Since modesty is described as “regard for decency of behavior, speech, dress, etc,” I would say we live in an immodest world. As technical platforms of communication have been added (fancy way of referring to blogs, Twitter, Facebook and the like) we have been slow in applying Biblical wisdom to new arenas of conduct. When Kristi shared this on KristiStephens.com for GatherInSpirit last fall, it seemed timely for me and for our world. I passed it on then, and I’m happy to pass it on today. And if you’re looking for more on this topic, Kristi just added some helpful new thoughts this week about: Questions to Ponder Before You Post. How will you “dress” and “behave” online today?
Originally shared on September 3, 2010.
Modesty. The word, for me, typically conjures up mental images of women wearing turtlenecks, floor length skirts (with no slit, of course), and knee length socks.
I’m kidding. Sort of.
While we might all differ slightly on our interpretation of what, exactly, modest dressing is, we all understand that there are certain things that are appropriate and inappropriate in various situations. I might not be wearing a floor length skirt with coordinating turtleneck to church, but I also am not going to wear my swimming suit.
I dress modestly because it is a protection for me, shows respect for the unique relationship I have with my husband, honors the God who made my body, and guards against inappropriate thoughts and behavior with others.
Lately I have been pondering an interesting phenomenon I see everywhere in the online world – facebook status updates, tweets, and blog posts are brimming with something I call “emotional immodesty.” These online venues have given us an uncensored outlet, a place to share things that often should not be said, with a veneer of privacy as we sit alone with our laptop or iphone and share our every thought with thousands of strangers. To make this even trickier, we often do it and call it “being real,” as though it was a virtue.
There are natural levels of intimacy built into human relationships. Within marriage, both my body and my soul can be safely and freely shared – and they should be, if the marriage is to be healthy. Within close relationships in the body of Christ, there is much that I can share freely and safely, especially with my husband by my side. I can sit in our small group and be very much myself – discussing Scripture, sharing burdens, laughing and crying and joking. But even here, there is a distinction between what I will share in this venue and what I would share with my husband. I will share more with these small group members than I will with a new friend, and I would share more with a new friend than I would with a stranger in the grocery store.
There are proper concentric circles of intimacy in my life – and if I let anyone “jump boundaries” and become as intimate or more intimate with me emotionally than I am with my husband, relationships will be marred. If I pour out my every longing and struggle to a stranger, I have built an awkward, unnatural, and unhealthy connection with this person – any potential of us having a functional healthy friendship is pretty much gone! Just as modest dress is a protection for me, shows respect for my husband, honors God, and guards against inappropriate thoughts and behavior with others, these circles of emotional modesty do the same. They must be there – even online.
Just as our standards of what it means to dress modestly will differ, our definitions of what is appropriate and inappropriate to share in various circumstances will differ, as well. As you think through how to guard your own emotional modesty online, here are some points to consider:
- “Being real” does not excuse sin. Slander, causing petty strife and division, and complaining (among other things) are SIN. As our society falls farther from truth, we have begun to flaunt our shame instead of allowing it to prompt us toward true repentance. Flippantly sharing issues of sin, openly complaining, or attacking another person are not acceptable online or in person. Sharing these things lightheartedly with a thousand twitter followers is no more of a true confession than is Brittany Spears singing “oops, I did it again.”
- If I am sharing something very personal on my blog (which frankly is rather rare), I have my husband read it first and am open to his feedback. I want to build trust with him, not tear it down by sharing things he is uncomfortable with strangers knowing about our lives. If you are often having your husband, kids, or friends ask, “you’re not going to put this on your blog, are you?,” that is a flag that you are probably crossing some boundaries.
- Is the dynamic between you and your online friends radically different than the dynamic between you and real-life friends? Online friendships can be deep and sweet and very real – but they can also give you a false sense of intimacy if you share far more with them than you would with people you interact with personally.
There are many other guidelines that could be added to this list. How do you monitor your online “modesty?” Do you need to work on this area, or are there guidelines you use for yourself that might help someone else?