The Merits of Modesty
Modesty means to refrain from bragging, and it carries other definitions of value.
“Today I will speak about the virtue of modesty,” a sophomore announced to his classmates from the podium during a public-speaking class at a Catholic college. Some of his peers looked quizzical, as if they had never heard the word modesty before. The professor’s attention piqued immediately as he wondered what tack a twenty-first-century collegian would take on that attribute of merit. Would this young adult endorse the Church’s teachings or launch into a diatribe declaring that modesty is a threat to freedom, sexual expression, personal choice, and cultural fashion designed to arouse erotic attraction in others?
However, all of these concerns dissipated with the student’s opening definition. “Modesty,” the nineteen-year-old orator began, “is just another word for humility.” All the examples that followed concentrated solely on not bragging, even when accolades are well-deserved. “A star athlete should never hog center stage but modestly share the spotlight and the trophy by declaring that winning is the result of the entire team’s effort,” he said.
While humility is certainly one understanding of modesty, the Catechism of the Catholic Church expands our appreciation of this trait by attaching three other associations to it. They are purity, word choice, and education.