Modesty Is for Boys Too
Modesty is a subject that often focuses on girls and their clothing. But is there more to it that applies to boys? How can parents address this issue with their sons?
What comes to mind when you hear the word modesty? If you’re like most people, you probably think about a girl’s clothing choices: Is her top too low or too tight? How short is her skirt? Are her pants too tight? Is she showing too much skin? Is she dressing in a way that attracts the wrong kind of attention?
And it’s true—these are all aspects of modesty. If you have children, it’s important to talk about these issues with them. To get parents thinking more about this topic, this past summer we published a blog post titled “4 Ways to Instill Modesty in Your Daughter.”
Girls were the focus of that post, but modesty is not just for females. Modesty is an important virtue for boys too!
Just like girls, boys can also make inappropriate clothing choices. Go to a shopping center or park (on a warm day), and you’ll probably see guys wearing cut-off shirts, muscle tees, stringer tanks and low-slung pants with hiked-up boxer shorts. True, the objective for boys isn’t usually to “look sexy” (as is often the case when girls dress inappropriately), but the purpose of these styles is often still to draw attention—perhaps in an attempt to look cool or show off their biceps or sculpted abs.
Obviously, not all young men are interested in wearing these kind of clothes. That was the case with my sons. They’re adults now, but when they were growing up, one son preferred western wear and the other just wanted to wear football jerseys—neither of which could be considered “indecent” attire. Still, my husband and I often talked about modesty with them because there’s more to modesty than just what type of clothes you wear.
What is modesty?
Modesty can be defined as “conduct, manner, speech or appearance intended to avoid impropriety or indecency.” It involves avoiding behavior that is sexually impure, pretentious, vain or boastful; and not drawing undue attention to the self. Clothing choice is only one of many ways we can be immodest.
We should strive to glorify God with our words, actions and appearance—meaning we should strive to live in a way that pleases and reflects Him.The Bible identifies the core issue of modesty: “Whether you eat or drink, or whatever you do, do all to the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We should strive to glorify God with our words, actions and appearance—meaning we should strive to live in a way that pleases and reflects Him. Practicing modesty is one way to do this.
When my sons were growing up, five key aspects of modesty came up over and over again in our conversations on this issue. Here they are, and I hope you’ll find them to be good conversation-starters with your own children:
1. Modesty applies to words, attitudes and actions as much as clothing choices.
Kids need to know that even if they are wearing “modest clothing,” they can still be “immodest” by behaving in a shameful, arrogant, brash or indecent way. This obviously includes any kind of sexually promiscuous behavior, as well as things like crude speech and profanity, telling or listening to off-color jokes, bragging, gossiping, being physically aggressive and showing disrespect to teachers.
2. Both modesty and immodesty start in the mind.
To be truly modest, the place to start is in your thoughts. Proverbs 23:7 tells us, “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” If your child is striving to be pure in character, it’s much more likely he will dress, groom himself and behave appropriately. On the other hand, immodesty can get a foothold when pleasing the “self” becomes what’s most important—instead of obeying God. Humility is a major character trait found in the Bible, so help your kids develop it from a young age.
3. Godly character should be your focus, not a worldly definition of physical attraction.
Society bombards young men with the message that looking “hot,” “sexy” and “buff” is where it’s at. Boys need to be reminded that God is far more concerned with their character (1 Samuel 16:7) than their abs or biceps—which are temporary. Building godly character should be the priority, because that’s what lasts.
4. While who you are on the inside is the most important, how you dress and groom yourself still matters.
Just as what comes out of the mouth is from the heart (Matthew 15:18), our outward appearance reflects our inward character. If you allow your son to wear T-shirts with explicit or provocative messages, have an outrageous or flamboyant hairstyle, or dress very sloppily for school or church services, he’s going to send the wrong message to everyone who sees him. Instead, choose a look that promotes purity and godly values.
5. The way to determine if your attire is acceptable is to ask yourself whether it reflects God’s standards.
Clothing fads like skimpy swim trunks and hiked-up boxer shorts may not be specifically forbidden in the Bible, but right and wrong motives certainly are. Kids need to know that trying to allure the opposite sex or draw attention by wearing certain kinds of clothes is not proper. They should ask themselves: “What am I trying to accomplish with what I am wearing?” If the motivation is a matter of seeking the wrong kind of attention, it’s probably not an appropriate clothing choice.
Make it a point to discuss these issues with your kids. Even if you only have sons and no daughters, and even if they’re not drawn to outrageous clothing styles, modesty is still a vital topic to address. It’s up to you, as the parent, to help your kids understand what modesty really means and why it’s so important.
Don’t forget to read the author’s related blog post: “4 Ways to Instill Modesty in Your Daughter.”