Submission Isn't Shutting Up and Smiling


Oh boy. 

A loaded word if there ever was one.

There's so much confusion and meaning and pain and mess surrounding that one word.

And yet, it's so blatantly written in the Bible that women should submit to their husbands. And I think alot of women want to fulfill that command but aren't really sure what it means. I know I feel that sometimes.

One thing that I've observed happening A LOT around submission is women feeling like they have to shut down their opinions, thoughts, and desires before they've even expressed them fully to their husbands. It's like maybe a wife wants one thing for their family, but the husband wants to do something else that's not in line with what she thinks would be good for them. So she thinks that because he doesn't do what she wants, and because he wants to do something else, that she should just shut up and support the thing he wants. Even if it seems like it's not good for their family. Then she should submit even more.

Man. I think that is so not real submission. And it's sad because, in many cases like that, the wife really wants to do the right thing. She wants to 'submit,' so she's putting so much energy into not opposing her husband...but it's like she's kind of missed the boat. She's putting her energy into what is not really submission.

I'd like to propose what I think true submission would look like in a situation like that. First of all, submission is NOT:

  • shutting up
  • shutting down your ideas, wishes and thoughts for your family
  • not saying anything
  • not saying your opinion
  • smiling and doing what your husband wants, when inside you really want something else.

Wow. Even writing that list feels controversial because so often that's what 'Christian submission' is boiled down to: just agree with your husband. 

But that's NOT submission! Submission is more like supporting. And it's using your strength. Not shutting down your strength. 

Submission is using your strength to support your leader, to help him flourish. 

So, in the case of the wife feeling like there's something that would be good for their family, but the husband wanting something else, her 'submission job' is NOT to suppress her thoughts and emotions. Her 'submission job' is to come to her husband with all of her thoughts, opinions, and emotions, and honestly lay them out before her husband. NOT trying to tell him what to do ("You will do this." "My way is the only right way."). NOT trying to manipulate him or threaten him ("If you don't do this, our family will be MESSED UP."). But just bringing herself, her real thoughts, her real emotions, her real fears.

It would look something like this: "Hey honey. I'm feeling pretty overwhelmed about something. Could I tell you about it? Well, I feel like I would really want this for our family. This is why I want it. And sometimes it feels like we don't have that in our family because of you doing this. And it feels scary to me because of this. Could we talk about it?" 

When a woman is open and honest and vulnerable with her husband, she's doing a HUGE portion of the 'submission work' that she's called to do. She's not saying "I won't follow you." She's not saying "I'll tell you what is best for our family." She's saying what she feels. And how can a man flourish as a leader if he doesn't know what the people under his leadership feel and wish for and imagine and think? He needs to not follow what the wife wants all the time, always looking to her leadership, but he needs to know what she's thinking and feeling and needing.

Imagine if a husband always chooses to plop on the couch and watch sports all Saturday, while the wife imagines family time with the kids. Alot of Christian wives would think, "Well, he's tired. He works hard. I should let him have his space...I should smile, and bring him snacks, and smile and say, 'I don't mind at all, honey.' I should submit to what he wants."


What if that husband doesn't even know the possibilities of what he could be doing to lead his family, to spend time with them, to make a safe place for his kids? He kind of needs his wife to say, "Hey, I know you're tired from the work week, but I so wish we could spend time together as a family on Saturdays. Can I tell you why? Can I tell you what it feels like to me when I'm with the kids all day without you? Can I tell you what it feels like when you don't pay too much attention to me because you're watching sports? Can I tell you how it scares me about the kids?" What if the husband needs the wife to vulnerably tell him how she feels? Imagine if she did, and then he made some changes in his leadership. He'd flourish more as a leader than if she just shut up, right?

And submission, in this sense, is very vulnerable. When you come to your husband with your emotions and not your threatening, when you come with your fears and not your's very vulnerable to be laid bare and knowing that you might be judged by him for your feelings or hurt by him if he chooses to still do something that's hurtful for the family. But it's beautiful. When a woman chooses to not defend herself by hiding what she thinks or by controlling, and she just brings who she is, mess and all, it is a beautiful thing. A using her strength for someone else thing. A submissive thing. 

There are so many other ways to submit, to use your strength to support your husband. That's just one way I was thinking about this past week: being willing to have the messy conversations where you might cry, might be very vulnerable, might be hurt. But you're bringing your strength instead of shutting it down.