Modesty?

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Look again. Take a good look at the clipart.  

I know exactly where my eyes darted and held a pause. Where did your eyes dart and hold a pause?  I know exactly what ran through my mind. 

What ran through your mind before your started reading this article? If you don’t know what your immediate thoughts were, look again.  Let it land and then, lets discuss this.

Yesterday I experienced yet another growth or expansion within my studies of HerStory.   I am an Interfaith Minister and founder of New Light Sanctuary, LLC.  Under that umbrella, I teach and ordain other people who feel they have a calling to ‘serve’.  My classes are experiential as well as lectural. In service, I feel it is necessary to understand people as well as religions and theologies.  Yesterday we had a panel of women in conversation.  Our panel consisted of all types of women. Puerto Rican, European, Italian, Muslim, African and Hindi.  We had older and younger women.  These women were from varied educational and economical backgrounds. The conversation was enlightening.  We spoke of the role that appearance plays in our lives.

I was sadly surprised to hear that, across the board, in this year 2017, appearance still is the first and the most outstanding instrument by which we measure the quality of our lives. It is still the first thing that defines us.  Well, not all of us, but for sure, most of us. The women spoke honestly about how they judge another and feel judged by how they dress, what vehicle they drive, and the zip code that they live in.  They said they didn’t want to ‘judge’ another that way, but that in this world, it is the reality that how you look determines how you are received.  I could argue that this is just an opinion and then, there are the facts. In America, regardless of position or intelligence, we slaughter our female leaders with gossip about their looks.  On our panel, we agreed that when we see Muslim women dressed in hijab, it is hard for us to see past their garb.   We spoke of our youth and how disappointed we are that little girls are growing up too sexy and too fast.  The elders said we have no sense of modesty. I hadn’t heard that word in a very long time.

It occurs to me that there are two extremes in our global culture. Both exploit women’s bodies. Both have lead us to believe that how our bodies look is more important than who are.  Both have fooled us into believing that our looks are what speak first instead of our character.  One tradition uses the exaggerated and distorted version of our curves and skin and hair to create profit. The other hides our curves and skin and hair to honor the interpretation of a religion.  Whichever we may have bought into, we are allowing ourselves to be emotionally, physically and spiritually fooled.  We are NOT our bodies.  Sure we are in these fabulous skins and lets enjoy them! but, don’t be fooled into believing you are what the eye sees.

I know you have heard before that we are magnificent creatures regardless of how we look. We are creative, intelligent, strong, innovative, nurturing and have a plethora of attributes that serve our communities both small and large. You know that dressing up or down, modestly or provocatively should be our choice determined by us rather than law, either implied or enforced.  And yes, I recognize the reality of this deep seeded notion that our appearance means so much.   I also know that it hasn’t always been that way.  It doesn’t have to be that way.

Once again, we can learn from our indigenous ancestors. And in many cases, we can also learn from modern indigenous like the Native American, Mayan, Aztec and Amazonian tribes. In tribal life, a person earns their status in the community by what they bring to the table instead of how they look.  They earn the costumes they wear.  In tribal life, the body is sacred or at the very least not used for exploitation. Within the indigenous we learn that we can come forward as a fully expressed Human Being and not be judged by what we look like.

Yes, I know we are judged first by how we look. I get that it is a hard to go against the tide.  The peer pressure to look good is tremendous in our culture. So tremendous that we alter our bodies with plastics and toxins till we ‘like’ what we see. It takes a great deal of courage to dress modestly to avoid letting our bodies be a ‘distraction’.  I also know that it is time for us to brake the silent code that says we must look a particular way.  I assert that we all try using discernment before we step outside.  Your body matters and you know people are looking.  Choose form fitting or flowing before you leave for work.  Sure, we dress to impress.  Consider what impression you are wanting to make.  Do you have the courage to dress modestly when you are wanting to be ‘heard’ instead of chosen because you ‘look good’?

I find the study of our human psyche profoundly fascinating. Knowing ourselves helps us to stand strong in creating our future. The women in our past were honored for ALL they were.  We can learn from them.  I look forward to sharing more stories with you and I welcome your comments and interpretations.  It’s when we share our thoughts that we grow in wisdom.

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