The older I get, the more I seem to give way to my silly side. Perhaps I have become more comfortable with who I am and realized there is no sense in trying to fight it. Last month, I may or may not have been seen walking around the office with a Christmas decoration on my head. What can I say, it looked like a hat. I would like to think that as I have gotten older, my actions are less influenced by what other people think, but I am not sure that is true. In addition to the silliness, I also have this honest, matter-of-fact side of me that, combined with my outspoken nature, can get me into trouble. After writing about Proverbs 31 last week, I started thinking about what it meant to be “clothed in dignity.” I made a case that the passage really does apply to single women (and men!), only to look at myself and see these traits that I am afraid make me undignified.
As a lover of words and language, my first stop was my Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language. I wanted to consult the definition of dignity before I evaluated whether or not I had any. The definition gave two facets of dignity: respect for one’s self and respect for the gravity of a given situation. These concepts of respect can definitely be subjective. How many times have I looked at other people and thought, “What self-respecting person would do that?” But other people probably think the same of me, at times, because we have different ideas of how we show respect to ourselves. Showing respect in a given situation can be influenced by culture as well as different interpretations of how serious the circumstances are.
For by the grace given to me I say to everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think, but to think with sober judgment, each according to the measure of faith that God has assigned.
I believe that I have self-respect, but I know that I don’t always take myself very seriously. I take my work seriously, and strive to do anything I undertake with excellence. I take my relationship with God seriously, and seek to walk in a manner worthy of His calling. But I am not afraid to make fun of myself. Sometimes I just want to be goofy and laugh. Often, I want to break out in song. But that brings me to that other side of dignity, which is knowing the time and the place for seriousness. I don’t always read situations correctly. Or, when I do get the proper sense of the moment, I let silence get to me. I feel like I must talk, even when I don’t know what to say. Having my foot in my mouth is not very dignified.
I want to be a good example of Christian character, but I am so lacking. I am certain that God wants all of us to laugh, and I am certain that it would be bad to be too serious. As it is, I hold myself to a high standard and struggle to accept my mistakes. If I couldn’t laugh at myself from time to time, I am sure that it would lead to a mental break down. Or, pride would creep in. I am not perfect or righteous; I’m not even close. I am filled with folly and error, and it feels easier to be up front about it, and to occasionally make light of it, than to try to hide it. But then, how I handle this has something to do with my particular personality, which perhaps has difficulty balancing humility with seriousness.
Show yourself in all respects to be a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity, dignity, and sound speech that cannot be condemned, so that an opponent may be put to shame, having nothing evil to say about us.
As I reflected this week, I realized that the openness and honesty about myself, which people often praise me for in my blogs and teaching, is something that can seem undignified in day-to-day conversation. Too often I “over-share.” I don’t suppose this is fitting for a woman, especially at my age. Of course, what is most important to me is not how others view me for my own sake, but that I honor God with my life. I know that the dictionary definition of dignity is less important than determining what the Bible has to say about being dignified. If this is a trait that God wants me to have, I need to determine what it means for my every day life.
My search of the Scriptures led me to Titus 2. This passage encourages believers to be dignified “that the word of God may not be reviled.” (v.5) Further, it instructs that our behavior should be such that an opponent will not have anything bad to say about us. This indicates that being dignified means living in an upright manner that is beyond reproach. We honor the Lord and His Gospel when nothing in our lives is open to accusation from outsiders.
It occurs to me that, while my silliness may seem undignified to some, it is really my big mouth that leaves me open to reproach. This is nothing new. I need to remember in all I say and do that I represent Christ. Proverbs 31 describes a woman who does not bring her husband shame. I want to be a woman who does not bring her Savior shame. The bottom line is that I can’t be clothed in dignity if I am not controlling my speech. Proverbs 31:26 states of the dignified woman, “She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue.” This is something for me to pray over and strive for.