Even most of you young ones have seen the I Love Lucy show, haven’t you? Lucille Ball, who played Lucy Ricardo had a wonderful talent for physical comedy that allowed the show’s writers to create outrageous predicaments that left audiences doubled over in hysterical laughter at her antics. As a result, her character often got herself into ridiculous situations at the expense of her own dignity.
While we have to admire Lucille Ball for sacrificing her dignity in order to portray the madcap Lucy, we realize that a woman in real life shouldn’t be known for such outlandish behavior. On the contrary, Scripture says that a godly woman should be known for her dignity.
Strength and dignity are her clothing,
And she smiles at the future. ~~Proverbs 31:17 (NASB95)
So what does it mean for a woman to be dignified? Does it require her to jettison her sense of humor? Can she play with her children and grandchildren? What about joining neighborhood games of flag football or cheering loudly at a baseball game? Do dignified women get to have fun? I think we all understand that dignity doesn’t preclude enjoying life, but perhaps we ought to spend a little time pondering how we can lead dignified lives that honor the Lord.
In preparing this article, I chased down several Bible dictionaries and commentaries — as well as the online Merriam-Webster Dictionary — to understand the concept of dignity. I encountered quite a number of definitions and thoughts that seemed awfully unruly to squeeze into a small blog post, but one recurring idea encapsulated what I believe the Bible means by the term. Dignity, in a nutshell, refers to behaving in a manner that wins the respect of others.
The Proverbs 31 woman, according to verse 17, clothes herself with strength and dignity. I’m sure no one seriously thinks this word picture is about literal clothing! Who goes to Macy’s asking to see the latest line of Dignity Dresses? No, a godly woman clothes herself figuratively by exhibiting characteristics that cause others (especially other Christians) to respect her. To put it more accurately. her conduct and demeanor demonstrate her respect for the Lord.
Such dignity may include a woman’s physical clothing, of course. Low necklines, high hemlines and tight pants communicate things that don’t exactly correspond to holiness. Excessive jewelry and elaborate hairstyles, although not sexually provocative, can often draw attention that distracts people from the Lord. Peter’s instructions to women shifts from physical attire to spiritual clothing that helps explain how a woman can clothe herself with dignity.
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives, 2 as they observe your chaste and respectful behavior. 3 Your adornment must not be merely external—braiding the hair, and wearing gold jewelry, or putting on dresses; 4 but let it be the hidden person of the heart, with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is precious in the sight of God. 5 For in this way in former times the holy women also, who hoped in God, used to adorn themselves, being submissive to their own husbands; 6 just as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord, and you have become her children if you do what is right without being frightened by any fear. ~~1 Peter 3:1-6 (NASB95)
Clothing ourselves with dignity, then, necessitates behavior that reflects Christ’s work in us.
Okay, you say, but how do we become dignified? Do we just pull ourselves up by our bootstraps, forcing ourselves to be good little girls while we really want to throw ourselves into a mud wrestling contest? Is dignity just an outward show?
While being dignified is, in part, an act of obedience that necessarily requires us to expend some effort, we must ultimately depend on the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. Apart from Him, any dignity we seem to display is a meaningless illusion and an attempt to earn God’s commendation. Such false dignity congratulates self rather than bringing glory to the Lord. Therefore, we must desire Him to transform us into women who clothe ourselves with dignity.
Scripture offers guidance on how the Holy Spirit brings any transformation — including the transformation that clothes us in dignity — to Christians.
Therefore I urge you, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship. 2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect. ~~Romans 12:1-2 (NASB95)
We renew our minds, of course, by reading and studying God’s Word to the point that we begin to think like Him. Once we start thinking like Him, we find ourselves acting in ways we know He wants us to behave. His Spirit transforms us through His Word so that we really can clothe ourselves with dignity.
Lucy Ricardo was a funny television character, and I highly recommend I Love Lucy as wholesome entertainment. But poor Lucy just doesn’t model the dignity that God calls godly women to wear. I encourage you to clothe yourselves in the dignity that pleases the Lord.