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Modesty: It's for Boys, Too

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Recently, my 13-year-old son began lifting weights after school. As a result, he has developed large, well-defined biceps. Anxious to show off his new muscles, he asked me if we could go shopping for a tank top—a request that I immediately denied. "Why not?" he argued. “Because modesty isn’t just for girls,” I replied.

Now, before I go any further, let me stress that I do not proclaim to be any kind of authority on modesty—I simply did what I thought was best for my son. I fully acknowledge that there is a wide range of opinions about how and when to address modesty issues with our children. Some parents choose to dress their kids in garment-friendly clothing from the beginning. Others allow more freedom until their children become teens. And some choose not to wage the wardrobe war at all, allowing their children to wear whatever they like. But this experience has caused me to reflect on how well I am teaching my two boys about modesty.

On LDS.org it states:

“Modesty is an attitude of propriety and decency in dress, grooming, language, and behavior. If we are modest, we do not draw undue attention to ourselves. Instead, we seek to ‘glorify God in [our] body, and in [our] spirit’” (1 Corinthians 6:19).

It goes on to explain, “In dress, grooming, and manners, we should always be neat and clean, never sloppy or inappropriately casual. . . . We should express ourselves through clean, positive, uplifting language and actions that bring happiness to those around us.” (Read the full statement here.)

This is a good reminder that modesty is about much more than the length of our shorts, but this is often where the focus lands—especially when it comes to the wardrobe choices of girls and women. (I can’t help but notice that an LDS girl can be thoroughly criticized for showing her knee caps, even though I see plenty of LDS boys and men showing theirs.) So, what is considered modest dress for guys?

In For the Strength of Youth it reads:

“Immodest clothing includes short shorts and skirts, tight clothing, shirts that do not cover the stomach, and other revealing attire. Young women should wear clothing that covers the shoulder and avoid clothing that is low-cut in the front or the back or revealing in any other manner. Young men should also maintain modesty in their appearance.”

Perhaps there are more guidelines for young women than young men because of the varied nature of women’s fashions. Even within the FSOY guidelines, there is plenty of room for interpretation—what one might consider to be modest, another might not. How short is “short”? How tight is too tight? How does a young man “maintain modesty” in his appearance?

As the mother of boys, I have taken the stance that “what’s good for the goose is what’s good for the gander.” If young women have been counseled to cover their shoulders, then I think my boys should follow that same counsel. I have also talked with them about practicing good grooming and good manners and keeping their shirts on while playing sports or mowing the lawn—out of respect for themselves and others around them. 

We’ve also had many discussions about the importance of respecting girls and women and valuing them for more than their appearance. Yes, I understand that males are visual creatures and that it’s natural to be attracted to a beautiful girl, but I want my boys to know they are ultimately responsible for controlling their thoughts regardless of what she is wearing.

They are also responsible for their language, which, in my opinion, includes refraining from swearing, telling or listening to off-color jokes, or engaging in inappropriate conversations. And, of course, I’ve emphasized the importance of making good choices and behaving in a way that is pleasing to Heavenly Father.

So, what have I missed? Do you agree or disagree with me? Are we doing enough in church and at home to teach boys about modesty? Or is it primarily a topic that should be left for the young women? Share your thoughts below.