It’s February in Michigan, which means an abundance of cold. It also means parkas, winter hats, warm sweaters, thermal underwear, and wool socks.
We’re months from flip-flops, tank tops, shorts, and swimsuits.
So it might seem odd to talk about modesty in a month like this. It might seem even more odd to talk about modesty with our sons and not just our daughters. After all, when was the last time you saw a guy wearing a bikini, low cut shirt, or yoga pants? Hopefully never. As a dad with two boys, I’d like to talk about modesty. Hopefully without sounding too old or crazy.
Now before we get there, let me just say I am also the father of two daughters. I’m a dad who cares about what my daughters wear, how they see themselves, and what other boys think about. I’m a dad who cares about my daughters protecting the purity of other boys by how they dress and act. That’s a different post!
This one is about why we should talk about modesty with our sons, and not just our daughters.
If you’ve read posts or had conversations about modesty in the past, you know they can get a little wild. Shall we say heated or emotional? They also tend to be a bit one-sided. They are usually written or talked about from the perspective, and problem, of girls. But modesty isn’t just a problem for girls; modesty can be a challenge for boys.
Girls are not the only ones who wrestle with identity, image, and worth based on their looks. The externals matter just as much to boys as they do to girls. Boys can be just as guilty of dressing, or acting a certain way, to draw attention to themselves. And girls, often unnecessarily, carry the responsibility for keeping boys pure by being “modest,” when we should be telling boys to control themselves (more on that in a minute).
So while I think we should talk to our daughters about modesty, I don’t think we should stop there. We need to talk to our sons too!
We need to remind them that who you are is not how you look. Both The Atlantic and The New York Times have run articles in recent years highlighting the rise in boys who are concerned about their body image and physique. Studies cited indicate more boys are experimenting with supplements and drugs to increase muscle mass, and in some cases, diminish their weight.
In a culture obsessed with image, we need to teach our sons that God is more concerned with their character (1 Samuel 16:7). He’s after their heart and not their biceps or abs. While immodesty is the outward behavior we see, the inward struggle we don’t see is image and identity. Boys can be just as easily swayed to use how they look in all the wrong ways.
We need to teach our sons that modesty is about desire as much as it is about dress. Don’t get me wrong, I am all for modest dress. When modesty is just about what girls should or shouldn’t wear, it doesn’t go far enough.
The real battle goes much deeper than how a girl is dressed. The battle is closer to home because the battle starts in their heart. The battle to carve out and crucify sinful desires.
Our sons need to learn that our desires are good and God-given. But our desires are also fallen. Like any good gift from God, our desires can be misguided. Our fallen desires lead to sin. As James tells us, we are tempted when our evil desires drag us away and entice us (James 1:14-15).
So the answer for girls isn’t always a longer skirt, baggier sweater, or taller turtleneck. The answer for boys is self-control. We need to teach our sons how to have their desires renewed and controlled by Jesus and the power of His Spirit – desires that lead to life, joy, and intimacy in the long run.
If you are a dad like me, let’s talk to our daughters about modesty – but let’s not stop there. Our sons need it too!