What is Modesty in a Multicultural World?

We decided to have each member of our staff reflect on the question: What is Modesty?  Our Writing Intern, offered her perspective as Muslim woman, our Editor in Chief tried to define modesty. Today Our Author in Chief, Jenni Taylor, asks what this complex topic might mean in a multicultural world.

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I find myself at a loss when it comes to defining this word, modesty. It is a word that has caused infinite amounts of trouble around the world rather than the freedom and security that should come with spiritual truths. Love, joy and peace certainly haven’t been nearly as controversial, culturally or in my own life. Why modesty?

Currently working in China, leggy skirts and shorts are perfectly acceptable for work while shoulders or a loose blouse will earn a chastising commentary. In other places, in other times, ankles, or hair, or wrists are considered immodest.

I understand clothing modesty is only one facet of the word, but it leads us to a rather important piece of wisdom: values, even spiritual ones, CAN be cultural.

So, I’d like to gently point out that all values may contain validity, but are not equal in importance. If a value leads us to the judgement and closed hearts then maybe it merits less of our attention. In our multicultural world, multiple definitions are always acceptable, each culture can define things differently, and I can define things for myself while allowing everyone else to do the same.