It would seem that Modest(y) is (the) Hottest topic these days.
I have read some very thought-provoking articles on modesty in the past weeks: what it is, what it isn’t. I’ve read about whether it’s wrong for women to wear bikinis, about how much women are responsible for their dress as opposed to men being responsible for their lust, about how love should be the controlling principle in how we dress.
Against this backdrop, I have another thought on the topic of modesty to add to the discussion: that modesty is integrally related to intimacy. Modesty is, I believe, a protector of intimacy.
Intimacy involves “a close association with or detailed knowledge of” a person, subject or place. It includes the idea of privacy – something shielded from the ‘public’. Intimacy involves being close, familiar, sharing affectionately in a loving personal relationship. As such, intimacy is a word used for the closest of relationships: emotional intimacy, sexual intimacy, “let me not to the marriage of true minds” intimacy.
I would suggest then that modesty is a word we can use to describe behavior which protects intimacy. If intimacy is about being known and revealing ourselves, then modesty is that behavior which shields the private, which keeps the intimate “covered”.
Physical intimacy involves seeing and touching one another’s bodies. It is private. The bible uses the word “knowing” as a verb to describe sexual intimacy. Modesty protects intimacy by keeping our bodies “unknown” and saving that knowledge for a privileged relationship.
Emotional intimacy involves knowing one another’s deepest thoughts and feelings. We use similar language to describe these relationships: we BARE our souls. We REVEAL our secrets. We EXPOSE ourselves. We UNCOVER truth. The process of building emotional intimacy involves letting down our guard and “letting someone in”.
There is a corollary to this modesty-intimacy connection: that being that if we have “shown it all”, it is much harder to build true intimacy. If everyone knows my secret, then there is nothing truly special and “bonding” about me telling it to you. However, if there are things about me which no-one-but-you know, then you and I both know that that privileged and private information has forged intimacy between us.
Similarly, if everyone has seen Joe Bloggs naked because he is a well-renowned local streaker, then for Joe Bloggs to reveal himself to me would not build intimacy between us. However, the knowledge that I am the only person who has seen my husband in all his glory does add to the preciousness of intimacy.
I believe modesty involves choosing behaviors which form a boundary to protect intimacy. The word modesty has fallen on hard and controversial times. Not many want “modesty”. But intimacy is something we all want: we want to be closely bonded, to know and be known. Not by everyone, but by a select loved and trusted few.
The way I see it is this: modesty is more than a clothing choice. Modesty involves choosing to protect what we reveal of our body, mind and soul; and by choosing modesty, we create a protected space for the true joys of intimacy.