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Modest in an Immodest World

Updated on June 20, 2016

Modesty is a virtue - or is it? Being modest may mean being less than truthful about yourself and others. Is dishonesty a virtue? I don't think so!

Let us try to clarify some of the issues that concern modesty.

Many dictionaries, religions and societies try to explain what modesty is.

Some would say modesty has only to do with women and how they dress and act. This is a very narrow-minded view of modesty, and ultimately results in such ridiculous results as this:

go forth ladies, doning big clothes, walking carefully, and making sure you don’t jump, move, bounce or breathe!

So, let me attempt to give at least four definitions of what modesty is:

  • Limited and not exaggerated estimate of one's own abilities or worth (freedom from vanity, egotism, boastfulness, or pretense).
  • Freedom from extravagance or ostentation (vulgar display of wealth and success).
  • Showing regard for decency of behavior in regards to dress, speech and mannerisms.
  • Limiting size and amount (food intake, alcohol consumption, etc.)

Make no display of your talents or attainments; for every one will clearly see, admire, and acknowledge them, so long as you cover them with the beautiful veil of modesty.
-Nathaniel Emmons

Regarding the first definition, if a person is modest about his or her own abilities, in a sense are they not being insincere? Isn't sincerity also a virtue?

If a person knows they are much more accomplished and able than others, but treat other as equals, that might be considered noble. However, if a person underestimates their own worth and abilities, perhaps they are just ignorant. Or if they only think they are better than others with nothing to show for it, they are fools.

You probably know that guy or gal who has the latest gadget, loves to tell you how much he or she knows, or makes sure that you know how successful he or she is - even announcing it on Facebook (on a daily basis)! Not sure how modesty would play into this activity.

I have often wished I had time to cultivate modesty... But I am too busy thinking about myself.

-Edith Sitwell

The definition that most often is associated with modesty is in regards to how a person (especially women) dress. It is so much more than that. A person can outwardly be covered from head to toe, but hate every minute of it. They may be oppressed into dressing that way in certain circumstances, but under it all, wish they could get some respect for who they are, rather than what they wear.

I recall when I was a teenager. It was the fad at that time to wear mini skirts. It would have been unthinkable to wear a long skirt or pants to school at that time. Peer pressure is very strong, and even though my religious beliefs did not allow wearing mini skirts, I admit that I wore them to fit in.

Now I live in Hawaii, where women did not even cover their breasts until the Christian missionaries arrived and tried to dress the savages . Modesty means different things to different societies.

I do admit, however, that the society we live in does affect how we act. As the modern society deteriorates, so do our morals, including our dress, behavior, and ultimately our sense of modesty.

The last definition of modesty involves being modest in all things, in particular intake. Eating meat sparingly, consuming enough to live, rather than living to eat, no excess in alcoholic consumption and many other habits play into modesty.

You may have your own definition about what modesty means. Feel free to add them.

Which definition of Modesty are you most concerned with?

See results


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  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 2 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    It is shocking to see how low and revealing ladies dresses can be now. I hear the latest thing is to let your underarm hair grow long and then dye it a wild cover like blue or green. Hard to understand that fad, but I'm sure it will still keep deteriorating. Regards.

  • Lady Guinevere profile image

    Debra Allen 3 years ago from West By God

    Thank you for pointing me to your hub. Yes, I do like this very much and it does explain some things. I am going t share it.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks for your interesting and fun comments thoughtforce.

  • thougtforce profile image

    Christina Lornemark 6 years ago from Sweden

    Very interesting article Elaine! Modesty can have many different meanings depending of both the situation and the person. I know a proverb that describes one type of modesty: "Modesty is the art of looking humble when you tell others how good you are"!

    I can’t say that I agree to this but it is one way to look at modesty! If a person needs to tell others how good he/she is that person have other problems that can’t be solved by modesty :)

    Thanks for this great read!


  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I appreciate that Eiddwen. Glad you liked the hub on modesty.

  • Eiddwen profile image

    Eiddwen 6 years ago from Wales

    Hi elayne,

    A great hub and thanks for sharing.

    Take care


  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    I agree KoffeeKlatch Gals, modesty includes receiving praise gracefully. That can be very tricky. We try not act be too proud, and at the same time show your appreciation. Thanks for your comments.

  • KoffeeKlatch Gals profile image

    Susan Haze 6 years ago from Sunny Florida

    I believe modesty is how you react to others compliments or praise. At least a big part of it.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA

    Thanks... elayne001...

    I was able to see/ vote with no problem!

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    So true Peter. Imagine women wearing those corsets today - oh, maybe some do! Now most of them just starve themselves to look like that.

    I appreciate that marcoujor. Sorry about the quiz - I hope it is working now. Thank you.

  • marcoujor profile image

    Maria Jordan 6 years ago from Jeffersonville PA


    I like this subject and the way you presented it... very thought provoking...

    Although Mom always raised us to be modest, there is nothing like working on the streets with the homeless to realize how silly people can look with some of manners in which they may express their status... and I am not speaking of the homeless.

    I have been having a few "edit" issues of my own/ please re-look at your quiz (I will take it next time)--it appears to be cut off at the top...

    Voted UP, USEFUL & AWESOME~~ thanks!

  • Peter Owen profile image

    Peter Owen 6 years ago from West Hempstead, NY

    Modesty constantly changes to match current trends. Imagine wearing a bikini in the 1900's

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Thanks Wooded - yes, we love those big headed people don't we? Thanks for your comments.

  • profile image

    Wooded 6 years ago

    Very interesting hub. I really enjoyed this one! When I think of modesty it is usually regarding big headed people also.

  • elayne001 profile image

    Elayne 6 years ago from Rocky Mountains

    Oh, come on diogenes - let us hear more about how modest you are!! hehe

    No doubt, modesty is being challenged these days - in several ways. Thanks for your comments dahoglund.

    That too, Mentalist acer - I agree - we tend to get big headed when praised and offended when criticized. So true.

  • Mentalist acer profile image

    Mentalist acer 6 years ago from A Voice in your Mind!

    I think modesty comes in the form of how you accept other peoples opinion of you,to be modest of praise and crtisism.;)

  • dahoglund profile image

    Don A. Hoglund 6 years ago from Wisconsin Rapids

    I think you covered it pretty well.It can be a challenge in a society that tells you to be assertive on one hand and modest on the other.

  • diogenes profile image

    diogenes 6 years ago from UK and Mexico

    Provocative article. I will (modestly) resist adding my own extensive experience, good sense and logic towards adding MY definition of modesty ...Robert the Great.