There is in this world one thing that I believe is unanimously agreed upon, and that is that nobody is perfect; everyone sins.
However, with that acknowledgment typically comes a tendency to compare ourselves to others and what we perceive their level of sinfulness/imperfection to be in relation to ours.
I could write/cite much more on this topic, but I think it goes without saying that there are a number of evident flaws in this line of thought. Right off the bat, we have Matthew 5:48, "Be you therefore perfect, as also your heavenly Father is perfect." Sort of feels like a Catch 22, perhaps, because we know that we will never be made perfect until fully sanctified in the Kingdom of God whilst enjoying the Beatific Vision. However, it is nevertheless a poignant verse in that it does two things:
1. Reminds us of our present imperfection and reliance upon God's mercy
2. Reminds us of what we ought to be striving for and of our reliance upon God's grace to overcome sin
All this being said, I still for a long time had a bad habit of believing that my particular vices and long-standing battles with certain sins were somehow harder than others' vices.
I'm not ashamed to say outright that among those and perhaps foremost, aside from pride (which plagues us all), would be lust.
I don't struggle much with wrath, nor envy, nor greed. Sloth can get to me at times.
Anyhow, every time I would do a good examination of conscience, I seemed to defend myself and try to fool my own conscience into thinking that this tendency toward lust was somehow harder to overcome than, say, someone else's tendency toward wrath.
Why are they so easily angered and enraged? That's not hard...just take deep breaths, picture babbling brooks or conjure up the voice of Sting singing about "fields of barley."
Wrath? Psh. That's just for unrestrained hotheads. They clearly just aren't exerting themselves, right?
But LUST, now LUST...that's hard to overcome.
That's, well, that's IMPOSSIBLE!
Matthew 19:26 - "And Jesus beholding, said to them: With men this is impossible: but with God all things are possible."
This goes again back to needing to be reminded of our complete dependency upon God's grace, but also the proper disposition and exertion of the [free] will to cooperate and accept and use that grace.
Amare est velle bonum - To love is to will the good.
Now, I have heard/read that lust and gluttony are the two most "naturally unnatural" vices because of their disordered relation to basic and fundamentally good human desires - to eat & drink and to procreate.
This does not, however, mean that my battle is any more difficult than another's, just perhaps more common (and many, many men [if not most to all] struggle with lust). I think any priest would tell you that the most common sins confessed by men have to do with this deadly vice.
Mt 5:28 - "But I say to you, that whosoever shall look on a woman to lust after her, hath already committed adultery with her in his heart."
That's a big deal. Jesus is telling us that what we desire, if we let it manifest within our imaginations by first consent with the eyes, we are already guilty of it.
So, what is lust? We need to understand it...
lust[luhst] Show IPA
intense sexual desire or appetite.
uncontrolled or illicit sexual desire or appetite...
One might take note of the word "uncontrolled" above. That is in many ways very true. Again it ties into the fact that we are fallen, with a tendency toward concupiscence of the flesh and a potentially fatal exaggeration of our "lower nature" (our higher or superior nature being that which abandons the flesh and strives for things eternal by way of the Cross).
I have observed many men behaving badly over the years, and the word that has so many times come to mind is "primal" or "animalistic," acting upon pure instinct and sexual desire with no restraint, no independent thought process or adherence to conscience which is written on all men's hearts and in all men's minds.
It is true that this tendency is uncontrollable except by "the grace of God with [us]." (1 Cor. 15:10)
So wait, the title of this post said for women to read too, right? What do women have to do with this if they don't struggle with lust? After all, I said it's mostly a man's problem, right?
Galatians 5:19-21 - "Now the works of the flesh are manifest, which are fornication, uncleanness, immodesty, luxury, idolatry, witchcraft, enmities, contentions, emulations, wrath, quarrels, dissensions, sects, envies, murders, drunkenness, revelings, and such like. Of the which I foretell you, as I have foretold to you, that they who do such things shall not obtain the kingdom of God."
Now first of all, as an aside, I should like to especially call attention to this verse as a whole to any Protestant who may be reading this article who believes in "once saved always saved."
St. Paul is here, not to mention about a hundred or more other places in his epistles, telling the Galatians that if they persist in any of these sins listed above.
For "blessed is the man that endureth temptation; for when he hath been proved, he shall receive a crown of life, which God hath promised to them that love him." (James 1:12)
There are a lot of sins listed in those three verses from Galatians; I have bolded and underlined one word: immodesty.
Take a look at the company in which that word finds itself: idolatry, witchcraft, fornication, murders, etc.!
All of these are amongst the "sins unto death" spoken of in 1 John 5:17.
This is where it applies to you, ladies.
So what does this word mean, immodesty?
im·mod·est[ih-mod-ist] Show IPA
not modest in conduct...indecent; shameless.
ETYMOLOGICAL SYNONYM of IMMODEST:
Indecent. Shameless. These could also be described as having no respect for one's self or those in one's proximity. A complete disregard, whether intentional or unintentional, for the way in which one is perceived by others and, more importantly, the way in which one is seen by God.
Now, before going any further on this matter, I fear that some may do a quick Bible search to see where else that word "immodesty" appears and come up blank.
So naturally the argument may surface, "that's not what St. Paul meant! Go to the original text..."
The Greek for immodesty in this verse is aselgeia (ἀσέλγεια) which can also be translated as “lascivious” or “sensual.” This same Greek word can be found in Mark 7:22, Ephesians 4:19, 2 Peter 2:7, 2 Corinthians 12:21.
The word lascivious is defined three ways:
2. arousing sexual desire
3. indicating sexual interest
Thus the onus can be placed on both the party lusting (typically the male, as per the first definition) and the party inciting lust (typically the female by her dress and/or behavior, the latter two definitions).
Essentially, if we are to understand the nature of lust we must understand it like its punitive equal of actual fornication which our Lord described, meaning that just as fornication requires two people, so too does lust.
A man cannot lust at what does not present itself to be lusted after (unless he has a real problem, in which case he still envisions a woman improperly though she be properly clothed, this would be comparable to rape with singular culpability).
So, how might we describe a woman who dresses immodestly? A common Biblical term used is "harlot."
har·lot[hahr-luht] Show IPA
a prostitute; whore.
This loose, crude or obscene behavior is the act in itself of dressing immodestly.
As I quoted in a previous post, "Clothes are meant to conceal the body not reveal it...[If you dress immodestly,] you're not helping in the salvation of souls you are contributing to the damnation of souls." (Fr. Michael Rodriguez)
Just a few examples of what the holy book of Proverbs says about harlots:
Proverbs 5:2-5 - That thou mayst keep thoughts, and thy lips may preserve instruction. Mind not the deceit of a woman. For the lips of a harlot are like a honeycomb dropping, and her throat is smoother than oil. But her end is bitter as wormwood, and sharp as a two-edged sword. Her feet go down into death, and her steps go in as far as hell.
Proverbs 6:25-26 Let not thy heart covet her beauty, be not caught with her winks: For the price of a harlot is scarce one loaf: but the woman catcheth the precious soul of a man.
Proverbs 7: - And behold a woman meeteth him in harlot's attire prepared to deceive souls; talkative and wandering, Not bearing to be quiet, not able to abide still at home...[saying] 'Come, let us be inebriated with the breasts, and let us enjoy the desired embraces, till the day appear.'
This one above is SPECIFICALLY and EXPLICITLY speaking to dress as it says "harlot's attire," while also making reference to "inebriation with breasts," an anatomical part which I would venture to say not a single woman on planet earth is ignorant of knowing of man's attraction to a woman's bosom and their profoundly significant role in procreation and sustenance of infant life. So, do I need to point out that this is at least implicitly making reference to any cleavage bearing garment, much less more "out in the open" garb?
A few more notable verses:
Sirach 9:6 - Give not thy soul to harlots in any point: lest thou destroy thyself and thy inheritance.
1 Corinthians 6:15 - Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot ? God forbid.
That second verse is really calling attention to the fact that we, body and soul, makeup the Mystical Body of Christ on earth and need to strive to rightly order our bodies and tendencies thereof toward their natural intent, not to dress as if we - as the definition of "pestulant" said - "asking/begging for it."
Now, I must point out that there are two different scenarios which I believe women fall into with respect to immodesty: ignorance and full knowledge.
If a woman is unaware or ignorant that what she is wearing is immodest, and I do believe this is the case at least largely with many women (those who believe what they are wearing is just "super cute" or "très chic"), then it would likely not be a mortal sin (unless you have done something to essentially keep yourself ignorant) and you would only be potentially viewed as a harlot by men.
Here, it is possible that the man is committing a mortal sin of lust while the woman remains in venial sin, though one that can easily lead to other mortal sins.
HOWEVER, if a woman is aware of what you she is doing, the emotions and passions she is evoking in men, and that is her intent, to be noticed, to be sought after, to be craved, this is where we have a real major problem...namely a problem called "vanity," and she would be by the very definition a harlot, whether she acts on the fornication or not (again, go back to Matthew 5:28).
There is so much that could still be said on this subject matter.
Immodesty is rampant. It is at times seemingly as present as the air we breath, and yet noxious, supplanting the place of the oxygen needed to breath and slowly asphyxiating countless men's souls like being in a closed room for hours until all the oxygen has been replaced with carbon dioxide and they die.
Eternally, following those "steps of hell" described in Proverbs.
Now, if I still don't have the women out there fully believing what I have written ,iIf they still think I am trying to defer the blame and share it with them for what is clearly "my problem," let me use a few more scenarios.
If a parent leaves a loaded gun in an unlocked gun case around, say, a 10 year old who knows what a gun is but is in many ways not capable enough to know how to use it responsibly and, not thinking clearly just jokingly pulls the trigger at his friend and kills his friend, who is to blame?
The child should have thought more, should have been a little more cognizant and less reckless...but is not the parent who introduced the fatal weapon into the situation as culpable if not moreso?
The latter cannot even possibly happen without the former. Again, a man cannot lust at what does not present itself to be lusted after.
How about another example.
If I invite a friend over who I know is an alcoholic trying to stay sober, and I decide it's prudent for to still make a cocktail, pop a bottle of wine or crack a few beers while he is over, and he goes home and on his way stops off to grab a few for himself, who is to blame? What about if it gets worse? What if he stops at the bar, and then drives drunk home and kills someone on the way?
This is perhaps more truly comparable to the relationship of immodesty and lust as both are fatal offenses worthy of damnation.
The woman introduces the occasion of sin; the man consents through a weak will due to negligence in prayer and a fallen nature.
And here lies the true problem.
The occasion of sin.
Any good confessor will tell his penitent to avoid the near occasion of sin.
If you have read my post on dancing, you will know that St. John Vianney was so strongly opposed to dancing (well, the Church was opposed and he was enforcing it) that he would not absolve anyone until the promised never to even attend a dance again. Eliminate the occasion of sin, and then there will not be any sin.
So, alcoholics keep alcohol out of their house and work with a tight support network of friends to ask that they also do not drink around them so as to aggravate the wounds trying to be healed with time and grace.
Drug addicts get rid of old friends, bad ones, change cell phone numbers, even move away sometimes after a stint in rehab, and have to make a clean break from their past lives.
This is in fact part of the end of a good confession: "for these and for all the sins of my past life, I am heartily sorry."
The idea is that we leave that confessional a new man or woman, once again in God's sanctifying grace and eligible for entrance into His eternal Kingdom.
But the problem is that this occasion of sin, because of both ignorant and knowledgeable women all over the world and on every street and in nearly every building save maybe Traditional Catholic Churches, is COMPLETELY inescapable! Unavoidable!
It is EVERYWHERE!
Men today cannot go to the hardware store, a place where men do man things and buy man things, without being confronted with a desire to act impulsively and immorally with their "manly thing." Sorry if that seems tasteless, but sometimes bluntness is a must!
We can't go to the grocery store because even if somehow by some Providential and merciful act we make it through the entire store staring at the linoleum floor and never see another woman anywhere, we get to the checkout line and look to put our groceries on the belt and there's "Jane Harlot" the actress with her "womanly things" hanging out all over! Right next to the Cosmo or Maxim or Redbook that says something like "50 RED HOT SEX TRICKS" or "20 WAYS TO MAKE HER MOAN!"
Is this too graphic? YES!
So why are we allowing out society to be led straight into HELL!?
Our Lady appeared to three little children in 1917 and said, "Certain fashions will be introduced that will offend our Lord very much." She also went on to say that "more souls go to hell for sins of the flesh than for anything else."
So, to give women an idea of what they should NOT be wearing:
- Yoga Pants!! Oh may Almighty God have mercy on whoever started this horrifying trend of indecency!
- Mini skirts (nothing above mid calf)
- Short shorts (really, shorts period)
- Strapless or spaghetti strap tops
- Tight clothing that shows off the figure, including jeans and really pants in general
- BIKINIS or other beachwear. This was part of ALL examinations of conscience "in the old days" regarding occasion of sin, beaches! Does this seem hard? Unreasonable? Outrageous? Well that is what the rich man thought when Jesus told him to sell everything and be his disciple. Is our Lord's request to deny ourselves, suffer and bear our crosses unrealistic? Is our Lord unreasonable?
What it really boils down to is, "would you be comfortable if Jesus showed up and saw you wearing that?"
I mentioned one of the reasons why St. John Vianney would not absolve people.
St. Padre Pio would not absolve women who wore skirts higher than 8 inches below their knees until they vowed never to do it again.
I will quote one final source, the authoritative voice of one of our former Holy Fathers:
"From this point of view one cannot sufficiently deplore the blindness of so many women of every age and condition; made foolish by desire to please, they do not see to what a degree the in decency of their clothing shocks every honest man, and offends God." - Pope Benedict XV (sacra propediem)
A final word to men: we must, must, MUST resist the temptation of lust with all our hearts, minds and souls. We must flee any near occasion of sin whatsoever and whenever possible, be it beaches, bars, or especially situations alone with women. The most important key, and though I have not mastered it by any means, is to stay rooted in prayer especially mental prayer.
As Dom Chautard wrote in The Soul of the Apostolate, either you forfeit mental prayer or you forfeit your soul.
A final word to women: please, please, PLEASE consider what is written here. Please. And go immediately BURN anything that violates the code of honor laid out so clearly by Sacred Scripture for the appropriate behavior and attire of women. If you have to check in a mirror to see how it makes a part of you look, throw it out. Vanity is the equal and complementary evil vice of women to men's lustful hearts. We love you modest and helping to contribute to the salvation of our souls, not to our damnation. But it doesn't stop there. It's not just about you. That is not Christianity to only look inward. You must help us fight the fight. Unfortunately, some women don't give us any confidence or the time of day when it comes to this. We need YOU to speak up! Be our advocates! Stop telling other ladies they look cute or sexy or snazzy or flashy or beautiful in clothing designed in the bowels of hell by the vile demon Asmodeus!
Let us pray that Our Lady shows us all the way to pure hearts so that one day we might see God (Mt 5:8).
For more information on this, and for a fantastic sermon by a holy priest, please also visit a former post I put up: