Modesty is the quality of a person’s being that is demonstrated or shown by his/her moderate and unassuming style of dress and behavior. Modesty is most commonly associated with how a person dresses, particularly that of women or girls, but it is a broader virtue of one’s personality. It is similar to humility as it is expressed in one’s behavior. In respect to how a person dresses, it indicates, for the most part, that such a person does not display her or his body in a way that excessively emphasizes her or his sexual attributes.
Modesty and culture
Standards for modesty in one’s style of dressing and wardrobe as well as one’s behavior, particularly in public, are commonly set by the culture in which a person is raised. Ethnic, racial, religious, national traditions, and customs regarding these matters of public dress and behavior are usually well established, and they are generally taught and demonstrated by the older generations to the younger generations. Examples of this process can be seen throughout the world, particularly in its large cities where people from various cultures and ethnic and racial groups mix together in public. Muslim women and Amish men and women and boys and girls are usually easy to spot in any crowd because of their distinctive styles of dress.
But some of these styles of dress and behavior are changing. Individuals in some cultures who are born and live within specific ethnic, racial, religious, and national traditions are given more freedom and opportunities to vary their styles of dress and behavior. This kind of freedom has some positive as well as negative implications. Young individuals can use this freedom of choice to express their self-image, to set themselves somewhat apart from the traditions and styles of their elders. But if they use this freedom to express themselves in exaggerated sexual styles of clothing or public displays of overly aggressive, arrogant, or disrespectful behavior, they may become immodest and be regarded as such in the quality of their personalities.
Some businesses, professions, schools, and occupations have specific dress codes or uniforms that are required or set as standards for those in such groups. For men in many careers it is a suit and tie. Doctors and nurses usually have white coats or uniforms when they are on duty. Of course service men and women, at least in the USA, have recognizable uniforms. Boys and girls in some schools are required to wear standard uniforms. Where a modest or “professional” dress code is required there are usually also requirements for moderate, unassuming, polite, respectful behavior. Some performers are noted for their immodest styles of dress, in many cases wearing as little as possible to keep the law for a minimum of covering for their private sexual parts. Some individuals who are very modest and “professional” in certain situations may be more casual or almost immodest in other social situations, particularly on a beach.
So many individuals in our world have personal choices that they can make regarding how they express themselves modestly from situation to situation. They may observe the cultural, ethnic, racial, and religious standards for modesty in every situation. They may rebel against some of them some of the time. Or they may vary their styles and standards of dress and behavior according to what seems appropriate in any situation.
Benefits and values of modesty can be especially good
Since modesty is a part of an individual’s personality, his/her personal being, it is a virtue. If it is consistently expressed in one’s style of dress and behavior, it can bring significant benefits to an individual. It can strengthen or add other associated virtues to a modest person’s reputation or character. It can reinforce one’s reputation for humility and respectful behavior. When a person demonstrates a high level of personal self-respect by his/her modest way of dressing and behaving, he/she will probably also earn a high level of respect from others. Most of you know one or more examples of individuals who have lost all or most of anyone’s personal respect by their immodest styles of dress or behavior.
Modesty also has benefits and values that extend beyond one’s situation or reputation in life. As a consistent virtue in a person’s life, it can protect him/her from yielding to temptations that would not only damage his/her reputation but might also draw him/her into destructive relationships and life-styles. Young people may not always appreciate this protective benefit of the modesty that they are being taught by their elders, but nevertheless it can be a very valuable virtue.
When a person has a genuine commitment to modesty in his/her life, he/she is attractive to God. A modest attitude in one’s style of dress and behavior is one way of responding to God's invitation to live with him in a relationship of love, personal purity, and grace that can extend into eternity. The virtue of modesty is especially good, because it has benefits and values that can be received forever! It is one mark or distinguishing quality of a child of God, an individual who has been taught by God and who is seeking to live in accord with his holy and pure standards for what is right.
My appeal to you is to live in accord with the virtue of modesty
A modest attitude in your style of dress and behavior may not make you extremely popular with the “worldly” crowd, but its eternal benefits and values are so good that they shouldn’t be ignored or rejected. Few self-respecting individuals will really mock you for being modest. A genuine quality of personal modesty will never negate the sex appeal of one’s femine sensativity or masculine strength. Those who are struggling with their own sense of self-respect may be drawn to you to find out the secret of your quiet appeal. No business, career, profession, or friend should require you to be immodest. The choice is really yours.