“When a culture of ladies arises, a culture of gentlemen will follow” – Jason Evert4
I vividly remember a night in college when I went out drinking in a dress that I should not have worn. I will always remember the dress, it was cute and it was tight and it was short. When I bought it I saw nothing wrong with it, it looked just fine with leggings underneath, and it would have stayed just fine had I not decided to wear it out to a bar, sans leggings, with stilettos.
I remember getting ready to go out that night, a night that my roommates and I had promised each other we were going to stay in. That did not happen, though, and when we decided we all wanted to go out at midnight, after having spent the night on the couch with popcorn, it was the quickest I had ever seen all of us get ready before.
Not having planned on going out, I, of course, had nothing to wear. I looked in my closest at my choices of clothes and liked none of them. So I pulled out the dress, the dress that was supposed to be worn over leggings. I walked down the stairs, and after multiple assurances from my friends that it was not too short, I found myself going out in public in something I knew I shouldn’t be. I talked my conscience into it by repeating over and over again to myself that it was fine, it was going to be dark, it was no big deal.
I knew better than to wear that dress like I did. I knew better, but I did it anyways.
The place my friends and I liked to frequent was a bar that had two levels. The lower level was for the chill folks who wanted to drink and play pool. The second level was for the dancing queens – that was the level you would always find me on. As I walked up the stairs that night, tugging at my hemline, wishing for even just two more inches, a man walking down the stairs at the same time seized the opportunity my choice of clothing allowed, and stuck his hand up my dress.
I was mortified. Being last in line behind my friends, they didn’t understand why I started yelling a slew of inappropriate words at the man, now running away down the stairs.
I was so filled with anger at that moment, I didn’t even stop to acknowledge the devastation my conscience was facing at knowing I deserved better, and I settled for less. I didn’t want to let that stranger ruin my good time. I didn’t want to acknowledge the pain I was feeling for trying to impress the wrong people for the wrong kind of reason. Above all, I didn’t want to admit that while my soul was seeking authentic love, I was advertising hedonistic lust.
I am not saying that I was “asking for it” and that the man was not at fault or responsible for his actions. He was, it was wrong and he shouldn’t have done it. He chose to do something inappropriate. However, had I chose not wear that dress, as I knew I shouldn’t have, I would be telling a very different story right now because this one wouldn’t have existed. My decisions created an opportunity, an opportunity I could have prevented.
I would like to say that that night completely changed my views on appropriate clothing, it didn’t. I still pushed the limits, heck I still even wore that dress – with leggings – but the memory of that dress I got on the clearance rack still haunts my conscience. It might have only been five dollars, but it cost me a whole lot more.
After college, once I realized that I did want only authentic love and I learned about hedonism, I read a book about modesty. It was something that I realized, after spending more time thinking about, I never really practiced or understood the importance of. Of course I covered my body, but as an overweight child, adolescent and teenager, I wished I had the body that could wear a bikini. I saw nothing wrong with showing skin, as long as the important parts were covered. There is no harm in showing off, right?
Our bodies are gifts from the Father, and along with the gift of our soul, provide us with the opportunity to live out our love for God – the very thing we were created for. Today, though, it’s very obvious that we are using our bodies for things that they were not created for and our souls are paying the price.
Everywhere we look we are bombarded with lust. From the magazines you see in grocery store lines (funny how the worst ones seem to always be placed at eye level of kids) to walking down the street, as the years go on, the hemlines seem to go up. What’s not funny, not even a little, is the fact that these lust-inducing fashion trends wave the banner of liberation and empowerment.
There was a time when I fell for these lies. I remember in junior high, during one of the many career reflections we had to do, thinking I would become a high powered defense attorney, for no other reason than I was good at getting people to believe me when I lied and I wanted lots of money. It was also around this time that I began reading magazines like YM and Teen Vogue. This only fueled my naive-minded feminist fire.
By high school I had decided that having a man in my life would be completely useless. I fell into the trap of making fun of their intelligence and viewing them as an unfortunate means to populate the earth. The worst part of all of this – I had a lot of really good men in my life. I had older brothers who took me fishing, played baseball with me and brought me with to put up deer stands. I loved my dad so much I thought I should be able to pee standing up because he did (only took one try to learn that was not a good idea). But dang it I was woman, hear me roar, I was not going to be held down.
Interesting to think back now and realize that men were never holding me back. I was holding myself back by believing generalizations I knew were not true. I was holding myself back from authentic love because I was afraid of rejection. I figured my family put up with me because they had to, they were stuck with me, but no one else could possibly want to deal with the mess that I was. Oh how wrong that child was and how off track she allowed herself to get.
So far off track that suddenly I realized there was nothing authentic in me. I didn’t even know who I was. My life was centered in the world and I was lost, like a tether ball being hit from all angles by all the wrong players in a game I didn’t even really want to be a part of. I was denying myself authentic love, and by not letting people truly love me, I closed myself off from any sort of real relationship. I was eager to please, but unwilling to look to please the right person – God.
So much of the pain I caused myself was the lack of understanding of the gift of my body. Having struggled with my weight since I was a child, all I could focus on were the things I wasn’t. I wasn’t thin, I wasn’t tall, I wasn’t graceful, I wasn’t blonde… the list went on and on. It never occurred to me that all the things I wasn’t, made me exactly who I am; and who I am is exactly the person I was created to be.
“For God and before God, the human being is always unique and unrepeatable, somebody thought of and chosen from eternity, some called and identified by his own name.” St. John Paul II 5
When you focus on all the things you think you should be, you have no time to live in the moment as who you are. We are all one of a kind, unique individuals, all with a God given purpose and the dignity that goes along with being a child of God. Had I focused more on the role I played in the family of the Father, I know for certain I would have cared much less about all the things I wasn’t, and would have been content to just be.
When we allow ourselves to be, we allow God to form us into the masterpiece He intends us to become. We allow Him to set the world on fire through us, with Jesus at our side and the Holy Spirit in our hearts. We need to be open to allow Jesus to take our hand and lead us where we need to go. He will not force us. We are not our Lover’s slave, we are His beloved and He will not move in us until we allow Him to. To let Jesus be the gentleman we all desire, we must become the ladies we are created to be. It’s time to be brave and stand up for true feminine beauty.
Around the time that I first started “dating” Jesus, my sister-in-law, the same one who set us up, recommended I read that book on modesty. Up until that time, if you would have brought up the word modesty, I probably would have thought you were going to bust out a sewing machine and suggest I make my own dresses with a hemline that hit the ground and a neckline that brushed the heavens.
To me modesty meant prude and frumpy. However, with some strong nudges that could have only come from my new Courter, I decided I would read the book called, Dressing with Dignaty6. My sister-in-law wasn’t suggesting I needed to dress like Laura Ingalls, she just wanted me to understand why she started wearing skirts to Mass.
It became another a-ha moment for me. While there were plenty of things the author brought up that I didn’t plan on doing, overall, a lot of what she said just made sense. I had never taken the time to think about the difference between the mind of a man and that of a woman. You might not know this – but men think really differently than us. I know crazy, right?
Obviously I’m being sarcastic here, it doesn’t take a girl long to realize boys are weird, or at least that’s what it seems like when you are five. I mean seriously, how the heck can you figure out a way to turn everything in a weapon? Simple – God knew the world would need protectors.
In the same way that God made Eve a helper, He gave Adam “dominion” over His creation. Unlike what we may hear from people who don’t agree with the Bible, God giving Adam dominion didn’t mean He made him a dictator. What He did do was make Adam a protector. By allowing Adam to name all of creation, God gave him the intrinsic duty to care for everything he was in charge of.
Just like children take after their parents, we take after our original parents as well. If as women, we are all called to be helpers, it’s only logical that men are also intended to follow in the footsteps of their original father. Men are called to care for creation, especially God’s extraordinary creation – woman; and how a man cares for someone is very different from how a woman does.
While little girls are playing with their dolls, cuddling them and wrapping them up in blankets, little boys are exploring the world, learning from their experiences what is dangerous and what is not. They need to know these things so that when they become a man, they can care for and protect their family. The strength of a man doesn’t lie in his biceps, his strength lies in his willingness to sacrifice his own comfort and safety for others, especially women and children.
Don’t get me wrong, I don’t think there is anything the matter with a little girl and a rusty Tonka truck that used to be her big brother’s, or a little boy instinctively cuddling a baby doll. If you would have seen me at five – I loved my dollies, but they were usually being shoved in said rusty Tonka trucks going with me to catch frogs and get dirty. I don’t think that a woman’s place is (just) in the kitchen. I know lots of women who don’t cook and plenty of men who do. Our femininity and men’s masculinity do not lie solely in what we do, they lie in who we are. We are made to recognize the truth and beauty in the opposite sex.
So what happens when women stop letting men be men and start waving the flag of anything you can do I can do better? We lose our identity as daughters in the family of God, and we begin to strip away man’s identity as well. When we forget the very basics of who we are, we are like the Israelites wandering in the desert, eager to worship anything that comes along. We start wanting to please people in the wrong ways for the wrong reasons. Women are special creatures made by the hand of a perfect and loving Father, but our beauty does not simply lie in our body, it also lies in our femininity. The same is true of men and their masculine nature.
When I was a teenager, my older sister and I would often comment on the appearance of men on TV. There was one thing we knew not to do if my dad was around, though, and that was call a man “pretty”. We meant it as a compliment, but if my dad was in ear shot we could always expect to hear him come back with, “No. Men are not pretty, they are handsome.” I didn’t really understand why he made this point so clear to us. He could have cared less about who we were talking about, I doubt he even knew what most of the men we were referring to looked like, but it didn’t matter, they weren’t pretty.
A decade and a half later, I get what my dad wanted my sister and me to understand. Men are not the same as women. They play a different role in God’s family. We should recognize their ability to fill that role, and more importantly let them fill it. As a single woman who has been self-sufficient for a lot of years, this can be a very hard task indeed.
If you’ve seen Disney’s rendition of the story of Hercules, you may know what I’m talking about. Hercules, always feeling like he didn’t fit it, always eager to help to try and gain the approval of his community, learns he’s different, and he also happens to be extremely strong. He wants to help everyone, especially Meg.
When Hercules first encounters Meg, she is in the clutches of a big monster. Hercules, eager to help, rushes to her aide, but she’s not really that interested. Hercules asks Meg, “Aren’t you… a damsel in distress?” To which Meg responds, “I’m a damsel, I’m in distress, I can handle this. Have a nice day.”7
I used to love this line in the movie – you tell ‘em Meg – I would think. Not so much anymore, though. Poor Hercules, wanting to be a hero, wanting to use his strength to help this beautiful woman, totally gets shot down. He is made to feel unwanted and unnecessary, just like he felt all his life.
Think of how you would feel in that situation. For me, I love to cook, and I love cooking for other people. Imagine how deflating it would be if I spent all day making a delicious meal for someone and they came through the door, said “nah,” and went to the freezer for frozen pizza. We are given skills and gifts to show our love to other people, we have to let people love us too. We all like to feel needed.
We need to start letting men be men and use our feminine beauty to bring out the best in them. It’s very clear than women have a power over men. Men’s innate attraction to us means that we can either lift them up as the saintly men they are created to be, or we can stifle their masculinity. Even worse yet, we can seek self-fulfillment by compromising our morals and theirs at the same time. In the same way it would be wrong for a man to use his physical power over us, we need to stop using the power of our appearance over them. It’s time to stop believing that the “art of seduction” is an art at all. We are worth more than that and so is the dignity of every single man. So why do we work so dang hard to get attention?
My dad used to have a lot of fish, for as long as I can remember he always had a tank full of guppies. It was very clear to see that even though there was only one species of fish in that tank, there were two very distinct looking kinds of fish. I always loved to watch the sleek orange tailed majestic looking ones parade around the tank. The other ones, the drab brownish kind, I didn’t pay much attention to.
I always assumed the pretty ones were the females. That was until I saw an extra round brown one in the tank one day. I remember asking my dad why that fish was so fat, was it pigging out on food? My dad smiled and said, “she’s pregnant, looks like there will be baby fish in the tank soon.”
Pregnant?!? How could that be a lady fish, it was so… ugly.
I then started to notice a lot of other animals out there followed the same pattern, ornate beautiful males and drab looking females. How could this be, though, female humans are the ones who bring out the glitz and glam, don’t we need to impress men?
Once I hit middle school and starting learning more about animals I found it very interesting that in the wild, the males are usually flashier – so they can attract females, not the other way around. The females don’t have to work too hard to find a mate, they get their pick of the litter. The males are the ones doing the competing.
A major problem I see with how we, as women, view ourselves today, is that everything becomes a competition with each other. Instead of just being ourselves, we have decided we need to become the flashy ones, but we are attracting the wrong kinds of mates. We start competing against other women and view our worth only in the eyes of how physically attractive we are. This strains our friendships and makes it impossible to form the type of relationships we need with other women.
Ladies, we need to start complimenting instead of competing. One of my favorite quotes from St. Thérèse of Lisieux in, The Story of A Soul, speaks exactly to this matter:
“The splendor of the rose and the whiteness of the lily do not rob the little violet of its scent nor the daisy of its simple charm. If every tiny flower wanted to be a rose, spring would lose its loveliness.” 8
What a shame it would it be if the loveliness of spring was no more because we all wanted to be roses. The garden of the Creator is lovely precisely because none of His flowers are exactly the same. Some flowers are small and close to the ground, some are large and grand, some fragrant and some plain. The beauty of the garden is not that every flower is exactly the same, it’s that every flower was created to grow to their exact potential.
If the daisy grew as tall as the sunflower, its stem would not be able to support it; it would fall and die. We are not all called to be the tall and strong sunflower, some of us are meant to be small and close to the ground like the forget-me-not, spreading out, not up, cascading the ground with a blanket of simple splendor.
We are all created as exquisite flowers rooted in the same soil of our Maker. It’s not enough to simply have Jesus help us remove the thorns from our interior garden, we must praise Him for making us exactly how we are, whether that is in grandeur or simple charm. The loveliness of a spiritual spring lies in our ability to recognize the beauty of our Creator being reflected by His flowers who are all straining their stems to face the Son.
How boring would it be if God only created one flower? How unfortunate the state of creation if there were only one color. While I might desire to be that classic, elegant rose, I know I’m a wildflower. A wildflower who is rooted as the daughter of a King who wants me to spread my petals in the breeze and dance with the Spirit in the wind. Being anything less than exactly what the Lover of My Soul desires would rob the world of what I was created to give it.
The loveliest of springs will begin when we all come together in true Agape love for each other. We are women and we will roar, but it shouldn’t be at each other. We will roar in a chorus with the Lion of Judah, a roar that can stir the dry earth back to a lush garden filled with love for Our Father.
So how do we become the flowers we were created to be and the ladies this world desperately needs? A wonderful model is Mary, the epitome of feminine beauty. Where Eve struggled to be the role model we needed, Mary is the mother we can all look up to. She held the vocation of wife and mother but also perfectly lived out the virtue of chastity, humbling herself to the beauty of God’s will. In our quest to love her Son, she is always eager and ready to help us become the best woman we can, the woman we were created to be.
She gives us very powerful words in the Bible about her Son, “…do whatever he tells you” (John 2:5). When I read this advice of our Holy Mother sometimes I think: “OK Mama, easier said than done!” I know in my heart, though, to truly have the intimate relationship I want with her Son, I need to trust my Lover and do whatever He tells me.
Jesus loves us more than we could ever fathom, His love for us will never lead us astray. Mary gave her entire heart and soul to the Lord, her fiat gave Him everything. If you are scared of what giving everything to God looks like, just look to Mary – The Queen of Heaven and Earth! Things turned out pretty good for her I would say! While she might not have had any of the earthly pleasures we tend to associate with a good life, she had so much more, so so so much more. What should that tell you about what a life with the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit has to offer?
Mary was, and is, the woman I strive to emulate. If we use her as a model of what our lives as a lady can be, we see many characteristics that can help us recognize the beauty we all have. Her evident humility has had the most powerful impact on my heart.
From the first date I had with her Son in that little hospital chapel, I knew she was going to be the best Mother I could ever image because she is perfection. If you are struggling to see the beauty of a humble heart in your own life, I invite you to reflect on the below passage:
During those days Mary set out and traveled to the hill country in haste to a town of Judah,
where she entered the house of Zechariah and greeted Elizabeth.
When Elizabeth heard Mary’s greeting, the infant leaped in her womb, and Elizabeth, filled with the Holy Spirit,
cried out in a loud voice and said, “Most blessed are you among women, and blessed is the fruit of your womb.
And how does this happen to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?
For at the moment the sound of your greeting reached my ears, the infant in my womb leaped for joy.
Blessed are you who believed that what was spoken to you by the Lord would be fulfilled.
And Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
For he has looked upon his handmaid’s lowliness;
behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
The Mighty One has done great things for me,
and holy is his name.
His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
He has shown might with his arm,
dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones
but lifted up the lowly.
The hungry he has filled with good things;
the rich he has sent away empty.
He has helped Israel his servant,
remembering his mercy,
according to his promise to our fathers,
to Abraham and to his descendants forever.”
What spoke to you as you read and reflected on this conversation between these two cousins? Using this passage can be an opportunity to try your hand at Lectio Divina if you have never tried it (or even if you have.) Read the Scripture at least three times, each time more slowly than you did before, meditate on the reading and note any words or passages that stood out to you. Then listen for what message God is trying to reveal to you through His words in Scripture.
I have always been struck by Mary’s response to her miraculous pregnancy. She doesn’t just sit at home marveling at what God has done to His handmaid. No, she goes out and visits her cousin because she knows Elizabeth is older and now pregnant (mind you, she knew she wouldn’t be traveling first class to the hill country). Mary sacrificed her time and her comfort for the needs of her cousin.
When Elizabeth calls her most blessed, Mary immediately turns to the Lord, praising Him for His goodness and mercy. Imagine what the world would look like if women started living life with a Marian heart. Think of the love we could spread and the good we could do. A humble heart is a life turned completely towards God.
Listen to Mary’s words at the wedding feast, listen and allow them to ring through to the very depths of your heart and soul, “do whatever he tells you.”
Do you trust that dating Jesus will lead you into the arms of your Lover? Do you trust Him enough to give Him your whole heart, not just the good stuff, but all of it? Every insecurity, every judgement, every wound that you have pushed Him away from, every want, every need, every dream, every desire – give it to Jesus.
Give everything to Jesus and allow Him to minister to your needs like only your Divine Lover can. Nothing and no one on this earth can give us what we need if we don’t first go to the Lord. We can’t be the women the world needs, with our unique gifts and talents, if we don’t primarily allow ourselves to be the handmaids of the Lord.
When we start embracing our feminine beauty, in the true humility of knowing it is Jesus shining through us, the people around us will notice. You may even start to see that men instinctively recognize their role as protectors, their call to uphold our innate beauty. It may become evident that women notice your joy and are drawn to you. Whether you are a tomboy or a debutante, your feminine beauty has the power to lift others up.
Pray for a humble heart my sisters, and let everything you do magnify the Lord. Lift up and support the men in your life and hold all of your sisters up in prayer. The loveliness of spring can bloom with abundance if you allow your beauty to shine through. Don’t cheapen yourselves to be a thistle, you are worth so much more than that. You were made to sway in the breeze of the Spirit, not choke out others around you.
Whether your life to this point has been modeled after the Virgin Mary or more so after Mary Magdalene (before she, herself, fell in love with Jesus), your Heavenly Lover still desires you. Not as earthly lovers sometimes do, seeking to use you for their needs, but as a gentleman ministering to your heart. The Gardener of our souls doesn’t seek to pluck us out of the ground and shove us in a vase so He can admire us for a few days before we inevitably wither. No, what God desires is to allow our roots to go deep into His soil, deep into His goodness. He will let us thrive in the fields of grace and love with the Son shining on us, feeding our souls, and His mercy gently watering our hearts.
I was a wounded little girl, desperate to feel loved and cared for, yet afraid of anyone who tried to get close to me. When we live our life out of our wounds, we believe the lies of the evil one and our actions try to overcompensate for the things we need but can’t seem to find. We try to find fulfillment in the empty promises of the world and the shallowness it has to offer. Only in seeing ourselves as the beloved daughters of the Father that we truly are, can we begin to love ourselves, others and ultimately Jesus, the way all these people deserve.
Once I encountered Jesus through His mother, I began to see myself in a different way. My worth was no longer in the world, but in my God. I invite you to all be brave, to be bold – be a woman after our Holy Mother’s heart. Let your life magnify the glory of God. Allow yourself to bloom into His goodness. We have the power to create a spring that is filled with beauty and grace. Imagine the heavenly aroma we would all emit if we grew together in harmony, helpfulness and true divine beauty.
4. Evert, Jason, and Crystalina Evert. How to Find Your Soulmate without Losing Your Soul: 21 Secrets for Women. Totus Tuus Press, 2011.
5. John Paul II. “Urbi et Orbi.” The Holy See, 25 Dec. 1978, https://w2.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/messages/urbi/documents/hf_jp-ii_mes_19781225_urbi.html
6. Hammond, Colleen. Dressing With Dignity. TAN Books and Publishers, Inc.; 2nd edition, 2005.
7. Menken, Alan. “Disney’s Hercules.” 1997: n. pag. Print.
8. Thérèse of Lisieux, Mother Agnes of Jesus, and Michael Day CONG. ORAT. The Story of a Soul: The Autobiography of St. Therese of Lisieux. TAN Books, 2010, pg. 4