“In times such as ours, [modesty] is truly a lamp in the darkness. For [modesty] is infinitely more than what we wear—it is a way of being emerging from a deep vision of ourselves. It is inherent in potential within every one of us, male and female. . .Most crucially, it is the key to all spiritual growth and, therefore, to the health of our society.” —Gila Manolson, Outside/Inside, 1997 (p.19)
The author of the above quote is addressing tznuit, which is used in Judaism as a set of laws to describe modesty and humility. It’s interesting to me that the Jews would have a set of laws alone to discuss modesty. I know as Christians we have been freed from the law and there is freedom we have by believing in the gospel.
The idea that modesty is infinitely more than what we wear intrigues me. When we typically hear about modesty we immediately ask questions like: Are my shorts finger tip length? Is my skirt too short and too tight? Is my shirt to low? But we never examine our emotions when we think about modesty.
What does it even mean to be emotionally modest? Have you ever been offended or hurt because you felt misled in a friendship with a woman? When you watch romantic comedies do you walk away expecting your husband to be like Joe Actor and love you perfectly and know your every need? Out of your emotions do you seek to emotionally seduce the opposite sex? Emotional modesty is as much as an issue for men as it is for women.
I would define emotional modesty as guarding your mind and your heart (and therefore the result of, the outworking of those emotions) for the glory of God.
God intricately forms women and men with emotions and emotional characteristics that differ from each other. Growing up in a small town and having two older brothers who were athletic I naturally wanted to play sports. I begin playing soccer at the age of four; if you know anything about soccer it can be a little rough at times and living in a small town there weren’t “all girl teams” until I was in junior high. The first time I was pushed down by a boy I cried. My parents (who were my coaches) pulled me out and explained to me that I needed to toughen up and if I wanted to play soccer this was part of it so pull it together and get back out there. I held on to that soccer lesson for many years all the way through college and into the corporate world.
For many years I associated emotions or expressing them as weakness.
We have conflicting messages shouting at us that say “share everything!” or “don’t share anything at all!” The Lord has graciously corrected my view and shown me that it’s okay to not just have emotions but to express them in a way that reflects him.
We are made to bring glory to God by expressing our emotions rightly!
Have you ever thought about how when you weep with a friend who is weeping or rejoice with a friend who is rejoicing you are bringing glory to God? In those moments you are able to reflect the Lord’s heart and character, Psalm 139:14 tells us we are “fearfully and wonderfully made” emotions and all.
One result of misguided emotions is lust. Lust is when you have an intense wanting for something that you think will bring you emotional fulfillment. Lust is the fruit of responding or living in light of your emotional want. Men and women both struggle with lust. People lust for power, physical items, or for sexual satisfaction.
I often hear both men and women cast blame on the other gender for their struggle with physical lust. Both men and women need to take ownership and repent of their lust. If you are lusting after someone physically than you have given into the temptation.
“For you know what instructions we gave you through the Lord Jesus. For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God; that no one transgress and wrong his brother in this matter, because the Lord is an avenger in all these things, as we told you beforehand and solemnly warned you. For God has not called us for impurity, but in holiness. Therefore whoever disregards this, disregards not man but God, who gives his Holy Spirit to you.” 1 Thessalonians 4:2-8
Use wisdom in the places you go, hangout, movies you watch, or people who you follow on Instagram. When you give into your intense wanting that comes from YOUR wrong emotions you are falling into lust for a person. Repent and flee from your temptation! The same goes for the lust of power, money, etc. . .flee and abstain from the sin of lust.
Our Emotional Excuses:
We often take this to the extreme and use the excuse of our emotions to over speak, to gossip, or we manipulatively put our heart on our sleeve for all to see it. The reality is that your heart isn’t yours to wear on your sleeve, it’s the Lord’s. Philippians 4:7 says, “that the peace of God transcends all understanding and will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” How are you protecting your heart?
We often emotionally invest in unhealthily things because they bring temporary satisfaction. Then we are filled with worry, anxiety, and respond out of our fleshly (i.e. sinful) emotions rather than our God-fearing emotions.
The good news, if you are a Christian, is that our emotions were redeemed 2,000 years ago on the cross. We are free from being driven by wrong emotions. We are now free to walk in the joy of knowing that even though our emotions can change from day to day the Lord doesn’t change (Mal 3:6).
God doesn’t promise us that we will have an easy life full of great emotions. We will all experience pain and sadness. But in all seasons, both good and hard, be a person who expresses emotions in a manor that points back to the image we are made from.