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Modest in an Immodest World

Updated on June 20, 2016
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Ruth, aka Elayne Kongaika, was raised in the orchard town of Orem, UT. She married a Polynesian boy and has had amazing travel experiences.

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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