Too much. That’s how I’ve felt when I enter a room – or when I enter a relationship. Too much vivacity, too much laughter, too much let-me-introduce-you-to.
I come from a family of extroverts and loud introverts. We don’t do passive aggressive. So as a believer striving to be sensitive to the Spirit’s work and the Word’s truth, 1 Peter 3:4 gave me pause. How can I be a woman with “the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit” when my personality is neither gentle nor quiet?
Do you relate? The Christian spectrum has not handled this issue well. The more fundamentalist side tends to silence women as a whole, labeling girls like me forward, disruptive, and unsubmissive. The more liberal side celebrates “embracing one’s truth” even if this “truth” lacks wisdom and godly behavior. If you’re a woman who loves the Lord, loves His Word, and has a strong, bold, extroverted personality, there is no place for you. There is very little in-between.
Trusting and Peaceable
The phrase “gentle and quiet” comes from the Apostle Peter’s admonition to women in 1 Peter 3:4:
Your beauty should not come from outward adornment such as braided hair or gold jewelry or fine clothes, but from theinner disposition of your heart, the unfading beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which isprecious in God’s sight. 5For this is how the holy women of the past adorned themselves.
1 Peter 3:4
Christian churches have taken this to mean all sorts of things, some forbidding women from “adorning themselves” with jewelry or “worldly clothes”, others emphasizing the “quiet” in quiet spirit to the point women aren’t permitted a voice in church at all. But Scripture reveals God’s view of women to be one of honor and complete equality with man (read more in this post). Peter can’t be advising women against taking a role in the church because Priscilla (Romans 16:3), Phillip’s daughters (Acts 21:9), Lydia (Acts 16), Junia (Romans 16:7), and many others were prophesying and/or serving in the early church alongside him.
So what DOES he mean? How do we live in this in-between place – women granted with gifts of teaching, exhortation, encouragement, administration, women bold and willing to stand up for what is true?
I looked up the Greek definitions for “gentle” and “quiet” to help me out in this study. According to Strong’s, the most literal definition of “gentle” is “meek or humble”. As many of us know, meekness is strength under control. The commentary cited alongside the Greek lexicon elaborated further on this, saying this gentleness was FIRST directed toward God (not man) and is characterized by acceptance of God’s will. This gentleness – the author said – “is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest.”
Similiarly, “quiet” (Gr. hesychios) means “to keep one’s seat”, to be still or undisturbing, and to be peaceable.
Peter’s admonition, then, is not for women to be utterly silent in the church and community. Nor is his command impossible for those of us with strong personalities! Peter is calling women to basic fruits of the Spirit: To be full of faith and peace. These outcomes of walking with God can be challenging for women, which is why I believe he brought them up. Women can be prone to control rather than trust, prone to intervene rather than cultivate peace. Peter’s admonition is a good reminder for all of us.
But it’s not a condemnation of strong personalities.
Holiness in the In-Between
If we as Christian women are called to set aside self interest to pursue faith and peace, we have to possess the mind of Christ. We need God’s vision for our behavior and a willingness to listen to His Spirit’s leading. God’s goal – after all – is not that we become our “best and truest selves”, but that we become holy as He is holy. And holiness happens in this tough, in-between place we not-so-gentle women find ourselves in within the church.
Living the Spirit-led life does not require you to deny your extroverted personality. But it DOES require you to set aside self-assertiveness to trust God’s goodness and control.
There are hours, days, and seasons where we must accept God’s will without fully understanding it. There are seasons where we must “keep our seat” and wait for Him to move. There are seasons when we must be still, must be silent, must not intervene so peace can be maintained. No matter how much our loud, fun, ambitious personalities want to run ahead of God, our responsibility is to surrender.
You can be your bold, strong, hard-working self and also live in a state of surrender. When you do this, your gifts will be mobilized to have maximum impact, because you will no longer be working for yourself – you’ll be working for the God who made you. You’ll be walking in the center of His will.
Embracing Godly Extroversion
Faith without works is dead, and theory without action means nothing. So what do we do with this information? Here are three ways you can embrace the personality God gave you while honoring His Spirit in you:
- Seek Him in the Word. This is where we learn who God is, how He relates to us, and where we need to change. The Spirit uses the Word to declare truth to us, but if you never come to meet Him, that relationship is not formed. This is NOT about “getting in your quiet time” and feeling guilt if you don’t. This is about meeting God so He can show you what He wants to do in your life. That starts in the Bible itself! And if you struggle with Bible study, I’ve got you! Join the free Bible study email course at the bottom of this email.
- Stop seeking the affirmation of others. Fear of man is a big factor here. If you worship the opinions of people, you will fear the opinions of people, and this will keep you from living out a robust spiritual life. Your actions are to be based on the Word and the Spirit – not what others think about you.
- Be teachable. Maybe you DO talk too much and fail to be selfless in your conversation. Maybe you DO come off as pushy or bossy and fail to be conscious of others’ needs. This is why we have the Spirit! He convicts us of areas that need His sanctifying work, and as we listen, repent and obey, we are changed.
Our personalities are not an excuse. They are not an end-all. But they ARE a way we can bring glory to God as we walk out our spiritual gifts in a grounded way.
You, sister, can be bold and restful. You can be strong and still. You can be faithful and peaceful. And that all starts with the quality of your relationship to Christ. Start and end with Him.