Our Parents Suffered Too: Thoughts on Modesty, Purity, and the Culture That Shaped Us

I recently shared an article I came across on Facebook. The writer jumped into the issue of modesty, and gave some interesting points. She built on the idea that it should not be the responsibility of a women to try to control a man's thoughts by dressing (or not dressing) a certain way, and in many ways I agree with that. We cannot seek to dress in such a way that will prevent a man from noticing and admiring the natural curves of our body, because its unrealistic. We can, however, strive to adorn ourselves in a way that lets our character and personality shine. There are parts of our body that should be honored by keeping them covered, but not because we are ashamed of them. We are fearfully and wonderfully made. That doesn't mean flaunt it if you've got it. But I think we have gotten so wrapped up in our ideas of what modest dress should be that we have forgotten to dress with class and dignity.

Its not our responsibility to keep men from lusting after us. We can't control it, not matter how conservatively we dress. However, we do have the opportunity to suggest through our dress what we do want people to think of us. Like it or not, we live in a world where we are judged and given labels based on what we wear. I can't tell you how many times I've been asked if I am or was Amish, just because I wear a lot of skirts and like my hair up in a bun.

Your clothing can say a lot about you. Therefore, your goal should not be trying to prevent people from thinking the wrong thing, but instead, focusing on encouraging them to think the right thing. Be comfortable, be yourself, let your God-given personality be defined, and let the Holy Spirit shine through you.

While thinking of all these thoughts on modesty, a friend sparked a conversation about how to teach our kids about sex when the time comes. I'll admit, its always a daunting thought to me. But it occurred to me...why should it be such a scary idea? Sex is beautiful and fun and why shouldn't I be excited to tell them about it? Sex is sacred and special, and something to be enjoyed to the fullest between a man and his wife. I hope and pray that we can give our kids a good enough example in life and communicate to them how wonderful these things are, so that when its their turn, they can face it with joy and with grateful hearts.

The kids of my generation and circles like to talk about how the purity movement damaged our thinking about sex. How most of us were so burdened by trying to keep ourselves physically and emotionally pure that, most of the time, we were simply plagued with the guilt of thinking we may have been impure by noticing someone of the opposite sex. And when we came to actually doing the deed, we were frightened. Really, sincerely frightened. Now, some will say that these were worst case scenarios, but I think there are a great number of us that experienced this to some degree.

We were extreme. We kissed dating goodbye and fell in love with courtship. We swung the pendulum so far in one direction that we forgot what the middle ground was like. So what is happening next? We swing it the opposite way. We hear the words---.modesty.purity.courtship.---even homeschool---and we run.

And then...we blame our parents.

They were controlling. They were possessive and crazy. They just wanted to shelter us and never let us out in the real world. They just feared the world and all in it, and wanted to keep us from it.

Those bad parents.


I have to say...we are messing this up even worse than it already is. Do we even realize what we are doing?

I realize that there are people who have taken the modesty/purity/homeschool culture way too far. And then you have the Doug Phillips and Bill Gothard scandals. I know many parents have cause irreversible damage and suffering in their children because of the standards and rules they enforced. They really did take it an unhealthy level. I'll never dispute that.

But I will point out one very important thing: they suffered too.

We have lost sight of what came before us and why we ended up where we did. We think its all about us. We were the ones jaded by legalism and tormented by the patriarchal system. But I'll say it again: our parents suffered too.

Most of our parents were not raised the way we were. Many of them were first generation Christians, first generation homeschoolers, first generation couples-that-actually-stayed-married, and so on. Most of them had no idea what they were doing. All they knew was that what they went through as kids/young adults didn't work and they wanted something different for their kids. So the pendulum got swung as far from what they knew as they could get, and the modesty/purity/homeschool culture was born.

They saw that traditional American dating-with-no-goal-of-marriage didn't work very well, and so Courtship was born (or should I say reborn?).

They saw that the public school system was full of crap (still is...), and so Homeschooling was born.

They saw that casual, premarital sex was causing damage, and so Purity was born (or should I say redifined?).

They knew the pain in their own hearts from the lives they had lived, and wanted to protect us from the same pain. They wanted to give us different opportunities and wanted to raise us as Biblically as they knew how.

They saw what didn't work, and went the opposite way. Hey...aren't we trying to do the same thing?

Let us not be so swift to judge the choices our parents made. Their choices were born out of their own pain, and so are our choices. We are making choices based on the same emotions that spurred our parents on, but this is where we have to be careful not to be so anxious to get away from what hurt us that we swing that pendulum so far the other direction and end up in the same hell hole our parents crawled out of.

Let's take what we now know, and turn it into something beautiful. Let's not just focus on "not doing what our parents did", but instead focus on why. We can do better than our parents, because they did better than theirs. And our kids will do better than us. But not if we are stuck in bitterness and self-pity. We had a rough past...ok, so let's get over it and move into the future. Modesty, purity, homeschooling, biblical manhood and womanhood, courtship-also-known-as-dating-with-a-purpose, saving sex for marriage...these are all still good things! Let's bring them out of their extremist past and give them freedom to work they way God intended!

We have a chance to find the happy medium. Let us not waste it nursing our wounds with our hatred of the culture that shaped us into the people we are today. We are who we are because of where we came from. We can't stay there, but we can take what we have learned and let the pendulum settle gracefully in the middle.

Let love be without dissimulation. Abhor that which is evil; cleave to that which is good. Be kindly affectioned one to another with brotherly love; in honor preferring one another...
Romans 12:9-10 



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