In recent weeks the behavior of women in our country has been a point of controversy in the news, which has led me to think on the topic of what it means to be a modern lady. Is that word entirely antiquated, or can the behavior it represents coincide with our contemporary life? What does it mean to show common decency these days? Over the next few months I will be sharing a series called, The Making of A Modern Lady, to explore the topic of what it means to be a lady in the 21st century.

             To understand what it means to be a lady, we must first start from the beginning. The term lady is a more recent English word stemming from the sometime before the 12th century A.D.[1] However, the concept of being a woman began with the creation of Eve. As Elisabeth Elliot noted, “In order to learn what it means to be a woman we must start with the One who made her.”[2] In Genesis 1:27 we find that God created males and females in His image. As women we are created in the image of God but as a distinctly different creation from males.

             Understanding ourselves as human beings created in the image of God is the starting point for discovering what it means to be a lady. Without this basic foundation, we would have no need to follow Jesus’ teaching, now known as the golden rule, of treating others as we would want to be treated (Luke 6:31). Being created in the image of God means that we have the capacity to love, to forgive, to show kindness, to be patient, to speak the truth, and to be peacemakers. As a woman, standing up for what you believe in is not the problem. Thankfully, living in the United States allows for that freedom. In fact, over and over in scripture, God’s people are exhorted to defend those who cannot defend themselves (Proverbs 31:8-9, James 1:27). Standing up for what you believe in without showing common decency is a problem. So what does it mean to be a modern lady?

             Often the word, lady, to 21st century ears conjures up notions of Victorian era gentility, proper to the point of being stuffy or here in the southern United States, a proper southern woman. If you’re thinking to yourself that ladylike behavior does not at all describe you, consider this. According to Webster’s definition, a lady simply put is “a woman who behaves in a polite way.”[3] What this tells us is…

All women can be ladies.

             Whether you prefer being outdoors to going to the salon, being a lady is not             about your hobbies or preferences for style. Being a lady is about treating   others with kindness and respect. Women come in all shapes and sizes with a      variety of interests. We all have different personalities. Regardless of our     hobbies, political inclinations, or personality, we all have the capacity to      use good manners and be polite.

             Being a lady does not mean that you have to have a quiet personality either.             Some of us are just born louder than others. You may have no problem with            volume, or you may struggle with letting your voice be heard. We are all      made differently. In 1 Peter 3:4, we are told that having a “gentle and quiet            spirit” is valuable to God. Thankfully, this does not mean a quiet voice. It            means having a heart willing to obey God. Christian ladies are women who   have a heart to obey God in all circumstances.

So what does a modern lady look like? Here are some ideas that came to mind.

       A modern lady is a woman who…

            Fears the Lord

                 Respects herself and others

                       Is content with herself

                             Puts others before herself

                                   Considers the point of view of others

                                         Speaks up for injustice but does so with kindness and grace

             So what about you? Do you want to be known as a woman who treats others with the same kindness and grace she would like to receive? I know I do. So where do we begin? The first step we can take toward being a lady is simply to be polite. Kindness is a gift we can give that few people will refuse.

Dr. Emily Dean serves as the Coordinator of Women’s Programs at NOBTS. You can follow her blog @    


             [1] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online Web site, available from; accessed February 3, 2017.

             [2] Elliot, Elisabeth. Let Me Be A Woman. Wheaton, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 1976.

             [3] Merriam-Webster Dictionary, online Web site, available from; accessed February 3, 2017.