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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

What Submission is not: The Doormat, The Boss, and The Grouch

Announcing the random winner of our last Friday Freebie: Spicey won the copy of Pursuit of Passion: Discovering True Intimacy in Your Marriage. Please contact me with your email address so I can make arrangements to get the book to you courtesy of Julie Sibert. See the Contact Scott tab on my blog.

In my Wives Only Wednesday post last week, Strong and Submissive, I explained how strength goes hand in hand with the submission that God calls wives to. True biblical submission has nothing to do with weakness or subjugation, as it is so often wrongly characterized.

In fact, submission actually requires strength.

Submission Misconstrued

Unfortunately, there is a pretty strong cultural push back against God's design for marriage, but I find it is mainly due to a lack of understanding of what submission really is. In an effort to dispel these common mis-characterizations, in today's post I want to explore specifically what the submission of a wife to her husband is not.

What does it mean for a husband to have the "headship" or leadership role and for a wife to respect and support him with the gift of her submission? Recall from my last post this chart:

(Note: you can find the corresponding husband's chart in my post What Headship Is Not.)

I discussed the wife of the upper right quadrant in my last post. This is the "church-like" wife the Bible describes, alluding to the fact that God designed marriage to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church.  Today I want to introduce you to the three wives represented by the other quadrants: the Doormat, the Boss and the Grouch.

The Doormat

This is probably the wife I hear described most often when people protest the notion of submission. "I'm not going to be a doormat for anyone!" The good news is your aren't supposed to be!

This wife makes the mistake of equating submission with weakness. She is often filled with self-doubt and insecurity. She thinks her opinions don't matter and that her needs are unimportant, even as the resentment over her presumed "less than" status builds. She thinks she has no voice.

The Doormat can be withdrawn from the relationship with her husband, mistaking passivity for humility. She feels uncertain of her identity in Christ, as co-heir with her husband of the full inheritance that is hers by virtue of her faith in Jesus.

The Boss

This is the wife who feels she must lay submission aside in order to show herself strong and to prove herself capable.

This wife tends to be disrespectful to her husband, her words and tone letting him know of her frequent disapproval. She will put him down to friends and family and broadcast his mistakes in order to "keep him in his place." She thinks that in order to avoid subjugation she must push for her own way. Her self-interest is front and center of most decisions.

The Boss frequently contends for power, thinking that to do otherwise shows her to be weak.

The Grouch

This wife is neither submissive nor strong, sharing some of the characteristics of both the Boss and the Doormat.

The Grouch comes across as uncaring toward her husband, from  her expressions of disrespect to her self-protective withdrawal from him. She is fearful and distrustful of any expression of leadership on his part.

She lacks the emotional strength and the integrity to deal with her husband forthrightly. She may try to bury  her emotions, but they will eventually bubble up into an outburst of some kind. 

- - - - - -

To make the point clear, I've described the behaviors of these wives in pretty extreme terms.  Chances are none of these describes you exactly, but beware of the characteristics they portray. Be vigilant against the mindset that equates submission with weakness. And be vigilant against the prevailing sentiment against submission in any form.

Pursue strength and submission with equal vigor. Glean from your relationship with Jesus the kinds of attitudes and attributes that should attend biblical submission. If you are watchful, you will see lots of parallels between your spiritual walk and your marriage. They are everywhere.

A note to any husbands reading this post. The post is title Wives Only Wednesday for a reason. There is nowhere in scripture where it says your are to make your wife submit to you. Demanded or coerced submission isn't submission at all, so don't try it.

Work on your end of the marriage partnership, to love and serve your wife as Christ loves the church, giving himself up for her.  Loving your wife well will draw out both her submission and her strength.

Read my corresponding post for husbands: What Headship is Not


Anonymous said...

Wow I guess I had a full blown case then because I was all three. In my head I knew what God had instructed in His Word - I completely understood it from the perspective of knowledge ... my heart just didn't like what my head was learning. So I would try to 'act' in submission (sitting down on the outside while my inner 'girl' was standing up on the outside). When I couldn't keep up the 'door mat' charade any longer I would turn to grouch. The same pattern with 'the boss' - when Darrell would call me on my attitude toward him - I would swing back into the grouch.

It wasn't until I discovered that I was blaming Darrell for God's instruction to me as a wife. My fight was with God all along.

Great post! Thanks for letting me revisit my old self! I really do mean "thanks". It's very easy for us extroverted personality types to fall back to our default. We need reminding.

Scott said...

Robyn - Thanks for sharing your 'old self' history!

Olivia B said...

This is so timely for me. I'm a newly wed and am finding these concepts a real struggle for me. By nature I am a strong woman and my husband is a more mellow and peaceful type. I often find myself in a really confused place. I don't know how to be submissive without squashing my personality entirely. Also I'm really fearful of dreaming with my husband. I don't know how to deal with dreams that he has that are different to mine (not fundamentally different) every time we talk about the future it turns into a big fight...The husband and wife roles are so confusing sometimes....

Scott said...

Olivia - It is helpful to realize that your "position" as wife, as defined in the Bible (Ephesians 5, 1 Peter 3 and elsewhere), has nothing to do with your "personality." The same is true for your husband. The way biblical roles of submission and leadership look will be different for every couple.

As far as hopes and dreams for the future, I would work toward really understanding what is in each other's hearts. What underlays the dreams for the future? Then you would do well to pray together and seek God's heart for your future. Surrender it to Him. He is good and has only good for your future and for your marriage.

A biblically ordered marriage does not reduce the need for good communications skills, in fact it requires more.

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