Tempting others with our choice of clothing - the nerd.

A teenager/young adult (let’s call him Bob) always dresses like a complete nerd, and as a result attracts attention from his peers. A lot of them whisper to each other about him behind his back and giggle at his super nerdy physical appearance. Some of them take the extra step and actually pick on him and poke fun to his face.

We all know, of course, that it is sinful for these people to view Bob as an object of their entertainment and jokes.

Bob doesn’t look/dress the way he does because he wants to be objectified by these people and treated like anything less than a human being. Of course he doesn’t. He’s just Bob… he’s naturally awkward looking with a bit of an acne problem. He likes the way his huge, thick rimmed glasses feel on his face and how they give him a wide range of view. He also doesn’t like the style of a lot of the clothes that are IN now a days so he just always goes with a comfortable pair of gym shorts and some sort of Star Trek t shirt, since he’s a fan of the show. The pair of shoes he wears are old and worn out, but they are broken in very well and fit perfectly and comfortably on his feet. His hair tends to get a little shaggy because he just doesn’t see the point in going to the barber every 2 weeks, and instead goes about every 2 months. It doesn’t look dirty or bad or anything, it’s just not the fresh, clean cut look. He does keep himself and his clothes clean though… it’s just the overall appearances, really.

Unfortunately, all this causes others to stare at him, laugh, gossip, objectify, and bully. Bob could, I suppose, get his acne professionally taken care of, go to the barber a lot more often, ditch his star trek shirts and comfy gym shorts for clothes that other people wouldn’t giggle at. But he figures he’s comfortable with himself, he likes his style, and if others are going to be bullies, that’s their problem.

Now the question is this…

Is Bob being selfish by continuing to look the way he does despite causing others to sin by treating him like an object of entertainment? Or better yet, is Bob AT ALL responsible for the sins of those who make fun of him based on how he looks and what he wears?

Which do you think needs to happen from a moral standpoint?

A. Bob needs to get a makeover so that he will stop leading others to sin.
B. Bob does not need to change. It is the bully’s responsibility to see Bob as the human being that he is, regardless of how Bob looks/dresses.
C. They should meet in the middle. Perhaps Bob can just stop with the Star Trek shirts (though keeping everything else the same), and the bullies should make the effort to stop making fun of him since it’s easier not to do so if he would just wear a less nerdy t shirt instead.
D. Other (explain below)

Please vote up top and discuss your vote below.

I voted “B”, that Bob does not need to change himself. Why should he be asked to change himself? He is just fine. The bullies need to adjust their attitude and stop treating Bob as an object of their gossiping. They are the ones who need to change. Bob sounds like a pretty cool guy, too. While my sense of style is more of a “busy happy mom” look, I like Star Trek and other scifi shows (especially Star Gate), and I tend to like people who like Star Trek. :slight_smile:

This is really interesting, I think I see where you’re going with this.

I would have to say B, though. I don’t see what he’s doing that’s too wrong here.

(BTW, how many guys go to the barber every 2 weeks? I go once every 3 months or so, lol)

Lol I dunno, a really well groomed, clean cut friend of mine who was totally into his looks once told me he went once every 2 weeks so I assumed that was the standard for the “cool guys.” :slight_smile:

Oh yeah, I suppose that I’m not one of the “cool guys.” I let my hair grow in a bit, then get it shaved down to a military cut every 3 months or so. :slight_smile:

Lol there ya go. Save money that way.

Unless Bob’s doing it just to get under their skin, what’s his fault? The bullies are making their own choices.

However Bob could protect himself in a number of ways but he’s not causing others to sin. It’s like saying I should stop going to Mass because it causes “Jim” to disrespect Our Lord and my going reminds him of his hatred.

I would say B.

But if anyone tries to use this as an analogy for modest clothing, I’d argue the comparison is not completely apt. :wink: After all, it could be taken to ridiculous extremes (i.e. “What if Bob decides to wear no clothes at all because he’s comfortable in his own skin?”).

The direction of the thread was indeed obvious, but Debora has rightly pointed out an important element of the modesty discussion: In what way is modesty different from the issue listed in the OP?. Solving this solves the modesty dispute.

I believe Catholic teaching has addressed modesty and its importance. It hs yet to tackle nerdiness.

B. If Bob is covered and he doesn’t smell bad, people have no reason to mistreat him. (I’m not endorsing being mean to stinky people.)

Obviously in a perfect world the answer is B. But this is not a perfect world. So the “real” correct answer is C. Especially given the analogy and I’m giving you 5 stars here for being clever.

But seriously, my answer is C. Why? Because Bob could do well to think about how his presentation to the rest of the world might cause others to sin. It’s not his sin if others mock him to themselves, but it’s also simply respectful for him to think of others.

That’s what the Church and the commandments tell us, but it isn’t popular 'round these parts.

The obvious difference is many men are not trying to entertain lustful thoughts. A bully is looking to bully for any reason he can find.

Do we ever have a reason to mistreat people based on physical appearances?

It is a fine balance, the communication and respect we offer by our dress. Much depends on the meanings of dress in the culture around him and their level of seriousness. I think at times it is good to communicate our respect for the community around us. Also, it can be important to smooth things with others, even if we give up our favorite food or clothing item to do so. However, physical comfort, utility, and one’s own culture are relevant as well. It ought to flow both ways, respect both ways.

What caused me to pause was your assertion of how many people were distressed in some way by his dress. You mentioned “a lot” of them. This suggested to me that there is a large gap between Bob and the culture around him. Yet I am quite familiar with the cruelty that can be present in a group of people, and that may be the case here. I’d avoid this group of people to the maximum extent possible. Cruelty can escalate tragically, particularly if the authority is asleep on the job. Whomever is in authority has some serious moral responsibilities here.

No. There might be reason to file a polite complaint though. Immodesty and lack of hygiene woudl be two examples of such an occasion. The fact that some people don’t like Star Track is not.

Ahem. Star Trek, TYVM.

And in what way does the modesty issue differ from this one? You are correct; what I was attempt to emphasize was the importance in articulating how the modesty teaching actually affects the scenario.

That is not really the correct answer. If my friend says that my hair makes her envious, I am hardly required to cover it in her presence.

As I said in a later post,
The obvious difference is many men are not trying to entertain lustful thoughts. A bully is looking to bully for any reason he can find. *

The bully’s intentions are not Godly. Men trying to keep their mind pure is Godly. Do we not want to support our brothers and sisters in those attempts, without of course diving into puritanical over the top nonsense??

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