Keeping up Appearances
Teaching daughters why modesty is important
Physical appearance tops the list of measures many young women consider important. Wherever they go, the media and peers scream: “This is what matters most: how you look and your ability to use your body to get what you want.”
Unfortunately, some peers enforce cruel standards for fitting in, while the media and designers, eager for profits, relentlessly pitch the latest fashions. Too often we forget that we are not merely physical objects to decorate. We are spiritual beings; we are more fundamentally souls than bodies.
Every daughter needs to understand that her body serves the soul, designed by God to do good in the world. Her body is not the measure of her significance. This truth can free our daughters from the unrealistic expectations placed on their appearance.
Parents are in a unique position, empowered by God, to give their daughters a different perspective. Here are a few ideas for helping your daughter navigate appearance pressures:
1. Place high value on your relationship with your daughter. Suppose you find her in front of a mirror and remind her to be modest. How would she react?
If her response is negative, gently suggest gradual adjustments in her attire. Be patient. Your daughter’s standards may fluctuate during these experimental years when she’s crossing the threshold into womanhood. Even if your daughter shares your values and fashion standards, communicate your thoughts with her. This will build mutual trust that’s crucial for your continued influence.
2. Explain the need to show inner character with outward modesty. Virginity by itself is no guarantee of purity. Many young female celebrities talk about virginity and yet project loose standards. The modest person isn’t seductive. She doesn’t flaunt forbidden fruit. Instead, her modesty flows from inner purity marked by a humble and respectful attitude toward physical appearance.
3. Alert your daughter to the hazards of an immodest appearance. Boys have an almost irresistible urge to follow the clues of seductiveness. Why stoke the fires of fantasy and intensify the struggle of young men trying to live in purity? Daughters need to honestly face this reality.
4. Encourage your daughter to keep her body hidden for her future husband, and help her find the romance and joy in doing so. A person with a precious gift keeps it wrapped and waits for the perfect moment to present it to the one he or she loves. Our bodies are no different.
Some girls, however, regard their bodies as vending machines, dispensing eye-candy at little or no cost. Where’s the romance in that? A woman’s body should be like buried treasure waiting to be discovered and cherished by that one man who will love her permanently and selflessly.
5. Enter your daughter’s world, but do so with grace. Blurting out, “You’re not wearing that!” generally won’t go over well. Most daughters respond better to gentle expressions of concern about their appearance.
6. Set the example. How much time do you spend in front of the mirror? Do your tastes run toward the latest top-of-the-line fashions? What magazines lie around the house? What’s their message about the importance of fashion and looking good? Your daughter knows. Preoccupation with your own outward appearance will influence the values of your daughter.
You can set an example by dressing tastefully and expressing self-respect in your appearance. Cultivate within yourself the modesty and inner character you value for your daughter.
Paul wrote, “I also want women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety . . . appropriate for women who profess to worship God” (1 Timothy 2:9-10). The basic truth here is that modesty is grounded in godliness. Dressing to dazzle or titillate betrays a different agenda, one of seeking the attention of others and trading true significance for the counterfeit approval of others. Appearance pressures can be met with godliness, if it is viewed through the right perspective.
Doug Geivett wrote this article with his daughter Kaitlyn in Brea, Calif.