be flattered by it. In fact, I would relish the attention and be affirmed that he found me desirable.

Note: Appreciating beauty is not the same as lust. A man can find a woman attractive, beautiful, and lovely without her body being the sole focus of that attention. Lust is a desire for that which is not ours to have: the body of a person who does not belong to us. When a man ogles a woman’s chest, legs, or derriere, he is focusing on the parts of her that are not his, and yet he takes them visually and mentally, cheapening the woman and demeaning himself. That is not appreciation: that is lust.

Manipulating a man’s attention for the purpose of affirmation is how women are tempted to lust.

Case in point: Eve.

“When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.” (Gen. 3:6)

Eve was given to Adam as his most trusted companion. She was also the most perfect beauty ever to be created in the body of a woman. You can bet her beauty served her well as she asked Adam to taste-test the forbidden fruit!

Eve thought the fruit of the tree was useful and pretty, but also desirable.

“For everything in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–comes not from the Father but from the world.” (1 John 2:16)

When I give into my desire to for Mr. M’s attention, at the expense of his endeavor to honor God, I am giving in to the lust of my flesh and encouraging the lust of his eyes. I am also expressing pride by ignoring God’s command for ‘decency and propriety’ since I claim to worship Him. I am becoming Eve.

#5 Myth of Modesty: Modesty is Just Something I Do

“The more you cover up the more [a Christian man] will want you. Men like mystery, and when you reveal that mystery walking down the street, there is no reason for them to pursue you. They’ve already gotten their reward.” – Mr. M

Would you like to reward passing men with a glimpse of your body?

Men who couldn’t care less about who you are?

Modesty affects us, ladies. It affects us greatly. It affects how we are perceived, how we are respected, how we advance in our careers, and whether we get asked on a date by a God-fearing, decent man.

Our choices in how we dress – how short our skirt is, how low our shirt is, how tight our pants are – is the clearest reflection of our personal priorities and our openness to letting God’s Word alter our lives. I realize that is a bold statement, but it is very, very true. When I am not walking in God’s Spirit and seeking to do what I read in His Word, I will wear whatever I want at the expense of the men around me and my own self-respect.  In those moments, I would rather be trendy, Pinterest-y, and pretty than prove to the world that I worship God.

When we stubbornly resist the call to cover up, we reveal hearts that have misplaced priorities. We have a high calling, ladies, clearly laid out in Romans 12:17-18. This passage talks about forgiveness, which applies to all treatment of our brothers and sisters in Christ.

“Never pay back evil for evil to anyone. Respect what is right in the sight of all men. If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.”

Modesty is respectable in the sight of all men. It just is. Additionally, in our relationships with men, it depends upon us to dress in a way that keeps peace between us and our brothers.

“But Phylicia,” you may say. “How am I causing a lack of peace by how I dress?!”

“Dearly beloved, I beseech you as strangers and pilgrims, abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul…” (1 Peter 2:11)

When we dress in a way that has even the potential to cause a man to lust, we create an unnecessary war against his soul.

Think about that for a moment.

Dressing in the way God commands – with modesty, propriety, and decency – protects the men around us from waging a needless war in their souls. When we REFUSE to accept our responsibility to protect our brothers – our sister’s husbands and sons – from lust, we are creating a war and inciting unrest in the church.

Yes, it is the responsibility of the men to turn their eyes away. So let’s entrust them to the Lord and let Him deal with their responsibilities while we concern ourselves with our own. Ladies, I am right here with you, dealing with this issue, struggling with it, fighting with my closet over it! I am asking you to join me in this endeavor. I want to trust Mr. M around you. I want you to trust your husbands around me.

On a final note, here is some encouragement. 1 Peter 2:12 says:

“…having your way of life honest among the Gentiles, that, whereas they speak against you as evildoers, they may by your good works, which they shall behold, glorify God in the day of visitation.”

When we keep ourselves hidden, those who see us glorify God because they see a different woman than they are used to. Anyone can join the trends. Anyone can wear yoga pants. But the woman who chooses to change in order to obey God will be blessed in her doing.

We’re in this together girls! Let’s honor God and earn the respect of the men around us by pursuing His standards for all of life and living.

Photo Credit

Comment Policy: Comments on this post have been disabled due to lack of respect among commenters. On other posts, you may interact with other readers and express your insights.  As author, I am also glad to answer specific questions offline at phyliciadelta@hotmail.com.

{ 49 comments }

The Ministry Mama August 20, 2013 at 12:54 AM

I like to think of it as creating a safety zone for the men in my life whether close or acquaintances… when males can associate with us without worrying about lust it helps them so very much. It allows you to eliminate the frustration and be available to be the right kind of testimony for the Lord. Good job on your article and for taking the bold step of talking about a hard subject. I recently did a 3 part series on my blog with many points similar to yours with the Biblical basis from Titus 2. I invite you to come over and read!

Phylicia August 20, 2013 at 12:50 PM

Thank you for your comment, Ministry Mama! I headed over to your blog and read your ‘Discreet and Chaste’ post. Very good! I shared it on Quill and Inkwell’s Facebook page.

The Ministry Mama August 20, 2013 at 7:27 PM

Thank you for coming by, the following links are the other articles in this series.
http://theministrymama.com/2013/07/22/the-case-for-biblical-modesty-its-appearance-to-all/
http://theministrymama.com/2013/07/19/the-case-for-biblical-modesty-gods-true-purpose/
I pray the Lord will bless you for blessing those around you enough to speak about this topic on your heart and protect the men in your life. :)

Ella August 20, 2013 at 8:59 PM

Way to go Phy! Right on!

Heather Merritt August 21, 2013 at 10:10 AM

Although I do not agree with your point of view I understand your point. My question is do you wear shorts? Do you go swimming? Even the tank and skirt swimsuit which is the most modest I have found would be considered unaceptable by these standards. So I should not enjoy swimming with my children? And what about a man swimming? Yoga pants, as you are aware, are not the only consideration.

Phylicia August 21, 2013 at 10:36 AM

Heather, I appreciate your comments! When it comes to modesty, we must remember that different situations require different dress. We would not wear a one piece swimsuit in the street; but a one piece swimsuit on the beach would be much more appropriate than a bikini. When we wear shorts, we should be considering how much of our leg is showing when we bend over. There are certain parts of the body that are more sexual than others – upper thighs versus knees, cleavage shadow versus collarbone.

The ultimate issue is a woman’s heart. When a woman’s heart is to please God and honor the men around her, she will make every effort to honor her husband, respect herself, and also teach her children true masculinity and femininity through her example.

Thank you for your comment!

Heather Merritt August 21, 2013 at 11:15 AM

I appreciate your response and I think your point is great one–that women should actually consider what they are wearing and how that communicates the relationship they have with God and their husbands. All I am saying is that part of your argument is flawed–if what u are wearing needs to be situationally appropriate, such as a swimsuit at the beach, then yoga pants are situationally appropriate to wear to the gym. I dare say there is a lot of lusting going on at the beach and pool.
I appreciate the reminder that we should consider the feelings of our husbands in that decision. :)

Phylicia August 21, 2013 at 11:36 AM

Heather, I see your points and am glad you were able to glean some good from the post! One note on the ‘situation’: while yoga pants may be athletic wear, they are not situationally appropriate if they are skin tight, showing off a girls rear end while she works out, which they are known to do. Just because clothing is designed for an occasion – a date, the beach, or the gym – does not make it appropriate in God’s or our husband’s eyes, and those items of clothing should be prayerfully approached before wearing. But that is a decision between you and your husband :)

Cheryl Parks August 22, 2013 at 1:27 PM

My husband has a gym membership, but feels that he must practically keep his eyes closed while working out, considering the clothing worn and not worn by all the women working out. Situationally appropriate? Hm.

Danica August 22, 2013 at 8:46 PM

Hi! You said, “while yoga pants may be athletic wear, they are not situationally appropriate if they are skin tight, showing off a girls rear end while she works out, which they are known to do. ”

This contrasts with your statement earlier that “When it comes to modesty, we must remember that different situations require different dress. We would not wear a one piece swimsuit in the street; but a one piece swimsuit on the beach would be much more appropriate than a bikini. ” — here you justify wearing a skin tight one piece that ‘shows off a girls rear end’ while she walks around the pool / beach. To follow your own logic and be true to the principles you are promoting, then don’t you think we should wear skirts to the beach, and probably t-shirts, too, since swimsuits tightly hug our breasts?

You quoted your boyfriend saying, “A friend of mine even said when a girl wears yoga pants… it shows all the form and features while covering up flaws, like imperfections of the skin or cellulite. They are designed to be appealing” — is he opposed to you wearing a one piece based on these same terms? Because the tight lycra of a one piece swimsuit is certainly designed to show off the form and features of a woman’s body, while covering ‘flaws’ and ‘imperfections’ (although honestly if I were you I’d be concerned that he’s talking like that … once you have babies your belly will be full of stretch marks and your breasts will sag, hopefully he won’t then view your body as being flawed and imperfect).

One more thing before I end :) I wasn’t going to comment here, because this is, obviously, your opinion, and you are of course entitled to it. What made me want to throw my two cents in is that Heather was making some very good, logical, intelligent points, and I felt like your replies were full of some pretty circular logic, and also didn’t address her concerns. Cheers!

AMY August 23, 2013 at 1:05 AM

I feel like you need to let loose a little… we live one life and we may as well have a little fun… and feel a little sexy while doing it!

Kennedy August 21, 2013 at 8:55 PM

Love this post. So well written.

Phylicia August 21, 2013 at 9:43 PM

Thank you, Kennedy!

ebster95 August 22, 2013 at 3:45 PM

How about shorts over the yoga pants? NOTE: I am a guy, but I can admit that if there a shorts over yoga pants or spandex that is much less, personally, a distraction than the plain pants / shorts.

As a side note, I teach on a college campus. Some days I fell I have to wear blinders to keep pure thoughts…..

Phylicia August 22, 2013 at 5:54 PM

Thank you for your comment! Several guys interviewed during this post encouraged shorts over yoga pants as a good alternative for the gym. Thank you for your input!

Courtney August 22, 2013 at 7:26 PM

Awesome post!! My husband and I have had the “yoga pants talk” before and he said the same thing. It made me sad how hard it was in reality for me to stop wearing them…because let’s be honest…they’re SO comfy. It showed me my own selfish heart.

But I loved the perspective you shared, one of truth and not legalism or pointing fingers. Great job! :)

Courtney

Julie August 22, 2013 at 10:34 PM

Something that I know I am guilty about regarding modesty is that I dress differently around different guys. Around Christian guys, I dress very modestly, fearing all hemlines and tight clothing and potential cleavage. However, around non-Christian guys, I usually feel fine dressing less modestly than I do at church, because I already know that I am not going to be the one getting the lustful looks (it will be other girls who are wearing far less than I am). I definitely have a double standard. But I wonder, for the guys who are never told anything about modesty, (those who are not in the church hearing about their lusts, etc), does our dress even phase them? If a guy and I go out, and I wear a shorter dress, am I not already drawing less attention than the waitress and the woman at the next table? Why is it that I only feel guilty of the way I dress around Christian men (and women… if we’re honest, we’re often in a modesty contest with our peers, judging one another constantly regardless of whether we’re causing a man to stumble)? Do normal guys just lust all the time with the girls around them not practicing modesty? What do Christian guys do when they go into the real world? If modesty really is a “heart” issue, is it okay that I have a double standard even though I am dressing for what I am convicted of?

Ashlynne August 22, 2013 at 11:25 PM

Julie,

Christian males are hyper obsessed with lust because it’s constantly talked about to them. Example: Don’t think of pink elephants. Now really Julie, don’t think of pink elephants. Maybe you should have an accountability partner to ask you daily if you’re thinking of pink elephants. So what happens? Of course you’re thinking of pink elephants.

You shouldn’t feel any guilt at all for the way you choose to dress around Christian men or anyone for that matter. Modesty is not a heart issue. It’s a controlling part of Christian culture.

What do Christian guys do the in the real world? The same thing all humans do: we look at each other and sometimes we lust after each other. Concealed clothing isn’t going to stop this.

Wear what you want and don’t let others police you with their own issues.

AMY August 23, 2013 at 1:19 AM

Really??? Guys are guys… doesnt matter if they are christian or not. Dress for your self! Are you a christian? Then dress like it! Dont put the responsability on someone else. You are in control of yourself

Mike Stanton August 23, 2013 at 12:19 AM

Really? I honestly feel really really really bad for the men out there that don’t have the self control to either

A: Not look
or
B: Not lust

Girls at the gym I go to wear yoga pants and short shorts all the time. I see them all the time, and I don’t lust after them. I am aware of a girl if she has a nice backside, but that’s all. It’s about the same feeling I get when I drive by a nice car on the road. “Woah, that’s nice!”, and then I go back to whatever I’m doing.

Stop it with the “me me me” attitude. Don’t expect other people to go out of their way to make life easier for you. Instead of chastising women for wearing workout clothes, perhaps you should chastise yourself for being so weak willed and your lack of self-control.

Basically, take the log out of your own eye before you try and take the speck out of the eyes of others.

AMY August 23, 2013 at 1:07 AM

Thats a great way to look at it!

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 2:29 AM

GREAT mindset!!!

Ashlynne August 23, 2013 at 11:37 AM

Thank you Mike!!

Michael August 23, 2013 at 6:18 PM

Mike, maybe you do not deal with lust as others do. But this is a great article where she is not forcing anything on anyone, but speaking truth into lives. There are obviously other sins in people’s lives such as, pride, selfishness, greed, etc, but I would have to say 99% of guys deal with the lust more than others. Yes guys needs self control, but a woman who helps her brother in Christ by dressing modestly is awesome. Regardless, a man does have a decision, to lust or not to.

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 1:20 AM

forget yoga pants where can i sign up for a mastectomy or hip binding??? b/c that is what this mindset is asking of us. You are called to be the salt of the earth.. but HEY.. SCRATCH that!! let’s go ahead and be ignorant, insulting, small minded, self important, puffed up, pompous, self righteous, and make DOUBLE sure that we are SO VILE and CONDESCENDING that NO ONE will ever want to know the God we CLAIM to serve.
Seriously, celebrate God by being assured of the person he made you to be NOT by bowing to any cultural or societal idea of what they consider acceptable. This mindset serves mankind/subcultures/and religious zealots who are more concerned with reputation than a REAL relationship with a living God.

Spend more time with him and less time doing mental gymnastics over what religious dogmas you have been hand fed.

..because HONESTLY if you want to talk about God and the devil.. I promise you the devil would MUCH rather you be caught up in this nonsense than seeking the heart and reality of Christ.

Ashlynne August 23, 2013 at 11:38 AM

Preach it Rachael!

"Bubbles" August 23, 2013 at 1:45 AM

I wasn’t going to respond, but I’ve seen so many of these posts and all have been mostly by women, who is commenting? Mostly all women…have you ever stopped to wonder why that is? Because real men aren’t concerned with this “lust problem”, and the only ones who are, are “christian” men. Real men are like Mike Stanton who posted above about his reaction to a good looking woman, “It’s about the same feeling I get when I drive by a nice car on the road. “Woah, that’s nice!”, and then I go back to whatever I’m doing.” It’s the “fundamental patriarchal christian community” which teaches a wrong definition of what lust is. Lust is not looking, lust is the desire to replace your husband/wife with someone else. Appreciation is not lust and those who have a problem need to deal with that on their own. It irks me that so many go around shaming women into following a bunch of rules that no one has any business making up!!

Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 2:13 AM

Along that line, men who lust are men who lust. When are women going to stop taking so much responsibility for the thoughts men entertain? Talk about unhealthy bondage.

Danica August 23, 2013 at 2:11 PM

Like Jesus said, “If your right eye causes you to sin, cut out your sister’s right eye.”

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 3:15 PM

lol, Danica.. that is SO PERFECT, and so adequately describes this mindset!

Anonymous August 23, 2013 at 2:09 AM

I understand your opinion. I have been there. And while I was there, I was raped by someone within our church that outwardly appreciated “modesty”… I was a shy girl, taking my modesty to the fullest extent. The act took me by complete surprise. Obviously, I am not responsible for his actions or his thoughts, and I refuse to believe that any woman is ever deserving of sexual abuse. Period. Should women be more conscious of how they dress? Absolutely. But to put God’s standard in such a small box is not truth. Let me ask you, if a Christian woman spoke into your life that did not share your dress code standards, would you disqualify her godliness in any way? I know I did. Not consciously, but there was a part of me deep down that judged others that did not share my ideals. I believe in modesty. But I don’t apply that to “skirts and dresses” only. There are many creative ways to celebrate being a feminine woman without breaking some unwritten specifics on how to do that. When God led me out of a cultish mindset, He specifically guided me to break out of rigid dress standards. It’s not wrong to be trendy. It’s not wrong to buy clothes that are less than 5 years old. Godliness is reflected so much more by a woman’s spirit than by the hemline of her dress. For all those who feel led to wear dresses and skirts alone, do it to please God — and please don’t feel any way justified to judge the godliness of others who don’t. And for those of us who feel the freedom to wear pants and shorts, do it to please God — and don’t mock the standards of others.

Danica August 23, 2013 at 1:56 PM

I love your bravery, Anonymous, and thank you for your honesty here. You put so well into words what I’ve been trying to articulate – “But to put God’s standard in such a small box is not truth.”

Isn’t it so easy for us to fall again into the mindset of the scribes and Pharisees? I, too, have been there, and come out of it. And I am constantly on the watch for it in other areas of my faith — for I know that there but by the grace of God go I, and we as humans want rules, black and whites, and absolutes … when what God wants is faith. Shaky, hard, never-quite-understanding, always-asking faith.

Undeniably His August 23, 2013 at 3:11 AM

I think it’s important to note that the strange woman in Proverbs 5 & 6 never mentions what she was wearing to entice a man… though it does mention her movements and words. Let me ask you, Phylicia, do you watch/listen to any kind of media that is created or expressed by women who do not share your morals on yoga pants or other immodest clothes? If so, I would say that’s a double standard. If you’re going to preach such a high model of the way you dress, uphold it in all areas. If modesty means covering up certain parts of your body, then there is no way there is an “ethical” or situational deviation (such as your explanation for bathing suit choices). I no longer hold to the circular mindset that you share here, having been set free several years ago. I’ve seen many a seductress wearing a modesty-approved skirt. And I’ve seen many a tenderhearted, God-fearing woman in jeans. I learned long ago that outward dress is not an automatic barrier to certain sins. Sensuality is not limited to how much of your knee is showing (though I do uphold certain boundaries in how small clothes should be). If men really struggle with lust, do you think they’re going to trouble with public ogling? Google probably feeds more of their eye’s weakness than chancing being caught staring at a woman.

Holly August 23, 2013 at 8:41 AM

This is good stuff. Maybe a little overboard on certain points but I like it all for the most part. I definitely am feeling a little conviction tug because I do wear yoga pants to the gym every day. So I was thinking about the alternative, a nice loose pair of mid-thigh shorts but then I remembered that’s what I used to wear. The reason I switched was because those shorts would ride straight up my legs and into you know where which was awkward and revealed a lot more than I wanted to. Yoga pants don’t ride up because they are form-fitting. So I think my compromise is gonna be to wear a longer shirt that covers my butt. They make a lot of cute longer workout shirts that you can get at pretty much any sport store. Thanks for this post. Good reminder.

opsomath August 23, 2013 at 9:34 AM

Friend, I have to say this sounds like a deeply troubled relationship. Borderline abusive, as a matter of fact, and that was the consensus over on the Reddit thread as well. I say this with hopes that as you grow, you will find the courage to reject this kind of judgment.

May God bless you.

Undeniably His August 23, 2013 at 12:39 PM

Yes, I agree. Think this through before becoming Mrs. M

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 3:19 PM

the thread I found your post through is not reddit but again.. the overwhelming consensus was that Mr. M’s conversation denotes that of a controlling patriarchal abusive relationship. I realize you will at the very LEAST be surprised at that.. But I hope it is an idea that will stick with you in your journey with Christ, as you discover His MANY FREEDOMS.

Sarah August 23, 2013 at 1:02 PM

This is really really sad. You are casting generalizations that are appalling for both men and women. You are encouraging the same ideal that haunts women around the globe. Teach women not to get raped, don’t teach men not to rape.

What you have outlined is a disservice to men everywhere who are not controlling nor obsessed with sex. You are also doing a disservice to women everywhere. These are your opinions, or the opinions of your seemingly abusive husband, and that is fine. But you need to be careful when making the claim that all men are this way and all women should feel this way.

This exact view is what holds back women in countries who are persecuted for the exact things you are chastising women for in this article. We live in a country where you are free to express yourself; repression in society has only ever spawned hate, judgement, and neurosis.

These are your opinions, and the opinions of those who seem so terrified by their own sexual nature that they have attached wild constraints of right and wrong to them by obscuring passages from a book written over 2000 years ago. But do not expect anyone else to join in on this. Attaching right and wrong to something so natural as our sexual nature, is what causes guilt, which breeds hate and control. If you love yourself and respect yourself, you will love and respect others. This is not respect, this is hate.

Faith is great, but when faith is distorted to control, judge, or persecute others, it becomes something evil. Religion is intended to guide individuals into living a life they are satisfied with. And if you are satisfied with your life, everyone benefits, and you no longer worry about what everyone else is doing.

The most terrifying part of your blog post, is that I now realize men like your husband exist. The fact that you are more alarmed by your transgression of wearing yoga pants and not by your own husbands admission that he can’t exist in a room with women stretching in a specific type of pants, is alarming.

Jesus doesn’t care if you wear yoga pants. But then again, he probably had the self control to keep it in his robe.

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 3:36 PM

I heartily agree, Sarah!!

Casey Marie August 23, 2013 at 2:09 PM

Before I start I need to apologize for how long this post will be. I’ve been thinking about these things for a couple of years now, and I’m super mad about some things. I’m sorry if I come across as mean or ugly. I don’t mean to be that way. Like I said I’m just super mad so please try not to take it personally.

I have so many problems with what you’re saying here, Phylicia. If we are meant to be responsible for ourselves then why aren’t men expected to be responsible for themselves when it comes to the condition of their hearts? I went through so much trouble in high school and most of the way through college trying to be sure I wasn’t doing anything to make my brothers stumble, but it finally wore me out. I don’t think we should do things (even how we dress) we know will cause problems for others, but we can’t be responsible for anything except what’s in our hearts. My actual brothers made it totally obvious both in things they did and things they said when I was growing up that they were going to find something to lust about no matter what a girl was wearing. Yay hormones!!!

Honestly we can’t control anything someone else does or thinks, and trying to guess what would be a problem for men finally got so tiring that I’ve given up now. I wear what I think is right for where I am and what I’m doing. If I’m going to the gym I’m going to wear yoga pants 90% of the time. If I’m going running in the winter I’m going to wear running tights. When I ride my bike I wear my bike shorts or tights if it’s cold out. I can’t help it if some guy I happen to pass looks at my butt and thinks about it in a way he shouldn’t. It’s my butt not his. If he has a problem with it then he needs to deal with it instead of trying to push responsibility for his mind off on me. I’m not going to intentionally be provocative, but I’m not going to stress anymore about what guys can’t keep out of their heads. I really feel like posts like this one reinforce the message that we have to stress about that. I’ve been seeing a lot of them lately, and I just feel like we’ve got to do better about demanding that men show some maturity and self-control so we can not have to spend an hour every day before we walk out the door wondering if what we’re wearing might cause someone to lust. I mean, some people get turned on by shoes so do I have to stop wearing shoes? What about the guys who get turned on by bare feet? There’s always another level we’re expected to worry about if we accept responsibility for what other people are thinking. So why aren’t we saying no to that standard? I really think so much of what the Bible says about modesty for women has to do with our attitudes and our behavior more than what we wear or don’t wear. Like Danica said it’s about pride, but that’s not something only women deal with. In my opinion, a man who tries to police what his wife or his girlfriend wears is out of line unless she’s trying to wear a bikini to the office or something weird like that, and anyone who does that sort of thing probably has bigger problems than pride. I’m sorry, but you thought you were going running so you wore what was appropriate for running. The fact that your plans changed all of a sudden is only partly your responsibility, and for your boyfriend to start criticizing you for wearing exercise clothes seems pretty out of line on his part. Did he even try to take responsibility for his part in those changes? Did he apologize for his part in putting you in a position where you would be dressed in a way HE thinks isn’t appropriate? I understand why you felt the need to accept the blame for not dressing like HE wants you to dress because we’re raised in that environment as girls, but we have to fight that idea in ourselves by not letting others demand it of us. It’s not your responsibility to predict every possible outcome or change of plans before you leave your house. And I’m sorry if this comes off as harsh but for him to ask you not to wear that sort of thing WITHOUT HIM BESIDE YOU is just weirdly scary. What’s up with that? That just seems creepy and totally controlling like he’s trying to dominate you or something. I mean he might be a really great guy, and maybe he’s doing that because he feels like he’s expected to, but the way you write about it sure doesn’t make it sound that way. He comes across as completely cool about it and offering some gentle correction, but you’re not his to correct. Definitely not now and I feel like not even if you get married. Not like that.

Again I’m sorry. I’m sure I come off as being really petty and catty. This just really, really, really upsets me a lot.

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 3:44 PM

Also… why is Mr M okay with you wearing yoga pants ONLY if he is present, and only for exercise… why is Mr M given the privilege of looking at your immodest bum in these specific circumstances if he is NOT your husband?? According to the rules you and he are making and pushing onto others as though this is what morality is and as though these are appropriate and correct Christ like/biblical mindsets (which I heartily disagree and say they are not) according to your own rules this seems TOTALLY inappropriate… so now you have a double standard AND circular reasoning….

Rachael August 23, 2013 at 3:50 PM

BTW.. I have been a part of VERY baptist very conservative very “modest” churches and organizations.. with many stipulations on dress code.. and the modesty did nothing to dissuade lust. I have been told by men that is all the more intriguing to wonder what is hidden under all the fabric.. which mortified me.

I have heard the same tale from others.. And how do you account for the fact that the countries that require the most clothing and coverage of women… like having to wear burkahs (sp) etc.. those countries have the HIGHEST rates of rape and harassment towards women let alone the over all oppression of women.

The Bible/Christ is not HALF as concerned about the clothes we wear as he is about the state of our heart. And I promise you.. If you are honest with yourself.. if you are TRULY honest.. and truly want and desire Christ for ALL that he is…. THEN there will be a day that you can say that this article was not so much about women being modest.. as it was about you taking pride in your “modesty” which really is not modesty at all.

Is it Biblical August 23, 2013 at 5:37 PM

I found the article interesting but this scripture comes to mind Proverbs 18:21 (King James Version) “21 Death and life are in the power of the tongue: and they that love it shall eat the fruit thereof.” Are you a pastor? Do you teach the word? If not then any article you write should be written from your point of view on what you think women should do, not what all women should be. And you should realize the influence words have over ppl’s lives. Today there are too many Christians reading and following books by Christian authors over the actual Bible. I hope before your write anything you pray and ask God to give you the words to say them.

EllJay August 23, 2013 at 9:12 PM

I think of the Japanese Geisha. Kimono don’t really show any features, but the reason men were so infatuated with them was the draw of what was underneath all the white makeup and kimono silks. If they wanted a common prostitute, they could go to the prostitute brothels that were always placed near Geisha districts to try and distract the men from going in. The prostitutes wore kimono that showed off more than what a Geisha’s would. I got a bit overzealous when reading Memoirs of a Geisha, and looked up what the differences were.

Now for a more “Western” experience. I worked at a camp where we had modesty rules. One day, I was getting ready to go on a day off. The only thing different about how I dressed that day was the fact that I was wearing flip flops and my hair was down. I was in the same t shirt and athletic/basketball shorts that every other girl at camp wears. I wasn’t even in makeup, didn’t own any at the time.

That very outfit caused one of my Christian brothers at camp to stumble, as I later found out. But perhaps some might attack the guy for being weak, well…that camp has very strict standards about who they hire. Famous Christian singers and such send their kids to this camp- they don’t just hire anyone.

I don’t come from a lot of money, so my parents when I was in high school would by cheap jeans from Wal-Mart that weren’t trendy or cool. Once, a guy commented on how great my derriere looked in those jeans.

My genes also haven’t been kind. Though I am a seasoned athlete, I have curves. I don’t try to show them off, but I can’t help how they are, that’s how I was born. I’m most at home in a t shirt and basketball shorts, and I’d even wear that to track practice and I never wore a tanktop or cutoffs to practice. I’m about as modest as they come.

And yet I find out I make guys stumble. A lot. So what should I do?

Grace August 23, 2013 at 10:11 PM

The way I dress is for God and it is for my own respect. I, and I hope other women, will stop dressing based off of what they think men will think about it and dress to the glory of Christ instead. As Christians, we are here to please God not anyone else. While the construct of your article is great, you have left so much responsibility up to the women. It is not a woman’s f fault or responsibility if a man lusts over her because of what she is wearing. Sins is the responsibility of the sinner. Thank God though for his grace, that covers all areas of life even lust. As it has been proven, the lust of a man actually has very little to do with how a woman is dress (full nun get up or shorts). I think you make a great deal of good points, but overall it is reminds me of the old phrase “the Devil made me do it.” Instead of focusing on how women dress, maybe we should be focusing on how to disciple men and help them to be stronger in Christ so that they do not fall to those kind of things.

Marcy August 23, 2013 at 10:45 PM

Oh my what a popular post from the comments! In Christ we are free- free to choose our apparel, but because of love of our brothers and sometimes, even our sisters, if what we wear is offensive or causes someone to stumble, ought not we modify our dress? This is not double standard, but putting others before yourself. So yes there are appropriate ways to dress for different occasions and company. Galatians has a great passage about our freedom. They were dealing with food issues but that translates into other topics. If we love, we put the other person first above our perceived “rights”. Rules of modesty in the Christian culture have changed and morphed over the centuries. My dress if I visit a conservative christian community should honor those who I am visiting . My dress if I am with my friend’s husbands should be honoring to them. Will I always please everyone? Most likely not, but our attitude needs to be that of Christ Jesus not looking to only to our own interest but, also, to the interests of others.

Side note about the “Mr. M warnings” I burst into laughter… I do have an insiders view of Mr. M and their relationship… every gal would love to find a man who cherishes, honors, protects and adores her as Mr. M does Phylicia and if they did they might even give up yoga pants forever- ;)

Phylicia August 24, 2013 at 7:32 AM

Thank you all for your readership and for offering your opinions here! Due to the harsh nature of the comments, commenting has now been disabled. Thank you!

Phylicia August 22, 2013 at 9:01 PM

Danica, I appreciate your comments! My point in this post is not to address yoga pants, which it seems has become the case due to its popularity. The fact that yoga pants are so hotly debated is the real issue. Why are women so attached to them? Why can’t we let them go? That is the real issue: a heart issue. Are we attached to God’s standards (which does not outline details, just the heart of the issue) or our own endeavors?

The Lord will convict each woman according to her relationship with Him, and I rest my case in that fact. And also, my boyfriend’s point concerning the ‘flaws and imperfections’ was in agreement with yours: he was pointing out that yoga pants are designed to be deceiving, hiding a real woman’s body. He loves me for who I am, not what I look like.

Thank you for your readership!

Danica August 23, 2013 at 10:22 AM

Edited before I publish: Holy smokes, this post is long. Sorry in advance. If it’s tl:dr, just scroll down to my two main questions at the bottom.

You’re welcome. And thank you for responding! I feel like you still didn’t answer my question, so I’ll post it again:

“This contrasts with your statement earlier that “When it comes to modesty, we must remember that different situations require different dress. We would not wear a one piece swimsuit in the street; but a one piece swimsuit on the beach would be much more appropriate than a bikini. ” — here you justify wearing a skin tight one piece that ‘shows off a girls rear end’ while she walks around the pool / beach. To follow your own logic and be true to the principles you are promoting, then don’t you think we should wear skirts to the beach, and probably t-shirts, too, since swimsuits tightly hug our breasts?”

I agree with you that it really isn’t about yoga pants, or swimsuits, or the ‘what’ we wear — it’s really about our hearts. The verse you quoted from first Timothy is a good one, and one that I love. The word, ‘modesty’ there, in the Greek, means: “a sense of shame or honour, modesty, bashfulness, reverence, regard for others, respect” — in other words, a respectful attitude that doesn’t say, “look at me, look at me!!” This completely lines up with the context of the verse, which uses the word not to talk about revealing clothing, interestingly enough, but women dressing expensively and in a flashy matter that showed off their worldly goods. I think it’s very interesting that Western Christianity has hijacked the word, ‘modesty’, and taken it to be about the revealing / covering of a body, when in Paul’s original writing it was about pride. To translate the verse in a culturally appropriate way, we would be better off applying it to women who wear expensive clothes, dress with pride according to the labels, or, inversely, dress with pride because of the lack of labels. In other words – adorn themselves with pride, instead of adorning themselves with humility.

Something I’ve been thinking a lot about is how Christ’s words (and the rest of the New Testament) are applicable to us today because of the generality of the issues they address. Take the issue of modesty, for example. If you interpret that word through a Western lens, instead of looking at it according to the original Greek that it was intended to be read in, you could think that the passage was talking about how a woman shows off / doesn’t show off a certain amount of skin or curves. But think about that for a minute … if that word is really about how a woman dresses to cause men to lust, then how should people of other cultures read it?

Take, for example, the primitive Polynesian culture I grew up in (missionary kid here). Children were naked until puberty. Women were topless their entire lives. Breasts were bared on every body. When my dad went in to translate that passage from 1 Timothy into their language, should he have explained to the women that they needed to cover up because it was God’s way? Or should he just have tried to be as true to the original Greek as he could, and let the words in the passage (context is King) speak for themselves — speak that we should not adorn ourselves with costly adornments, but instead cultivate a humble, gentle, Christlike attitude?

What I’m trying to get at here, I guess, (VERY long winded, I know. I’ve had to come back to this several times between diaper changes, picking up spilled bottles, and pulling the baby away from the cat food) … anyways, what I’d like to hear from you, I guess is your thoughts on the following questions:

1. If modesty was about our hearts, then what heart condition exactly is needed to be addressed here, and why, instead, do talks always become about how a woman’s body is perceived by men?

2. Do you acknowledge that the original Greek word, as well as context clues, point to pride being the sin, instead of revealing / covering your body?

Thank you for your time!

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