Modesty is so much more than a dress code. Explore Fr. Hardon’s four aspects of modesty: humility, studiousness, modest dress, and modest behavior.
The internet is raging with modesty debates: whether or not leggings are pants, whether or not women should wear tank tops, how many inches are allowed here or there before the fabric kicks in.
When we think of modesty, we often think only of determining the guidelines of appropriate dress for women. While this is vitally important, modesty is so much more than just a dress code, and modesty is not just a virtue for women.
Today let’s explore what modesty means for all faithful Christians (men and women alike).
Dear Jesus, I place myself in Your Presence. Please send Your Holy Spirit to open my mind and heart to Your truth. Guide my meditation today. Teach me the true meaning of modesty, unencumbered by my personal bias or any misconceptions.
Modesty: a fruit of the Spirit
Modesty is one of the Fruits of the Spirit.
“Fruits” implies that modesty is placed in the heart, fostered and produced by the Holy Spirit. It’s freely given – a gift to me, to be received by me, internalized and transformed into a living part of myself.
So, what’s the fruit – modesty – which I want to grow today?
It’s defined as “the virtue that moderates all the internal and external movements and appearances of a person.” So, modesty, not surprisingly, is moderation.
Lord, it helps me find balance amidst all the inward and outward desires that distract me from You. It helps me put You first in my life, and desire only those things that help me know You more and grow closer to You.
When my heart is turned towards You, then modesty may be revealed in my appearances – the way I present myself to the world around me. My speech, my actions, my dress, they all witness to the desire in my heart to put You first in my life.
Fr. Hardon gives four aspects to modesty: humility, studiousness, dress, and behavior. Jesus, please reveal what You wish to teach me of each, and how to practice it in my life so I can grow closer to You.
Humility, as it relates to modesty, “inclines [me] to recognize [my] own worth in its true light.” Humility helps me know my strengths and weaknesses and set my goals.
To truly be modest, I have to direct my goals and aspirations toward You, Jesus. I must strive to know the things in myself that are pleasing to You, and be aware of the ways in which I fall short.
In this world, there are so many ways I could take measure of myself, so many things I could be tempted to wish to change and improve. But in modesty and humility, I must choose those things which will lead me closer to You.
I don’t need to be the most attractive or the most put-together. I don’t need to be Super-Mom, or to have the best homeschooling program around. I don’t need to be the star-athlete or the life of the party.
What I need is to grow in love and virtue. I need to focus on my vocation.
Humility helps me know my faults. Modesty helps me desire change in myself – the removal of faults to be replaced by virtues – but not for my own sake, and not because anyone is watching.
Modesty motivates me to change because You desire it.
Modesty motivates me to change to become more like You.
Humility helps me know my faults. Modesty motivates me to change to become more like Jesus. Share on Twitter
It helps me keep in mind the true vision You have for me. To know this broken, sinful version is not what I’m destined for. Through Your grace, I can change. I can become a saint.
Studiousness surprises me. I’ve never thought of it as an aspect of modesty.
Teach me now, Lord, how studiousness relates to modesty.
Fr. Hardon says studiousness “moderates the desire and pursuit of truth,” and contrasts it to “negligence” and “curiosity.” Since the definition of modesty is moderating my desires, studiousness makes sense.
In a positive way, I need to learn about You, know You more, and always grow closer to the truth. Studies in theology, nature, science, math, these are all ways I can pursue the knowledge of truth, that reflects the beauty of You, my God, Truth itself.
In a negative sense, studiousness keeps me from laziness – studiousness tells me that I can’t make the excuse “I am too dumb” or “too busy” to study theology. There’s not excuse not to learn of You, my God.
Modesty inflames my heart to desire to know You more, to learn what I can about you – little by little, and with much guidance if needed.
Studiousness also guards my heart against vain curiosity.
Do I need to follow 200+ friends on Facebook? Do I need to know the daily business (ahem – gossip) of everyone around me and every story I can turn my ear to? It is hard to say it, but I don’t.
Modesty guides me to seek only those things that will draw me closer to You.
It helps me have compassion and understanding for those You have put in my life that we may make our journey towards You in Heaven together.
3. Modesty in dress
Modesty in dress is the most widely known aspect of the virtue of modesty.
Fr. Hardon says modesty in dress leads me to avoid offense and excess.
The Catechism states that modesty in dress refuses to “unveil what should remain hidden.” It also says that modesty inspires my choice of clothing, and that it varies from one culture to another.
Help me, Lord, to remember that modesty in dress, as a fruit of the Holy Spirit, is a gift from You. It’s not a dress-code or a competition.
I shouldn’t put on my Sunday best for the delight of those around me; I shouldn’t wear my favorite shirt just because I want to look good for company.
I should fill my heart with love for You.
I should dress with dignity (and as a woman, beautifully so) to give praise to the glory of Your image within me – to please You alone.
I should dress with dignity (and beautifully so) to give praise to the Image of God within me. Share on Twitter
Above all, I must not be proud in the way I dress. Help me not look down upon others because I am “better” or “more modestly” dressed.
Lord let me realize that modesty in dress is a result of one’s inward disposition to please You, and that this disposition must grow and expand until it overflows in the outward manifestation of modesty of dress.
If I perceive in another some lack in modesty of dress – humble me, Lord. Let me not be proud. Rather, turn my heart at once away from the thought of myself as better, of the other as inferior, and toward You who should be the goal and desire of all.
Let me draw alongside the other that we may both help each other grow in all four aspects of modesty.
4. Modesty in behavior
The fourth and final aspect of modesty is modesty in behavior.
This aspect guides how I should act towards and around others. St. Francis de Sales says modesty in my heart leads me to speak chaste and modest words, and prevents me from the sins of scoffing, derision and mockery.
It’s true, Lord, how can I be modest and humble if I look down on others, if I hold them in contempt with my words, or by my manner?
If I get fed up with someone, I might roll my eyes, or huff and puff. But these are immodest reactions on my part.
I need to endure others with love and patience. Just like You, my Lord, endure my faults with love, patience, and extraordinary forgiveness.
The Catechism says modesty “encourages patience and moderation in loving relationships.” Yes, with all my loved ones – friends, family – You call me to look beyond myself, to consider the good of the other for Your glory.
Modesty of behavior calls me to patience and gentleness – a real denial of myself. That’s much more difficult than my self-indulgent inclination to spend time only with those who please me, who cater to my desires.
Lord Jesus, help me always to have gentleness and compassion for others, so I may grow in modesty in my actions.
Give me the fruit of modesty.
Plant it deep within me. Foster it and help it grow. Let it blossom in humility, that I may know my worth and desire to become who you wish me to be. Let it moderate my curiosity, and give me the gift of studiousness. May it influence my dress and show itself in all my behaviors.
Jesus, I ask you for the gift of modesty, and all that will help me lead a life of holiness.
Remember: modesty comes from the heart
Today, we unveiled the four aspects of modesty that both men and women should aspire to:
- modesty in dress
- and modesty in behavior.
Strive to order your life and desires toward God, and to grow in all aspects of this Fruit of the Holy Spirit.
Make modesty a prevalent part of your life – from the inside out.
Keep in mind that “[modesty] depends on the heart as its source,” and train your heart to love and desire only God – the source of everlasting goodness!
Let modesty take root in your heart and grow in humility and studiousness until it overflows in its outward manifestations of dress and manner.
Let modesty take root in your heart and grow in humility and studiousness until it overflows in dress and manner. Share on Twitter
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