What Submission is not: The Doormat, The Boss, and The Manipulator
A Wives Only Wednesday post
In my Wives Only Wednesday post last week, Wives: Strong and Submissive, I explained how strength goes hand in hand with biblical submission. True biblical submission has nothing to do with weakness or subjugation, as it is so often wrongly characterized. In fact, submission actually requires strength.
Unfortunately, there is a pretty strong cultural push back against God’s design for marriage, and I find it is mainly due to a lack of understanding of what God’s heart really is on this subject.
What does it mean for you to respect and support your husband’s Christlike “headship” with the gift of your submission? It means that your submission to your husband should be a direct corollary of your submission to Christ. Paul describes in Ephesians 5 how God designed marriage to reflect the relationship between Christ and the church, represented by the Bride-like characteristics in the chart below.
I don’t usually like describing something in the negative, but today I want to introduce you to the three wives represented by the other quadrants: labeled above as the Doormat, the Boss and the Manipulator.
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 you 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The Doormat can be withdrawn from the relationship with her husband, mistaking passivity for humility.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.
[There are also plenty of “dictator” husbands who treat their wives in this way. It’s important to realize that Paul never instructs husbands to make their wives submit, but rather to love their wives in a Christlike manner.]
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, and she is easily offended.
The Boss frequently contends for power, thinking that to do otherwise shows her to be weak.
This wife is neither submissive nor strong, sharing some of the characteristics of both the Boss and the Doormat.
The Manipulator comes across as uncaring toward her husband, from her expressions of disrespect to her self-protective withdrawal from him. She is fearful, distrustful and resentful of any expression of leadership on his part.
She lacks the emotional strength and the integrity to deal with her husband forthrightly. She plays games to get her way. She may try to hide 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 strong 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 world’s 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.
To a greater or lesser degree, you are going to fail to be the wife you want to be.
There is good news for those who mess up in their quest to walk out a biblical marriage. It’s called grace! God is for you and for your marriage. His desire is to see you and your marriage thrive. Pray for the wisdom to love and serve your husband well. Pray for your husband to walk in his full identity as leader and lover. Know that God’s love and approval of you don’t change, even when you slip into weak or unsubmissive actions or attitudes.
God’s grace and love abound, and nothing you do or fail to do can change that.
A note to any husbands reading this post. The post is intended for your wife. While you can encourage your wife to be strong, it is not your responsibility to make her submit. 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 posts for husbands
6 thoughts on “What Submission is Not”
I really like this series!
Thanks J! It’s a topic that is so important for both husbands and wives to have clarity on and on in which there is much confusion and misunderstanding in the body of Christ.
This was good reading, thanks Scott.
In my submission journey, I’ve found myself sitting in each of these quadrants at different times – depending on my level of maturity. My trajectory started at The Boss, moved into The Manipulator; but my biggest growths always seemed to happen during the times of pity in The Doormat quadrant.
I love the visuals.
Thanks, Robyn, for sharing your journey.
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