Tag Archive | beliefs

Reader request: having a gentle and quiet spirit

              Today I am addressing a question from one of my readers, Theresa, on how to conduct oneself as a “quiet and gentle spirit.” The phrase “quiet and gentle spirit” is taken from I Peter 3, an epistle from one of Jesus’s disciples turned apostle, Peter, to the early Christians. It is important to look at context when defining a biblical phrase, so I’ve included verses 1-6 below:

              “Likewise, wives, be subject to your own husbands, so that even if some do not obey the word, they may be won without a word by the conduct of their wives, when they see your respectful and pure conduct. Do not let your adorning be external—the braiding of hair and the putting on of gold jewelry, or the clothing you wear—but let your adorning be the hidden person of the heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which in God’s sight is very precious. For this is how the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves, by submitting to their own husbands, as Sarah obeyed Abraham, calling him lord. And you are her children, if you do good and do not fear anything that is frightening” (I Peter 3:1-6, ESV). [emphasis mine]

              So we can see from the passage above that the admonishment for a woman to have a gentle and quiet spirit is in the context of a wife interacting with her husband. Beyond a blanket mandate that a woman submit to her husband, Peter is advising Christian women on how they can influence their unbelieving husbands to become followers of Christ. He wisely puts emphasis on her heart attitude rather than external moves to convince her husband of the change God has made in her life. He is not advising against a woman’s wearing hair braids, precious metals/jewelry, or certain clothing, as I have heard this passage preached out of context, but instead he is giving those particular examples as what she should not do in an attempt to convince her husband to become a Christian as she is. Truly, I have heard of women who became believers and used their newfound faith to bring about many external changes into their lives, often dragging unwilling and confused husbands alongside them. Though following Jesus does bring noticeable differences in one’s lifestyle, Peter is reminding women here that converting their husbands cannot and should not be done through external lifestyle changes, either hers or her attempts to change him.

              Perhaps you already knew the context of your phrase in the question, Theresa, but I’m sharing it for the benefit of all the readers. Also, I don’t know most of my readers’ experience regarding the “one believing spouse, one unbelieving spouse” situation. Some of what I have heard is from preaching and most is anecdotal (not personal). But it seems in my experience the most common thing for a believing wife to do is to annoy, badger, insult, or attempt to force her husband to participate in her religious practices with her, sometimes very “sweetly” and “nicely.” And usually she has what I’m sure are the sincerest intentions, but in the end she does not abide by the Scripture’s instruction to be a character example and instead relies on taking actions to evoke change. And it nearly always leads to resent and conflict, from what I’ve heard.

              So how does a Christian wife influence her unbelieving husband to possibly win him to Christ? According to the apostle Peter, by “be[ing] subject to [their] husbands,” having “respectful and pure conduct,” and adorning her “heart with the imperishable beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit.” That’s it. No nagging him or telling him everything he’s doing wrong, no making comments about how much better she is. No shaming him for not attending church with her. No arguing about how to raise the kids. Even if he was to hand down a mandate that she absolutely could not speak of her religious faith in the house or in front of the children at all, which I have never heard of actually happening, there are ways to display the goodness (and God-ness) in her heart by her behavior. So this actually gets to the crux of your question, Theresa: ways a woman can display that gentle and quiet spirit.

              The spirit shines through in all of one’s interactions so having a quiet and gentle spirit will influence every aspect of behavior from speech to body language to facial expression. It manifests itself in a sweet smile, a soft touch, respectful eye contact, straight posture, quiet and unhurried breathing, flowing movements. It is as if a river of tranquility flows through her body. The quiet and gentle spirited woman will not humph or grump, roll eyes, speak sharply or shrilly, handle roughly, slump over or breathe heavily. More importantly, she will not treat her husband harshly or unkindly. She will not pick a fight nor return antagonistic behavior. She will respect his opinions and viewpoints, showing kindness indiscriminately. And I truly believe that such strong character may indeed make a difference for Christ where forced church attendance may not.

              On a side note, dear readers, if any of you are of the Christian faith or any other faith and are considering marriage, I strongly advise you to pick someone of your own faith if you think it will be an issue for you to have an unbelieving spouse. I had this friend in high school with whom I have lost contact. She was raised Christian but lived according to society’s normal standards for awhile. She lived with a man and then married him, but after two years they got divorced. The last time I saw her the divorce came up and I expressed sadness for her. She replied, “Oh, K. wasn’t a Christian, and I kept asking and asking him to become one, but after two years he didn’t, so I divorced him.” It left me flabbergasted! Truly, if my friend had felt that differences in faith might ever become an issue in their married life, she should not have ever entered the marriage in the first place. I believe that Peter’s passage is likely speaking to women in marriages where both were originally unbelievers and the women became Christians after they were married. So that’s different than willingly entering an interfaith marriage. Another anecdote: I had an acquaintance from church when I was a teenager, a Christian woman who fell in love with a Muslim man. He assured her that the differences in faith would be no issue and treated her with the utmost respect and love before marriage, but as soon as they were married he began abusing her (emotionally and mentally) and refused to consummate the marriage and allow her to have children until she converted to Islam. After two years of hell she was finally able to divorce and escape the situation. I am not trying to be judgmental; if you’re in a respectful interfaith marriage I applaud you and I do not like to ever give opinions on whether anyone should divorce. But again, if you are unmarried and you feel strongly about your faith I would encourage you to talk to a potential spouse about it before marrying. It may save you both, and any future children, a lot of heartache.

              Thank you for your question, Theresa, and thank you for reading the well bred woman in progress!

Love, not legalism

               Ah, this blog. I have enjoyed writing on it, both expressing my opinion and charting my journey to become a better version of myself. The way my brain works, I don’t really understand something until I write about it. The understanding increases when I read back what I write. Anyone else like that? It works on a lesser scale with talking; I think something, talk about it, and then listen to myself discuss it, and the light bulb clicks on. My husband (and nearly everyone else I know) just think I talk too much. So a lot of times I have quiet discussions in my head. I’ve been writing a lot of meaningful blog posts lately, but they’ve all been in my head. Sometimes the reason I don’t post is because I think my post is too short, or about something I assume is incredibly obvious to most people; sometimes, I just don’t get the time. I’m in my second week of home schooling the oldest two children in first grade. But today a thought popped into my head, and out of both guilt that I seldom post and hope that it may be encouraging, I am sharing before I make dinner and get distracted again.

               My oldest child has been called many things by well meaning parents. The term I hear most often is “strong-willed.” When I look at him I don’t see a problem to be fixed, nor even a challenge greater than the challenge of raising the other three. I see my beautiful, tiny baby boy—maybe just a bit bigger these days. I think he himself faces challenges the other children seem to glide through, but then he has his strengths, too. Anyway, today my eldest and I clashed again; there are a few behavioral traits I disapprove of, and lying is one of them. We had a talk. I feel weary of constantly correcting him but I know I can’t condone unacceptable behavior at some times and condemn it at other times. Still, it’s hard when you’re trying to raise a disciplined, well-guided child without resorting to legalistic tactics. And the more guiding a child needs, the harder it is to avoid becoming a legalistic robot, in my opinion. So this happened.

               We had our talk about being honest. I said smart things, earnest things, simple things. I wondered if any of it was getting in his mind. Then we finished up school and had free time for the afternoon. He made a craft. It was a card for me. It looked like this:

I luv yo mome :)

               He was sorry for everything, but I feel that he still doesn’t grasp the importance or necessity of telling the truth. He’s young. I expect that will take time. But the one thing he was keenly aware of was that he had disappointed me. So the point of the card was to let me know that he still loved me, even though he had done a bad thing. He proudly held it up, pointed to the words, and said, “Does this say—I think it says—I was trying to write—” and I looked at it closely, and said, “It says, ‘I love you, Mom!’” And he beamed. Yes! That was it. Did he spell words wrong? Of course. He’s only in first grade. So the thing I learned—From my experience, some parents are overreaching when it comes to their expectations for their kids. If the child spelled the word “mom” correctly in spelling class yesterday, why shouldn’t he be expected to spell it correctly from here on out? But that’s the entirely wrong approach. At that moment, what was happening was a parenting moment. A being-a-kid moment. A bonding, loving, emotional, healing moment where my small son was making peace with me. It would have been beyond inappropriate for me to correct his spelling at that moment!

               Reading this over I again come to the part where I’m thinking, “Should I even post this?” because my readers probably think that I’m messed up to be realizing, as part of my journey in progress, that legalism has no place in love. Really, it’s humbling that I should even have to realize something like this and not just already know it and be acting on it. Nevertheless, now that I’ve embarked on this search for truth, I find there are lessons to be learned almost every day, and this was the one I reviewed today.

               Thank you for reading the Well Bred Woman in Progress!

How a well-bred woman states her opinion and makes her point

               A woman’s beliefs make up the core of her being. They shape her thought life, her personality, her decision making process, her actions, and ultimately the direction of her life. Therefore it is vital to seek out and find truth, to keep looking until the answers come, and to surround oneself by inspiring company and habits that continually affirm one’s beliefs. Questioning one’s beliefs and the truths one encounters is part of the process toward finding oneself and what one truly believes in. It should not, however, be an end in itself, but rather a step on the path toward firmer faith and a surer footing. Thus, when a woman finds herself at a point, common for many people, where she questions why she does what she does, she may rest upon the firm foundation of her trusted worldview. It is helpful to establish one’s beliefs early on rather than later in life, to save time and avoid traveling paths ending in regrets and futility. Part of the reason why some people may not begin establishing beliefs until they are older is because of the tendency of youth to be swayed or rattled by the opinions of others. It is easier at times to remain silent when in disagreement, or to go along with others for the sake of conformity. It is especially easier when the others are people with whom one already has much in common, friends of one’s own choosing—for who wants to be the one to cause confrontation or disagreement within a group of regularly like-minded people? But the truth is that no matter how much they have in common, it is impossible to find even two people who agree on absolutely everything; thus, having a dissenting opinion is an inevitable fact of life. Today’s post will discuss some tips and methods for a proper, courteous lady to know when and how to display her mindset and stand up for her beliefs.

               As implied by the grandiose tone of the words “Stand up for one’s beliefs,” taking a major stance for an unpopular opinion (such as politics, social services, religion, philosophy, worldviews, personal creeds, or parenting, to name a few examples) is something that only happens rarely. I have read in some etiquette manuals that it is never in good taste for a lady to discuss religion, politics, or personal ethos in polite company. However, in today’s age of constant plugging in and social media, sharing thoughts, news articles, opinion polls, and creeds is hardly avoidable. To know when to get involved is the first decision a well-bred lady should make.

               A lady should not frequently engage in controversial statements and express her opinion, as this will only make her look catty and trivial while lessening the meaning of her words. People eventually stop listening to the woman who argues and opines too much, so she must choose her battles carefully. But though a well-bred woman will keep strongly opinionated statements to a minimum, she will never be afraid to speak when she feels it is necessary. She knows the difference between arguing and opining on everything versus sharing opinions and counter-views only when it is extremely important to her.

               When the time comes to speak, a well-bred lady need not avoid confrontation nor be afraid to share her opinion, even if it is not in the majority. Her words are valuable and her insight is unique, and just as she graciously extends others the courtesy to hear and evaluate their opinions and stances, so the same courtesy ought to be returned to her. The way a woman argues her point goes a long way toward building credibility: hostility, generalization, opinions without supporting facts, and facts without proof tend to turn off her listeners to her point of view. She need not be upset when her viewpoint is questioned, but rather should use the opportunity to sweetly and firmly make her point, without resorting to back and forth argumentation, nit-picking, or backing down from her original statements just because she cannot make someone else agree with her. If her logic is shown to be faulty, she may choose to graciously modify her stance, but always coming across as wanting to be corrected (even by someone speaking rudely or badgering), apologizing, or self-deprecating will make her look weak. Once she feels she has sufficiently made her point, clarifying if necessary and answering questions others may have, she will rest her case, knowing that in a vast quantity of words wisdom is lost.

               On the path toward becoming a well-bred lady, let every woman stand up for what she believes in and stick to her words, even when it is not popular. A thorough knowledge of what she believes will be her firm foundation for making argumentative, unpopular, or confrontational statements.