Hello all! I’m John’s wifey, A.K.A. Suzy! And of course the wifey thing to do would be to raid the husband’s blog 😛 haha.
A little background info about me before I start my rant: Egyptian, born and raised Coptic Orthodox in Columbus, Ohio. Graduated from THE Ohio State University. Psychology major. Been married to Mr. Habib for three years now. We have a furry child (doggy) named Bella. I love Jesus, family and friends, food, music, artsy stuff, a good read, the beach, and of course shopping. Yeah! 🙂
Now, let’s get down to business! I was trying to sleep around 6AM the other day when out of nowhere I was flooded with ideas and thoughts about this sensitive, yet very important topic that I am pretty passionate about. I am constantly seeing the issues that arise from this topic but it never seems to be the appropriate time or place to share my feelings and thoughts. I thought that John’s blog would be a great avenue to do so and I truly hope by God’s grace that this post will provide insight and different perspectives to my fellow sisters and brothers. I’m nowhere near as good of a writer as John, but hey, if you can help one person then you’ve accomplished something.
Focus of this post
This post will comprise of the struggles that girls/women face in this world regarding their choices for their looks and appearance (clothing, makeup, hair, etc.), which in turn causes struggles for boys/men (lustful thoughts/actions, adultery [in their hearts], etc.), and the consequences of those struggles.
Women. We shop. We drop. Go broke.
Like many girls, shopping is a love of mine. My taste in clothing, however, has changed dramatically over the years—in a good way (although I am not perfect/a hypocrite), by the grace of God, and with John’s criticism that if I walk out of the house in that, I will cause others to sin haha. I used to get really irked when he would criticize my clothing: “It’s too short,” or “too tight,” or whatever. But the reality was not only were some of my past clothing choices inappropriate, when I look back I view them as trashy. And trashy is NOT classy. My vision changed and the truth of the matter is nowadays too many girls/women unfortunately do not respect themselves or their bodies with their clothing that is too short, revealing, or skintight that leaves little to the imagination.
What changed my perspective?
Now why does this bother me and what changed my mind? God opening my mind and eyes, getting older, getting married, and seeing the consequences of this impropriety have definitely had a huge impact on my change of mind in various ways. For one, I learned in undergrad that the mind does not fully mature until you are 25 and I was married at about 22, so there ya go haha :p And also with time, I realized that it really is a scary world we live in and although I once liked the “attention” I got for what I wore, I ended up not wanting men looking at me like I was a piece of meat and started seeing that I’m worth much more than that. I also wanted to avoid potentially placing myself in harms way, simply because of poor clothing choices.
Too often, we say or hear, “It’s my body; I can do what I want.” Nonetheless, a lot of us are familiar with this verse which is contrary to that sort of mindset:
“Or do you not know that your body is the temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and you are not your own? For you were bought at a price; therefore glorify God in your body and in your spirit, which are God’s” (1 Corinthians 6:19–20).
We must be a holy place to house the Holy God.
So… here… the voice of Reason really started kicking in… How exactly would I be glorifying God in my body by desecrating it in trashy clothing and leading others astray? How could I do this with the gift of the Holy Spirit residing within me, only to be decorated on the exterior with garbage? That is completely contradictory and does not go hand in hand. I can’t help but correlate this contradiction to Christ being born in a manger or His entry into Jerusalem riding a donkey, in the sense that this is Christ, the King of Kings, the Alpha and Omega, who was worthy of a palace, yet was born in a mere manger. The one worthy of chariots and steeds yet rode humbly on a colt. This is what we do to Christ; we place Him in a manger and on a donkey by not honoring and sanctifying our bodies and above all, the Holy Spirit within us. He found us valuable enough to become vessels to hold Him in so that we may take from Him who is within us and pour His righteousness and grace outwardly to mankind. Instead of giving Him the utmost care and respect He deserves, we mistreat Him. It’s kind of like God coming to you and saying, “My beloved, I have given you this precious gift. I trust you will take good care of it. Use it for good and guard it cautiously and carefully.” And then what do we do? We go and defile it. We carry God Himself within us, so should we not keep the exterior case as holy and clean as possible? Should not the outward beautifully reflect and mirror that which is within?
My mirror story
Speaking of mirrors, I remember when I was younger and my mom had placed a large picture of Jesus over a mirror we had hanging in our living room. One day, I was trying to see how I looked in the little bits of the mirror that the Jesus picture was not covering up; and being annoyed, I thought to myself, “Jesus, You are in the way”… but then I stopped and looked at Him and thought to myself… “What am I saying?” HE is what I should see when I look at myself in the mirror. I should see Him within me….
My McDonald’s story
On another note, I’ll never forget when I was in middle school or high school and I went to McDonald’s with a friend… and at the table nearby us were several very young boys, probably around 10 years old or so, with magazines filled with naked women. LITTLE BOYS! In public!! With those kinds of images!!! What. Za. HECK!!!! What exposed what were supposed to be these innocent children to such destruction? Well, I didn’t ask them. I think one of them flicked us off though. -_- Anyways, clearly these boys got it from somewhere; maybe an older brother, the Internet, T.V., passing by that kind of magazine in a store. But what compelled them to go this far? Seeing scantily dressed women around or in advertisements? I don’t know. And think of the long-lasting damage that these women in those magazines had done to these young boys? All I know is the following:
Real effect, real consequences
Women often don’t realize the EXTENT of the effect they have on men. The girl enjoys the attention but little does she know that what she wears can actually change a guy’s life. For example, I know of someone who, at a young age, saw a woman wearing something provocative and then he started doing sexual things just because of that. Another person I know of saw something on T.V. at about 9 years old and that was the beginning of the path of sexual sin for him.
It can get worse. The consequences are SO severe and affect so many people. (1) If a person is the initial cause of the sin, they are responsible. (2) The person who lusts and sins is responsible, and guess what can happen next? (3) The person who lusts and sins may begin to watch pornography and doing all kinds of sexual things, and it is not uncommon for a guy to not tell the girl he loves that he has this addiction. So guess what happens when they get married? Who pays the price? The wives do. Their marriages suffer. Trust dissipates. So many problems arise. Some people want to end their marriages because of it. And sometimes the guy does not see that as the equivalent to adultery, because he may not be physically committing it, even though Christ said clearly, “whoever looks at a woman to lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart” (Matthew 5:28). And how did it all start? One provocative image, or one scantily clad woman, is all it takes to cause a lifetime of struggle. And some men will watch pornography while married and lie to their wives that they don’t. Will it be you that will cause someone like this to go astray and eventually affect his marriage? I don’t think anyone who has a heart would want to contribute or be subject to that. Best part is when people say, “I will be better when I am older”; however, (1) tomorrow is not guaranteed and (2) a habit takes time to improve/stop by the grace of God.
My marriage and how it helped me realize my foolishness
Now to the part where I tell you how my marriage helped me change my ways. So…when you get married, you clearly want the other person looking only at you—haha. Well, women who dress provocatively everywhere you go make it very difficult for all the guys out there since they are visually stimulated. Can’t watch anything on T.V. without inappropriate content. You go to the mall and everyone is basically naked. And if they’re not basically naked, then the people on the advertisements all over the walls are. The women responsible for causing so much sin either are oblivious, try to make exceptions to the rules and justify it in their minds, or just don’t care what the consequences are. I think to myself, ok, so my body is for my husband and I’ve got every other woman flashing theirs in front of him. Wouldn’t want my non-existent daughter dressed like that. And if I don’t want my husband looking at scantily clad women, then I can’t be a hypocrite and dress like that. This is the irony and hypocrisy of this huge problem. Women don’t want their boyfriends or husbands looking at anyone but themselves, and yet when they go out of the house with this and that hangin’ out or something so short it comes two or three inches below their tushy and other men are staring, then that is okay. Nope.
Girls/Women Being Distractions At Church
(*DISCLAIMER: As I said before, I am a hypocrite, and a work-in-progress, and these comments are not meant to judge, but are merely observations which I myself am trying to learn from.*)
First, I want to share an analogy that John once told a young girl when I requested that he explain to her why wearing very short shorts is not helpful. He said, “Imagine a guy who loves cars and gets jealous when he sees another person with a car he desperately desires. Let’s consider that such jealousy is a sin. Let’s say then that you own a Ferrari, and that you are going to visit that guy who you know will sin, coveting your possession. What if you cover just the mirrors of that Ferrari with a very tight wrap-around cover; will that do anything to deter the guy from sin? It seems laughable right? Take it a step further, and imagine you cover the entire car with an extremely tight wrap-around cover that accentuates all the features of that vehicle which make it so appealing, and that it is still obvious what kind of car it is; will that do much to deter the guy from sin? The point is not just to tell you not to wear revealing clothes just to oppress you or make life difficult; and it is not that a girl is ‘bad’ merely by what she wears, but simply, she should ‘not … put a stumbling block or a cause to fall in our brother’s way’ (Rom. 14:13).”
1) With that in mind, I remember one time, I attended a High School Sunday school lesson someone was giving about this same subject matter. The teacher asked the guys in the room to raise their hands if girls make it hard for them. All hands go up. Repeat after me. HIGH SCHOOLERS. What about everyone else? By the end of that class, after hearing what boys do after seeing what girls wear, the girls were trying to cover themselves up with their clothes as much as possible.
2) I was at a Coptic wedding and it was just sad to me that the non-Coptic attendees were dressed more appropriately than the Coptic ones. We bear the name of Christ (CHRISTian) and we don’t live by it enough. And girls don’t realize that when they dress that way, they can deter potential converts from becoming Christians since “Christian” girls shouldn’t dress that way. What would God think of that? Just some food for thought.
3) Let’s be honest: how many times do girls or women wear things to church that are too low cut or waaay too short or tight. They walk around, whether intentionally or not, parading themselves in front of the boys and men, and then approach the Holy Body and Blood of Christ, while the priest has to be subject to seeing that. Thank God men and women (in most Coptic churches) sit on separate sides, but even that isn’t enough when just to the right of the men are many girls or women wearing something too revealing and distracting. Instead of being able to focus on prayer and coming closer to God to receive forgiveness, they end up sinning more with images they carry with them when they leave and thus become more distant from God.
4) Think of all of us girls posting images online of ourselves wearing inappropriate things (bikinis, revealing clothing, Halloween costumes, etc.—and yes, I have been guilty of this but have since realized my mistake); know that we are responsible for whatever sin comes from whatever photos we post online.
With all of this being said, many ladies may have their emotions aroused, angry or at least feeling oppositional to what I’ve stated; they might be thinking, this is 2014, not the middle ages. I say this: you can’t change God’s standards or His Word, but rather hear what He has to say: “Beware lest somehow this liberty of yours become a stumbling block to those who are weak” (1 Corinthians 8:9).
I understand desiring attention …
I remember being younger and wearing a short skirt to school one day and getting attention from guys I normally didn’t get attention from. Being young and foolish, you enjoy that attention. It makes you feel wanted, special, and, let’s be candid, sexy. Unfortunately, that foolishness carries on with a lot of us through adulthood and we continue to feed off of the attention we get from our bodies for our ego and self-esteem. It’s basically self-deceit. We become more admired as an OBJECT of visual pleasure rather than as a human being or receiving admiration for having a beautiful mind and heart. There’s nothing wrong with being admired for looking pretty so long as you aren’t causing others to sin or becoming dependent on attention from others, resulting in self-idolatry. Women want to fill that void of self-esteem regardless of whether or not the people filling it see them as valuable or actually care about them. Realistically though we cannot lie to ourselves. We deserve better than that. GOD deserves better than that. We should be filling our void with His love and not man’s lust. One is everlasting, while the other is but for a fleeting moment until they move on to the new eye candy within view.
I will never forget when I was talking to a married Coptic woman and she told me that her husband could look at other women so long as he doesn’t touch them. I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I couldn’t understand how that was acceptable to her. So that when he is being intimate with his wife, he can be thinking about the other women he saw? Really? How is that different from him watching pornography? I don’t know how that’s being faithful to her, but whatever. My opinion is that it is best for a man not to look at something within view that may cause him to lust so as not to “give place to the devil” (Ephesians 4:27).
Save yourself for your husband, and do not be the cause of offense
At the end of the day what the heck do we actually gain from dressing that way? We think the world is looking at our every pore when we walk out the door. No matter how young you are, if you are intending on getting married, save your body for your husband. Be faithful to him ahead of time by refraining from “visual adultery” and giving everyone a glance at what is going to be just for him, while at the same time saving men from committing adultery in their own hearts with the women they are with. If you don’t want it to happen to you, don’t do it to someone else. We can’t have a double standard. Rather, we must “always strive to have a conscience without offense toward God and men” (Acts 24:16).
Appearance won’t make a marriage last, so stop focusing solely on it
Do you think your appearance alone will land you into a good marriage? Or will it rather be your inner virtues that make the marriage last? You know the answer, and the Bible tells you the same:
“Do not let your adornment be merely outward—arranging the hair, wearing gold, or putting on fine apparel— rather let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the incorruptible beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in the sight of God” (1 Peter 3:3-4).
“In like manner also, that the women adorn themselves in modest apparel, with propriety and moderation, not with braided hair or gold or pearls or costly clothing, but, which is proper for women professing godliness, with good works” (1 Timothy 2:9-10).
“Wrapping” it up – get it? HAHA
Ultimately, the world has become desensitized trying to convince us that one thing is white that is actually very black and empty. We strive so much to please the world, when we should instead “make it our aim … to be well pleasing to Him” (2 Corinthians 5:9). Many women will take offense to what I’m saying because society today has made certain things acceptable, when things used to be very different and much more conservative. I am not craaazy conservative, but I know there are limits we should have. Modesty doesn’t mean you can’t look pretty. It is not impossible to feel or be beautiful AND appropriate.
Look at what St. John Chrysostom was saying more than 1500 years ago when women dressed much more conservatively than today, but were slowly drifting in their moral standards—think of how much more applicable this would be to today:
“Why do you not wear the ornament that is pleasing to Him: modesty, chastity, orderliness, and sober apparel?
“We can no longer distinguish harlots and virgins [young women], to such indecency have they advanced.
“O woman, cease from this folly. Transfer this care to your soul, to the inward adorning. He that is concerned for that which is [outside] despises that which is [inside], even as he that is unconcerned about the exterior, bestows all … Care upon the interior.”
I urge all of you ladies to think twice before walking out of the house. Look carefully in the mirror and ask yourself: “Do I see Christ in myself and am I bearing the name of Christ in what I am wearing? Is what I am wearing too revealing? Is it too tight or too short? Will I cause men to lust? Is this something that I know in my heart is church appropriate or would I wear it in a monastery where monks are present? Would I be wearing that if Jesus came knocking on my door?” Because if the answer is no, and you wear it, who will pay the price? Who is responsible? We can’t put complete blame on the boys. God will hold us accountable for OUR sins, willingly or unwillingly, knowingly or unknowingly. We need to help them and bring others to God, not make them grow more distant from Him.
What would God say to us? “Because of you, I lost one of My sheep.” Who would want to be in that position? Salvation is the most important thing to try to attain in this life. In dressing this way and causing others to sin, we can affect our salvation, as well as the salvation of others: “Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived. Neither fornicators … nor adulterers…” (1 Corinthians 6:9).
And gentlemen, I urge you, as difficult as girls make it for you, please strive to remain pure and chaste for God, for yourself, and for your potential spouse and marriage. I plead you to try your best to look away when sin lies before your eyes, waiting to strike. At the end of the day, this is not an attack on my fellow ladies or to judge anyone. This is meant to broaden your perspective and I really hope if there’s one thing you take away from this blog post, it’s this: Modesty is truly the most attractive thing we can clothe ourselves with.