Today, it occurred to me that it might be a good idea to do a blog post on modesty. So here it is.
Note: I am not a Latinist. I really like Latin, and I am a high school student who has been studying it for over three years, but no expert. I do not wish anyone to think that my speculations based on the words are facts on how the words were used. I am using them to illustrate the many concepts that play roles in true Christian modesty. There are also other words that can mean “modesty” in Latin, but I’m only using these three right here.
My initial idea for the title of this post was to render it in Latin. So I got out my handy-dandy
notebook Latin-English dictionary and looked up “modesty”. I got three renderings; modestia, pudicitia, and verecundia. I then looked up each word in the Latin part of the dictionary to see which rendering was the closest to the meaning I wished to convey, as the dictionary will usually give several translations for each word. This gives me an idea of the connotations of each word. Here is each one:
Modestia-moderation, restraint; discretion; modesty, sense of shame, sense of honor, dignity; propriety; mildness (of weather).
Pudicitia-chastity, modesty, purity.
Verecundia-bashfulness, shyness, modesty; respect, awe, reverence; sense of shame, feeling of disgrace, disgrace, shame.
So modestia would seem to be similar to one English use of modesty; the sense of being restrained, of not putting on a big show, of outward humility. Pudicitia is closer to the sense of modesty as related to purity and chastity, as is obvious from the translation; and the translations for verecundia are similar to those of modestia, with, apparently, the additional connotation of awe and reverence.
When we talk of modesty in dress, pudicitia seems to be the nearest to our meaning, yet all three play a role. For instance, modestia; the Christian should desire not to make an exhibition of himself* or draw attention to himself. He should also cultivate a sense of decency and propriety, of dressing with decency, and his behavior should also be decent and fitting. Lastly, verecundia reminds us of what modesty is all about; a sense of awe, reverence, and dignity towards our bodies, which are the temples of the Holy Spirit. Shame and disgrace are what we experience when they are (mis)used or exhibited in a way not in accordance with modestia or pudicitia.
Part Two will be here shortly!
*As customary in the English language, I use the masculine pronoun to mean both men and women. Obviously, this applies to women as well.