If you haven’t already, I suggest reading part one of the modesty blog for the foundation of this conversation.
In the previous blog, we debunked quite a few lies perpetuated by the church concerning how women should dress. This topic can’t be completely explored without remembering how often the men in our church were lied to in the modesty discussion. Many girls who grew up in church know that just as often as, “don’t wear that or your brother will stumble,” the boys in the room were told, “lust is such a struggle for you.” While that’s true, the way it was presented confused many of its listeners into believing two popularly promulgated lies:
Lust Is A Man’s Issue
I don’t think that most pastors and preachers believe that lust is an issue exclusive to males. However, I do know they believe it’s a more common problem in men almost insatiable to control; this has been preached from the pulpit for years and years. Lust is hard to resist. Men are visual. These are true facts. But because women were almost always neglected in that lust conversation, females in church have closeted their porn, sex, and lust addictions to the point of detriment. Through years of attending female small groups, I can attest that when one girl confesses to her lust-related struggle, it spurs a domino effect of breakdowns from girls who have been fighting sexual sin alone. Alone not because other women around them weren’t struggling; alone because the church’s message that lust is a male issue made them feel extra dirty for experiencing it. “I feel like I’m not supposed to be struggling with this; I’m a girl!” is a common cry I’ve heard from friends bearing their souls. Mark 7: 20-23 tells us that sins, including lust, come from within and defile us. They do not come from the attractive woman sitting nearby showing some skin. They do not come only from the hearts of men, but from mankind. Like all sins, lust comes from within and defiles us if we allow it to rein.
Men Should Expect To Be Lustful
I always found it odd that boys were told so often in church that they struggle with lust. It’s one thing to caution the church against temptation, and that’s noble. It crosses an entirely different boundary to tell men that lust is their own, very difficult issue. This message lends men an ownership over lust. Just as the Bible never discusses lust as being a woman’s fault, it does not describe it as a men’s issue. It’s a human issue. We can lust after humans, food, status, friendship, possessions, and more. Women are not excluded as falling prey to any of the other types of lusts, so why would they be concerning sexual lust? For the women listening to these sermons, it seemed that the church unintentionally told men what they should lust after. As example, when attending any type of church related swim party, the girls were often told not to wear bikinis because “that’s so tempting for the boys.” Later on, I learned that, for many boys who find bikinis to be a normal choice while at the pool or beach, they did not pose as particularly tempting to stare at. But because some of our brothers in church were present when the pastor said, “Girls, don’t wear bikinis to our pool party next week,” and, “Ladies, make sure the shorts are knee length for game day, okay?” they were conditioned to expect that a woman wearing whatever it was the pastor deemed inappropriate to be a tremendous stumbling block.
Jenn Hamilton’s experience with the topic of lust as a young girl in church describes the feelings of many women of faith everywhere:
“I hated being told that I had to wear certain swim suits because boys were around. In a world where people make fun of girls for being “boy-crazy” or obsessing over what they see in the chick flicks, why are girls the only ones being told to cover up and not guys? Why should guys be allowed to be shirtless at the pool, but girls need to find one pieces that cover everything? I don’t even know what questions I can ask or even what issues to feel accountable for most of the time because lust is such a taboo subject for females in the church. For all the girls I know and for all of the future women that will grow up within the church within any aspect of their life, I just want them to know that they are beautiful, no matter what modesty means to them. That they don’t have to feel hidden even when somebody tells them to cover up. Jesus understands ALL of our struggles, not just those of the boys.”
What if boys weren’t told that they should expect to lust?
What if boys weren’t taught to anticipate an entourage of lustful thoughts when seeing girls wearing one of the garments they’ve been told are immodest?
What if sin was treated as sin and boys and girls alike felt open enough to confess their various struggles that we might all spur one another as more than conquerors?
When encountered with the temptation to lust, we all should run, leaving our coat behind like Joseph did. We should resist the devil so he will flee from us, and “confess our sins to God, [who] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” 1 John 1:9.
Christ died for all sins of all people. The hidden sins and taboo sins. There are no gender-specific sins, for no sin can seize us except “what is common to mankind.” Healing begins with confession; Christ already saved us, but He still redeems all things. If we love another in all things including how we dress and how we judge one another, we can live fully and freely.
What did you hear in church growing up about lust and modesty? What do you think should be taught on the subject(s)? Comment and tweet us your thoughts.