Modesty is a State of Mind

By: Caitlin Forst, Office of Communications

Ah, summer. Some of us yearn throughout the year for warm weather, while others look forward to the return of breezes and sweaters. Regardless, all of us react to the heat, whether by escaping to the beach, turning up the air conditioning or pulling out our favorite pair of shorts.

 Modesty is a gift that inspires us to recognize the innate worth and dignity of ourselves and other people.

As Catholics, we all know that we are called to modesty. However, if you notice the difference in dress at Mass on summer Sundays, you also know that the meaning of modesty is often debated, or sometimes ignored. However, I am not writing to discuss the appropriate length of hemlines, garments that should or should not be worn at the beach, or the fittingness of plunging necklines.

I do not deny that some skirts are too short or that some bathing suits are too revealing, but I question the approach of beginning with restrictions to be followed instead of first challenging our approach to modesty. After all, if we really appreciate and understand the gift of modesty, it seems to me that appropriate clothing would follow.

The Catechism (no. 2521, 2522) teaches us that modesty:

  • Protects the intimate center of the person.
  • Refuses to unveil what should remain hidden.
  • Guides how one looks at others and behaves toward them in conformity with the dignity of persons and their solidarity.
  • Protects the mystery of persons and their love.
  • Encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships.
  • Requires that the conditions for the definitive giving and commitment of man and woman to one another be fulfilled.

In other words, modesty is a gift that inspires us to recognize the innate worth and dignity of ourselves and other people. As persons who realize that the God created us with a dignity in our body and our soul – a dignity worth protecting – we can be inspired by the reality of modesty.

Modesty starts within us, but is certainly carried out in our every-day decisions. Can we challenge ourselves to find clothing that is attractive and bearable in the heat, but does not tempt others to see us solely for our physical attributes? Are we modest in the way that we view others and the way we conduct our relationships? These are not always easy choices, but ones that we encounter every day, summer or winter.

How do you try to make modesty part of your daily life? Do you have any tried and true practices for enjoying the summer heat, while still dressing in a way that respects the fullness of who you are, body and soul?

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