The Personalist Project

Accessed on September 21, 2023 - 4:41:44

FFMD, #4:  Modesty and interiority

Katie van Schaijik, Jan 23, 2016

Long time readers know that my thinking on modesty has changed over the years. (See here and here for instance.) In short, I have come to associate most "modesty talk" in Christian circles with a counter-productive tendency toward externalism, judgmentalism and control. It's not that I've stopped caring about modesty; it's that I've stopped thinking we can get to it by focusing on clothing. 

Today, pressing on with my electronic de-cluttering resolution, I found an unfinished post on the subject from 2009. The post isn't worth saving, but it included some great quotes from Mounier's Personalism.

We know that the personal life is related by its nature to something secret. Some people are wholly extraverted, thoroughly exhibited; they have no secret, no contents, no background. They are like open books, and quickly read. Having no experience of any depth, they have no ‘respect for privacy’, their own or anyone else’s. They have an unrefined taste for talking and for making others talk, for gossip and curious enquiry. Now, discretion and reserve are the homage that the person renders to the sense of an infinite life within.

Mounier goes on to link the point to modesty:

Physical modesty signifies, not that the body is impure, but that I am immeasurably more than a body that can be seen or touched…The opposite of modesty is vulgarity, allowing myself to be merely what I am in immediate appearance, in the glare of the public eye.

Stricter rules for body coverage can't supply the real defect in our culture or in our selves, just as pretty wrapping paper can't make a true gift out of an empty box.

What's wanted is "experience of depth," value and interior plenitude.