I was fourteen, unpacking some brand-new shirts I had ordered, and trying them on my brand-new figure. My mom was there with me and our dialogue went something like this:
Me: “Oh wow! I never looked this good before!”
My Mom: “Um… I think those shirts need to go back.”
Me: “What?! No! Why?”
My Mom: “You don’t want to put thoughts about you in a boy’s head, do you?”
Me: “That’s not fair! Boys are stupid! Why can’t they think the way we do???”
Despite my protests, my totally amazing mom sent the shirts back. She consoled me with: “When you marry a great man and you’re alone, you can dress as fun as you want for him.” That calmed my teenage drama somewhat. After all, he was the guy I wanted to impress. But I also remember thinking “That has to wait for marriage too?”
As a teenager having to dress modestly was annoying to me because it didn’t seem fair that how I dressed was subject to what men could see without being tempted—until I realized it wasn’t just about lust. Modesty is not put into practice just in response to something evil like lust but out of respect for something holy like my whole body and soul.
It can be tempting for women to look at our body, feel shame, and think: “This body of mine can tempt a man to sin, to objectify, to lust, my female figure can lead to evil, so I must keep it covered.” No!
Look at your body and remember: “This body is sacred. This is the image of God, the image of self-giving love. God created my female physique for the incredible, awe-inspiring purpose of union with my beloved and the pro-creation, development and nourishment of the image of God! He called me “very good” and because a woman’s body is so profoundly good no man has the right to even see the fullness of female sexuality without permission from God Himself. My feminine attributes are too sacred, too important, and too beautiful for any man to gaze upon except the one with whom I will exchange this gift of self… and only when God Himself has given us to each other.”
When you dress modestly it doesn’t mean you have to be drab or unattractive. You should dress in a beautiful way for the same reason you dress modestly—not to be obsessed over your looks nor to attract attention—but out of respect for your body’s value.
While helping men control their thoughts is a good end of our decision to practice modesty, the deeper motivation should come from recognizing that immodesty is first and foremost a sin against your own body.
Don’t advertise what is not for sale. Don’t carelessly leave exposed as “not important” what should cost a man a lifetime of devotion to obtain. It is not enough for a man to not lust after your female sexuality. He also has to cherish your female sexuality as a treasure of priceless value.
The veil of modesty encourages a man to respect that value. Modesty has been called an “invitation to reverence.” It invites men to properly appreciate how much you’re worth as a woman. If he runs from the invitation, you run from him. If he does not think a woman’s body is sacred enough to deserve the veil of modesty, he will not properly appreciate you in marriage. When a man accepts the veil of modesty, it’s because he can see clearly how beautiful you are.
St. Pope John Paul II explains that in the innocence of Eden Adam and Eve saw the other one’s naked body as an invitation to love that person. Modesty pays the respect and reverence the human body is worth. When you have trained yourself with reverence to recognize that immeasurable worth, then the gift of self can be given and received with nothing but joy and gratitude. When you have this reverence in the commitment of marriage to love the entirety of this person forever, the unveiling of this gift becomes an invitation to love.
There is only one man you will ever invite to love you as one with himself. Your honeymoon is a private party with one most exclusive guest. It’s a private invitation.
“That which is veiled is holy, to be unveiled only in covenant love.” — Scott Hahn, Signs of Life
Sarah Karlyn Larue is a 25-year-old author of eight books, who loves her Faith and loves writing and is happiest when putting them together. Her latest series, That They Might Have Love is for all Catholic young women who want to seek God first in their love lives and find greater love and joy when they are single, dating, and married.