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A gentle and quiet spirit? Buh!

By April 1, 200913 Comments

Thug SharonIf you’ve ever met me, even once, you probably know one thing about my personality–I am not shy. Although an introvert by nature, I tend to be fairly outgoing and outspoken when the occasion calls (or when it doesn’t). I’m the daughter of a go-getting entrepreneur, so I’ve tried to study and learn my dad’s leadership strengths, and I definitely have his personality.

I’m not a wall flower. At all.

With that in mind, I have deliberately avoided the following verses, which have made me feel squeamish and uncomfortable every time I’ve read them:

3 Your beauty should not come from outward adornment, such as braided hair and the wearing of gold jewelry and fine clothes. 4 Instead, 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. –1 Peter 3:3-4

Now I’m totally tracking with the first verse. That’s a topic I discuss with young women all the time–the importance of not founding your confidence on fleeting, superficial physical attributes.

But the second verse–that’s the one that always makes me squirm. Adorn yourself with a “gentle and quiet spirit?” I don’t like the sound of that! It sounds like a prescription for a cookie cutter personality. In order to be a good Christian woman you have to be quiet and shy and not talk too much. You have to be compliant and meek and easy to dominate.

And that’s how some Christians have interpreted these verses. Because of this passage, strong Christian women have been made to feel less feminine or ungodly because they had outgoing personalities. They were a perceived threat to male leadership.

But that’s by no means the best interpretation of those verses. Notice that it says a quiet and gentle “spirit,” not “personality.” This verse is describing the spirit and motive that drives your personality, not the personality itself. You can still be outgoing and strong and passionate, while also possessing a quiet and gentle spirit underneath.

That said, it’s also important to note that a woman can be painfully shy and quiet, while also possessing a rebellious and bitter spirit. It’s not the personality that this passage is addressing, but the guiding compass behind it. God cares about your heart.

With all of this in mind, I thought I’d draw up a little list of diagnostics, highlighting the distinctions between an outgoing woman with a quiet and gentle spirit, versus an outgoing woman without such a spirit. Look over it and then search your heart to see which category you fall into:

With a Quiet and Gentle Spirit:

  • Confident but not forceful
  • Demonstrates leadership without being overly controlling
  • Is driven by a trust in Christ, not a fear of failure
  • Outspoken but humble
  • Slow to speak, communicating Scriptural truth and wisdom

Without a Quiet and Gentle Spirit:

  • Will push and push until she gets her way
  • A control freak
  • Driven by fear
  • Always has to be heard
  • Brash, quick to speak, and quick to become angry

At their cores, the difference between these two spirits is peace versus fear. You are being driven by either one or the other, and it’s up to you to determine which one it is.

So if you’re like me, go ahead and be outgoing! Be passionate and outspoken and be a leader! But do it for the right reasons. Not because you want attention or because you have something to prove or because you’re afraid of what will happen if you don’t. Do it because God gave you that personality and He should be glorified through it.

A quiet and gentle spirit does not equal a bland personality–it’s simply an anchor that enhances your God-given uniqueness, so embrace it!


  • Emily says:

    i took that picture!!!! woohoo

  • Emily says:

    acutally, i might not have…i do know i took a lot of funny pictures at the party and it is like a picture i would take

  • Ley says:

    I was doing a search on leadership in marriage on google while I was listening to worship music. Just thought I’d let you know that from my little world, God used your wise blog to touch my heart. Thank you for allowing the Lord to work through you..

  • Joseph says:

    I am a yourh leader at my Church and was looking up some stuff for a Bible study I am teaching out of 1 Timothy (right now we are in 2:8-15) when I found this. Thank you for sharing. As a guy, it is harder for me to communicate these things to the women around me. But I completely agree, this section is not about women being passive and tucked away in a corner. It has been awhile, but I looked up some of the wording awhile back and found some of the wording actually implies kind of a controlled strength (if I remember correctly). Thanks for sharing and may God bless you.

  • Pam says:

    Thank you, thank you, thank you for speaking to the heart of the Scripture. So many times when I hear people discuss this verse, they totally disregard a woman’s God-given personality and forces her into a mold that is clearly not hers.

  • Betsy Longoria says:

    I found this by accident while looking up that verse. Awesome. God loves a quiet and gentle spirit in MEN, too! Thanks for your good reflection!

  • Mary says:


  • Hmmm…I have to ask, are you aware that the Bible never uses the word “personality”? In fact, the word personality means the essence of being a person. Unfortunately for those who would cling to their personality as a life raft, we are called to be more like Jesus, NOT more like ourselves. “Ourselves” start out as really terrible people. So, your “personality” is irrelevant and God does not normally call women to be leaders in any context. I think that you need to make sure that you’re not twisting God’s word into fitting your preconceived notions.

  • Sharon says:

    Actually Strange, I’m going to have to disagree with you on a few points. First off, a word’s absence in Scripture does not nullify its usefulness. The word “Trinity” doesn’t appear in Scripture either, but it’s a term Christians use because it is useful for understanding a concept that IS Scriptural.

    That said, God created diversity. 1 Corinthians 12 tells us that Christ’s Body, the Church, is made up of many different parts, and that those differences are important. Each person reflects different aspects of God. We are not a cookie cutter faith. Yes, we are all called to exemplify Christ in many ways, and there is some uniformity to that call. But there is also room in that call for diversity. We can glorify God and reflect his infinite attributes in an infinite number of ways.

    I have also written a fair amount about what it means to become our “true selves” and that that ultimately means becoming more like Christ, so you might consider searching my blog for those posts. On that point, we are not in disagreement.

    And finally, God calls women to be leaders all the time! Deborah, Esther, Lydia, Susanna, Joanna, Mary Magdalene, Mary, Phoebe, Junia, and the list could go on and on. Did you know that women were the primary founders of the church at Philippi? Did you know that women were the FIRST people commissioned to go tell the good news of Jesus’ resurrection? Did you know that in Luke 8 we learn that Jesus was financially dependent upon the earnings of a group of women? If anyone is twisting the text to fit preconceived notions, in all due respect, I think it is you.

  • love says:

    My sister,
    Plain and simple…respect the word of God! Even if you do not agree with some of the details of it, do not let your carnal self rebut the word or challenge it. Yes, you are full of life, full of vigor and not a wall flower but don’t let pride or arrogance get the best of you, to a point you quote the word of God and outwardly challenge it…again I beseech you to refrain from challenging the word coming from God Almighty…respectfully put your opinions across…without using words like “buh” to show disregard and lack of care…take this rebuke positively

  • Sharon says:

    Love, I am not sure you read the post carefully before you stated your rebuke. The “buh” was referring to myself, not the Word of God. I therefore feel your accusations of pride are unfair and misplaced. The above post is, I sincerely believe, a genuine engagement of Scripture and an exhortation for other women to faithfully obey it. If we misunderstand and misinterpret the Word of God, we risk making Jesus’ yoke far heavier than he intended it to be.

  • Miriam says:

    Great article thanks, as rather an extrovert myself I appreciate it since I’ve been ok with the gentle part but had issues with the quiet part myself…. I’d consider myself naturally talkative in personality, so that really helped me… thanks again. I also couldn’t agree more re women and leadership; we are given so many examples of women called by God to be leaders in the bible as you stated. Also re Love’s comment, while I appreciate her view point the bible says that God is slow to anger, so I don’t think He is so easily offended personally. I question things sometimes to reason my faith to make it easier to defend and as long as my heart motive is right then I think God’s happy with that, so in my opinion keeo up the good work!

  • David says:

    Hi Sharon, I chanced on your blog while I was doing my quiet time this morning and googled on the phrase a “gentle and quiet spirit”. Yesterday, I was talking to a friend who was complaining about government policies and the government governing her estate not doing anything. She did want to take any actions to petition for any changes but keep complaining and the anger and dissent in her heart kept increasing. I knew what I’ve wanted for a life partner, the phrase “a gentle and quiet spirit” came to my mind.

    I do agree that you can have a outspoken and achieving personality but have a gentle and quiet spirit because having a quiet spirit doesn’t mean keeping quiet all the time; some situations require you to fight. It is easy to complain and argue, but harder to hold your tongue and trust God and maintain a spirit of peace and joy.

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