Submission and Leadership are two very thorny subjects in most Christian doctrine. First of all, I believe it is doctrine and that it bleeds over into theology far too often. The World English Dictionary gives this definition of Theology-
|the systematic study of the existence and nature of the divine and its relationship to and influence upon other beings|
As we try to wrap our minds around God and who He is, we often draw erroneous conclusions. What begins as a cultural belief gradually becomes a religious (notice I didn’t say Biblical) teaching. Our cultural identities influence everything from our perception of what is beautiful to the foods we eat. We accept this generally as true. In our studies of what God says about how Christians are to relate to each other, we need to be responsible for understanding how our culture might have influenced our understanding. In my life I have had several changes of heart…or maybe changes of understanding would be more accurate. When Life consistently shows you that something is not what you had always believed it was; it is time to examine that belief in a purposeful way. This was my response to a woman who was asking what she needed to do to be more submissive, to help her husband be a ‘better’ leader…
First I would like to ask why; if your husband wants to be the Head of Household, do you need to be a ‘better follower’ in order to make that happen? That makes me think maybe your husband isn’t naturally inclined toward leadership… and if you have to try that hard to ‘submit’ i.e. subliminate your ideas, that You may not be a natural follower. This could easily become a manipulative pattern.
I don’t believe that God would have put together a wife with leadership skills and a husband with support skills strictly in order to have them learn to assume roles which run counter to what He has made them. We honor God’s creation by being what we are. God created us all with slightly different programming….or personality, if you like that better. 🙂 Some of us are skilled in compassion, some in teaching, and some in acts of service or behind-the-scenes work. Some of us are prayer warriors, some are doers; go-getters. God’s creation is rich and diverse. Just look at His creation! We are all made to be a bit different. Accordingly, every marriage will look just a bit different. So why assume a man can lead just because he has an X and a Y chromosome? Maybe it’s in Testosterone…no wait…women make testosterone, too. Well there goes that argument! 🙂
Leadership is not a learned skill, it is an internal quality. Leaders often don’t set out to lead; they simply go where they wish. They move, and people move with them. This is the essence of leadership. Support persons usually don’t go anywhere on their own impetus. They are usually driven or drawn by a person or idea that serves as a leader for them. When a support person is placed in a leadership position above a leader type person, this is what ends up happening… The pseudo-leader is not comfortable just getting started and requires massive input from his ‘support’. When he finally does move, he moves in the direction that the pseudo-submitter has indicated! :-\ You end up with a very awkward construct where the Non-leader keeps trying to submit to the leader, but cannot because the leader refuses to do anything but pseudo-follow.
It is maddening for both of them. Imagine trying to follow someone whose heart’s desire and personal talent lies in following and supporting YOU! ‘Round and ’round and ’round they go and where they stop, no one knows. As the Follower is forced to lead, resentment builds. He is outside his range of expertise and he knows it. Faced with failure every day, his self esteem plummets. He copes with increasing his passive aggressive behavior.
As the Leader forces himself to submit (and he does grit his teeth every single time) he becomes increasingly dissatisfied with the Follower’s leadership. (Duh) He begins to tear down the Follower, because he does know what to do and is sick of having to help his pseudo-leader see what’s next. The Leader- who would much rather be direct, is also forced into passive aggressive behavior.
Both partners end up dissatisfied, frustrated, and feeling that they have failed. They are both stuck pretending to be something they are not, and neither one of them knows how to change things. 😦
OK, so if you’ve gotten this far, Thank you! If you haven’t guessed, this is what happened when I- a natural leader (argh.) tried very hard to submit to my husband- a natural support/follower. (How I love that man!) I bashed my head against this wall for Eight. Long. Years. All my praying, and submitting, searching, and crying out to God to show me how to be a submissive wife during that time; resulted in a surprising revelation.
I was the leader. (oops) I move, people follow. It’s incredibly annoying actually, but it’s the way it is. My dear Husband doesn’t have a leaderly bone in his body. When I forced my husband out of the role God had created for him and into one I had designated for him, I placed an unbearable burden on him. It almost destroyed our marriage. 😦 I had been in denial of the talents God had given me and also in denial of the talents God had given my husband. My husband is the quintessential behind-the-scenes man. He is a supporter; the wall to bounce ideas off of, and a perfect balance for me when my enthusiasm runs amok. 😀
We’re renegotiating boundaries now… have been for about 3 years. It has taken a tremendous toll on us both, on our self esteem, and on our relationship. It’s taken a huge toll on our finances as well. I know there are marriages where the husband is the unquestioned leader in everything. Strictly from the standpoint of human dynamics- I believe this is because God created that particular man to lead. He gave him a wife who was created to follow. I do not believe God created every woman to follow, or every man to lead, not even in marriage.
My Grandmother- who’s 86- calls our spouses our ‘pardners’. 😀 And if we looked at marriage as a joint financial endeavor, that makes sense. In many ways, running a household IS a like running a business. If you had the above dynamic in a business partnership- it would fail. In the real world- the business world- leaders lead, and support people follow. Neither leaders nor supporters could accomplish even HALF as much without the other.