Home marriage Virtuous Wife: Submission–Don’t Be Afraid

Virtuous Wife: Submission–Don’t Be Afraid

by Kelly Crawford

I had already planned to post about respect and submission, as it relates to being a wife, and then I received a comment on the last post that confirmed my plans. I will likely cover this topic over several days to prevent one post from being so long!

The commenter writes:

“I don’t think you have any idea how out of date and offensive that sentence is to most of us. Are we living in the Stone Age? My husband and I are equal partners in our marriage, and I think he would find it repulsive if his wife turned into Little Miss Submissive, needing his OK for everything. In fact, it would make his life harder. My husband very much appreciates the fact that I’m able to make decisions and take care of certain financial and other matters. He constantly tells me how this makes his life so much easier and he is better able to concentrate on work and everything else on his plate. I’m a stay at home mom and I don’t work, but not because I’m “submissive”- just typing that word makes me cringe. My husband and I BOTH think it’s the best thing for our children. I honestly cannot even imagine a marriage of the type you describe. Don’t you feel like a child, needing approval for everything you do? I almost feel sorry for you, though I realize this is a choice you’ve made. I just don’t understand how you can be happy this way.”

Quite frankly, it’s as if this lady has responded to some other post besides mine. She basically confirms what I am saying about our role–we are to be HELPMEETS, just as she has described she is to her husband. Not sure where she got the idea that I’m suggesting we can’t make any decisions or what she means exactly by “cannot even imagine the type of marriage you describe”??? (To Anon…I suggest you go back and read my earlier post about what it means to be a virtuous wife…)

My guess is, the word “submission” has been so misused that we honestly don’t understand it at all. It conjures up some Middle-Eastern idea of women who aren’t allowed to walk besider her husband or speak out loud. That’s not biblical submission. And biblical submission is never “out of date”.

Let me preface though by being clear: “submission” is God’s Word. None of this is my idea of what marriage should be. It’s a marriage God describes. If you aren’t a Christian, you likely won’t be interested in what I say here. Even so, the principles can apply even to a nonbeliever who practices them. So if you long to experience the joy God intended for marriage, you can still participate!

“Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church; …let each one of you (husbands) so love his own wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.” From Ephesians 5

I forget that the topic of submission is so misunderstood. Submitting to one’s husband is actually submitting to God; a wife is not commanded to blindly submit to some immoral or unlawful man. She is commanded to submit “as to the Lord”.

Dr. Laura Schlessinger (who doesn’t even claim to be a Christian, I don’t think) wisely writes:

“The destructive anti-male subtext of the modern feminist agenda is to blame for some of this because those folks argue that catering to or deferring to a husband is slave-like submission to the male…

Whether or not a wife is Christian, or religious at all for that matter, the issue of respect is too often confused…and that becomes a stumbling block to the simple act of giving.”

Anyone who has studied and understands the human nature from a biological standpoint can see how God had His own creation figured out long ago (novel, isn’t it?)

Humans need love. But males and females receive love through different channels. Women interpret love through tenderness, understanding, communication, etc.

Men interpret love through admiration and respect. Submission, in a nutshell, is loving my husband in the way he best receives love.

I know a lot of biblically submissive women. And every single one I know is intelligent, productive, outgoing, happy and her husband thinks she’s the best thing since cotton candy. If that kind of marriage doesn’t appeal to you, then you’re brainwashed beyond what I can understand!

More to come…

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petersonclan April 15, 2008 - 12:53 pm

My husband was in the military for over 10 years… he uses the phrase “Commander’s Intent” with decision making. I do not have to get the “Commander’s” approval for everything… I know his intent and can work towards that.

I would ask your commenter… what happens when she and her husband disagree on something in regards to the children. THAT is when submission plays into it. THAT is when it is reassuring to know that I can say, “When you can look me in the eye and say you have prayed about it and it is God’s will for us to do ________ , I will not say another word about it.” (It is a very rare day when I have to pull this one out, but it is there if I need it.)

It is FREEING to be able to leave the pressure on his shoulders! I work on running our home on Commander’s Intent… I don’t need his approval for my every move. I have it. He knows I will not do him harm.

Ashley April 15, 2008 - 1:04 pm

Huh? Honestly, it sounds as if she does exactly what I do:

“My husband very much appreciates the fact that I’m able to make decisions and take care of certain financial and other matters. He constantly tells me how this makes his life so much easier and he is better able to concentrate on work and everything else on his plate.”

With the exception that she for some reason thinks I need my husband’s approval for everything, I think we’d get along. I certainly *crave* my husband’s approval – but I don’t need him to tell me that it’s okay to go shopping or permission to buy socks. He trusts my judgement to a degree I never expected, actually! 🙂

Wow. Interesting comment. I am slowly learning that using the word “submissive” makes me sound very weak-willed and soft-spoken. How funny!!!!

Oh, and I love the “Commander’s Intent”. That really sums it up well – what an annology!!!! 🙂


Brenda April 15, 2008 - 2:14 pm

I’m really enjoying these posts. I find it interesting the broad base of readers you have. Readers from all different backgrounds and situations. I also forget that submission is a dirty word to most people.
Can’t wait to see how you’ll explain it. I think this could take several posts, too!!!

annie April 15, 2008 - 2:23 pm

But does your husband submit to you? The way you describe it, it’s a loving, respectful way to act, which sounds just fine. So the husband submits as well, right?

I’m a feminist and atheist, so I am interested in reading from those would not consider themselves feminist. It’s interesting to read different perspectives.

yoshi3329 April 15, 2008 - 2:50 pm

great post once again! I was wondering though… If your husband doesn’t believe in Christianity and converts to a different religion is the wife suppose to convert with him? My mother and I just got into a row the other day about this very topic. I believe that the wife shouldn’t convert with the husband if he converts to another religion. On the other hand, my mother says that in order to be a truly submissive wife I have to believe in EVERY single thing my husband believes(which is impossible in my opinion.) To add insult to injury my mother claims that if I don’t then I’M a feminist, which I am very much not. Can you help me with this and please if you can back up what you say with scripture. It would greatly be appreciated!


P.S. Maybe you can use this an a blog post!

Ashley April 15, 2008 - 3:04 pm

Ultimatly, my husband submits to God, which means that he answers to God, not me, for example if he was to wrong me in some way.

It’s hard to describe. It means my husband is my boss, but the best boss ever, and a boss that submits to a much higher authority himself.

One of the stories in the Bible is about a man that was forgiven a great debt, so much money that he could never, ever repay it, and then he went out and threw a debtor to himself in prison for a dinky little sum. As humans we tend to be this way, and as a Christian it’s easy to forget how much God has forgiven us and forgive others their faults against us.

I’m trying so hard to explain this but I’m not sure it’s working. My husband and I *live* together as a team, but he’s the leader of the team. I believe it really helps to have a defined ‘final’ discion-maker!

So, no, actually my husband doesn’t “submit” to me. He has a much greater responsiblity, laid out for him in the Bible, to love me as Christ loves His Bride.

That means a deep, very sacrificial type of love. While my husband might “submit” in the sense that he doesn’t insist that I cook his favorite meal every day, I don’t think of that as submission because if he insisted, I would . . . but the more Christ-like he becomes the more he doesn’t insist on his own way because he is submitting to God.

I know this must seem like such a paradox. In giving up my life I find it, in submitting I have so much freedom and independance! I feel so terrible at explaining this! Maybe someone else can try?? 🙂


Word Warrior April 15, 2008 - 3:40 pm

I think what Ashley is saying, to answer the commenter’s question, “Does your husband submit to you”, is that yes, in one sense of the word, husband and wife are mutually submissive.

The whole problem lies in the word “submission” having the wrong connotation.

Every organization, group, team, etc. has one ultimate authority–someone who has the grave responsibility of ultimately being responsible. That job was given to the husband in a family. It is not a job I even remotely covet. Most men don’t even want it…but it’s their job all the same. Why? The One who created them gave it to them.

As the leader though, (in a Christian home), he leads by serving; he “lays down his life” just as Christ did. This is the part of the “husband being the head of the wife” that feminist just don’t get. It is everything opposite the sterotypical “ego-monster” lording it over his wife.

And I honor him for that sacrificial love for us. I respect him for rising to the challenge of being the leader. And I submit to his authority because his authority acts in a way none other than to do what is best and most loving to ME and our family!

It IS a paradox. I submit, and he extols me. I serve him, and he serves me. I give him reverence, and he “fights til the death” to protect and love me.

This is the ideal picture. It is a scenario I only aspire to, and pray to emulate. I must daily fight against my feminist flesh, keep renewing my mind, and know that when I obey God in this way, I end up receiving the very thing I want–LOVE!

Word Warrior April 15, 2008 - 3:53 pm


I am no Bible scholar, but I’ve always understood that submission to a husband stops where he requires something of his wife that is in rebellion to God.

In other words, a wife is submissive to God first, and if she must choose between her husband’s wishes and God’s, in the event that those are opposed, she must choose God’s, appealing to her husband as much as she is able.

A verse that comes to mind says that “if you are not willing to leave father or mother, wife or children for my sake, you are not worthy of me”…the implication being that some may indeed have to choose to be disowned by their family in order to follow the Lord (which is happening all around the globe.)

It doesn’t make sense that one would leave Christianty in the name of being submissive to her husband; because once she left the faith, why would it matter whether she was obeying God by being submissive?

Does that make sense?

Sara April 15, 2008 - 6:23 pm

“Every organization, group, team, etc. has one ultimate authority–someone who has the grave responsibility of ultimately being responsible”

But what about a partnership? If two doctors or lawyers go into practice together, does one of them have to have ultimate authority?

Why can’t a marriage work the exact same way?

My partner and I have been making rather important, life-course changing decisions lately, and we both have equal say. There’s no final authority. It’s 50/50. And in the negotiation, both of us tend to be putting to other person’s needs and perspectives ahead of our own. No selfishness- I don’t have to beg him to consider my position- he does it without me reminding him! And I do the same for him. I can’t imagine going into this type of decision making process thinking “at the end of the day, his word is final and i have to submit”…i can’t imagine anything that would make me more unhappy- and my partner, for that matter! If he made a decision that wasn’t good for both of us, and I had “submitted” I can’t even imagine how guilty he’d feel.

If you find happiness that way, I suppose there’s not much I can say to convince you- but please don’t claim that submission is the only way to have a content and harmonious relationship!

The Inept Aspirant April 15, 2008 - 9:28 pm

Personally, when I submit to my husband it is out of love for my God and a desire to please Him. It is also out of an understanding that He knows better than I do what is best for me. Non-Christians can’t understand the contentment that comes from being in obedience to His ways. If He had not commanded me to submit I wouldn’t, and there would be a power struggle in my marriage when it came to issues we did not agree on. I would try to bend my husband to my will using manipulative tactics (crying, nagging,etc.). God’s way is the way to peace and rest.
To deny oneself for the good of another is the theme of true Christianity. It applies not only to the wife-husband relationship but to all relationships. Feminism flourishes because it feeds the flesh. It tells a woman to ask herself, “what do I want,” rather than, “what can I give?” True happiness comes from giving, not receiving. I have been so rewarded in my marriage since I started to practice submission. My husband no longer struggles against me but treats me like a valuable treasure.

Anonymous April 16, 2008 - 9:17 am

“My husband no longer struggles against me but treats me like a valuable treasure.”

Well, I’m a feminist and my partner doesn’t struggle against me, and has always treated me as a valuable treasure. I understand, somewhat, how you feel that Christians and non-Christians may be called to different things, and your interpretation of Christianity calls for submission (even though many Christians interpret submission quite differently than you). But it still seems like at the end of the day you think egalitarian partnerships are unhappy or constantly filled with strife. Or that when women and men disagree, women are going to ‘manipulate’ through crying or nagging to get their way. That’s not true at all, from my experience. We can each only speak about our own experiences. Why not let everyone live out their life as they are called to do so- Christian and non-Christian alike?

Cara April 16, 2008 - 10:21 am

I’m a little tired of all the nasty names and insults hurled at feminists. Just as you think we don’t really understand “submission”, I don’t think you understand what feminism really is. It seems you think feminists are nasty, aggressive women who don’t care about their children and are busy burning their bras and henpecking their husbands. Well, I don’t know if I’m a feminist, exactly. I stay home with my kids because they’re more important to me than any career. I have a marriage based on love and mutual respect where no one “submits” to the other; rather, we have a true partnership where no one gets his way all the time.

But I am grateful to the feminists who fought for women to have the right to a voice. Would you like to go back to the days where women didn’t have the right to vote? If your husband wanted you to work, wouldn’t you want to earn as much as a man? Those evil feminists are fighting for you to have just that right. If you were to divorce, wouldn’t you want a fair share of the assets and your ex to pay child support? If not for feminism, those things would be a dream.

And a real feminist (not some rabid beast like you describe) understands and appreciates your and my choice to stay home instead of working. I think the only thing feminists (and I) can’t wrap our heads around is the whole “submission” thing. I hope you can understand how non-Christians could find it so unbelievable that a woman would want to live that way.

And to the women who say that “submitting” has made their marriage so wonderful, all I can say is that of course it does. Your husband gets his way all the time and knows that he will always get his way. What husband wouldn’t be happy about that kind of marriage?

Just to clarify, I’m the original anonymous whose comment you quoted in a post-I saw another anonymous commenter so I thought I should use my name.

Cara April 16, 2008 - 10:26 am

Just wanted to add that Dr. Laura is Jewish, in case you were wondering whether or not she’s a Christian.

Word Warrior April 16, 2008 - 11:35 am

“And a real feminist (not some rabid beast like you describe…”

First of all, I’d like some clarification about where I described feminists as rabid beast.

Secondly, no I do not expect a non-Christian to have a clue about commands of Scripture; they can only be embraced and understood when one has had his heart gripped by the Savior, forgiven his sins, and endowed with the power of that love. That’s where it must start.

Technically speaking, feminism started out as as something we all agreed on. Women are just as valuable as men–agreed. Women should never be treated unjustly or abusively–agreed.

There were some real issues dealing with this sort of thing that existed, and still do. I am not opposed to that brand of feminism.

You would be surprised to meet many of us “anti-feminists”, I think. You would find women stronger, more intelligent, more ambitious and more confident than you probably imagine.

That’s because we’re not opposed to strength, intelligence, fairness, or any of those things. We relish them!

We are opposed to the slippery slope of radical feminist thinking. Most women of the past were not oppressed, like the modern-day feminists would have you believe.

Women voting? Are you ready for this one? I think unless you are a widow it is stupid that we ever had this big ordeal about it. Here’s why…

It wasn’t that “women weren’t allowed to vote” in the good ol days. It was that families operated as households where the husband and wife were truly on the same team. That meant, it was unheard of for the husband and wife to have opposing political views. (Not because he demanded it, but because they simply agreed.)

So, it made sense that during an election, each household voted. Since the husband represented the household, he phycally went to the polls to cast the “household” vote. (It might have been raining or snowing–he took the physical abuse of the travel FOR his wife.)

What’s oppressive about that? I would be perfectly delighted if it still worked that way, because then I wouldn’t be bothered by the inconvenience of having to drive down to the polls. But a handful of women had to go whining about it, so there you have it.

My problem with modern feminism (and I’m not accusing you of being one) is the refusal to recognize equal yet DIFFERENT roles for men and women. And in so doing, an avalanche of problems has occured.

And yes, true modern-day feminists are not respectful of wives and mothers and marriage and children. And that thinking has gained momentum, and continues to do so, until we are dangerously close to self-destructing. (And I’m opposed to “sorta-feminism” because in a few years, it will turn radical, either in the individual or her children.)

BTW, women are abused, treated harshly and disrepected now more than ever in the history of America…hmmmm…what is the feminist movement for again?

Take a peek at some of the letters and writings of our forefathers to their wives. Those women were esteemed far higher than most today. That was the trend, not an exception.

When men were given the right to be men, and women were allowed to flourish as women, our society flourished.

Not so anymore, and we are doing it to ourselves.

Biblical Christianity esteems women higher than any “movement” could ever aspire to.

Submission in the Bible doesn’t mean what you think it means.

I’ve seen marriages built upon the principles of Scripture, and I’ve seen the ones that are not. There is no contest.

I obey God’s order because it works. In every way, it works–now and later.

Amy W April 16, 2008 - 12:53 pm

“And to the women who say that “submitting” has made their marriage so wonderful, all I can say is that of course it does. Your husband gets his way all the time and knows that he will always get his way. What husband wouldn’t be happy about that kind of marriage?”

I think you are a little bit confused about what a true, Biblical husband-wife relationship looks like, and how submission is involved in that. Just because a wife is called to be submissive to her husband it does not mean that the husband “gets his way all of the time”. That would be ridiculous and absolutely against Biblical principles. In the Bible all Christians are called to lay their lives down for others, including husbands and including wives. A husband who goes around ignoring his wife’s concerns and refusing to listen to her ideas and input in situations/decisons,etc. and does whatever he wants to do all the time without giving thought to his wife/children/whomever else is involved is NOT following Biblical principles regarding husbands and wives. Here is just one example of a Scripture concerning husbands and wives:

“Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her…”
Ephesians 5:25

Does this sound like the kind of relationship that you are describing? No, it is far from it. A husband is called to give himself up for his wife, to defer to her, put her first. Christ loved the church (the people who were or would become a part of the church) so much that he literally gave up his life for them. He didn’t do whatever he wanted to do or alwayd get his way. He wasn’t selfish or harsh. A husband is called to be like Christ in this regard.

My husband does not go around doing whatever he wants to do and making every minute decision based on what he thinks is best for him. Many times my husband defers to me. We discuss everything together (sometimes for longer than he would like- you know how women can be so chatty!) and he considers what I have to say. Maybe he sees that what idea I have put forth is better than what he had originally thought we should do, so we do that. It is not like he comes to me and says “ok, we have X decision to make, this is what we are doing about it”, without any thought to how I might feel. He loves me and only wants the best for me. He does not always “get his way”.

I guess I don’t really expect someone who is not a Christian to completely understand what the Scriptures say about this topic but it is just so upsetting to see people making assumptions about what Biblical submission is or looks like in a relationship without truly understanding the concept.


Cara April 17, 2008 - 1:05 pm

I was going to opt out of this whole discussion but after reading your comment I have just 2 more things to say:

1. I apologize if I attributed the “rabid beast feminist” remark to you. I’ve seen that nasty tag pop up many times in these discussions, and it was probably one of your commenters. Another name I hate is “man-hating feminist.” I love and adore my husband. I love doing things just to make him happy. I respect him so much- otherwise I never would have married him. I’ve seen women much more feminist than I treat their husbands the same way. I really don’t understand where the whole “man-hating” myth came from.

2. You said about women voting: “But a handful of women had to go whining about it, so there you have it.”

Wow. I’m just stunned that any woman would say such a thing. You honestly think it was better when the husband cast the only vote? Shouldn’t women have a say regarding laws that will affect them and their children as well as men?

And what if there is no husband? Are you saying that widows, divorcees, women old enough to vote but not yet married, or women who just never found Mr. Right shouldn’t be allowed to vote?

I see that many Christian women wouldn’t dream of voting differently than their husbands. Why not? Must a husband and wife be of the same mind on every matter? If you take this idea all the way, wouldn’t husbands and wives have to like the same foods, enjoy the same movies, like the same people, read the same blogs, etc. What’s wrong with having your own opinions? My husband and I vote the same way because we feel the same way on the issues, but I wouldn’t think it strange if a wife had a different idea of who she wanted to vote for.

Word Warrior April 17, 2008 - 2:50 pm

“I think unless you are a widow…

It wasn’t that “women weren’t allowed to vote” in the good ol days. It was that families operated as households…
So, it made sense that during an election, each household voted. Since the husband represented the household, he phycally went to the polls to cast the “household” vote.”

I adressed widows, and the implication is that a single girl would still be living at home, and thus, part of her father’s household…there were very few (and should still be) divorced women.

I think husband and wife disagreeing politically is as different as night and day compared to food, blogs, etc.

Poltical views virtually encompass world views. If they are not on the same page politically, chances are, they have major issues.

This is where being head of the home comes in to play; a woman should trust her husband enough (or else not marry him) to “be the representative voice” of the family.

I say that unashamedly. You are having a really hard time seeing marriage as a “one-flesh” deal…which is what a Christian marriage should be.

One flesh means two people, with many differences, sure, but ultimately with the same goals, views, belief system, and values–together on the things that matter.


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