The “Gentle Spirit” and Other Atrocities
She’s just too much to take!
The school my children attend has an award ceremony at the end of the year. Awards are given out for scripture memory, honour roll, athletic achievement and so on. It’s one of those things you attend because you love your children, and you feel guilty if you don’t show up to witness their 4.3 seconds of fame. So you bring coffee. Lots of coffee. Because let’s face it, when you’ve got a family of 7 children, you’re gonna be there for a while..
I honestly don’t mind these things too much. You get to sit still and sip on caffeine and it’s fun to read the body language of the parents around you. If you’re good at it you can figure out who is fighting with their spouse and who REALLY doesn’t want to sit beside that person but they’re being all polite and faking it..
Our elementary school takes the awards ceremony one step further and includes a character award for each child. My one daughter received the award for “having initiative!”. I thought this was a fantastic guise for saying “she’s bossy and domineering!”, much more creative than the unoriginal leadership skills bit I always hear.
My other daughter received an award for having a “gentle spirit.” I almost choked on my coffee and died right then and there. The words “ Oh H*** no!” may have escaped my lips, right in the middle of that highly religious audience….oops.
Oh how I loath the “gentle spirit” remark. And I’ll tell you why.
I can’t remember how many times I was told I had a gentle spirit as a child. And the funny thing was that it came from a lot of men. The same thing happened at the school. The award for a gentle spirit was given out numerous times. Only to girls, and predominantly by male teachers.
This seems to be ingrained within our men and our women. I was told this by male pastors, youth leaders, and spiritual leaders in the church. I used to think it was a compliment, a good thing. After all, we are commended by Paul to find our beauty in having a quiet and gentle spirit. Women are to be meek and gentle and submissive, because this is what God wants of them.
How twisted this has become! I don’t believe that it was Paul’s original plan to have this used as a tool to keep women quiet. Keep them cowed. Too afraid to speak up, to stand up for themselves, to set boundaries or to say no.
But I see it happening. Over and over and over.
My friends who live with men who disrespect them. Men who refuse to get off their lazy asses and go to work. Men who watch porn and get off on it and not give a damn about what it does to their wives. Men who are verbally abusive, or emotionally unavailable. Men who cheat on their wives and expect it to be ok. Men who use their physical size and strength to intimidate their wives. Men who go to the bar on a Friday night and don’t bother to come home.
And what do these women do? What did I do?
Nothing. Live with it. Be gentle and quiet. Be submissive and kind and let him get away with it. Because that’s what we are encouraged to do. Let him be changed by our behaviour, by our gentle, steadfast and patient love. Oh, and have more sex with him. That too.
This does not work. This is absurd, and unreasonable, and this can be abusive.
I don’t believe women should be bossy and domineering and rude. I don’t believe they should always get their own way or have unreasonable demands on their partners. But neither do I believe they should be treated as doormats for the sake of religion.
I refuse to be that stereotypical Christian women who always gives way to her husband, and refuses to stand up for herself and what she needs. I think a woman can be strong and courageous and speak up for herself, and still have an inner beauty that comes from quietness and stillness and gentleness in her spirit.
I’m not loud or domineering in my relationship with my husband. I listen to him, respect him, serve him, and do everything I can to care for him. There is a quietness and a gentleness that I carry with me in my relationship with him. And this is good. But he also knows that I will speak up for myself, I will consider myself an equal partner, and I will make my needs known. This does not go against the words of Paul. This is the biblical picture given to us in scripture, and fulfils my unique value and worth as a woman in the eyes of God.
I’ve had quite a few little chats with my daughter. While she is naturally compliant and quiet and good and kind (which are all wonderful traits), I want her to know that when the time comes to speak up for herself, she needs to speak up! Be heard! Go to war if you have to! You are just as valuable and worthy to be heard as any other human being on the planet. So make some noise and create a ruckus if you need to.
She will not be silenced. She will not be subdued. Not if I can help it.
Never again will I believe that in order to follow the words of Paul, I must be anything other than who I was called to be. And that goes for any women that God has ever created.
Speak up when you need to. Set boundaries. And let the people watch as you prove to them and yourself that you are strong. And worthy. And you have every right in the world to be you.