Modesty: A lost virtue?

By Jeffrey D. Murrah

As a counselor, part of my job involves being aware of societal trends and the latest threats to families. I find myself stunned to learn that a music video by teen-idol Britney Spears was directed by a particularly notorious pornographic movie director. This news reinforces the need for modesty. This was further underscored , when a school official specified "no Jennifer Lopez- type dresses" for the prom.

Modesty, like many virtues begins at home. Parents are key in training their children, both male and female in either modesty or immodesty. When something is precious and valuable, it deserves protection. Modesty as a virtue is not limited to clothing. Modesty includes conduct, gestures, language, reading and thought. Parental habits influence and train children in each of these areas.

Training children in modesty begins early. If parents wait to address modesty until prom preparation and high school dances, it is too late. The selection of clothing in early childhood begins shaping the preferences for later life. Before selecting body hugging and skin revealing clothes because they are 'cute,' consider if you want your son or daughter wearing similar items as a teen. Encouraging pre-teens to wear thongs and seductive garments only encourages further immodest behaviors.

Children pay attention to parental dress. Parents show them how adults are supposed to dress. Going shirtless or parading around the house in undergarments sends messages to our children. Such behavior makes it embarrassing to bring friends over and increases an uncomfortable self-consciousness within young children. Although some Ivy League schools encourage co-ed bathrooms, such behavior is offensive to more modest Texas values in our community.

Parental attitudes are important. Problems develop when parents place extreme emphasis on physical features rather than internal qualities or talents. Referring to members of the opposite sex as 'body parts' rather than as persons not only fosters physical, but also mental immodesty. If the only time parents give attention to their children is when they are dressed immodestly, they then learn how to repeat those reactions with other adults. If dad or mom only show interest in members of the opposite gender based on the amount of skin displayed, children learn such behaviors as a way to receive attention. The children learn from what they observe, rather than what they are told.

It is troubling that more alarm occurred recently regarding a student wearing a Mississippi state flag shirt rather than the influence of immodest dress and behavior of children. Excessively tight kakhi pants that leave little to the imagination, immodest gestures and frequent viewing of music videos directed by pornographers corrupt morals faster than any t-shirt containing a message would. Yet, parental actions speak louder than words concerning what is considered a threat.

Reversing the societal trend toward increasing immodesty will not occur overnight. Parents can begin changing this trend within their home. Parental behavior needs to reflect that modesty in conduct, behavior, language and thought is a priority by example.

Jeffrey D. Murrah is a licensed Marriage and Family Therapist with offices in Pasadena and La Porte. If you have further questions, you can call him at (713) 944-4335 or visit his website at

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