Respect? That’s My Son’s Job

IMG_8674I’ve read a LOT of blogs lately. Blogs about how girls should dress, how young ladies should protect young men, how the way a girl dresses defines her. I’ve read about how a girl is responsible for the looks she gets, for what goes on in a boy’s mind, for if and how much he lusts after her. I’ve read blogs from mothers of sons, who’ve warned girls of the impending Facebook block, should she show up too scantily clad on one of her son’s Facebook feeds (I applaud her, and I think I might want to try this). 

As the youngest of four girls belonging to a pastor, I was very much raised to dress modestly. Constantly aware of the length of my shorts, the tightness of pants, the thickness of the straps on my tank tops, the cut of necklines, and the openness of dress backs. And Lord knows, two-piece swimsuits were simply out of the question. 

And I don’t disagree. We women were created with a unique and curvy beauty, designed specifically to appeal to men’s physical and mind’s eyes. Knowing it, we have a responsibility to dress ourselves both in clothing and in dignity. For our own sake as much as anything else. 

But here’s the thing: As the stepmom of a 16-year-old young man and mom of a 2-year-old toddler (whose world-in-14-years will undoubtably make me cringe in new ways), I’m annoyed. 

I’m annoyed that all the preaching to “keep a boy’s mind pure” seems to be aimed at girls. Because that’s my sons’ job. 

I’m annoyed that parents seem to be teaching their little girls that to be pretty and dress up their curves is to cause a man to stumble, “So be careful. And maybe wear a habit.” Because I want my boys to learn the difference between a beautiful woman who knows how to dress to accentuate her loveliness, and one who’s dressing for stares. I’m training them to discern a woman who dresses in godly character even when she’s wearing a bikini, from one who covers all the right parts because she hates herself and is ashamed of her body. I’m training them to recognize and avoid the attention-hungry girl seeking to manipulate his baser instincts AND the self-righteous religious girl who seeks to manipulate his spirit in more subtle ways. And that practice involves a lot more than weeding the “properly” dressed girls from the “immodest” ones.

I’m annoyed that parents are talking all about what Miley did on the VMA stage (and in what little clothing), about how girls shouldn’t emulate her and boys shouldn’t chase girls like her, all while ignoring what a 34-year-old married father did to her on that same stage. Because if she should know better, so should he. He should have been the one covering her up.

I have two boys whom I love. I want them to respect women. I want them to cherish their sexuality and save it for a worthy wife. I want them to hold out for worthy wives and, instead of chasing tail, practice becoming worthy husbands. 

Just as a worthy wife doesn’t make a practice of baiting all the men she can, worthy husbands don’t blame women when they take the bait. They own their dishonorable thoughts and deeds, and repent. LIKE MEN.

I, as their (step)mom, am striving with all my might and praying with the fervor of a thousand hurricanes, that they will practice self-control until said wife is ringed. 

I’m praying that they will practice capturing unworthy thoughts about girls, committing them to the Lord, and moving on with honorable thoughts, rather than blaming the girl on whom they unleashed their immaturity.

I’m teaching them that THEY are responsible for how long their eyes linger on a girl, and THEY are responsible for treating her with the dignity inherent to her womanhood, even when she doesn’t know it or seem to deserve it. 

I’m teaching them that worthy ladies are found reading Jane Austen books in the library, enjoying a cup of coffee with a friend after a Saturday shift, or running a 5k on the track team…not at a party getting wasted and disrobing (or being disrobed). 

But I’m also teaching them that, should they find themselves at a party where girls are getting wasted and disrobing (or being disrobed), they should be the guys who step up and protect them, cover them, and help preserve their dignity while they’re drunk – NOT the ones taking advantage of those girls. 

I’m teaching them that, just as women were created with the desire to be desired, men were created with desire. And just as the same controlled fire that warms a home can, uncontrolled, burn that house down, so is their desire. So PRACTICE SELF-CONTROL.

Frankly, all this talk to daughters about, “Girls, don’t make my boy lust!” is undermining the God-given charge to my boys to take responsibility for themselves and CHOOSE not to make meat of the ladies in their midst. 

All this talk of how girls should dress “for boys” (to protect their eyes, to help them not to stumble, etc etc etc) perpetuates the lie that women exist for men – for their pleasure, for their protection, etc – rather than for the God who loves them and created them fearfully and wonderfully with the face and eyes and hips and breasts that men (honorably) admire. 

It perpetuates the myth that my boys literally cannot help themselves; that they cannot control themselves; that they cannot capture and commit unworthy thoughts to the Lord; that, given the opportunity, they will lust – they don’t have the choice not to – and therefore, we women are responsible to not let it go that far. (Anyone else cringing at the nuances reminiscent of the “she got herself raped” culture?)

I’m striving to teach my boys that they alone are responsible for how they treat women, for how they think about women, for whether or not they lust over women. That even if provoked, they don’t have to take the bait, and if they do, THEY need to repent – not her. (I do hope mothers of daughters are teaching their girls not to provoke my boys’ desire…but that’s another blog…maybe…)

I want my boys to know that girls who strip down and pose for them aren’t looking for love, but attention. So instead of flirting and affirming that her worth lies in her ability to entice men, I’m teaching them to do the decent thing. To befriend her, to affirm her character and intelligence rather than the curve of her bum in a pair of tight jeans. Because maybe she doesn’t know she’s more than fodder for a boy’s daydreams, and maybe my boy can be the one to show her the truth.

I’m teaching them that men have a special power to bestow dignity on women who don’t otherwise know their worth. And that’s a sacred privilege.

Don’t get me wrong: I HOPE my boys don’t have to live their days in a society in which women more closely resemble strippers than, say, teachers. And I hope that mothers of daughters (and more importantly, fathers of daughters) are teaching their girls that the way a woman dresses can engender either a man’s respect and admiration or his baser instinct to lust, and that character trumps curves. I hope they’re teaching their dignified daughters how to spot my honorable sons from among the throngs of boys who just want to do them. (*Snort* – I just said “do them.”) I hope those girls are being taught to clothe themselves with integrity and carry themselves with the self-respect and the confidence that comes from knowing they’re worth more than a one-night-stand, so my sons have someone to date and bring home to me. 

But I refuse to let my sons off the hook. I refuse to let them blame girls for how long they look and what they’re thinking as they stare. 

Because I’m raising my boys to be men. Men who sacrifice themselves for the women in their lives, as Christ gave Himself up for the church. I’m raising them to be men who honestly and fearlessly face their ugly thoughts, humbly repent, and confidently move forward.

I’m raising men who will protect and preserve the honor and beauty and dignity of women, not men whose dignity and honor need to be protected and coddled by habit-clad women. 

Because – call me a throwback to the olden days – I believe that’s how God made us. 

  • Elizabeth

    Beautiful. And I come from very much the same sort of background–three sisters, pastor’s daughter…now I have a seven-year-old daughter and two four-year-old boys. I want them to respect God, and their own bodies and minds and souls, and those of others.

  • Beth

    Thank you I love this I have a 14 yo boy and we are striving to teach the same concepts.

  • Kate

    Thank you for truly respecting men and believing they are intelligent, thoughtful creatures capable of responsible behavior. Your sons are very blessed to have such a loving, respectful mother!

  • Kristi

    Good for you!! I have 6 boys, and will be doing the same thing. God bless you, and I would appreciate any prayers as I am on this same journey.

    • amycourts

      You got it. We momma’s gotta stick together.

  • Frozen Exposure

    Wow. Way to go, Mom. =) Too bad my girls are 11 years old, almost 3 years, and 4 months old. I hope hope hope pray pray pray that the mothers of their future husbands are raising them as you are yours. And for my almost 2 year old son, that his future wife’s mother is doing the same. I will be.

  • wayneraltman

    As a father to three girls I am teaching them that in order for anyone to respect them they must first respect themselves. Long before your stinky boys get anywhere in their zipcode they will be armed with the self confidence, and awareness of others that will determine any future dates.

    I provide an example as does their mother what is acceptable, and what is unacceptable behavior, and dress.. While we have hopes, and do pray for them, it is not what we are relying on.

    • amycourts

      If and when I have daughters, you can bet I’ll be teaching them the same, Wayne.

  • B

    Truer words have never been spoken. Thank you for this. It says everything I’ve spent my life trying to teach others!

  • amycourts

    Thank you all for sharing your responses! I’ve been astounded to see how many are thinking like me, and I’m encouraged by it! Not because I’m being affirmed (that’s fun too), but because I believe it’s true.

  • Rebecca @ The Reluctant Housew

    YES!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! thank you!!!!

  • Belle

    AMEN! I recently listened while a Mom told me that her daughter’s boyfriend’s parents said the reason their dating children had probably gotten a little too close was because my friend’s daughter “was a little needy.” Of course the boy’s parents didn’t know their son (pastor’s son) had recently texted their daughter asking her if she would perform oral s__ on him.

    As neighbors, having known said girl for about 10 years now and seen her modestly dressed at home, babysitting my daughters, on Facebook (we’re FB friends) and when I run into her out and about during errands, I can assure you that it was not a lack of modesty in dress that made him stumble.

    While it takes two in any relationship and each person can make a better choice at each turn, I do miss the days when we as a society asked men to prove their worth by their honoring and protecting women, instead of allowing them to relinquish responsibility because “she could have said no at any time.”

    Women want to be loved and protected and will trade physical intimacy for emotional intimacy – knowing this vulnerability, shouldn’t a man go out of his way to protect his sister in Christ from stumbling into this area of sin? Just as a women, knowing men are vulnerable to the physical, take some measure not to make a brother in Christ stumble?

    I love my friends with sons, but if I hear one more time about how girls today are hussies because of the way they dress and how they brazenly call their precious sweet son without any word of their son’s duty to be an honorable man in the face of such temptation….argh!

    When we blame the other person, it really always goes back to the very beginning doesn’t it? God asks us “What have you done?” and we respond: “The woman you gave me, gave me the fruit and I ate.” or “..the serpent deceived me…”

    • amycourts

      The blame game – it’s literally as old as time, right?

  • Wendi

    Awesome post!!!! I completely agree with what you are saying and the importance of teaching our sons as well as daughters!!

  • Laurel

    I am breathless. Amen sister.

  • liz

    Best thing I’ve read on the internet in a long time! Thank you. Bookmarking this to share with my husband and boys later one. Blessings to you and your family!

  • David

    Great blog post. Here’s my two cents. As the father of 2 girls and 1 boy, it is my job to teach ALL of my kids to dress modestly and to show respect to the divine qualities of members of the opposite sex. To my daughters I have to encourage them to dress modestly and to be strong and independent, that their self worth does not come from the ogling eyes of teenage boys. To my son, I am trying to teach him that he needs to respect all women and focus his attention on those who will encourage him to respect them.
    There was one thing I disagreed with in your post. It sounded like you were calling out all those other posts and saying that dressing modestly means not liking pretty or covering up their curves. I have a 14 year old daughter who is absolutely gorgeous, and she knows it. Her mother and I make sure that she is aware of how beautiful she is. But we also make sure that she knows that her beauty is not her only asset. With that said, we encourage her to dress in a way that allows her to highlight her natural beauty while still being modest. I think to many people equate modesty with frumpiness. We have a unique opportunity to teach our son that the girls that he should trend toward are those who dress and act like his older sister.
    Another thing I would like to point out is the fact that, while I agree with the ridiculousness of the “she asked for it” defense, and that boys and men need to make sure they don’t create an offense, there are some girls out there who are looking for trouble.
    Thanks for the post and the reminder that modesty and respect is everyone’s responsibility

    • amycourts

      David, I don’t believe modest dress = frumpiness. Not in the least. I think there is an element to what I call the “modesty culture” that elevates “modesty” to such a degree that young girls *think* it means they must be frumpy. I know that I, personally, was so afraid growing up that I would cause a boy to stumble, that I clothed myself in giant baggy pants and shirts – i.e. I made every effort (consciously or subconsciously, I’m not sure) to AVERT the eyes of boys, lest I be responsible for their stares. Like you, my parents took great care to let me and my sisters know how beautiful we were, physically, spiritually, and mentally. That didn’t curb the misunderstanding for me when I was 14. The gravity of the discussion was on my shoulders, as it seems to me to still be on a girl’s shoulders.

      And as I said in this blog – Where my son’s behavior is concerned, it could not matter less what a girl is (not) wearing. THEY are responsible for their thoughts, for whether or not they respect her. I hope daughters are being taught responsibility as well – but that’s utterly beyond my or my boy’s control. What I can control is whether or not my sons are being taught to respect and value women and sexuality; what they can control is where their thoughts go when tempted. That’s it.

      I would say, finally, in response to this idea that “some girls out there looking for trouble,” I could not disagree more. No girl is looking for rape or assault. A woman’s dress is NEVER interchangeable with her consent. So unless she’s actually approached a boy and said, “I’m looking for trouble – is that you?” then she’s not looking for trouble.

      The very idea that she is, is at the root of what I’ve addressed here: The false assumption – the cultural doctrine (especially among the Church) – that men cannot and should not be expected to control themselves, and that women are ultimately responsible for whether or not a man abuses her. I know you said you “mostly agree” with what I’ve written – but if there are any caveats, any exceptions when a man shouldn’t or can’t be held accountable because “some girls are looking for trouble” – then we’ve reverted to the subterranean standard of women being responsible for men’s actions. And that’s totally bogus, entirely immoral, and wholly unbiblical.

      What happened to the Joseph model for male behavior? What happened to the principle of “fleeing temptation” even as temptation flings herself and every power she wields in his face?

      • Truth

        “I would say, finally, in response to this idea that “some girls out there looking for trouble,” I could not disagree more. ”

        Well, I could not disagree more with you. If your child wanted to go play on a tightrope above the grand canyon – drunk – and fell and died, it would be appropriate to say he was looking for trouble. If a girl dresses slutty and gets drunk at a party full of guys, she is absolutely looking for trouble. To deny that is to deny reality.

        • Kevin Thomas

          I think there is a difference between “looking ” for trouble and ” finding” it.

          • Truth

            Kevin, I’m not sure what you mean. Please expand.

        • Frustrated

          “If a girl dresses slutty and gets drunk at a party full of guys, she is absolutely looking for trouble.”

          And THAT is rape culture, my friend, because you are saying that just because a girl–rightfully or wrongfully–chose to dress a certain way and/or to drink, is ASKING TO GET RAPED. No one asks to get raped. That girl did not dress that way and drink with the mindset that, “I’m going to be violated tonight. YAY!” This is the prevalent attitude in society these days and, not only is it wrong, it is offensive to women.

          I think the overall point of this post is that, while girls and women have a responsibility to present themselves in a way that honors God, men and boys have the absolute responsibility to do the same, and that could mean the way they dress, the way they speak, the way they act, and–in this particular example–THE WAY THEY DON’T TAKE ADVANTAGE OF A GIRL WHO MADE DECIDEDLY POOR DECISIONS.

          I would apologize for being so pointed but I won’t, because eight years ago I was that girl and I did get raped. Not by a stranger, but by a friend who, while my long-time boyfriend was out of town, got me drunk (I was not and still am not a drinker) and raped me while I was unconscious. Was I asking for that? NO. Did I make a poor decision? Probably. Was it my fault? ABSOLUTELY NOT. My “friend” had a responsibility to be respectful and he not only failed, but purposefully took advantage of me. Now society blames me and calls me a “slut,” and he didn’t even get a slap on the wrist because “that’s just how guys are”?

          To deny that is WRONG is to deny reality.

          • Truth

            “Rape culture?” What exactly is rape culture? Do you suppose that immodestly dressed women contribute to their own objectification and our “rape culture?” If so, why would anyone ever write an article downplaying women’s role in redeeming our over-sexualized culture? Or describe women as dressed in bikinis as having Godly character?

            As for your personal experience, I can’t know the details of your situation, so I can’t judge, but emotion is not an argument. I get that you’re angry, but it sounds like you are downplaying your own responsibility of what happened to you. How were you dressed? How did he “get you drunk?” Did he physically force alcohol down your throat? Surely, you must take some responsibility.
            Your case may be different, but I am tired of hearing new stories coming out everyday of “poor innocent girls who were raped at a party.” When in fact they were party girls dressed like Bangkok street hookers getting stone drunk at parties, waking up next to some guy and regretting what they did the night before, so they call it rape. Sorry, I just don’t have much pity on that person.

            Is the guy guilty and will he stand trial before Christ? You betcha. But so will the foolish girl who played with fire and got mad when she got burnt.

          • amycourts

            Don’t let anyone tell you you’re in any way responsible for a boy’s illegal and wholly reprehensible behavior, for his raping you. You are responsible for the already admittedly-foolish choices you made. But friend, there is no court on this earth or in eternity that will blame you, hold you responsible for having been assaulted, or tell you that you were asking for it, and that your friend was simply reading your cues. It’s deplorable that people still think this way, and it’s a lie from Satan himself.

            Ironically, there’s absolutely no shred of actual truth in what “Truth” has said to you. Not a shred. Be confident that even if guys like him have no pity on women who are raped – much as the pharisees and stone-throwers had no pity on the woman caught in adultery, and stood ready and aiming to kill her – Christ stands to guard and honor you. Christ stands to defend you.

            And so do I, and so do a lot of actual Men.

  • Jesse

    Not disagreeing with the overall thrust of this piece. Yet…

    “I’m training them to discern a woman who dresses in godly character even when she’s wearing a bikini.”

    Please explain how to discern this. And also how one can appear in public in the equivalent of underwear while still dressed in godliness.

    • Truth

      Jesse,

      Excellent point. This is typical gnosticism which says that there is no connection between the inner and outer person. If a woman is dressing immodestly, then she is not displaying Godly character – period.

    • amycourts

      Relationship, Jesse. Relationship. When my sons and I go to the beach, we see women and girls all over the place in bikinis. I have no doubt whatsoever that many of those women are believers in Christ.

      The bottom line is that the only way for my sons to know if ANY woman is clothed in godly character is to actually get to know the woman, rather than pre-judge her as a hussy or a slut because she’s worn a bikini to the beach.

      • Jesse

        I don’t doubt many of them are Christians either. But Christians do not always display godliness.
        To say it is not befitting a Christian to appear in public in what is basically panties and a bra is not to call those who do so hussies or sluts. Nor is it to exonerate men who lust at them. It is to call them to a better way.
        Do you honestly think any of our fathers in the faith, whether in the Bible or church history, would be OK with a Christian girl donning a bikini because she displayed godly character besides? Do you think this kind of reasoning would fly in any age but ours?

        • amycourts

          I agree: Christians don’t always display godliness. That doesn’t change our sainthood.

          It wasn’t befitting a YHWH follower to defy God’s direct command and take hundreds of wives and concubines; to steal and impregnate another man’s wife and then have that man killed; and then to lie about it. But David was still called “a man after God’s own heart.” Point being, one can be simultaneously drenched in blatant sinfulness and still be called godly – by God. As such, we finite, flawed, sinful humans would be wise to reserve judgment of anyone else’s godliness or character, especially when that judgment is based on clothing choice.

          I’d also suggest that modesty is, to a large extent, subject to context.

          A man in a speedo at the beach is, to my mind, immodestly dressed – even if he’s at the beach. That same man in a speedo racing in the Olympics is perfectly modest.

          Likewise, a woman in compression shorts and a sports bra at the mall is, to my mind, immodestly dressed. Running 15 miles in 90 degree heat – not so immodest as wise.

          A woman who is walking around topless on a beach here could be arrested for indecent exposure. That same woman could be found topless breastfeeding a child in Africa, and no one would think twice.

          Similarly, one might find a “godly, Christian woman” at the beach donning a full-body covering circa the 1920s, as an act of deliberate modesty, while the vast majority of her peers are donning bikinis. Of those women, who is likely to draw the most attention? I’d venture to guess the 1920s clad swimmer. In which case she’s guilty of the very same thing – straining for attention – as the women she’s gone out of her way NOT to be like.

          I think the fathers of our faith – and more importantly Christ – wouldn’t care nearly as much about whether a woman is wearing a bikini to the beach, as whether or not she’s loving her neighbors as herself, expressing kindness and compassion to everyone as Christ extended it to her, and generally refraining from casting flash-judgments on total strangers.

          • Kevin Thomas

            All I have to say is WORD–

          • Sara

            Oh my goodness, this! THIS THIS THIS!

            I once heard someone else point out that modesty is an attitude – regardless of what you’re being careful to cover, are you still straining to outshine your sisters? To “one-up” them, to appear “more worthy” than them? If so, you are being immodest in a much more damaging way (to your own heart and to others) than merely by exposing skin.

        • Kevin Thomas

          I have taught my 17 year old he is responsible for his behavior. I agree that we can only speak truth to whom we have earned the right–speaking through the portal of relationship. Someone is more apt to listen to me if they know that I love them and hold their best interest. Having said that…I have to remove a 2 by 4 from my eye. Maybe after I take care of this I can go attend to those bikini wearers. Grace and peace, k

  • Truth

    This is quite possibly the worst article I have read on this topic. Why isn’t the author content to say that women should dress modestly and men should control their minds and eyes and flee temptation – and leave it at that? It is obvious she is saying much more. In her words, all this talk about girls dressing modestly “annoys” her. What could possibly be wrong with telling our daughters to dress modestly? (And please don’t start with the straw man that modest = frumpy. No one is falling for that myth.)

    In an age when most girls dress like Maxim magazine models, I couldn’t think of a MORE appropriate duty than for pastors to bravely implore the young women in their flock to buck the trend and not dress like the world. My wife and I take our kids to our town’s local fair and literally 99% of the girls (some look as young as 12) dress like prostitutes. It’s nothing short of an epidemic. Most pastors are too cowardly to condemn this trend. So we should be doing everything we can to encourage them. Articles like this do the opposite – and why? There is obviously an axe to grind – I just can’t figure out what it is.

    And let’s face it – any men that are taking this side probably want to see girls immodestly dressed. They won’t admit it, but I think it’s true.

  • Mark G

    Thank you. As the father of five girls and brother of four sisters I find it disturbing that there seem to be those even in the church who buy into the notion that boys are just being boys (sewing their oats or whatever) while girls on the other hand should be moral, and are even responsible for the immoral thoughts and behavior of men. Men need to own their struggles. As a man, I know sexual lust isn’t limited to women in inappropriate clothing. It starts in the heart.

  • John

    How are you teaching them? What scriptures, books, sermons and mentors are you using? How is your church community, both at the building you worship in and the believing community around you, aiding and advising in this endeavor? It seems that the newest twist in the “modesty” discussion is that “boys are responsible”.

    I have seen the message of this blog several times now, but no expression of how to execute it. The church today is in so much tension over authenticity and here comes another pull. I am not disagreeing with the author, and “even a boy is known by his doings” and “God sees the heart”, but I have yet to see much in the way of “bearing one another’s burdens” on this issue. Maybe the Facebook monitoring mom should have been a little more thoughtful regarding the pictures of her boys, but at least she is trying. She is trying to “train up a child”. In American culture failure is anathema and we in the church are quick to criticize anything that might not be completely successful. I am probably not going to ask my daughter to cover her head in public, but at least the head covering folks are trying. There is this feeling that the women who want to dress modestly to “help the men around them not stumble” are either wrong or squares or both. I may be wrong, but it sounds like “bearing one another’s burdens” to me.

    Personally, as a man, I have struggled for years with “my responsiblity” on the modesty issue. Even in my mid-thirties, going to the store can be a struggle. Yet fight is what I do. This life is a spiritual battle and this is an area of trial for me. The Holy Spirit has given me many weapons. Some are specifically for this area and others apply to all areas of life. Still, going out into public can be as serious as Christian’s battle with Apollyon. With prayer and a mind ready to respond to temptation I persevere so that Christ will get the glory. I go out of my home ready for spiritual war.

    Now the hard part is passing this on to my sons, and I can find little assistance among my brothers and sisters. Self-determination has crept into the church and we are afraid to address each other on matters like this. “Who are you to judge me” we would demand of each other, and yet scripture calls us to help each other in our journey towards heaven. The concept of holiness seems lost, even in the church. There seems to be some unspoken idea that if one pursues serious holiness they will miss out on something (not sure what the something is). Yet Christ calls us to “be holy as I am holy”. Why not err on the side of holiness? Really, why not?

    Honestly, to be a man today is like walking in heavy surf. The waves
    constantly pound and there are riptides and other dangers everywhere. I
    know that women and girls are buffeted by the culture regarding
    appearance. We work hard to encourage and affirm their reflection of God’s image. Now how do we do something similar for the men, young and old.
    Women, what are your plans to affirm your husband and sons as in their
    battle to respect you and other women?

    • amycourts

      John,

      I appreciate your heart here. It’s clear that this is more than a “do this/don’t do that” subject. We are teaching our kids’ hearts! (Side note: one of the best books I’ve read on the topic of godly parenting in general, is ‘Shepherding a Child’s Heart’ – namely because it trains parents to teach the heart rather than simply modify behavior.)

      To answer your questions as succinctly as I can –
      First, we are believers in the “It takes a village” model, where our church family is concerned. My husband and I aren’t the only ones teaching our sons and raising them in (hopefully) godly character. They’re involved in church classes, worship, and youth group. We listen to lots of sermons in the car, also.

      But that’s only part of it, and a relatively small part. Whether I like it or not, I’m modeling womanhood for my sons. What they see me doing, wearing, saying, is how they’re learning “that women do/wear/speak.” So I’m striving to show them godliness. My husband is, in his example, showing them how men treat women, in how he addresses and treats me, their cousins and friends, other friend’s wives, and women walking down the street. There’s no way to encapsulate what that looks like each day – it changes with context. But at the core, we’re demonstrating the unfathomable worth of every person God created, who bears His image, and we strive to affirm that image – even if they’re dressed or acting contrary to His image – because Christ redeemed us by loving us first, so we love others first, period.

      The context for the hard conversations about bearing each other’s burdens comes in community. My son has no right to walk up to a woman at the grocery store who’s wearing a revealing top, and demand that she cover up for his sake. That would be utterly imposing and disrespectful. We’re big believers around here that relationship matters most, and unless you have one with someone, don’t presume to speak into their lives, as it causes more harm than good more often than not.

      But should a conversation arise between my son and that woman, he’s learning to look at her eyes and not her shirt.

      We can’t – and he can’t – and none of us can – control what others around us are doing, saying, thinking, wearing. We can only control and be responsible for ourselves, and bear the burdens of those with whom we’re walking out life.

      Lest it be misunderstood that I think women should be allowed to walk around in nothing, I don’t. I believe Christian women have a responsibility to honor men in our clothing choices. To make decisions that specifically and deliberately refrain from manipulating and/or sparking their lust, and instead dressing modestly, as much as a reflection of her character and confidence in the Image of Christ in her, as for her brothers.

  • Cory

    First class!

  • Hank

    Unfortunately, the heart is “deceitfully wicked” regardless of one’s gender. The “weaker brother principle,” in Romans 14, calls us to “live and to die” toward Christ. Practically applied, we need to instruct our children to put others’ needs (especially spiritual needs) ahead of their own preferences. If that means dressing in an (overly?) modest manner, it is a small price to pay in order to honor Christ. If it means letting your boys know (over-and-over again) that taking a second glance at an attractive young woman is all it takes to start them on the slippery slope toward sexual sin, then you should do it. What makes this issue so difficult is that the actions described (boys vs. girls) take place in two different realms. For the girls, it is often an innocent attempt to merely wear “pretty” outfits. There need not be any devious desire on her part. For the boy – whose brain is awash with testosterone – the realm of the mind (i.e., “spirit”) is most involved. Hence, she can wear something without sinning, but the young man may find it difficult to look at what she’s wearing without sinning. This, obviously, puts what appears to be an unfair burden on the young woman. Could it be, however, that this “burden” is part of God’s building self-denial and character into the life of the young woman? The bible is clear that this is an area where men are to develop self-control – irrespective of what anyone else wears (Job, for instance made a “covenant with his eyes” so as to not sin). At any rate, I think it is reasonable to think that the family and the church can agree on reasonable standards of modesty (not including the wearing of a burqa). This probably means that the more mature Christians in the room will need to compromise their rights. I doubt that Timothy was very excited about being circumcised as an adult – an act, by the way, that held NO personal spiritual benefit for HIM. But, it was worth doing, so that the immature Jewish believers in his sphere could “hear” the gospel and not be hindered by some external (dumb) reason.

    • amycourts

      I like the way you think, Hank, and I agree that, within the Church, men can hope for some burden-sharing from women. Like I said in the original post, “We women were created with a unique and curvy beauty, designed specifically to appeal to men’s physical and mind’s eyes. Knowing it, we have a responsibility to dress ourselves both in clothing and in dignity.”

      I don’t take that lightly. I believe that, as a woman who respects men and understands their struggles, I have a responsibility to dress modestly. If and when I have daughters, I will raise them accordingly. I think you’re right – sometimes that means women bear an undue burden; that doesn’t mean we ought not bear it.

      As a mother of sons, thought, I still feel compelled to teach my sons that while some women will respect their weaknesses and do their best not to aggravate them, not all women will. And they cannot expect that of her, anymore than I can expect my husband to read my mind (no matter how well he knows me, or how “obvious” my needs are – ha!). My sons are responsible for themselves, ultimately. To respect women no matter what, as image bearers and gospel bringers.

      • Hank

        Thanks for the kind words. Isn’t it great how the Holy Spirit can confirm practical truths within the universal church as we bear with one another? Thanks for the time you put into such a thoughtful and compelling blog. I’m sure your husband and children will “rise up and call you blessed!”

  • Nicole

    This is such a well written heart felt piece. I will indeed be bringing my 2 boys and 2 girls up as God wants them to behave like you said. Thank you.

  • Jess

    I remember walking with my college-aged younger brother through the mall about 15 years ago, and passing some girls dressed provocatively. His words still ring in my ears: “It’s so sad that they think *that* is all they have to offer.”

  • biff

    the buck stops with dad. even when a female becomes an “adult” at 18, dad is still responsible for correcting bad behavior.

  • rekah

    As a young mom of two boys, a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old, I thank you. This is also what I want for my kids. The fact that our society is still putting the blame on women, we are not raising boys to be men. There are a lot of fathers out there that are still baby boys.

  • LaDonna

    “fervor of a thousand hurricanes” that small phrase slammed me to the ground. I have not taken my role as mom-intercessor seriously. I have whispered prayers into the night, I have shed a few tears, I have even had heart to heart talks with my son and daughter. But have I prayed with the fervor of a thousand hurricanes? No, honestly, I haven’t. I am going to rectify that problem and repent of my apathy towards being watchman on the wall for my family. Thank you for the reminder.
    LaDonna

    • amycourts

      I am grateful to have three older sisters and mom have demonstrated the power of prayer as mothers before I ever had kids myself! It is the most encouraging and empowering thing when I feel the most powerless to help my kids. But I’m still learning how not to control everything myself – and that is a lifelong struggle/challenge for everyone, right?

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