Sunday, July 19, 2009

The Immodest Man

Part 2 in the "Men Behaving Badly" Series
Part 1 Part 3 Part 4


We often assume that modesty is solely a woman's issue. For most people, modesty is nothing more than a word to describe one's dress. This is a very, very limited view of modesty. True modesty is an attitude: one that is free from vanity. Simply put, modesty is humility in action. Most women who dress immodestly do so for vain reasons. Whether they are exceedingly narcissistic or painfully insecure, the goal is to place the focus on the self by attracting the attention of men.

That being said, I think it is fair to say that most of the efforts put into educating people about modesty focus solely on women. It is rare we hear teaching on proper, modest behavior for men. So rare, in fact, one man raised the question in an online forum: "I wonder what do men do that cause women to stumble?" I am so glad he asked!

Men are tempted by what they see. Women, on the other hand, are tempted by what they hear. The Immodest Man is one who uses flattery.The answer is quite simple. Men are tempted by what they see. Women, on the other hand, are tempted by what they hear. The Immodest Man is one who uses flattery. Like the Immodest Woman, The Immodest Man flaunts his compliments for vain reasons: whether exceedingly narcissistic or painfully insecure, the goal is to place the focus on the self by attracting the attention of women. You may not think flattery is such a bad thing, but at the risk of being graphic, I want to give the men out there an idea of what this is like for a woman:
You are minding your business when some woman who is not your wife begins to tempt you visually with her immodest dress. Over time, things progress to sinful levels, to the point where you are unable to stop yourself from giving in to temptation. One day, the woman gets you alone. She starts to take off her clothes. She practically throws herself at you. Then, the moment you begin to undress, she slaps you in the face and says, "Ugh! What are you thinking!" You tell the woman, "But you're taking off your clothes! I thought --" And the woman tells you, "I don't want to have sex with you. I'm sorry if you got that impression." And that's that.

Ok, men. Judging from the number of vulgar terms that exist to describe women who do this, as well as the condition she has left you in, my guess is you'd be pretty angry if someone did this to you. In the long run you'd realize that God spared you from going any deeper into sin with this woman, but initially, you'd feel cheated, betrayed, and deceived. You may even experience feelings of hatred for this woman. This is an unfortunate vignette of what a man might experience when things progress to this level physically. I want you to compare this to what a woman experiences when things progress to this level emotionally by sharing a true story of two people I'll call Steve and Gina.
Steve and Gina met on a missions trip. After four days, Steve managed to get Gina alone, away from the rest of the group. Quite unexpectedly, Steve blurted out, "I know I've only known you for four days, but I haven't been able to sleep all week because I can't stop thinking about you. I think you're amazing. I normally don't do this sort of thing, but I have to tell you, I really feel that God has put you on my heart." (Again, at the risk of sounding graphic, I want the guys to know that for many women, the phrase "God has put you on my heart" is the verbal equivalent to having cleavage shoved in your face.)

Although they lived in separate states, Gina and Steve kept in touch after the missions trip. Steve spent three hours on the phone with Gina every night and told her he wanted her to move to the state where he lived so she could be closer to him. Gina knew things were moving too fast, but she was unable to stop from thinking about Steve as a "sure thing." When Gina finally decided to apply for a job where Steve lived, he became standoffish. This left Gina confused. "But, you said you wanted me to move. I thought --" Steve told her, "I am not interested in you. I am sorry if you got that impression." And that was that.

The immodest woman in the first scenario led the man down a path of lust and eventually caused him to believe that sex was going to happen. The immodest man in the second scenario led the woman down a path of false hope and eventually caused her to believe that a relationship existed where it did not.

The Bible is clear that sexual immorality is sin. It is easy to see why the first scenario is wrong. But many men do not see the second scenario as being equally sinful. (In fact, when Gina tried to confront Steve about his immodesty, he refused to acknowledge any wrongdoing.) Yet the Bible does take a stance on flattery. Two verses from Proverbs tell us: A lying tongue hates those it hurts, and a flattering mouth works ruin. (Proverbs 26:28). Whoever flatters his neighbor is spreading a net for his feet. (Proverbs 29:5). Flattery is not pleasing to God, nor does it serve the one on the receiving end of it.

GOOD NEWS FOR MEN

It is very, very important that men watch their words with women. We need to teach men to be modest in their speech, just as we need to teach women to be modest in their dress. We especially do not want to neglect our own children. While we are instructing our daughters toward modesty with the opposite sex, we also need to instruct our sons toward modesty as well. But some men might be scratching their heads and saying, "Where do you draw the line between flattery and a sincere attempt to encourage a woman?"

Men, take heart! You do not have to stop complimenting women. You do not have to suppress the desire to encourage a woman for fear that she will take it the wrong way. How do I know? Because I'm a woman who's been there. Take it from me, there are those out there who will settle for nothing less than legalism on this issue. I've been told that my neckline should be four finger widths above the start of my cleavage, and that my skirts should be a certain number of inches beyond my knee, and that my sleeves should fall at a certain point beyond my shoulder, etc. etc. If I had to take out a tape measure every time I got dressed, my life would be a miserable exercise in the laws of prescription. Likewise, if you start to fret about every little thing you say to a woman, you are guaranteed to become discouraged.

Men, my advice to you is to do what you can to protect our ears. We will do what we can to protect your eyes. But let's agree not to let anyone steal our joy in serving one another. Modesty is something that should be guided not by a set of rules and regulations, but by an attitude of humility. To illustrate this concept, I recommend the following sermon by CJ Mahaney. Although it is geared toward women, I highly encourage men to listen to it as well:



When we understand that the God who dwells within us is guiding our actions, we will know exactly when we've crossed the line.

9 comments:

Bobby Mosteller said...

Jennifer,

This is a really good post. I was a little nervous at the onset of the series, but now having read the second part, I am glad this stuff is being said. Not that I didn't think you would do a wonderful job, but I have found, with this particular subject, a lot of law gets thrown around and not much grace/understanding is presented.

A lot of times men forget that women function different than we do. I have found even for myself, in my own marriage, that words mean a lot more to my wife than they do to me. Whether that is good or bad I have found that daily I need to remember that what I say has a colossal effect on her mood, actions, joy even her relationships with others.

This is so important for singles as well because it is easy to get legalistic about our dress but be as fickle as the world when it comes to our speech or feelings.

You nailed it in that this, like all of Christianity, is a heart issue. Christian men need to understand that if a sincere and Godly, woman has crossed your path you are truly blessed. They are not to be treated as disposable or something to toy with...That is the world's way...

I have a lot more that I could say but those are just a couple of things that hit me as I read this...

Thanks again...These articles have been a great blessing and wake up call.

Looking to Him,

BM

Jennifer said...

Bobby thanks for your insight and encouragement! I was a little nervous at the onset of the series as well. I don't want to come at this in an accusatory way. I am taking my time writing these and I hope they will be a blessing to people.

I honestly, honestly believe that men do not know how upsetting to a woman it is when they use words carelessly. Many single men in particular assume that if they didn't have a physical relationship with the woman, then they haven't sinned. But when they imply there is more to a relationship than there really is, it can be heartbreaking for the woman.

This is important not just in romantic relationships, but father-daughter relationships as well. My mom recently told me a story about this woman she knows who has a cute little five year old girl who waited ALL DAY for her father to take her to the movies. When he finally came home, she was so excited, only to find her father say, "No, we're not going. I'm tired." The poor kid was crushed and said, "That's not fair! You promised." The father just dismissed her without a word.

I couldn't help but feel so heartbroken for that poor little girl.

WhiteStone said...

I have benefitted greatly from your three posts on men/women, especially the second and third. But my mind works more along logic and facts and less on emotion, etc. I often find myself at odds with other women when they are speaking frilly and femininely. I do not understand them well. While I desire to have women friends in my life I do not do a good job of creating/sustaining friendships. It is difficult for me to bond with the women in my church because I listen to them exactly as you mentioned herein...with my logic. I appreciate this third post...it was like a lightbulb moment! Thanks! I'm going to read it again and lay off the logic a bit. LOL

Jennifer said...

Whitestone, it is interesting you said this because I originally began the third post with a discussion on the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (but later cut it because the post was way too long). I am an ESTJ. Female ESTJs are rare. We love logic and reason and we scoff at "feelings." I understand the difficulty you have experienced connecting with other women, and I also believe this has made me more sensitive to the way men perceive things.

Part of the reason I created this blog is because God did make me a woman and I should not belittle things that are generally considered to be feminine. In a way, I am rejecting His design for me when I do this. I have made several efforts to embrace my feelings instead of dismissing them as foolish.

Another thing that helped me recently was that I took an introductory philosophy course and discovered that empiricism is considered a legitimate means of "knowing" (epistemology). So who am I to dismiss it? Granted, there are times when our feelings can deceive us, but they should not be ignored entirely. Logic is not necessarily superior. The Pharisees used logic in how they thought the Messiah would be identified -- and they completely missed Him!

Thanks for your thoughts!

Mrs. Parunak said...

Amen! Wonderful post.

Marie said...

Hi Jennifer,

I just read this and wanted to comment on how well-written and true it is. Many young women have been in the same or similar position as "Gina", and there is a certain smug, self-righteous attitude sometimes coming from the one who hurt her. I haven't read parts 3 & 4 yet, but you deal with some excellent points. Keep it up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the article! I appreciate your grace!

I am a woman and in writing something dealing with this subject, don't think, I would have been NEARLY as gracious.

You said that you don't feel men often know how their words' affect women. I'd have to disagree. I think a lot of them know they just don't care!

No sin is greater than another! I agree! So I think it'd be VERY unwise of me to make it a legalistic issue. I just have seen, from experience, that a lot of times (the men who do this) are milking the friendship/relationship for all it's worth to fulfill an immediate need of companionship.

When a man says to a woman 'you really seem like someone I could marry... You know I don't feel you'll be single much longer... You are such a gem and I really don't want you to see anyone else as I can't imagine life without you"...

To turn around and say there is no interest... They HAD to know that would be hurtful. But the immediate gratification often outways that and THAT is where the sin lies.

To top it off, often, when these men are confronted about their words/actions/behaviors it is often flipped as if the woman was the one who read more into things than she should have though she could have asked for clarification NUMEROUS times!

Lord help us! That is all I will say but this problem goes deep! And IMO it goes WAY beyond modesty!
.

Jennifer said...

Hi, Anonymous. You are right! Some of these men know exactly what they're doing (but I just wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt). I really like your point about how they flip it around. (In fact, this is precisely what Steve did to Gina. He told her she "took it too seriously" and "read too much into it."

The funny thing is, women often do try to clarify things, as you stated. They try to have the "where is this relationship going" talk. Men HATE this and often do not react well because in their minds, they are not in a relationship. But it still raises the question of why these men acted like they were in a relationship all along when they weren't.

Yes, excellent points, and something I wanted to get out there so more men understand that this is despicable behavior, equivalent to a woman shoving her cleavage in their faces. I did try to be as graceful as I could when writing the original article, but the fact is, we women are pretty disgusted by this kind of behavior. Men, if you want to know how to instantly lose our respect, this is it!!

Anonymous said...

Miss Jennifer you are right! And I didn't mean to sound combative at all! Just that sometimes we give men TOO much of the benefit of the doubt but, as you stated, if a woman does stuff (often inadvertantly) there is a problem! We are not handled with as much grace.

Take for instance the cleavage example. There are many women, I'm sure who do this NOT necessarily to attract men (though some will shove it in a man's face) but maybe solely to feel beautiful, sexy or because the dress that most flatters their shape happens to be the one that is sold with lower cleavage. I'm not excusing it just stating a point.

But a guy can do something, IMO, worse in terms of how it affects and can tear apart a life and this actually happened to me - he'll say something like - well it's not like we slept together. OUCH!!!

We say to the guys/about the guys - give him grace, give him mercy but we'll be calling a woman who shows cleavage a jezebel in arms with satan to destroy the church. These men are destroying the church! Leaving a trail of wounded, broken and bitter sisters' in their path.

It still angers me. Not in a bitter way (God has been so gracious as to bless me with a man NOTHING like that) but because I know a truck load of sisters' this has happened too and it's usually swept under the rug or minimized as if the sister is the one with the problem... Ohh and don't let dude get married! That is another story!

It's frustrating! Those same men are hailed as great leaders and put on high esteem as if their example is the one to watch yet they can't even handle something as pecious as a womans' heart. Nor do many of them want too... :(

That is what saddens me! It is a really unfortunate situation.

But you know what? It also teaches us women to put our trust in Christ alone and stop looking for these men to be all to us... They can't!

Blessings!