“Peace secured by slavish submission is not peace.” – Kim II-sung
“The submission of her body without love or desire is degrading to the woman’s finer sensibility, all the marriage certificates on earth to the contrary notwithstanding.” – Margaret Sanger
So often when we hear any form of the word submit, it can take us to a place. Unfortunately it’s usually not a happy place. According to Dictionary.com, submit means to give over or yield to the power or authority of another. If we’re honest with ourselves, just the sound of this definition gets under our skin and defies everything humanly independent about us, including our lives, our thoughts and pursuits. Depending on our life experiences, it ruffles some more than others. For women it may bring up past thoughts of living in emotional or physical bondage, conformity, inequality, complete deference or denial of self at all levels. For men it may bring back memories of chauvinistic dominance, servitude and selfishness, just to name a few. (And men, I’m hoping as you read this, you realize these traits as a husband or life partner are not admirable, but quite the contrary). However you associate with this word in your life, usually it comes with a negative set of observations and experiences. However, to authentically submit means so much more than the aforementioned descriptions and it is so incredibly important to the very success that we desire in our lives, whether professionally or relationally, for both men and women alike.
There is a widely accepted quote that states, “Every great leader must first learn how to follow.“
Most of us will agree with this. So what’s the problem? Why is there such a power struggle with the statement, when all it is, is a another form of submitting? Could it simply mean the one doing the submitting is defiant, or perhaps the one in authority doesn’t understand how to convey a submissive-worthy message or countenance? Of course these are both rhetorical questions that have a bit of truth in them both, but I believe they are worthy of discussion in order for our us to gain clarity on why we are (men and women) so at odds when it comes to this topic.
Having the privilege of growing up with three sisters, and being the only boy in the family, I’ve had the prime opportunity to learn the many ways and complexities of girls and women. Not that my three sisters represent all of woman-kind, but I do count my experiences as having an edge towards understanding what other men usually rely on books for. They were and still are distinctly different in their personalities, from moderately calm to semi-explosive when provoked, and l love them all dearly and differently I might add. They have helped to shape my ideas and thoughts and even assisted me in the area of empathy and patience. I am forever grateful to them.
Ephesians 5:21 states – “Submitting yourselves one to another in the fear of God” (KJV).
Whether you believe the Bible to be true or not is not the point here, but to understand the practicality of the verse is more important. How sensible is it to think that one gender should not submit to the other? In other words, how much sense does it make for only a woman to submit to a man and not vice-versa? It would seem like common sense, however we know that common-sense is not always common amongst us. This very ideology has been the source of many painful relationships and is taught in many churches and organizations throughout the country. It’s one thing to believe that a woman should submit to me simply because I am a man and another thing to earn that honor from her, but for many decades now, we men have increasingly lost that honor due to poor judgement, lack of discipline, becoming mean-spirited and providing poor leadership for our families. We have demanded the respect without earning it first, and out of our frustration for what seemed like an innate, God-given right we brought our wives and partners to their knees with abusive actions to obtain it. There is nothing God-given about that, but it has occurred and continues to be perpetuated generationally through families across the world. To take it a bit further, I’ll ask the question, “What are we giving that is worthy of anyone submitting to, whether a wife, girlfriend, or etc.?” Again, if we use the Bible as an example we can accurately deduce that there had to be some assumptions being made by God Himself, like for instance as a husband we (men) are to love our wives as Christ loves the Church. (Ephesians 5:25 KJV)
To put this in laymen terms simply means that what we both truly submit to is not (us) the man or woman, but the very love that is conveyed by us.
I can submit to authentic love any day of the week and twice on Sunday. This is what my former pastor would call the “love walk”. Easily stated, but not easily fulfilled, unless an authentic change has occurred in our lives. A change that requires a new spirit being birthed in you. If we men want to rely on sheer physical strength and fear to gain the respect that we desire, most days we will win this fight, but at what expense? An expense that will certainly ruin every relationship we touch. Do we really want our wives and loved ones to be afraid of us? If you can answer yes to this question, then you are truly in need of counsel and I pray that you seek help before you ruin more lives in addition to your own. Or are you like them, someone who simply wants to love and be loved in return? Maybe you never had a model of what a loving husband and father looks like. Perhaps all you have seen are abusive, self-serving relationships, built on fear and intimidation. Today I pray that as you read this, an intervention will occur in your life that will change your heart and healing can begin for your new day.
When two people are authentically submitting to one another, in no way does it mean problems cease to occur or even fester, but what does happen is both partners lose one simple profound thing.
That is the will to win and always be right, for you can be right and be right by yourself on the couch sleeping at night.
Now who in their right minds want that? Actively submitting doesn’t mean I no longer have an opinion. Quite the contrary actually! When done the correct way your opinion matters more to your partner and your voice matters. There isn’t always marital bliss, nor should your relationship reflect a glass house, (perfection) but this couple has learned the art of deference. They understand that they are a unit and when one is down, they are both down, therefore winning alone begins to take second fiddle. Submitting truly reflects the oneness in the relationship.
To submit to another person is a choice, but not a choice we should make to an undeserving person, whether they’re a potential spouse, family member, pastor, community leader, or otherwise. That privilege should always be earned, like trust. So before you decide to marry someone, or enter into any committed relationship, decide first that they are worthy of you giving yourself over wholeheartedly. Decide first that he or she has proven themselves to you, not with words only, but honorable actions over a course of time. Decide that he or she is worthy of you following them. Do this with intent and like your very life depends on it. This may indeed become your life’s truth.