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Lately, I’ve been thinking a lot about the phrase, “I’m trying to be a man of God, but I just wish women would dress modestly,” especially after a close male friend and I had a conversation about this phrase being used often at SNU, and most recently from some males in leadership. I feel the need to publicly address this because I truly find this sort of mindset to be counterproductive and dangerous to the mission of our university, to the mission of Christ, and to women on this campus.
If we allow men to say that they have no control over their thoughts because of how women dress, it objectifies every female. It turns women into sexual objects that are only good for men’s viewing pleasure. This says to women, “I only see you for your body and the way it makes me feel sexually.”
This is dangerous for men too – it’s disempowering. It excuses them from being accountable for their own behavior. It allows men to dictate and control how women present themselves, saying to men, “You have no control over yourself, so now you can control others.”
Men, as those who are seeking after God, have a responsibility to view women with respect and dignity, not as sexual objects. No matter what a woman wears, men should know that this does not affect women’s worth, value, how much they are loved by God and, I would hope, by one another.
In a Christian community like SNU, I would say it’s pretty safe to assume that most of us are attempting to live our lives in a Christlike way that seeks to honor and glorify the Lord in our thoughts and actions. This might look different for everyone, as we all pursue our differing degrees and passions and interests– but what brings us together is our love of God and desire to continue to be transformed into holy people.
That’s why I love the first part of this phrase: “I’m trying to be a man of God.” The second part of the phrase is problematic. This is because every man has the responsibility of controlling his own thoughts and actions. No woman, no matter what they are wearing, can make a man think certain things. If a man is having lustful, sexual thoughts about a woman – that is his own responsibility to confess, repent, and seek change in that area of his life.
If I were to see an attractive man with his shirt off, I would NEVER say, “Could you please put a shirt on? It’s causing me to stumble.” This is because it is my responsibility to take care of my own feelings and make sure I am honoring the Lord with my thoughts and actions. I would never put it on anyone else to control my thoughts or behavior for me.
The audacity I would have to have to tell another human being that they need to dress different simply because I could not control my own self is mind-boggling. And yet, that seems to be what men are asking women to do when using this phrase.
The purpose of this article is not to condemn, shame, or judge, but to provide insight into how phrases like this really mean so much more than we might think. As followers of Christ, I think it is important that we continually strive to grow in our walk with the Lord and look more Christlike every day.
Sometimes we might be confronted with something where we need to stop and say, “I think I need to change my perspective on this.” There is no shame in that. There is no shame in realizing the things we have previously thought or done might not have been completely Christlike and confessing and asking the Lord to give us a new heart.
SNU, we can be a people that treat everyone around us with the respect they deserve. We can be people who are all journeying together with Christ and towards Christ. We can be people where men and women commune together as children of God, and we can start by taking a serious look at the language we use and the mindsets we have, shifting our thoughts and ideas to those that better mirror the person of Jesus Christ.