On special occasions, we choose our outfits in order to honor other people. When attending a friend’s wedding, we typically wear our Sunday best or cocktail attire, depending on the style of the ceremony, and women are careful not to wear white out of respect for the bride. When we attend a funeral, we wear dark colors to respect the family. We also know to don a suit to a formal job interview to show the hiring committee that we value their consideration. Some people dress up for church as an act of worshiping God. What about all of the other days though?
It seems that as a society, we have decided that our focus should be on ourselves on a daily basis. There are only a few occasions for which we focus on other people when choosing what to wear. We often choose our outfits based on how we feel that day or who we want to impress so we can get attention. We use how we dress as a way to express ourselves, and we say that no one should be able to tell us what that looks like. I’m not saying that there is anything wrong with wanting to be comfortable or with wanting to impress someone. I often choose what to wear based on how I feel in that outfit. However, I would like to challenge that we use what we wear as a means of being considerate toward others. What if we used how we dress to express ourselves as loving individuals who are genuinely concerned about how our choices affect other people?
In addition to showing people that an occasion that we spend with them is special, I think there are other ways in which we can love others through our appearance each day. If our goal in wearing something is to display how in shape we are or the name brands we can afford, perhaps we should consider how other people might be affected at the same time and whether our motives are right. A person of modest means may feel that they are not good enough to talk to someone with an expensive name brand showcased across their shirt, or they may even begin to think poorly of the person who is wearing it. A new mother may feel discouraged to see other women whose bodies have not been affected by childbirth dress in “sexy” clothing. A man who has always struggled with his weight may feel inadequate when he can see another man’s muscles through his shirt. Someone with an eating disorder may continue to feel that they will never look good enough when they see other people showing how fit they are. A husband or a wife may be uncomfortable with their spouse seeing someone dressed in revealing clothing, even if they trust them. A t-shirt with an offensive message can discourage someone without the person who is wearing it even knowing. If we are willing to dress in a way to show respect to people on certain occasions such as weddings, funerals, and job interviews, why don’t we consider other people in the area of dress on a daily basis?
On the other hand, we should not go around judging other people for how they dress. Matthew 7:1, 2 reminds us, “Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.” The point is not to go around saying how considerate we are in our dress and how disrespectful other people are in their appearance. That is pride and places our self-worth above others. Instead, we should focus on ourselves and how we can love others. It would not make sense to say we are loving people through our dress and then turn around and make them feel unloved by judging them because of their appearance.
Regardless of your opinion of how we should dress, I would challenge that it is one area where we can do a better job of considering how to love and respect other people. Galatians 6:10 (ESV) tells us, “So then, as we have opportunity, let us do good to everyone, and especially to those who are of the household of faith.” There are times when impressing someone with the way we dress may be the loving thing to do, and there are times when it may be prideful. I hope we can use this area and all areas of our lives to love each other as Christ loved us.