By Mary Ryan, Director of Blogging for Clarifying Catholicism
To the girl whom I saw walking down the hallway tonight while you were on your way out, looking naked from the back besides the tiny skirt around your waist and the shirt that barely covered your front–
I don’t know you. I don’t know your name. I don’t know your story. But if nobody has told you yet, let me be the first to say that I am sorry.
On behalf of the society that has failed you, I am sorry that you have been given a false image of what it means to be a woman who is comfortable in her own skin, who has confidence, and who loves herself.
I am sorry that our society has deceived you to believe that in order to find your validation and that in order to feel beautiful you must throw yourself at the world with your skin in blind vulnerability.
I am sorry that our society has told you that in order to feel loved, you need to be naked and in the arms of a man, maybe even someone whom you just met.
But most of all, I am sorry if as I am typing this, you are giving your heart and your whole self to someone who does not see your true worth. I am sorry that we, as a people, have failed to show you the right place in which to find your worth.
We need a change.
You have been deceived, I have been deceived, we all have been deceived. And I am so sorry.
We have been deceived into thinking that showing skin is equivalent to having confidence. We have been deceived into thinking that having recreational sex is something cool and worth bragging about. We have been deceived into thinking that getting drunk and senselessly giving ourselves to the people around us is a fun and positive outlet to have a good time. And the worst thing of all that we have been deceived into thinking is that we are only worth the fleeting pseudo-love of a stranger.
THIS. IS. FALSE.
Why do we think that it is okay to let our sisters go out and hand themselves over to men boys who do not view them as anything less than a game or a prize? Why do we think that it is acceptable to let our sisters go out in clothes that really should never have hit the racks in the stores? Clothes that aren’t even clothes.
The Google dictionary defines clothes as “items worn to cover the body.” How in the world, may I ask, do we justify some of the things that are accepted as “clothes” these days if they are barely doing their primary job of “covering the body” decently, if at all?
Most of us have fallen into this trap of more skin=more power/confidence. This is just wrong. I’m not saying that we have to wear peasant dresses and turtlenecks all year long (though if that is your style, go for it!) and I’m not saying that we can’t go to parties and have a good time, but I am saying that we need to show ourselves a little more respect… Act like real ladies instead of cheap, immodest girls.
If we show that we care about ourselves, we will, in turn, receive the care we deserve from those around us.
No matter how hot the weather is or how little our friends are wearing to the party, it does not change the fact that the more of ourselves that we show through the lack of clothes that we wear, the less of our dignity we proclaim ourselves to have to the world. The more skin we show, the less of our souls we show. By showing more skin, we objectify ourselves and say to the world that all that there is to us is what we look like. Isn’t this the opposite of what we want people to think?? We need to relearn what it means to cover up and to save ourselves from giving more of ourselves than we should to people who don’t deserve to have us.
A great Catholic speaker, Emily Wilson, talks about how we should be focusing on trying to dress “classy.” Is it classy to wear a thong in public? No? Then why are there girls wearing them to the beach and posting near-nude photos on Instagram that are getting thousands of likes? Because our society tells us it’s good to be “confident” in our own skin and to show it off.
My sisters, this is no way to live. We are temples of the Holy Spirit. We are TREASURES. We are PRICELESS treasures of the Almighty God and we need to start acting like it. In the early Church, things that were precious were covered up and veiled (another article to come on this in the future). By putting our bodies on display for all to see, we are making a statement that denies that we are treasures that deserve to be covered up and held with great care only by those who have been proved worthy to hold us.
We may have been brainwashed into thinking that showing off what the Lord gave us is a good thing, but this is such a terrible view. Wouldn’t you feel more loved if someone fell in love with you for who you are deep down, instead of for the surface of your flat abs and intense cleavage that you showed off through your skimpy outfit at a party?
And may I be so bold as to ask–would you rather your future husband only ever to have slept with you, or for him to, before he sleeps with you, have slept with countless girls and given himself to them fully before fully giving himself to you, the only one to whom he has pledged his full self to? Think about that for a minute and really let it sink in….Which situation would make you feel more loved? I am not asking what you think you deserve, I am asking what you really want; be honest with yourself.
It goes the same for us–would you feel more special and treasured knowing that you waited to only give your full self to the one person you fully pledged yourself to (your future husband), or would you feel more special giving your full self to several guys at a bar before giving yourself fully to the one person you have fully pledged yourself to?
Our culture simply does not make sense.
We have defaced what it means to be a woman. We have defaced what it means to be beautiful. We have defaced what it means to be a treasure. We have defaced what it means to be loved. We have let ourselves settle for less than we deserve. We DESERVE to cover ourselves up and to only let in the one person who is truly called to love us. We have let ourselves believe we are less than the priceless treasures we are.
Someone I know once told me something that changed my view of life and of myself forever. He told me the parable Jesus tells in Matthew 13 about the Kingdom of Heaven being like the “pearl of great price” that a merchant “goes and sells all that he has and buys” (Mt 13:46). He then told me that I was like a pearl of great price, too: The one who is called by God to love me would go and sell everything just to have me.
We are ALL pearls of great price. We DESERVE to be shown our true value, which is priceless. We deserve to have someone who gives up everything just to show us how much he loves us. Jesus did this for us when He died on the cross. The person who is called to love us by God is here to give us a glimpse of that Christ-like love that we will reach once we’ve made it to Heaven. He is called to show us a glimpse true love.
The reason we looked for a prince or a knight in shining armor when we were young is because we have always searched for that perfect Christ-like love that will protect us and show us our true worth. We will never find the perfect love of Christ on earth, but I am here to tell you that there IS someone out there who God put on this planet specifically to love and cherish you. He has a plan for you and you will find him if you have not already. You are a pearl of great price and a priceless, treasured daughter of God who deserves to treat herself and to be treated with the highest class, respect, dignity, and love. Do not settle for any less than you are worth and do not treat yourself as something cheaper or trashier than you are.
You are not trash. God does not make trash. You are beauty, herself.
Our Mother, the Virgin Mary, is a supreme example of what it means to be a woman of beauty, value, respect, and dignity. Let us learn from her the proper way to dress and to act, with the love of Christ radiating through our souls and with that love being the attraction that compels others to us, as opposed to using our corruptible skin as that attraction.
I am sorry we have been so deceived and I am sorry that we have let ourselves go this long believing we are so much less than we are. We deserve more. We are loved, we deserve to be loved, and we deserve to know that we are loved. The next time you go out, ask yourself, “would my Father in Heaven want for me this outfit or the way I plan on acting? Would Mother Mary let me walk out of the house like this? Is this going to make me attractive to a man of God who is going to love and respect me in the way I should be?” Let’s start showing ourselves respect and acknowledging our dignity.
Kind Lord Jesus, hear and answer our prayers. Please bless us and let us find our true identity and dignity in Your heart. Show us how priceless we are. Draw us close and never let us go. Let us experience Your true love. Let us find our value in You and please bless our sisters in Christ who do not realize their true dignity, worth, and identity in You. We adore You, oh Christ, and we praise You, because by Your holy cross You have redeemed the world. Amen.
*An apology to all men is coming in the near future*
This Article Originally Appeared on Mary Ryan’s Personal Blog:
What do I really want? To have all the sex I please before marriage. Don’t shame women for having healthy sex lives just because you have this idealized vision of premarital virginity. I can do what I want with my body. My virginity. My sex life. It’s not my future husband’s or wife’s decision to make. And it’s sure as hell not for you to tell me what I can or should do with any of them. I feel perfectly loved having sex before marriage, and I hardly believe it is truly God’s wish that I cover myself and “save” my virginity for marriage, I believe that to be entirely a product of the era in which religious texts were recorded.
I couldn’t disagree more, this article is disgusting. I’m conservative, but women should be able to wear whatever they want. I’m pretty sure Jesus said not to judge. What if a rape victim read this? How do you think they would feel? People like you give Christians a bad name. You should be ashamed.
Really, what happened to Jesus not judging and accepting all? I wear revealing clothing but I love myself and I’m not ashamed. I am a very sensual person and I’m not ashamed. There’s a reason people turn away from the church and calling what women wear or women cheap isn’t the way to go. Its not encouragement, it’s just being rude. It’s a women’s choice. It’s a women’s choice to have sex or wear what they want but it’s not a women’s fault if they get raped or anything. Stop blaming women. It’s ridiculous in what kind of day in age that people do. I tend to lean conservative and understand. But this article kind of gives guys the okay to do certain things like rape a girl if a women wears revealing clothing and that’s not okay. I wear what I want, you wear what you want. And God will love us no matter what. If you have fun and live your life, that’s your life. If you stay inside and enjoy your life, that’s your life. But that’s not for you to decide. Men objectify and sexualize women and their bodies and they’re to blame, not the women. If certain men didn’t look at women the way they did, we wouldn’t be having this discussion. Outside the United States, the naked body symbolizes beauty. It’s exposed because it’s not supposed to be objectified or sexualized. Who cares what women wear. You do you and they’ll do them.
In light of the fact that all three comments on your article are negative, I’d just like to throw in my two cents and say thank you! This is a really good article which addresses things that I think about all the time. I fully agree!
As regards the postscript: I am definitely looking forward to reading your “apology to all men.” I can think of a few things they deserve an apology for.
In addition to all the things you said – as well as my belief in the benefits of modesty even in the privacy of your own home, when only you can see yourself – I also believe that you can draw a correlation between the question of clothing and sexual harassment and that of robbery. You do not deserve to be robbed, and no one would ever say that you do. In addition, no one would ever excuse the robber and say that what he did was justifiable. But if you proudly wave wads of your well-earned cash around in public, then you greatly increase your chances of having it stolen.
On the subway platforms, I am always reminded again and again “Keep your belongings in sight at all times.” “Protect yourself.” “Keep your valuables out of sight.” “Beware of pickpockets.” I have never considered these announcements to be an invasion of my personal rights regarding my belongings. My belongings are mine, they are mine to do with as I like. And because they belong to me, I also have the responsibility of protecting them from those who wish to take them or harm them. Uncle Ben really was right (though clichéd) when he said, “With great power comes great responsibility.” 😉
This article was well written & quite moving. The passionate defensiveness of the above comments, far from formulating a sensible and clear headed rebuttal, only make clear the relationship between sexual immorality & the sense of aggressive rebelliousness that comes from embracing the pursuit of physical pleasure against the warnings of conscience.
Here’s another excellent article that takes this argument to the next step: https://www.crisismagazine.com/2017/immodest-wear-deliberately-ripped-clothes
Aww what happened, you saw someone living their best life and you got jealous that it wasn’t you in their shoes? Ha! It’s pretty pathetic that you are projecting your own insecurity and bitter attitude towards life onto other women so you can drag them down with you. Sad! You sound like someone who never got to experience life and be free, and instead of trying to make your situation better what do you do? Oh, you sit in a dark room all day, feel sorry for yourself, and release your jealousy of us who aren’t losers and haters like yourself onto the internet. What a depressing life, couldn’t be me. Grow up! I used to have the same worldview as you, and I couldn’t be unhappier: always focusing on what others were doing and spending my energy on the things they did that some would consider immoral or immodest because I was sad that they were having fun. All it did was weigh me down with feelings of hate and jealousy. I then changed my attitude around because this is NOT what Jesus had in mind for my life. He wants us to love one another and not to judge, something you need to work on more! But I will absolutely pray for you, because I believe you need saving, and that is something that God never fails at doing. If you really want people to listen to you and take your message to heart, judging and trying to tell us what to do is not going to work, because we value freedom unlike you catholic communists! You have to present your message in a loving manner just like Jesus did, look how He ended up: He is regarded as an influential figure worldwide!