If 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!