Every time I read through Proverbs there are a few select proverbs that, as a wife, I read with fear and trembling. Proverbs 27:15-16 is one of them:
A quarrelsome wife is like the dripping of a leaky roof in a rainstorm; restraining her is like restraining the wind or grasping oil with the hand.
Doesn’t that description sound awful? I never want to be the kind of wife who can only be described as a continual “dripping!” What woman would??
I’ve read those verses for years as a cautionary tale, but this week I read them from a slightly different perspective: one of empathy. No woman WANTS to be a nagging wife, but it happens to most of us at one time or another. Which begs the question: How did the woman of this proverb become such a quarrelsome wife? What can I learn from her?
As I thought about this question, I remembered a blog I wrote last summer called Why It’s Hard to End an Argument. In it I shared the following research about how women respond to conflict biologically:
When you get into a fight, your heart starts pounding and your stomach clenches, thereby sending signals to the brain that say, “You are angry! Get angry!” For both men and women, it takes about 2 seconds for this system to kick in. We are able to engage at about the same speed.
However, it takes longer for women to turn that system off. As the argument winds down, a man’s body will slowly relax, signaling to his brain that all is well again and he can go to sleep in peace. A woman’s body, on the other hand, remains upset longer. Her body is still tense and her heart is still racing, so her brain thinks, “I must still be upset.”
As a result of this biological wiring, it’s harder for women to simply let an argument go. The fight might be over, but our bodies are telling our brains, “You’re still upset about something! Stay mad! Don’t let him off the hook.” We may even find things to get upset about, dragging the argument out even further.
It’s funny how you can write something and then completely forget about it a few months later, because this info would have come in REALLY handy a couple days ago. I was upset with my husband about something and I could NOT let it go! I was so hurt and frustrated that I kept bringing the issue up over and over again, beating the horse long after it was dead.
But when reading Proverbs 27:15-16 in conjunction with the above research, it’s easy to see how women can easily become “quarrelsome.” When we are upset about something, it takes awhile for our bodies to physically calm down, which makes us very difficult to “restrain.” That reality also led me to reinterpret the second half of the proverb. I had always read it as a warning to men, but it could easily be directed at women. When I get upset, it is VERY difficult to restrain myself, even when I know that I need to calm down.
So rather than read Proverbs 27:15-16 from a position of judgment, this proverb is a fantastic window into the mind and heart of a woman. Women aren’t quarrelsome because we have nothing better to do than nag our husbands and be controlling. Sometimes we are quarrelsome because it is physically difficult to rein in our emotions. Our argumentativeness is often the result of not knowing how to properly process how we’re feeling. And while that hard-wiring does not free me to indulge my feelings and sin in my anger, my knowledge of it does set me free from being ruled by those feelings.