Many men believe that wives are supposed to submit to their husbands and while many women agree, the conflict often arises in the application of this marriage tenet. The idea of submission and what that looks like is relative to the one doing the looking. It’s an argument that can make or break the best of relationships. Should a wife submit to her husband? Should a girlfriend submit to her boyfriend? Do homosexual couples experience the same conflicts pertaining to submission that some heterosexual couples endure? How does the word submission translate into everyday actions?
A major key to understanding the concept of submission is to remember that it does not only apply to romantic relationships. Shelley Poston tells us that the Greek word for submission is hupotasso, meaning to subordinate or put under. It doesn’t inherently refer to gender. Poston’s got an article dedicated to discussing what it means for a wife to submit to her husband and she reminds us that a wife’s submission should be a voluntary action and that “[submission] is not forced upon her by the recipient.” That tidbit of information would end plenty disagreements. The same applies to boss/worker relationships as well. However, Poston goes on to say that submission is an act of serving God, not the man. So, whether or not he deserves it is of no consequence. Poston’s biblical perspective encourages women to question who they’re submitting for and not to whom they’re submitting. Although it may be hard to believe, one party’s submission works in favor of both people, and does not just serve one individual.
In that regard, one of the first bits of marriage advice that I personally received came from a family friend and former landlord. He said, “Two people can’t both be in control. Both people can’t lead. Someone has to follow.” He didn’t specify who that someone should be, but it makes sense that a happy relationship would only work if there is order, regardless of who’s in charge. If my wife and I fight for dominance all the time, then we can’t accomplish much if neither of us is willing to follow and yield to the other. The same applies to work relationships. If I can’t submit to my supervisor, then I am detracting from my department’s productivity. Don’t get hung up on the idea that you’re being oppressed if you’re in a submissive role unless you’re actually being oppressed. Submission and oppression are not synonymous. Submission and woman are also not synonymous. It is a concept that must be practiced by everyone at one time or another, not just women.
The prevalent gender-role stereotypes of the last few centuries are changing and may be on their way to extinction. The image of the stay-at-home wife and mom is outdated in many corners of America for sure. Many households just can’t afford it. While changes in social norms have led to to statistics showing that women outnumber men in universities around the world and stand to bring home a significant amount of bacon of their own. Washing dishes and doing the laundry aren’t just “women’s work” anymore and if the differences between the socioeconomic statuses of women and men continue to level out, it may be harder for women to let loose the reigns and allow their men to lead.
Times have definitely changed since the Bible was first pieced together, so I can understand why women have hang-ups about the old perceptions of submission, but we’ve all got to look deeper; pass the stereotypes and the bad taste of the word.
There was a song on Kids Bop back in the day with a young girl singing to her male counterpart, “Anything you can do, I can do better. I can do anything better than you.” That’s fodder for any second-grade riot, and some women feel that way about leadership. After all, women are CEOs, inventors, and the brains behind many businesses. Because submission doesn’t just apply to romantic relationships, maybe it shouldn’t only flow in one direction in the romantic realm. Household chores are being divided evenly and women are less dependent on men than ever before. What does that say about submission? I suppose that depends on what you personally believe.
We’d all be wise to understand the concept of submission and have a firm grasp of it. Being submissive does not mean diminishing one’s own value, it simply shows that we have faith in and trust someone other than ourselves to do right by us and make the best decision for all the parties involved.
Whatever the dynamics of your relationship happen to be, if it’s working for all the parties involved, then more power to you. Still, we’d all be wise to remember that submission is an act of humility and faith and it doesn’t stop at love and romance. Submission is required of us at work, in class, and in the presence of our government officials, so we can look to those dynamics to help us figure out how that should work in our homes.
Submission is something you do willingly to make an interpersonal relationship work.