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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.
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.