When it comes to modesty, it’s common place to hear the excuse that as long as you’re not meaning to be suggestive, it doesn’t matter. Granted, many people who dress immodest don’t have suggestive intentions. This is common especially within the athletics, where modesty gives way to functionality.
For athletics, tight clothing provides more efficient body movement, which leads to better performance – or so we’re told. How should women stay cool while exercising outdoors in hot weather? Wear short, tight shorts and sports bra – no covering. Need to improve your running time? Wear a bikini-type running outfit. Many people who fall for this think that because they’re doing it for functionality, it’s ok. Furthermore, many people fall into the trap of thinking that it’s such a small thing and not a big deal that it doesn’t really matter in the end.
However, a vice is a vice regardless of intention. Furthermore, the little things do matter to the overall health of the soul.
The Slippery Slope
The slippery slope is a common phrase used in regards to arguments. However, it’s just as valid when used for vices, imperfections, and sin. It’s always difficult to make the distinction between venial sins and imperfections. Oftentimes, that distinction does indeed come down to intention. However, in examining the conscience – either before confession or as good practice – we’re taught that it’s important to be aware of these imperfections.
Imperfections and vices are simple dispositions of the soul and often habitual. Imperfections, if left unaddressed, can lead to venial sin and even to mortal. For example, not trying to grow spiritually and in virtue may not be a sin. However, if left unaddressed, it could lead to rationalizing away a sin – like dressing immodest.
We Are Called To Grown In Virtue, Not Just Avoid Sin
When we don’t grow in virtue, it becomes unimportant to us. This means that we’re more likely rationalize dressing immodestly because of practicality or functionality. It could also mean making the excuse that because it’s too hard to find modest clothes, we’re forced to dress immodestly. However, Christ told us that the road to Heaven is not easy. Furthermore, He taught us that we should be doing everything for the Glory of God. This means that even the small things matter. Remember the story of the impoverished widow’s coins (Luke Ch. 15, Mark Ch. 12). This story has many levels of meaning. However, it also means that despite the small action, it was a great action done for the glory of God.
Modesty May Seem Small, But It’s For The Glory Of God
Going above and beyond to find modest clothing or giving up possible athletic performance may not seem to matter. It may even seem small compared to greater sins against the virtue of chastity – such as intentionally causing others to lust or living unchastely. However, without growing in virtue, it becomes easier to sin – as the old adages go: the road to hell is paved with good intentions, and it’s a long, slow and gradual path. We’re called not just to avoid sin, but to grow in virtue for the glory of God. As Mother Teresa, now Saint Teresa of Calcutta, aptly said: “In this life we cannot do great things. We can only do small things with great love”; and “Be faithful in small things, because it is in them that your strength lies”.