One of the more common descriptors used of me is “sweet”, I’m also “quiet” and tend to startle people when I appear unexpectedly out of nowhere. I find it easier to continue an existing conversation than to strike up a new one. I remember being taught that being modest isn’t just about what I choose to wear it’s a heart issue that also reveals what sort of person I am.
I also want the women to dress modestly, with decency and propriety, adorning themselves, not with elaborate hairstyles or gold or pearls or expensive clothes, but with good deeds, appropriate for women who profess to worship God. A woman should learn in quietness and full submission. I do not permit a woman to teach or to assume authority over a man; she must be quiet. – from 1 Timothy 2
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold jewelry or fine clothes. Rather, it should be that of your inner self, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is of great worth in God’s sight. – from 1 Peter 3
Ah, but men and women are to be different. If women ought to be quiet and gentle, then men ought to be loud and strong. Any woman who grows up with a loud and strong personality must therefore battle against it and make herself quiet and gentle. Any man who exhibits a quiet and gentle nature, must therefore work constantly to become loud and strong. The only men who are affirmed as they are are the loud and strong ones, the only women who are affirmed as they are are the quiet and gentle ones. They quite naturally are who they’re supposed to be. Lucky them.
But in all this, I can’t help but wonder – why would God make a strong-willed woman or a quiet and gentle man and require them to fight against the nature he gave them? I’ve seen how a strong-willed man can be overbearing and a quiet woman can be taken advantage of when she’s not allowed to speak up for herself. Put the combination together, and a strong-willed husband with a quiet wife creates a scenario where the woman isn’t allowed to speak up, to question decisions, to do anything other than to stand behind her husband and let him do all the talking, she’s allowed to have an opinion, but not allowed to voice them when they contradict her husband. Is that the ideal for all Christian families?
There’s also this element of shame – how quiet and gentle men are less complete than their loud and strong-willed brothers in Christ. How loud and strong-willed women are too much like men to be considered a complete sister in Christ. If only God had made them naturally as they ought to be they could spend their time not warring against their own natures and do more productive things like leading or following as they ought to. Is it sin that made them contrary to how the Bible says they must be, or God who created them contrary to his own design for how they ought to be?
It reminds me of that quote from Akeelah and the Bee: “Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same.”
These ideas about the appropriate personality for our gender seem to say: “Hide your light under a bushel so that the other light may shine all the brighter in the darkness.” Could you imagine just one star – one distant point of light in the new moon night sky? How lonely it must be for that single light. It’s only when all the lights from all the stars, single and binary shine brightly are we captivated by the constellation of stars even on the darkest of nights.
It seems to me that the thing to do isn’t to declare that this person’s natural personality isn’t fit for their gender to try to force them to change, it’s to draw them out and encourage them to be as they were meant to, to celebrate uniqueness and quirks, to let them be themselves – it’s when we see the whole spectrum of human personality for it’s diversity do we begin to understand that we all reflect something of God in some way or another and it’s no sin for women to be strong-willed or for men to be quiet and gentle.