To begin with:
The road of submission has two ditches. Before you begin reading, let me remind you that our fallen nature has folks on both sides of those ditches. I realize there are women who are subtly domineering; women who are controlling, and women who are blatantly disrespectful of their spouses. This post is not talking about any of those women. Nor is it an encouragement to these women to continue this behavior. There are some women who should shut up instead of speaking up. If we are honest, we know whether we’re in one ditch or the other – or if we’re on the road of submission. It’s easier to see it in others, but in our true heart of hearts, we know.
One of the words many wives dislike when it comes to marriage is the “S word”. I’m not talking about sex; I’m talking about submission.
I think the reason women dislike this word so much is because “if she would just submit” has been used to corral women into doing what they do not feel good about, and sometimes even what is not biblical. These women are not even asked what they are required to do to submit; they are just told to submit. I can give you some real-life examples, but I won’t.
Just submit, just submit, just submit. That’s what is thrown at women who are seeking for help and for satisfaction in their marriages. As if…As if.. just submitting would cause a husband to love his wife like Jesus loved the church. That command is given directly to husbands, and when you outline the command, the end result is sacrificing to save. Jesus came to die for us. His death was totally His choice, and His sacrifice. He gave everything to save us. He, the Bridegroom, died for His Bride, the church.
That is how a husband is to lead his wife. I have a hunch that if men loved their wives like Jesus loved the church, there would be a whole lot less struggle of most women with submission.
Subjugation ≠ Submission
At the same time, we are called to follow scripture whether our husbands do or not. This includes submission, but it does not include subjugation. Nowhere does scripture support subjugation. Bringing someone under control or domination is subjugation. A submissive wife is not a doormat. She is not to be under the control or domain of her spouse, even if he thinks she should be. She does not acquiesce to anything her husband wants. A submissive wife is responsible first to obey God and His Word. When what her spouse demands is not in line with God’s Word, she must not submit, and she should speak up.
Helpmeet = Power
A woman is also to be a helpmeet for her spouse. You know what word God used in Genesis for helpmeet as a spouse? The Hebrew word is “ezer”, which means “to help”. This same word “ezer” is used in the Psalms where the sons of Korah wrote, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.”
The same type of “help” used to describe God is the type of help a wife is to her husband. Psalms describes God has a very present help in trouble. This kind of helper is what a wife should be to her husband.
Service with a smile
The greatest service we can be to our husbands is to become the helpmeet God calls us to be. This means when our spouse is wrong, we speak to him in private. When he is moving in a direction we feel is wrong, we must speak up. We cannot say, “Well, he’s the leader, so it’s his decision.” Oh no, it’s not just his decision. He is responsible to God for the choices he makes; but when his wife acquiesces to his wishes without any discussion, she is also responsible. To sit by quietly and say nary a word is wrong and is not biblical. God does not call a submissive wife to be a doormat. He calls her to speak up at with the right attitude at the right time. He calls the wife to honor and respect her spouse, but God does not call her to defend her man when he is wrong. When we refuse to speak up, we are actually defending him and thereby giving our approval to his actions.
Fear in speaking up
There are women who are afraid to speak up or to tell their husbands what they think. They have reasons, and sometimes those reasons are legitimate – but they are not biblical. Some women have not seen “speaking up” modeled, or modeled well. Others have been taught that the husband is the head and she must bow to his will. Some women do not want to pay the price for speaking truth to their spouse. And some women want so desperately not to be like their mother that they just shut up and sit down for all of marriage.
Consequences. When a husband does not want to hear truth, he can become belligerent and disrespectful of his wife. He nit-picks and belittles her in front of others. He bashes her in private. She “pays” for speaking truth, and decides it’s not worth the price she has to pay, so she seals her lips. I can give you real-life examples, but I won’t. Not speaking up is not being a helpmeet, nor is it submitting to God in the role He has called her to be. Instead, this is simply being an equal partner with him in his sin.
Acquiescence ≠ submission.
Sometimes a wife will not speak up because she thinks that, since her husband is the leader, she must acquiesce to whatever he wants. She feels that differing with her spouse is not submissive. We need each other. No man’s opinion is always right. To refuse to share one’s thoughts, feelings, or opinions because a wife is trying to be submissive is not biblical. When we will not share, we are keeping secrets. Keeping secrets from your spouse is not biblical. You cannot be one with your spouse and full of secrets.
Sometimes a woman thinks that to speak up to her spouse is defying the headship order given by God. Not so. It’s true that God is over man, and man is over women, and a father and mother are over their children. An employer is over his employee, a doctor gives orders to nurses. Yet for an employee to not speak to an employer when he notices an issue in the company, or for a nurse not to speak to a doctor if she notices something the doctor missed can be detrimental to a company or to a patient.
As a nurse, I never thought, “Well, I know this doctor didn’t notice the blood pressure of the patient, but he’s the doctor and I must submit to what he says.” One day I refused to administer a medication ordered by a doctor. Instead, I drew up the medication and handed the syringe to him. I explained my reasons for refusing to give the medication and told him if he felt it was in the best interest of the patient, he could do the administration. You know what? The doctor decided not to give the medication. What might have happened to the patient had I just acquiesced because he was the doctor? Headship order does not mean the one who submits must never speak up. My job as a nurse was to be the helpmeet for the doctor and the patient. Usually I followed orders, but sometimes I questioned or spoke against an order, explaining why.
A wife can be submissive and speak up
- Affirm him in daily living practices and acknowledge what he does right. Affirmation is a way to his ear.
- Show respect even when you disagree. Respect is a way to his heart.
- Speak up in private. Find the right time and the right place before speaking. What is the right time? I think you already know. Privacy is a way to his self-esteem.
- Go with facts, not feelings. Explain how you feel – and why. Be logical and not emotional because this will resonate with him. I’m not saying you must not cry, but be sure you are relying on fact and not feelings. Facts are a way to his mind.
- Listen to his reasons. Sometimes he will be right; hear him out without interrupting and arguing. Listening is a way to his intellect.
- Take time to process and pray. Processing and praying is a way to his will.
The end result
Marriages are to be a model of Christ and the Church. This means we are to model Christ’s love (husband) for the church (wife). Together, this is possible. Each one is responsible to fulfill the role planned by God.
Ask God for wisdom and for strength to be the helpmeet God wants you to be. Become a spouse of worth and value by speaking truth. Recognize your role as a true helper. You are not one of the kids or the doormat by which he wipes his feet at the end of the day. Speak up for truth and virtue because this is who God wants you to be.