I closed the book after the fourth chapter. I hugged my knees to my chest, rested my chin on my knees, and let out a long, heavy sigh. I sat, conflicted, on the oversized chair in our living room while my husband was upstairs asleep, my emotions fluctuating, oddly, between compassion and rage. If the battle really was ‘every man's,' then my husband was no exception, which, I concluded, left me with only two options. One (compassion): kneel—weeping—next to his bedside and beg God to deliver him from the temptations of a lust-provoking world; or two (rage): pick up the baseball bat (we keep one next to our bed) and start swinging. (Don't worry. God was genius in his design of the human body to heal).
I'm kidding, of course, but this is the pendulum on which I swing when it comes to men, women, lust, and modesty—compassion for male hard-wiring that requires frustratingly painful diligence, and irritation that the latter is true. I share Tracey Bianchi's conviction (part 1) that both sides have a part to play in working towards the common good. Men to do, well, whatever it is men do to keep their thought lives pure, and women to not carry ourselves in a way that leads a pastor to confess his roving eyes to an applause-filled congregation. As a leader who strives to build up the body, I take my choices about what to wear seriously.
But I have to tell you, recently I was forced to pick up my modesty box and shake it, flip it, and bang it against the wall a few times. The jolt came in an email from a woman who had seen me speak to a mixed-gender crowd. Here's what she said:
You need to look uglier when you speak.
I stared—shell shocked—at the words on my screen, reading the phrasing slowly and deliberately, over and over, each time trying on a different lens.
Look uglier. (Maturity Lens) Okay. Truth in love, I can handle this.
Look uglier. (Humility Lens) I'm certainly not exempt from making mistakes.
Look uglier. (Self-Awareness Lens) What did I wear?
I tried, I really did, but ultimately, I landed on the only lens that really felt like it fit. This one:
Look uglier. (Indignant Lens) What in the world is that supposed to mean?
Oh, the tailspin that ensued.
Would anyone tell a man to look less attractive? Would you tell a man to not iron his shirt? Not wear a color that made his eyes look blue? Not wear pants that made his gut look smaller? Not shave or put gel in his hair?
No! Why, then, would someone tell a woman to look uglier? And what does that even mean?