Modesty Starts in the Heart (Not the Wardrobe)

pic_drawer_163249_yri1bhI work with teenage girls for a living.

I have a 5-year-old daughter who is going on 16.

I live in a culture where conservative women don’t wear pants.

It’s the time of year to buy new bathing suits.

And I am currently binge watching 19 Kids and Counting on Netflix.

All of these factors combined means I’ve had the word “modesty” on my mind lately.

Growing up, I rolled my eyes every time I heard modesty talks at home or at church. I grew up with pretty strict boundaries on what I was allowed to wear, yet I was also the girl who typically carried a spare set of clothes in my car (clothes I knew I couldn’t walk out of the house wearing). I wanted to fit in and be noticed, and I assumed my parents’ “no tank tops or short shorts” rule wasn’t going to cut it.

Now I’m on the flip side of things. Now I work with teenage girls who remind me so much of my former self. They want to fit in and be noticed. Now I am a mother and trying to figure out what standards to set in place for my own little girl. And now I can’t stop watching the Duggar family who, despite the fact that they have a million kids, seems to embrace the character of modesty in such a beautiful way.

I’m not writing about modesty to lecture. I’m not going to tell you how many inches your skirt needs to be or whether or not you should wear a one or two-piece this summer. I’m not going to tell you all the reasons why a young woman should be modest and what the consequences could be if she’s not. I heard all those things growing up and, well, they never seemed to do the trick. And I think I am just now realizing why…

Modesty is not just about the rules you follow and the clothes you wear. Modesty is a lifestyle and it all starts in the heart.

Looking to see if my philosophy was right, I went to the obvious source for all truth: Facebook. There, I posed this question to my friends: In your opinion, what is modesty? Is it just about the clothes, or is there more that defines whether you are modest or not? And sure enough, the feedback I received validated the thought that modesty is so much more than what you wear. Here are some of the things they said:

“Modesty is a choice, not something our parents or community force us to do but something we want to do as part of our witness.”

“In my opinion, when you are modest your disposition and person is not seeking to be noticed. You may be attractive – but don’t flaunt it or want to be noticed for it.  You may have many things to be proud of but don’t speak them aloud or talk on them often or broadly.”

“Modesy = Dignity.  How we carry ourelves, inside and out.”

“Modesty is proudly having respect for yourself.”

“It’s overall presentation…how you dress, how you talk, how you walk, your attitude, etc.”

All of these responses were wonderful, but I have to admit, my favorite was from a guy…go figure ladies!

“Modesty seems to start with knowing that you are completely loved by God, because of Jesus…Truly modest people are those who are satisfied in the love of Jesus and they don’t have to use people, their bodies, or seduction to feel loved.”

Oh, how I wish these were the words I heard as a teenage girl. And now, this is the wisdom I desire to pour over my daughter and the girls I work with.

The foundation of being a modest girl is being a girl who is satisfied in the love of Christ. Being modest is a choice that we make from our hearts. It embraces not just our wardrobe, but our attitude, our speech, and our character. And it is one of the foremost ways we can witness our confidence in our Savior’s love for us.

In Haiti, where I live, a woman’s dress defines her character and faith. Although the rules are sometimes extreme, I believe there is value to this standard. And my prayer is that young women in America will soon restore the meaning of modesty. I pray that the word “modesty” will no longer make teenage girls cringe (like it did me) and that it will not be seen as counterculture and uncool, but instead as above the culture and full of dignity.

In response to my Facebook question, one person replied with another question I want all of us girls to consider: “Are we spending more time selfishly/vainly worrying over ourselves or putting energy into being like Christ?”

As I examine my life, my character, and even my appearance I am going to ask you to do the same. How are we spending our time? Worrying about how we look to the world or instead focusing on looking more like Christ? Let us all agree to rise above and be modest girls, not because of rules or consequences, but because our hearts are satisfied in Christ and want nothing more than to look like Him.

About Jillian Kittrell 11 Articles
Jillian is married to Hunter and they have three children. They currently serve as missionaries in Haiti working with the Emmaus House. You can read more about their life and work there on her personal blog at

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