All One in the Church #5: Clothing
Imagine what would happen if everyone attended services in their underwear? Or is it best not to imagine!? WHO? WHAT? WEAR?
There are many places in the world where everyone wears an underwear-like garment and nothing else. Yet, despite scanty clothing, these people do not have reputations for sexual crimes or promiscuity. Much of our imagining about seminaked people is because of where and how we were brought up. They are very real imaginings, but not everyone in the world thinks as we do.
Society sexualizes the human body, especially the female body. From infancy, girls are evaluated in terms of their looks and how they dress, while boys are discussed more in terms of their activity.
Our media frequently portray females as decorative objects dressed revealingly. An hourglass figure is considered desirable, but few females are this shape. Women and girls experience a constant need to meet society’s expectations of beauty. Men’s bodies are sexualized too, and they may seek value by the appearance of their female partner or relatives. Is this a good starting point as we meet together for worship?
WHY? Members of communities where clothing is minimal also experience sexual desire but for them, limited clothing is not a problem. Sexual desire is normal, healthy, and Godgiven, to be enjoyed. But often it can be problematic.
Young people need to understand normal human sexual responses and to have space to discuss this subject without shame.
In sexualized societies, we may feel discomfort when people dress revealingly. We were born naked, then clothed by our parents. Over time, we all develop our individual ideas about what we wish to wear, how much of our bodies we cover and how much of their bodies other people should cover. These decisions will be affected by our age, the times we live in, our sex and our society. I don’t know if it is possible to unlearn sexualization, but I think we can strive to live with it in an appropriate way.
If the only time we talk about sexual feelings is when we are discussing a problem, it can give the impression that sexual desire is shameful. We need to understand sexualization; we need to discuss it openly and educate our children. Young people need to understand normal human sexual responses and to have space to discuss this subject without shame.
They need to know how sex is used to sell products. They need to know God’s laws and to be encouraged to consider their responsibility toward others. They need to understand,
For them to feel in control of their bodies, they need to understand how the world is trying to use their bodies and to know they have a choice.
When did you last compliment a boy on his appearance? If we don’t value boys’ looks, they may seek the company of women with external attractiveness, not internal beauty, to validate themselves.
When did you last compliment a girl on her physical prowess, intellectual skills, or leadership? If we don’t bring girls up to feel good about their innate qualities and show them we value their actions above their looks, they may feel they have to prove their place in society by being beautiful.
It’s very hard to let go of society’s expectations
If a person’s clothing makes you feel uncomfortable, do not shame them. They may be desperate for attention and not understand how else to get it. They could be feeling under enormous pressure to dress in that way or they may just be young and wanting to experiment with a different look. Instead of reprimanding them, try to look for opportunities to compliment them about their innate qualities and abilities.
If you can make this your habit, then all sides will feel valued for who they really are. If you are anxious about your own appearance, consider why you feel this way. It’s very hard to let go of society’s expectations, but if they are very different from your brothers’ and sisters’ viewpoints, you may be causing them distress.
Our freedom in Christ can enable us to make choices influenced by our relationship with him and by our respect for those who are our brothers and sisters in his name.