A Cry For Justice

Awakening the Evangelical Church to Domestic Violence and Abuse in its Midst

Biblical Womanhood is Often NOT Biblical

[October 19, 2022: There have been some changes made to this post. For more information, read the Editors’ notes at the bottom of the post. Editors.]

We wanted to highlight this very good comment from Missdaisy who posted it on our blog in response to another commenter. So here it is, and many thanks to her. I highly suspect that many of you will identify precisely with what she is saying. (You can find her original comment here.)


Basically what many conservative Christians or conservative churches do is present co-dependency as being “biblical womanhood,” as though being a doormat is, or was, God’s intent for women, and is the only “biblical” way a woman or girl could be.

I was certainly raised this way. Most materials and sermons I got from Christians in my girlhood emphasized that the only way a girl or woman could be pleasing to God was to be a doormat to other people.

Meaning, many hallmarks of co-dependency are present in this teaching, such as:

  • “It is biblical or good for a girl or woman to be passive.”
  • “Getting one’s needs met is selfish”; “showing or feeling anger is wrong and un-Christian”.
  • “One should always care about other people’s feelings, needs, and wants more than one’s own.”

There are other characteristics as well, those are just a few.

My mother, who was a Christian, was very much in line with all that, so she also role-modeled this for me. As I grew up, I watched my Christian mother take a lot of emotional and verbal abuse, or general rudeness, from my father and my older siblings, from people at church, her own siblings (my aunts and uncles), and neighbors. My mother rarely stood up for herself when she was treated poorly. My mother had me, from childhood onwards, conflate being a sweet, loving, unassertive, doormat who allows herself to be mistreated, with being a good Christian. [Being a sweet, loving, unassertive, doormat who allows herself to be mistreated was conflated with being a good Christian.  = Confused.]

Anytime, as a kid, I showed or expressed anger because a kid at school had bullied me, for example, my mother would say things like, “What would Jesus do?,” and “Be sweet.” In other words, my mother assumed — and taught me — that Jesus would expect my response to being bullied to always be “turn the other cheek” and to be meek and mild, never to defend myself. I was also being taught to bottle up all my anger and never speak up on my own behalf, if mistreated.

I was taught that the bully’s feelings were more important than my own.

As a result, after many decades of living like this, when I got to adulthood, I had no clue how to deal with conflict and was terrified of confrontation, so I allowed people (bosses, co-workers, my ex-fiancé, friends, store clerks, etc.) to take advantage of me, be rude to me, etc..

Sometimes it took weeks, months, or years before I even recognized that I was being used or being treated poorly by someone, because my mother (and Christian literature, sermons, Christian books, magazine articles, etc.) had taught me to never think about myself, my feelings, my needs, but to be intently “outward-focused,” always striving to meet other people’s needs, because to do anything less was supposedly “selfish.”

Therefore, I grew up not knowing who I was, or what I needed or wanted, and sometimes I had a hard time determining that I was being used or exploited by another person when it was happening to me.

I also had no skills or practice at how to handle conflict. I was taught that conflict was to be avoided, Christian women ought not to debate or argue with anyone, nor to be assertive, for any reason. This left me vulnerable to being picked on in adulthood with adult predators, as well as being mistreated as a kid by other kids. When I was targeted I had no clue how to respond, so I would just sit there and take mistreatment in silence.

Many well-meaning Christians and churches unfortunately encourage girls and women to be this way, to think it is pleasing to God, or that God commands all women to be this way, which leaves women and girls very, very easy to be taken advantage of by men and women users, con artists, and abusers.

You said:

but that I was continually sinful for being myself: boisterous, gregarious, precocious, intensely curious and inquisitive, creative, imaginative, and a host of other personality descriptors that were collectively labeled as definitely NOT having “a gentle and quiet spirit.”

As I was just saying on another blog, I to this day, am a little bit of a tomboy. I was (and am) interested in things like cars, science fiction, and other things not considered stereotypically feminine enough by most Christians.

I sometimes felt ashamed of myself, or like a weirdo, because I did not match the feminine ideal held up in churches, and by my mother, of what a girl is “supposed to” be. I was not interested in playing with dolls as a kid, and I hated wearing dresses.

As I was growing up I kept getting the message from my Christian mother, Christian TV shows, preachers, and other Christian content, that being female meant I was supposed to want to do or be “X, Y, and Z” (and that is how God wanted me to be), but I never had much interest in “X, Y, or Z”.

But yes, a lot of these harmful and damaging things, that I’ve mentioned and that you have mentioned, are being taught to Christian women, since they were girls, in the name of God.

And these teachings that Christians espouse about these things leave girls and women open to being easy targets for dishonest, abusive, rude, selfish, or garden-variety jerks — in all walks of life, too, from being bullied and harassed on jobs, to being exploited in platonic friendships with men and women, to also being conned or abused in dating and marriage.

These things become even more of an obstacle and detriment for girls who grow up taking the Bible, Jesus, and God very seriously, who very much want to please God, as I was growing up.

I’ve had to do some serious pondering the last few years, and a lot of book reading of books by psychologists, to re-think how I was raised and to figure out who I am, how to deal with conflict, does God really want me to be a doormat to be feminine?, etc..  I’m having to start all over again, and it’s not been easy.

[October 19, 2022: Editors’ notes:

—For some comments made prior to October 19, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be an exact match.
—For some comments made prior to October 19, 2022 that quoted from the post, the text in the comment that was quoted from the post might no longer be found in the post.
If you would like to compare the text in the comments made prior to October 19, 2022 that quoted from the post to the post as it is now (October 19, 2022), click here [Internet Archive link] for the most recent Internet Archive copy of the post.]


  1. Seeing Clearly

    I have a question that hopefully you can respond to. Assuming that people around you have been comfortable around you in the past, as you relate to others in healthier, balanced ways, are they adjusting to the new you and still ‘liking’ you? Also, how do you respond to those who try to put you back in your old box?

    • voicewilderness1

      Remember what the Bible says, we do not have to please others or conform to their attempts to control us, which is sin on their part.

    • StrongerNow

      People will be uncomfortable with your new ways of behaving and responding to them. In many cases, I had to use what I call the “broken record” technique of dealing in a calm way with people who were surprised that their usual tactics weren’t working. I remember one instance with my mother where I just calmly had to repeat the same phrase to her over and over until she finally got it. (“I’m sorry you feel that way. I just can’t do what you’re asking me to do.”) She didn’t take it well right then but as time went on and I practiced the new ways of behaving with her, she had to adapt how she treated me, because her old methods of trying to control me weren’t working any more. And yes, she did try to put me back in my old box. But the more I practiced, the better I got at being an adult with her and not letting her make me act like a child again.

      Often an entrenched abuser will ramp up their tactics. It just means you’ll have to grow an even stronger backbone. It’s a process.

      Other friends who are used to walking all over you will either walk away and look for a new doormat, or they’ll start to treat you with respect, depending in large part on how healthy they themselves are. We can’t control which response they have, and we shouldn’t try to. Leave it in the Lord’s hands, and thank Him when a toxic person chooses to remove themselves from your life.

      • Daisy

        I left a longer reply for Seeing Clearly below, but your reply was absolutely right on.

        I haven’t had a lot of push back from people now that I have boundaries (my sister may be the exception) but I saw the dynamics on an old job of mine.
        On my old job many years ago, when I was still a doormat (I did not even have boundaries yet; my mother believed that having boundaries, standing up to people, or saying “no” when people asked for a favor was mean and selfish)…. I worked in an office.

        For about two or three months at that job, every Tuesday, I would stop by a Kroger’s grocery store, before work hours, and buy a box of their deli cookies and bring them to the break room at work, so that my co-workers could help themselves to cookies I bought. I did this just to be a nice person. I had to leave my house 10, 15 minutes or more early to go to the store to get the cookies (and I hate waking up early).

        After a couple months of this, I got tired of spending my time and money buying co-workers cookies. So I stopped doing it.

        The first Tuesday I did not bring the cookies in, I had several co-workers visit me in my cubicle, asking me where the cookies were, they didn’t see any cookies in the employee break room. I said I was tired of buying cookies, so I did not buy any.

        Most said okay, that’s fine, and they thanked me for buying them in the past and left my cubicle. I had one or two co-workers, however, who marched in and asked about the cookies, and after I told them I was done buying cookies, they got angry at me!

        One of them said something about how he always counted on my cookies, because that was his breakfast for the day. So now, he told me in a huff, he would have to buy a candy bar from the vending machine at work down the hall. He was angry at me for not bringing in cookies that day. I sat there stunned and in amazement at his reaction.

        See, you start out doing a nice gesture for people (like bringing in cookies YOU paid for and you stopped by the store on YOUR own time), but after a month, they take it for granted. When you stop doing the nice gesture, some people get angry and act entitled about it.

        This co-worker acted like it was part of my job description to bring him cookies every week. The nerve that guy had was amazing.

        Once you stop playing the game of being a doormat and bending over backwards for other people and always putting them first, some of them get very angry about it.
        People get very accustomed to you going out of your way to meet THEIR needs, to the point some of them get very angry once you stop doing so. The sense of entitlement is huge with some people. It is truly amazing.

    • Daisy

      @ Seeing Clearly.
      Hello. I assume your question was meant for me? (I am the guest poster – though I have changed my screen name from “miss daisy flower” to Daisy about a month ago).

      I wrote a little more about the topics you are raising in a January 2015 thread on this blog,
      Losing friendships because of the stress of abuse

      I’m fairly isolated and don’t get out too much, so I’ve not had lots of practice at using my new boundaries. Just realizing it’s okay to have them is a huge paradigm shift for me, it changes how I view a lot of things, and I am no longer as afraid of and intimidated by most people as I used to be.

      I’m still rather passive around my father. I still find it hard to speak to him and stand up to him. When I have tried standing up for myself a bit with him, he just doesn’t want to hear it, so I wonder if it’s pointless.
      My big sister, who I wrote about in posts on that Friendship thread back in January – I didn’t have success with her, when I started using my boundaries on her. Well, yes and no…

      My sister has always had a very short fuse and a bad temper.

      Even now that I have boundaries and realize it’s okay to be assertive, I still don’t get too angry or fly off the handle with people, so I do not know what the deal is with my sister. I’ve always been a pretty mellow, laid back type, and my mother raised me to be super nice to people, so it’s never been in my nature to snap at people and be cruel, mean, rude, and nasty.

      After our mother died a few years ago, my sister’s anger increased. She began lashing out at me more often, in person and the phone. We live in different states, but I’ve been to visit her in person and vice versa.

      When I finally stood up to her in a phone call in spring of 2014 and in a few e mails of summer 2014, she became more infuriated than before. Me telling her how her anger made me feel crummy, and asking her to please be polite to me, and me telling her that I was no longer putting up with being her punching bag anymore – was interpreted by her as me “telling her how to act,” which she said made her feel “livid.”

      Well, according to all the books and blogs I’ve read the psychologists and doctors say if you’ve tried telling the person how their actions or words make you feel, and you have asked them to stop it and to change, and the person refuses to change, the book authors and doctors say you should consider either cutting down the amount of contact you have with the person, or cut them out of your life entirely.

      So, I’ve been largely ignoring my sister since last summer. She doesn’t seem interested in changing, which doesn’t leave me with much of a choice.

      I’m tired of being verbally abused by her (it’s been going on since around my childhood – she is several years older than me), she told I’m a loser and a piece of trash, spat at me in a hateful way about four months after mother died that she doesn’t care how mother being dead affects me, she only care how it affects her.

      (I have never said anything nasty like those comments to my sister, nor do I provoke her into these rages. I always was on egg shells with her and tried to avoid making her angry because I was afraid of confrontation, so I never sat around telling her hateful things, like she is trash or a loser, etc.)
      She also loves using the “F” word and other vulgarities, something I’m not comfortable with. I don’t cuss that often. Not as much as she does.

      On the internet, I have experienced people (usually on Christian blogs and forums) who expect me to be a doormat and remain super nice, even when being treated rudely by someone else.

      I usually do not hide the fact that I am a woman when I post on forums and blogs, and I sometimes wonder if the Christians I’m conversing with on these other sites therefore expect me to roll over and take rudeness from people precisely because I’m a woman.

      Women in Christianity are really socialized to suck up and take maltreatment from other people. Men are seldom expected or asked to roll over and take dirt off other people, I have noticed. Sometimes that is true in secular culture too.

      If someone does expect me to go back into the Nice Box and be nicey nice, I no longer go along with it (but this usually happens online, not too much in real life, except with my father and sister). I just keep standing up for myself. I have noticed when you assert yourself, some people will get angry, but it doesn’t bother me. Their reaction is their responsibility, not mine.

      Based on books I’ve read, once you start asserting yourself with people especially people who remember you as a doormat, you can expect some of them to get angry or try to convince you go back to being a doormat. Because life was easier for them when you were their doormat.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Hi Daisy, I never thought of my sister as short-fused with a bad temper because she clams up. But your words made me think again. Boy, she is short-fused. And family has tiptoed around her, even my parents, growing up. We all feel her anger and behave accordingly as we did not practice conflict resolution. My role was to wait on her. She liked to sit and read, I did not like sitting still. I liked to do things that made other people happy. As an adult she did make an apology to me for her demands, but she continued to manipulate get togethers so that we only did what she liked and we catered to her.

        We married brothers so I have (until my divorce) tiptoed and given in for every holiday, plus. My N-ex never backed me up, instead explained to me why I was my own problem. [Number redacted] years ago, I found my backbone and she felt more compelled to dominate me. Those 2 conversations that summer were the last time she has spoken to me. However, last summer her [child] was her voice. That was the last time any of them have spoken and actually, the silence has been going on for more years, as I look back. I initiated these last conversations, but no more.

        Until now, I have wrestled with how my absence at family gatherings will sadden my other siblings. And to a lesser degree, it still lingers. I realize that some of this is residual shame from training under my N-ex. I like your 99% choice. But from where I sit today, I will not be at family gatherings where she plans to be.

  2. standsfortruth

    In this present day of flagrant explotation of weakness, and vulnerabilities of women and children, by so called “c”hristian and non Christian predators, it would be foolish to not prepare young children of all genders to be wise to the wiles of the devil, and to do the necessary work to make them wary of all the pitfalls of sinful man, so that they wont feel obligated to submit to any situtation that would make them feel compromised or threatened in any way.
    We need to prepare our children so they do not have to go through what we did, prompted by our misguided parents, or the churches twisted views of enforcing behavior control by gender.

    • Daisy

      Standsfortruth, I sure wish that had been my mother’s philosophy.

      I wish she had taught me when I was a kid that it was okay to be assertive and stand up for myself. My life would have been easier and more enjoyable if I had known about boundaries when I was a kid.

      I agree, parents and Christians should educate people that it’s okay to have boundaries, but I find a lot of them unfortunately and mistakenly think that having needs, getting those needs met, and having boundaries is selfish or unChrist-like.

      • standsfortruth

        I think we can all change though Daisy.
        And become stronger, smarter people once we understand the objectve of abusers.
        Knowing how ruthless and relentless abusers will go to negitively affect us.
        It is their obsession.
        Like the Bible says, some of them cant sleep unless they caused someone to fall in some way that day.
        At a very long stretch in my married life, I once allowed fear to grip me, and cause me to tail spin for my abuser to appease him, and tried to keep peace in the house at the same time.
        (Not too possible a task)
        But after realizing how pointless it all was, I quit playing into the manipulation, and started setting boundries.
        But once boundries are set and you see their objection-suddenly you realize you have hit a nerve!
        And that nerve is directly linked to their sence of losing power over you.
        It causes them to short circut, and have an adult temper tantrum.
        I first started placing my boundries by using an office partition between my desk and my abusers desk. ( which happened to be positioned side by side before)
        What a breather difference that made for me.
        I could actually think much better.
        But how he hated it!
        Every time I left the room, he took it down.
        Only to have me come back and put it back up.
        This went on and on until I realized he could not, and would not- respect my wishes, so I ended up “amping my boundries up” by securing a room with dead bolts inside that he could not violate at will, and this has given me more peace of mind, and control over my situtation.
        Oh, and by the way Daisy, I too hated the Barbie dolls and dress up parties for girls when I was growing up.
        Give me the cowboys and Indians games any day over the frilly stuff. I was definatly a ruff and tough type, that preferred playing outside with bugs, dirt and animals, and thats the way I loved it.

  3. debby

    I grew up in foster care and then for most of childhood, in an orphanage-type home for wards of the state so I can’t say I really had this modeled to me, however, I did have a LOT of fear growing up so I learned coping skills like keeping quiet, “taking it,” staying under the radar, “helping people,” so when I became a Christian as an adult, this lent itself to the “stereotype” of Christian woman and I did take it seriously as I wanted so much to please God. (I was still in the “pleaser” mode even with God. Fortunately, I have a much healthier view of me, others and God now!) But I HAVE modeled this “meek and mild and serve everyone to the detriment of yourself.” to my daughter (AND my sons! yikes!). Fortunately, she is a much stronger, more outspoken woman, but I can look back on this and see some of the doubts. She wrote a valentine to me once where she was saying the things she appreciated about each of us. She wrote, “I love my mom because she wants to make people happy even if she isn’t.” I took it as a compliment at the time (Gee, look how CHRISTIAN I am.) but now I see how twisted I was. I have written a couple of letters to her over the years taking accountability for not being stronger and standing up to her dad, etc. (and we are very close) but this is an aspect I hadn’t considered. Thank you so much for shedding light on this! I have felt like I am such a b***** now (having come out of the fog of abuse and living separately for [number redacted] months now) and wondering, “Will I always be this way?!” but I see that it is just from the contrast of how doormat submissive I have been my whole marriage. I am searching to find the happy medium but will not be asking others opinions (except the Holy Spirit!) of what that may be. 🙂
    In a nutshell I have learned “Being kind from a position of confident strength is the only true way to be kind.” Otherwise, there is “something I need in return (acceptance, sense of worth, approval, etc.)”

    • Seeing Clearly

      I have felt like I am such a b***** now

      We tend to use negative terms for our behavior when our voice is louder, our ‘no’ means ‘no’, we stand tall and hold our chin high. I realize you are stating how it feels for you. When I was breaking free, I was angry and spoke very black and white, gave opinions that weren’t requested, sort of blew people away. Scared some closest to me because they had never seen this side of me.

      As time passed, the storm raging inside settled, I felt more comfortable expressing how my life was to be, I woke up happy….

      So don’t worry about coming across like a b***** now. Enjoy the freedom you are finding. I’ve never heard of a passive, painful birth, for baby or mother. You are, in a sense, birthing yourself into a new life. Breath deep, hold your head high, smile while you are b*****ing.

      • voicewilderness1

        Isn’t it interesting that women who are other than a doormat so hastily are labelled b*****. There is no equivalent for this for men. Their assertiveness is just seen as their due. The brainwashing is so strong.

      • Isn’t it interesting that women who are other than a doormat so hastily are labelled b*****. There is no equivalent for this for men. Their assertiveness is just seen as their due. The brainwashing is so strong.

        That’s one reason we have a board at our Pinterest page called Strong Women. To help disseminate other models of womanhood. 🙂

      • freeatlast8

        I was MUCH more assertive in the beginning of my marriage. My ex and I had many stormy encounters over the years. I was told I was headstrong, stubborn, and unsubmissive. I heard these words a thousand times, no joke.

        As years passed, though, I realized that sort of behavior (on both our parts) was not Christlike (strife, contention, being argumentative). I wanted to do what I could on my part to eliminate that from our home. By reading books and listening to tapes, etc. on how to be a godly woman, I laid down much of who I was. I even prayed for the Lord to tame my spirit. Then I woke up recently and saw what a coward I had become. I had lost my voice and the strong part of myself on the path to becoming this godly woman.

        I have called my former self a B*****. Now I see that maybe I wasn’t so much a B*****, but someone who had a backbone, a brain, a will, a right to protest against maltreatment, and opinions that were valid. I was bending to change to please my abuser, who I didn’t realize was an abuser at the time. I wanted to be more Christlike, but the motivation was rooted in my wanting to please my husband by conforming to this image of a godly woman I supposed he wanted / desired, and who I also supposed I should be…which I am finding may not be who the Lord wants me to be. There’s got to be a middle road…being godly, but not being a limp noodle. I am still working on this with the Lord’s help. Even writing this out is helping me to think it through. Hmmm…

      • Brenda R

        I love what you said here: Now I see that maybe I wasn’t so much a B*****, but someone who had a backbone, a brain, a will, a right to protest against maltreatment, and opinions that were valid. AMEN,

      • Seeing Clearly

        Working hard to be a ‘just right’, exactly middle of the road lady? Crazy-making is abuse. Bless you for trying so hard, but you just can’t win. But you can go crazy trying. I know, first hand.

    • Belle

      I, too, am learning how to be strong. My son paid me the highest compliment the other day. He said, “You’re so nice, in a b*****y kind of way.” Exactly what I was aiming for! 🙂

      [Hi Belle, you will have noticed that I changed your screen name for identity safety reasons. If you want it changed to something else, please email me at twbtc.acfj@gmail.com.]

    • Daisy

      Debby said,

      Thank you so much for shedding light on this! I have felt like I am such a b***** now (having come out of the fog of abuse and living separately for number redacted] months now) and wondering, “Will I always be this way?!” but I see that it is just from the contrast of how doormat submissive I have been my whole marriage.

      The books I’ve read about these topics say that will happen when you start exercising your boundaries, that your “inner critical parent” will tell you that you are being mean or selfish if or when you stand up for yourself, if you start putting yourself first occasionally, or start saying “no” to people’s requests.

      When you start standing up to people, some of them will either get angry or shame you for it. I find that the message that having needs, getting them met, and / or having boundaries is often – I mean very, very often – taught by many Christians as being selfish, wrong, or non-Christian.

      So you not only have to contend with learning to silence your inner critic to stop feeling false guilt for having healthy boundaries, but you will have to be aware that you will sometimes be shamed, criticized, and / or guilt tripped by other Christians for having boundaries.
      Maybe that won’t happen on this blog, but it will and can happen on other blogs, forums, or when you attend a church in person, or meet with other Christians in real life, and if you bring this topic up with them, or you model having healthy boundaries in front of them. They will either shame you or criticize you for not being a soft-spoken doormat, or for getting your needs met.

      I also occasionally see Christians shaming and guilt tripping Christians in pod casts, magazine articles, and television shows for having boundaries.

  4. vlee

    As an intelligent woman who reads the Bible critically I often see or feel the masculine frowns when I raise questions at bible study. I don’t mean to ask those questions to be provocative but as a result of engaging with the text analytically. It frustrates me that if the questions were raised by the men it would be debated rigorously…… Just saying ….

    • UPDATE Sept 2021: I have come to believe that Jeff Crippen does not practise what he preaches. He vilely persecuted an abuse victim and spiritually abused many other people in the Tillamook congregation. Go here to read the evidence. Jeff has not gone to the people that he spiritually and emotionally abused. He has not apologised to them, let alone asked for their forgiveness.



      I relate so much to that. Many memories of those beetling brows. Not to mention the raised eyebrows from busybodies who would notice that in the coffee break I’d prefer to get into theological conversations with men than hang round the women who were talking about their kids’ tennis and music lessons. . . Not that I would have objected to having theological conversations with women, but fewer of the women seemed up to it. And some women I tried to do it with felt I was trying to make them feel inadequate (I heard that back on the grapevine…).

      Thank heavens I had a few pastors along the way who respected my deep thinking. Otherwise I think I could never have survived in church circles in all those lean years before Jeff Crippen emailed me out of the blue.

    • emmellkaycee

      And it frustrates further when one’s own husband perceives that a differing opinion, or perspective is always some negative challenge to his position; either complaining, and / or personally disrespecting him.

      There is no way to effectively communicate honestly and be heard when faced with that kind of continual emotional hurdle.

      • freeatlast8

        YES!!! SO MUCH THIS…”And it frustrates further when one’s own husband perceives that a differing opinion, or perspective is always some negative challenge to his position; either complaining, and / or personally disrespecting him.”

        I get this to the max!!! I was always called his ball and chain or a stumbling block. Yes, I do operate out of fear sometimes, which makes me very cautious on the big decisions. I think that’s a good balance for a husband who is a risk-taker and who makes hasty decisions. Being made the silent partner and being bulldozed in major decisions is not a team effort. “Shut your mouth, and sign here.”

        A wife should have a voice that is valued and appreciated. God speaks through the woman to her husband if the husband will listen (and vice versa). Listening to each other and valuing each’s input, ideas, fears, etc. can help both of them avoid costly mistakes and pitfalls. I have felt devalued and deflated when my ideas / suggestions / helps were treated with disdain or indifference, or were misunderstood as a threat to his headship.

        Yes, yes, yes. Proud men do see the woman’s differing opinion as a sign of disrespect / dishonor / lack of trust and a negative challenge. I love how you put that. I understand this completely. And how you said, “one’s own husband.” That also gets me. Of all the people, your own husband should know you well enough to see you are ON HIS SIDE…not a threat or antagonist. If you are on the same team, why would you want to work against your teammate? We are “helpers” not “hinderers.” I was often seen as a hinderer.

      • Annie

        THIS^^^ by Emmelkaycee!
        I can’t remember how many times my husband has said to me “I wish you would just agree with me!”
        “Even if I don’t?”

        Seriously he really needs me to say “yeah, that hideous wall paper in the house-for-sale we looked at is wonderful” because he likes it? I can’t say “It feels like spring!” when the temp finally rises a bit because he hates winter and wants to make sure everyone else is still miserable.

        I can’t set boundaries because that is a concept that doesn’t exist for my husband.

        He recognizes what it is and makes sure he rides right over it. I once was experiencing a serious medical problem and the doctor had hinted at a previous visit that I might need pretty serious surgery if other options didn’t work. So of course I was upset and nervous the day I was to go to her office for another visit. On the way out the door my husband says to me “as soon as she tells you what you need to do, call me”, I said “I will call you as soon as I get to the car.”

        “NOOOOO! You will call me from the exam room as soon as you talk to her.”

        “I may need time to think about what she said. I’ll call from the car.”

        This went on for several minutes–yelling at me that I was to call immediately from the exam room.

        Finally, I said something to the effect that this is my medical problem and I may need time to process the doctor’s diagnosis. You know what he said?

        “Your body is my body. You will call me.”

        Of course, once I was driving to the doctor’s office I realize I could call him anytime I pleased. He’d never know whether I was in the exam room or not but when you’re talking to someone like this it’s easy to get caught up in their crazy talk.

        I got to the doctor’s office and my blood pressure was very, very high (it’s not usually). She wanted to know why. I told her my husband and I were arguing. She said “No more arguing” No joke. That’s when I began to realize that my husband’s treatment of me was adversely affecting my health.

        Because I can’t set boundaries with him I just started avoiding him in the least obvious ways possible.

      • Brenda R

        Crazy making can affect our health. I was not one to argue, but it didn’t stop the feeling that I had to respond as xh said. It was deep seeded in my brain. Your health is more important than his demands. Have you considered the boundary of leaving? Leaving hasn’t helped my health issues, but I don’t feel crazy any longer. God does not promise us health, wealth or any other prosperity gospel, but I can rest in peace with my Lord. I no longer respond to the xh and it feels good. It’s been 2 years and he still tries, but I have learned that he can’t control me without my permission.
        I will pray for you. Brenda

  5. downtheroad.(and free and flourishing)!!

    Jesus didnt expect women to be submissive, Doormats, He told the women caught in adultery (where was the man) to “go and Sin no more”, and the Woman at the Well who He spoke to, when most Men would have never spoke to a woman in that society!!. remember the Man praying in the Temple who said” thanks you God you did not make me a beggar or a WOMAN” Was the Judge Deborah submissive? Or the woman (Priscilla I think) in the new testament who had a CHURCH in her house!!.. Where you were brought up was not telling the people the whole Bible, just the bits they needed to keep women down!! Jesus freed us from our Sin, and does not expect us to give our freedom away to any man even the best husband in the world does not own us! We are the Lords and precious in His eyes! I know it is hard to have to re-think your whole upbringing, and the attitude of your Mother who you love, My Mother was a very submissive woman, and I like you was not “Ladylike” or girly girls like her and my sister, I think they thought I was from another planet!!! (while I am building walls, decorating, fixing things myself.!!)…God makes us all different, Go and Tell your Mum she is free in Jesus!

    • Daisy

      @ Downtheroad.(And Free And Flourishing)!!
      Thank you for your consideration. 🙂
      (I’m the one who wrote the guest post at the top of the page – though I am now posting under the name “Daisy” rather than “Miss Daisy Flower”).

      Unfortunately, my mother died a few years ago, and I miss her a lot.

      You said,

      Jesus didnt expect women to be submissive, Doormats, [followed by biblical examples of women who were not doormats]

      Oh yeah, I hear you. Growing up, I was confused about this.

      My mother was a very sweet, compliant Christian lady who believed that the Bible or God expects women to be sweet, passive doormats, to always repress anger and to always put other people first. She brought me up to be that way too, so I tried.

      However, when I read the Bible for myself growing up (I often read it growing up), I noticed that there were parts that did not match or gel with what my mother was raising me to believe.
      Even when I was ages 12, 15, 18, etc., I would see examples in the Bible of strong women who spoke up, even ones who confronted men, I read examples of Jesus “chewing people out” and being assertive, and I saw apostle Paul boldly confronting people and giving him a piece of their mind.

      My mother raised me to look to Jesus as my example. Well, okay – but at times, Jesus was bold, out-spoken, opinionated, and showed anger.
      As a teen ager (and even into adulthood), this all confused me. My mother seemed to equate Jesus to being a super sweet, non-confrontational, touchy feely kind of guy, and so she encouraged me to be that way. As a kid, I was trusting my mother and her view of the Bible and Jesus.

      As a teen, I figured since my mother wanted what was best for me, and was older than me, surely she most know what she was talking about. (I also was a hyper obedient kid, and if Mother told me to “behave like thus-and so, because that is what Jesus wants you to do, and the Bible says so,” then I was not going to go against that.)

      But I was confused as a teen and older, because the Jesus I saw in the Bible sometimes was abrasive and was very out-spoken with people. Jesus was no timid, shrinking violet.

      I could not understand why it was okay with my mother and other Christians for Jesus to be bold, express anger, disagree with people, and give people a piece of his mind (or the apostle Paul and other Bible characters – they were bold sometimes too), but I was being taught that I was supposed to only emulate the cuddly, gentle, sweet side of Jesus – not the tough, out-spoken, bold side.

      It actually took my mother’s death a few years ago to open my eyes to a lot of these things. Her passing and me trying to cope with her loss got me to investigate some of these issues by going online, and some blogs I visited recommended certain books, which I read.
      It’s been eye opening, but sometimes also difficult and painful, because I’m having to un-learn things that I had been taught since I was a kid (I’m in my early 40s now). I’m having to start over from scratch in life and learn new ways of coping, dealing with people and how to handle emotions (such as anger). I so wish I had known when I was a kid what I know now.

      I was a tom boy when I was a kid. I have learned over the years to appreciate occasionally being a girly girl (for example, I sometimes enjoy dressing up in high heels when I go out, for special occasions), but I still do not fit the Christian gender complementarian ideals of “biblical womanhood” that my mother and some churches I went to as a kid raised me to be like.

      I have hobbies and interests that don’t quite fit the Christian gender complementarian stereotype of what a woman “should” like or “should” be interested in. Nor am I very interested in some of the stuff gender complementarians think I “should” be into.

  6. joyisnowfree

    Yes, I agree with the writer and thank you. My apostolic church expected extreme passiveness from the women and this stripped me from my humanity. I would not dare defend myself if someone was rude. God showed me how this was unhealthy and it affected my children as well. The only way to break free was to leave that church. I insisted that my daughter go to therapy to learn skills in expressing her self and be outspoken when needed to be. We have both come a long way, and have learned to say no and place healthy boundaries. As I said before, I feel that these conditions forced upon us, strips us of our humanity. My ex knew he couldn’t hit me, so he tried another approach to crush my womanhood. The Bible gives excellent examples of assertive and confident women, such as Deborah. Can I hear an Amen!

    • Amen!

    • Lisa


    • Daisy

      Joyisnowfree said,

      Yes, I agree with the writer and thank you.

      You’re very welcome. (I’m the guest post writer, though my screen name has changed slightly).

      I was brought up in Southern Baptist churches. My parents and I went to a few Southern Baptist churches when I was a kid (I’ve also been to some SB churches as an adult), but there were long stretches we did not join or attend churches when I was a kid and teen-ager because of my father’s job (we had to move around a lot).

      But even during the years I was not in a church, I was still exposed to these particular views of womanhood.

      My mother was a very traditional Christian wife and mother, and she believed in gender complementarianism (not that she used that phrase to describe her views), and she influenced me to adopt those views.

      I also read the Bible at home as a kid and teen, and I would read Christians and magazines my mother bought or subscribed to. I sometimes watched Christian preaching on the television.
      A lot of the Christian books I read as a kid and teen and in my 20s contained a gender complementarian view – the view that in order to be biblical and pleasing to God that a woman should be meek, mild, don’t rock the boat, women need men to be over them and make choices for them, etc.

      I have found that some Christian women on other blogs find all this very foreign, because they grew up in different denominations, or had parents who did not hold them back due to their gender, or whatever, and so they were not exposed to this type of thinking. Some of them think I am putting them on or making this all up, but I am not.

      I guess teaching girls and women to be passive, unassertive doormats (and passing this view off as being God’s intent or design for a woman’s role in life) is mainly found in evangelical and Baptist churches, and maybe a few other types of denominations.
      But it does exist.
      These views also shows up a lot in some Christian TV shows (like what is aired on “Day Star” Christian television network and TBN), and I’ve seen it in Christian books and magazines, especially in articles about dating and marriage.

      The standard dating and relationship advice Christian girls and women get in Christian books, articles and blogs is deplorable. The relationship advice is usually slanted in favor of gender complementarian perspectives.

      I read Christian dating advice or commentary as a teen and as an adult, and the tips and views Christians give on these subjects actually set girls and women up to be easier or very attractive targets for abusive or selfish men (which I didn’t realize until a couple of years ago).
      For one thing, a lot of the Christian dating advice usually discourages girls and women from having boundaries (it is seen as a woman or girl being “pushy” and trying to usurp a guy’s so-called “God ordained authority”) to go along with the boy or man and what the boy / man wants. It’s very dangerous teaching.

      Interestingly, some the advice I’ve seen to boys and men in the same or similar Christian books or blogs tells them to stay away from (as in, do not date) girls or women who have traits that sound to me like healthy boundaries.

      So, Christians (in some articles I’ve seen) are advising single boys and men to not date women who have healthy boundaries, The advice writers are basically telling Christian men to find and marry a very codependent, insecure, confused and / or emotionally damaged type of woman. It is so backwards.

  7. Isaiah40:31

    It was ‘Christian’ books on marriage and womanhood that taught me these ideas. The more passive / submissive I became, the worse the abuse got.

    • debby

      Am putting this on my “quotes” page.

    • Daisy

      @ Isaiah40:31.
      Oh yes, very true!
      I was reading one book about people pleasing, and the psychiatrist explained in one chapter that (this is a para-phrase of her views),

      You, as a people pleaser, think that be caving in to the angry person, or just being quiet or nice or by going along, that you can appease the person’s wrath, and they will back off and stop yelling or being mean, but it won’t work. You will only enable the person to keep behaving the same way.

      The doctor who wrote that book also explained that if you do not stand up for yourself that some abusive or jerky people view your silence or passivity as indirect permission to keep harassing or abusing you!
      Some abusive or mean people this doctor spoke to said they lose respect for a person who sits there like a doormat and won’t push back.

      (I am not necessarily advising a person push back in any and all cases, and I don’t think the doctor who authored the book would, either – these books I am talking about are usually talking about garden variety jerks and run- of- the- mill rudeness, though some of these books do have chapters about more extreme domestic violence).

    • freeatlast8

      It makes me hotly mad that what seemed like a good thing (trying to learn how to be a good wife through books, videos, sermons, etc.) turned out so badly for so many of us. Why have so many of us been pulled in to this trap? Is it because we were looking to man for our answers instead of inside God’s Word (the Bible)? All the stuff I studied and applied to myself and my marriage seemed right and good. Or is it that the books were good, but only good if you are not married to an abuser?

      • freeatlast8

        In my car tonight I heard Greg Laurie preaching on marriage. I don’t even know why I listen to it anymore. It seems any messages I catch on the fly these days always seem to HAPPEN TO BE on the part of the series about wives submitting and respecting their husbands. I used to listen with interest and hope to pick up a new tidbit to help me be more this way. Tonight I felt anger and defensiveness rising up in me. I was talking back to the radio.

        Mr. Laurie said if there are parts of the Bible you don’t believe, then it’s you who are wrong, not the Bible. He went on to say that my submission and respect are not based on how well my husband loves me. And vice versa…the way my husband loves me should not be based on my submission and respect to/of him. I am glad he flipped that so it was two-sided. But I really get off-balance and lop-sided now when I hear this kind of preaching.

        It’s not that I don’t believe in submission and respect. I do. But one size doesn’t fit all in marriage. I don’t think Greg Laurie gets it. He seemed to be pretty clear on what the wife is to do and says it matters not if the husband is doing his job right or not. This is exactly what my ex would say to me. He was entitled as the head to do what he felt he should, regardless of how it made me (or anyone else) “feel.”

        I wonder if I will ever get passed this anger that rises up in me now when I hear this kind of stuff. I have been told by my ex for soooooo long that I did not and don’t respect and honor him, and to hear this coming out of a preacher who does not know my ex makes me mad. I think of all the other women like me listening to that tonight and how they feel so hopeless and trapped, and will likely go about trying harder to behave better. UGH UGH UGH

        I once asked my ex to define honor and to tell me specifically how he wanted me to show him respect and honor. I even did word studies on the words because I was obviously not doing it according to what he wanted. He told me I should not have to ask. I should know it already. Well, the way I was honoring was surely wrong because he kept telling me I was not honoring him. But I did not think I was dishonoring him???? It was so confusing.

      • Or is it that the books were good, but only good if you are not married to an abuser?

        Probably the books (or most of them) are only good if your are not married to an abuser. But having said that, the authors of those kinds of books are negligent because they don’t tell readers that their books are not suitable for marriages where one partner is an abuser.

  8. voicewilderness1

    This is fantastic. It is vile how Pharisees have tried to place a straitjacket on women in conservative Christian circles. Considering just about 100% of conservative church leadership is male, it’s pretty self serving of them isn’t it. Let’s just make women into step ford wives who will cater to their every whim, and never challenge or question them. Not that many men ever have entitlement issues already. (Tongue in cheek.) We need to get away from this legalistic heresy of so called biblical womanhood and get back to the truth of grace. Women in the Middle East where physical burkas, but oftentimes conservative Christian women allow a mental burka to be placed on them. This makes me very angry. It is so wrong on every level, and goes against love completely. Jesus says the commands are all summed up to this loving God and others.

    • Harlequin Tabby

      I’d like to see a parody called “Stepford Husbands.”

  9. vlee

    I was also raised culturally to embrace domesticity. I’m hopeless at house keeping and I think there’s little hope for reform there, only measures of improvement. 🙂

    • Harlequin Tabby

      Ha! I know about this one. I can’t think straight in a spotless, perfectly arranged house. I don’t like my living space to be filthy, but I no longer think that a designer-worthy, smelly candle, doesn’t-look-lived-in house is what everyone needs to shoot for.

      That being said, I wish my brother wouldn’t leave apple cores everywhere…

  10. Mark

    Male, Female, it seems the under lying “church” message is we all need to be nicer than Jesus, more humble than Jesus, more loving than Jesus, more understanding, forgiving………..
    Maybe we should just learn to be like Jesus and leave it at that!
    Coo-does to “ACFJ” for calling evil, evil and good, good. I’m really starting to become a proud clear thinking Christian because of what is being taught and shared.

    • Daisy

      @ Mark.
      That is an interesting way of putting it, and true. Some Christians expect people to be even nicer than Jesus, especially girls and women. I don’t know how realistic it is to expect Christians to out-Jesus Jesus. 🙂

      In my case, I was kind of taught (by my mother and Christian books I read, and in sermons I heard) to only emulate the sweet, loving, nice side of Jesus – not his assertive side.
      I have no idea why Christians and churches think followers are supposed to only copy the meek, gentle, sweet side of Jesus. To only copy Jesus’ warm, mushy, gentle side is to like deny the other half of his humanity – the assertive, bold, opinionated side.

      Sometimes, to defend other people who are in distress or danger, you have to be brave, tough, out spoken, willing to take risks, and be assertive.

      Even though my mother raised me to be a doormat to others, she never told me I could not stand up for other people.

      So, from the time I was a kid, when I saw other people getting picked on, even if the bully was ten times bigger than me, and even if I did not know either person in the dispute, I would get involved. I have stopped fights (both physical and verbal) by sticking up for a target who was being harassed. It takes courage and boldness to stand up for someone else.
      So, IMO, Christians do a great dis-service by telling other Christians not to emulate Jesus’ tough side. You have to be tough sometimes to help other people, to step in when someone else is being picked on.

      • Brenda R

        I don’t know how realistic it is to expect Christians to out-Jesus Jesus. 🙂

        I love that statement. I am going to keep that in my good reply page!!!

  11. voicewilderness1

    I regret to say that when I left the Roman Catholic Church in which I was raised and went to a different church which was very conservative, the women there were all very passive, I was young and I modeled that. I also read “christian” books which advises women with marriage struggles to just be nicer, more loving, more compliant, more submissive, ad nauseum. I took this advice for years and my husband just became more self centered and entitled. Shame on those who promote that heresy. Later thank god I got into a program for codependency and learned to stand up for myself, be assertive, and confront my husband on his bull hockey. Now, our marriage is much better, and my husband often will repent after I speak up. He was the only child of extremely conservative parents where his dad treated his mother very poorly, and she never stood up to him. What a poor example they left for their son. Not only that my was indulged and catered to all his life by his mother, which gave him a sense of entitlement. Thank god that He is alright and powerful and can heal people and marriages.

    • Daisy

      @ Voicewilderness1
      Yep, as I was just saying above, in one book I read the psychiatrist pointed out that you may think that by being passive you can change a rude or angry person’s behavior, but that is not so, it only encourages them to continue to abuse.

      One thing I noticed in my own life: Despite the fact my mother raised me to be a very sweet, passive, compliant doormat, that the few occasions in my life I confronted my fear of conflict and chewed another person out who was being nasty to me (which didn’t happen often, maybe two or three times over my life), the other person backed down.

      This includes one co-worker I had at one job when I was 18 years old (my bully was a girl who was around 16 years old) and another co-worker (who was a man about my age) when I was in my early 30s.

      All the weeks or months of suffering the harassment or rudeness in silence and being super nice to these bullies (trying to win them over with kind gestures and show them how sweet I was) did not change them nor their behavior.

      When I finally had enough of the insults, rude behavior, slights, being exploited, etc. (and I felt a tad guilty going against my mother’s philosophy of “be a doormat, be nice to everyone, no matter what, even if people are mean to you”), and I (figuratively) ripped the heads off these bullies, it was only THEN that they left me alone.

      The one bully even became afraid of me afterwards (after I confronted her strongly and told her I was not putting up with her garbage anymore) and she went around kissing my behind after I chewed her out (which is not what I was aiming for, but I was happy she was no longer harassing me at work).

      • freeatlast8

        I spoke truth in a direct but not ugly way to a woman who I don’t even wish was my friend. She is a manipulator and very needy. She is always in crisis mode and looking for a handout. She will not pull herself out of her learned helplessness. I can relate to her “victim” mentality, as I have been there, but with God’s help am learning to be more self-sustaining (God sustaining, that is). I spoke to her about her problem kindly, and she was so offended by it she didn’t speak to me for a while. I was kind of relieved, but I did ask her about her standoffishness later on. She told me I angered her and she was having a hard time forgiving me.

        Fast forward to the present. She AGAIN brought this up to me the other day (more than a year later). She said I had really hurt her and that she could not believe those nasty words had come out of my mouth. In fact she said she thought my husband was behind it. Amazing how she took such offense to words that were direct, but not hateful and had no evil intent behind them. So, now she has brought this up again and I really don’t even want to address her…knowing she is not able to receive truth in love.

        Most people run the other direction when they see her coming at church as they know what she is like. I was trying to be nice and helped her numerous times in her life crises…losing her job, losing her apartment, living in her car, having no money, being sick, etc. But when I told her what she really needed to hear about her situation, she became angry with me for it. She will gladly take my handouts, but not my advice. And then she calls me on my taking a stand for truth with her. She is not used to my assertiveness, only my graciousness.

      • Wendell G

        Yes, Free. Those are very frustrating situations and at some point you have to let them go and give them to God.

  12. Ann

    My life too.

    So well said; thank you.

  13. thepersistentwidow

    Thanks to MissDaisy for writing this important post. So many of the churches that permit domestic abuse by doing absolutely nothing useful to help the victim require complete submission to their man made doctrines, particularly that the husband is the Priest, Prophet and King of the home and his wife must submit completely to him. In their thinking, even if the husband is abusive and theologically unsound, her salvation comes in her active blind obedience to him.

    I think that this portion of a brilliant sermon by C. F. W. Walther, The Judgement of the Sheep over their Shepherds is applicable:

    In His Sermon on the Mount where not only His disciples but also a great number of people were gathered, Christ says: “Beware of false prophets! Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.” (Matthew 7:15.20). From this admonition we see the principle that the preachers are to teach but the hearers to listen; the shepherd to lead, the sheep to follow, the convention of ministers to decide, and the congregation to acquiesce is completely false. No, when Christ calls upon His hearers to beware of false prophets and know the true from the false prophets by their fruits, He seats all hearers on the throne of judgment, gives the balances of truth into their hands, and commands them to judge their teacher confidently.

    Everything which is taught in the Church of Christ concerns our soul’s salvation. In these matters no one should rely upon man; no one should base his faith upon man; everyone is to live his own faith and be saved only by his faith. No person can die for us; no one can represent us before God; no person can stand for us in His judgment. Someday everyone will have to justify his own faith and life before God. He will not be able to fall back on some man and say: So and so taught me this, and I believed and followed him. No, in matters which concern your soul you should not see with the eyes of another, but your own. If you let yourself be deceived, you have deceived yourself; the responsibility is yours. God says that he will demand the blood of his misled sheep from the hands of a false teacher, but he also says that the misled will die because of his own sins.

    The whole sermon is written here: The Judgment of the Sheep Over Their Shepherds [Internet Archive link]

    So it stands that a person is in grave danger to yield blind submission to anyone, even to someone who demands it like an abusive husband or church. Such submission is not a saving work.

    The Biblical Womanhood doctrine as presented in the patriarchal church needs to be repudiated as a false doctrine and we need to judge the churches that condone it and avoid them.

    • standsfortruth

      And a hearty amen to that message persistant widow.

      Eli was aware through Gods faithful messengers, that his sons had made repeated evil choices towards Gods people, but because he failed to do anything to stop it, Eli suffered a similar punishment as his sons.

      We can see the fateful writing on the wall if we continue to raise our children in the same patterns of abuse and doctrinal error that we were raised under.
      They will be no better prepared to endure the abuse than we were.
      But if we can get ourselves free from our abusers at home, and raise our children away from the “abuse enabling messengers” at church, we can raise a whole new generation of God honoring people that will walk in the light Gods unadulterated Word.
      This way our children will be better prepared to not become decieved, and targeted for abuse, like we were.

      We may not be able to change what happened to us, but we can start to take intentional steps toward getting ourselves and our children free- from the cycle of abuse, both at home and church, and set a plan in motion for a more promising future for them.

      • thepersistentwidow

        I agree totally, Standsfortruth. I believe that the Lord will say “Well done, good and faithful servant”, to those who stood against false teachers and chose to raise their children away from abuse and unsound doctrine. Time to walk away from the legalistic false church and break the generational curse of abuse. As you said, “Raise a whole new generation of God honoring people”. You are so right!

    • Daisy

      Thank you, Thepersistentwidow.

      I’m the guest writer of the post. I’ve never been married, but, I was engaged in my early 30s, and the things I was taught as a kid, about how girls and women are to behave, created obstacles for me in life.

      As I’ve never married, I’ve never been a domestic abuse victim, but I find that the biblical womanhood teachings, which strongly mirror a lot of codependency, can leave a person susceptible not only to entering an abusive marriage or attracting abusive men (from what I’ve read in books), but also in other areas of life.

      Looking back on my own life, I realize now that such teachings made me appealing to mean, rude, controlling or abusive people as a kid in school (I was bullied a lot in junior high school, and a bit in high school by other kids), as an adult by bosses and co-workers on various jobs I held, to my older sister (who is a verbally abusive, angry person), and left me wide open to financial exploitation by my ex fiance.

      Because I was taught that having boundaries was wrong and that I was to use conflict avoidance, I never had any practice at saying “no” to people or standing up to them. So any time and every time someone was being mean to me, or taking advantage of me, I had no idea how to handle these situations, or what to do.

      After I was harassed by one boss on one job, I bought many books about workplace abuse to understand what had happened to me and to prevent it from happening again, if I could. One of the books I have about workplace abuse – one of the best ones – I recently re-read about a few months ago.

      There was a sentence in that book that stood out to me. It said that workers most likely to be targeted by a bully at a job are usually the workers who have no boundaries or very undefined or lax boundaries.

      These concepts really apply in all areas of life – at school, jobs, in friendships.

  14. Harlequin Tabby

    The “Biblical Womanhood” thing is so damaging, in more ways than one. It reinforces stupid stereotypes, shames anyone who can’t/won’t conform, and does it in the name of God. To this day, I cannot handle hearing Proverbs 31 taught, even by a pastor whom I consider excellent.

    Some of it is so subtle, though, that if you asked someone outright, “Do you believe in gender stereotypes?” They would say, no, of course not!! And yet they do.
    This has been particularly difficult for me. I have a condition called Asperger’s Syndrome, which is on the autism scale. So even the more subtle expectations on females are often completely contrary to my nature.

    For example, girls are “supposed” to cry a lot, hug each other frequently, sing into their hairbrushes, harmlessly flirt, like kids / babies, love Disney movies, do crafts, and to be passive aggressive instead of outright confrontational. I am none of these these things. But, according to Christians, I should be.

    A spiritually abusive pastor at an old church did a long series on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood. I was about nine or ten, and apparently it scared my mom because she started asking me all sorts of questions about why I wasn’t like that (we didn’t know at the time that I was autistic.) Eventually she decided she would rather be a “bad Christian” than try to change who I was. But I have often wondered if she wondered if I was gay. That’s certainly the impression I get from regular church ladies.

    (Just to clarify, I do not consider myself homophobic.)

    • We have a series coming up soon on The Proverbs 31 Woman, so stay tuned!

    • voicewilderness1

      Hi Harlequin Tabby I have AS as well. Churches are very bad to people who are different. This is from their highly legalistic idea that we Christians should fit their little man made cookie cutter molds.

    • Daisy

      Harlequin Tabby, I relate.

      I was a tom boy growing up (I was not into playing with dolls and other stereotypical feminine pursuits, I preferred running, climbing trees, and bike riding), and even to this day, I do not quite fit the girly girl, hyper-feminine ideal that some Christians set up as supposedly God’s design for women.

      It took me a long time to feel okay that I don’t fit their definition of a woman, and that there’s nothing wrong with me the way I am.

      If anything, I now feel the opposite, that the people so stridently insisting that every girl and every woman has to do or like “X, Y, and Z” are the ones who have issues.

  15. Debbie

    Your story is my story. I saw my mom suffer and I suffered and I always wondered what was wrong with us to be treated as we were. Finally we started to grow and then my mom got cancer and died. I feel life hasn’t been fair and it’s not. I’m having to relearn everything and many times I have felt alone. This way of bringing up children, leaves us very vulnerable to abuse and we learn that bad attention is better than no attention. We accept ill treatment as we feel poorly about ourselves and feel we don’t deserve better. I much prefer healthy!! We must be defenders of truth and dispel the lies that have come into the church. Thank you for being brave enough to share!!

    • Daisy

      Thank you so much, Debbie. I’m the guest writer of that post, although my screen name now is a bit different.

      I am so sorry for your loss. My mother also died (a few years ago).

      It is so hard having to un-learn certain things, things you were brought up since childhood to believe in, and to learn new ways of living, coping, and how to handle conflict.

      I wish you success in that and hope you arrive at a place of peace. I’m still on that journey myself.

  16. Lighting a Candle

    My life….thank you! I was OBSESSED with the cult of “biblical womanhood” until meeting the guys at Vision Forum. They were so rude and dismissive to the women waiting in line that it was a very big wake up call for me. Now…I am happy to be feminine, Yet- and I should not have to say “yet” intelligent, assertive, questioning, and at times stubborn. BW seems to forget all of the verses advocating strength and non-compliance to evil. That….or the founders simply have a not so hidden strain of misogyny. I am sounding so much like a feminist….my old self would have been appalled. LOL!!

    I’m also finding that the people “in the world” are a million times nicer and accepting that my old BW friends who were so judgmental:
    “You head cover” Well let me raise you one ” I head over AND am quiverful.”
    “I can beat that….quiverful, head covering, and I make my own cheese.”
    “I head cover, allow God to determine my family size, make my own cheese and sausage, AND we’re a family integrated church.”

    We also had a habit of signing our EMAILS Mrs…..so and so….because having your own name is just too darn independent. I dropped out of the movement in between Debi Pearl and “The Excellent Wife.”

  17. Harlequin Tabby

    Boy, that last line came off sounding really hostile. Oops…

    To clarify even further, the above is not meant to be a statement about homosexuals. I meant it to be an expression of my thoughts and feelings at the time, and an example of how judgmental I find christian women about my personality. In the churches I have attended, it is definitely not okay to be anything even remotely resembling gay. Hence my feelings of shame and inadequacy. I no longer struggle with them, though.

  18. Tsungilosdi

    As far as I recall from reading about the Proverbs 31 wife, she had property and employees, she sounds strong and like she wont take any guff. At least when I read it, that is how she sounds to me. Well that and she makes Martha Stewart put to shame, lol! But yes seriously, I was a Christian punk rocker and never met a leather jacket or piercing I didnt like back then. I didnt really fit in, and boy did I feel awful. I didnt fit the mold.

    • anotheranon

      I agree with you Ts. A woman who considers a field and buys it without asking her husband first has some business savvy. The scripture also says her husband trusts her, since she has done good and not evil for her family.
      Even though I have been abused, I have never seen the Prov. 31 woman in a negative light, as though she is being abused.

      • emmellkaycee

        And yet, this chapter has been used to undermine the woman one already is, held up alongside her own life and comparisons made, to the detriment of her spirit. It has been used to say she is not enough, she needs to be more, she should be this… or that… And if her husband does not trust her, what then? She must again be falling short of living up to the P31 ideal.

  19. Lyn

    Phew. After reading this I did a google search of Debi Pearl as I didn’t know who she was. I realise what I’m going to say probably sounds off topic but something that I am realising is significantly underestimated in the issue of marriage and abuse. That is how Autism Spectrum Disorders impact marriage. One of the things that lead me to this site was my search for understanding in relation to emotional abuse in ASD/NT relationships- I believe both my parents have ASD. I would consider my parents to have a biblical womanhood / biblical manhood relationship- very inflexible roles, with my Dad being the one who makes the decisions and my Mum his shadow / general dogs-body.
    I’ve been impressed the definition of abuse and the clear understanding of psychological and emotional abuse on this site, and the consistent attempt to be well balanced and Biblically sound.

    In Unwrapping the Mysteries of Asperger’s: The Search for Truth and Discovery by Kristi Hubbard, Hubbard references Debi Pearls’ books as “recommended reading” and ones that significantly shaped her view of wife/mother. I can see why they would appeal to some one with ASD. They are very black & white in their understanding of roles, and ASD struggle with nuances. It was disturbing that she felt their parenting book was valid – people with ASD lack what is know as “Theory of Mind” which in their parenting can [though does not have to] lead to neglect and abuse (most ASD forums have endless threads on this issue). What informs their view becomes a hardened perspective in their mind as “right”. Add in home-schooling and what you have are children in a isolated & potentially abusive environment.

    What is bothering me about the biblical womanhood / biblical manhood connection to ASD is that the inflexibility that lack of Theory of Mind creates (add in OCD, obsessions, &amp meltdowns that can be very frightening) — a situation where a man with ASD will end up being very controlling, and a woman very submissive-passive aggressive.

    The statistics are that 80% of marriages with an ASD spouse end in divorce, And the current estimates are somewhere between 1 / 150 – 1 / 70 children are being diagnosed on the spectrum. The ratio is 1 girl for every 4 boys. Facts about Autism [Internet Archive link]

    Childhood diagnosis has only been a recent thing (last 20+ years), so there are many adults who are undiagnosed, and without support.

    Just a note / message to Harlequin Tabby- please do not take my comment to mean that all ASD parents are or will be abusive to their children or spouse. I very much believe that people with ASD can be good parents, but teachings like these create rigid roles that can seriously backfire – you may not have been drawn to them, but others who the desire to fit in and be “girly” are at risk, as are men who will see an easy way to regulate / control their environment.

    • The following is a comment from one of our readers who asked me to publish it anonymously.

      The ratios mentioned above by Lyn are accurate, as far as how many are diagnosed and the ratios of girls to boys. The Autism Speaks link is valid. However, I would caution that many who have ASD’s do not like Autism Speaks, as many in the Autistic community see themselves as differently abled (their brain works differently, not better or worse than a neuro-typical brain) and not disabled and Autism Speaks treats Autism as a disability, rather than an alternative way of the brain working.

      There is a lot of debate lately within the Autism community on this, and Autism Speaks is their biggest target in it all. They [the autism community] also have a problem with the fact that the majority of the money that Autism Speaks gets, goes to staff salaries and research on preventing/curing Autism, rather than research on how to help Autistic people live in a neuro-typical world and how to help a neural-typical world accommodate and accept the autistic people living within it. They don’t see Autism as needing a cure, because they see it as being an alternative way of brain function, not an illness. Anyway, either way you go on the debate, Autism Speaks isn’t looking super good in the Autism community right now. That being said, they do have accurate statistics.

      The divorce rate of 80% is actually referring to parents who raise an Autistic child, not to Autistic people who marry and later divorce. And that 80% was recently debunked, at least from my reading. It’s actually no higher than families who don’t raise an Autistic child. Autism Families: High Divorce Rate Is a Myth.

      Theory of Mind refers to the development of the understanding that people around you have feelings and thoughts that are separate from your own. Most of us develop this in toddlerhood and preschool years. People with Autism do not develop it at all or only partially develop it, to differing degrees (depending on how severe of Autism they have-the more severe, the less theory of mind is developed).

      The rest of the comments Lyn made about Autism are true. They are rigid thinkers who hold to what they believe is true. It is very, very hard to change their views, once one has been formed. And they rely heavily on hard data, as they don’t understand the nuances of inferred information or social cues. They rely on being directly taught. So, I agree with her that if one were to read a book, telling them that patriarchy is the right way, and that book made logical sense, they would take it as truth and create a sort of box in their brain. This is where all of their gender roles would be filed, from then on. Any data coming in that disagreed with or didn’t fit in that box, would be rejected. Once the box is in place, it’s very hard to replace with a different box, so to speak. Their brains work literally, and like a system of black and white. Cut and dry. No gray at all. New information fits in one of their brain’s boxes and is integrated or it doesn’t and is thrown out. It’s so important to build the right boxes in their brains, before the wrong ones are built first.

      And I do think the wrong ones [wrong notions at the bottom of those boxes] can potentially lead to abuse, as can things not going their way — not out of selfishness or narcissism, but out of their worlds spinning out of control (and their maladaptive attempts to control it again). Some parents work very hard with their autistic kids when the kids have upsets; the parents use social stories and tons of social instruction to try to build the right files in the child’s brain to begin with.

      Also, some autistic children have a willingness to learn and others don’t. Some are largely unaware of the needs of people around them, but are mortified if they ever hurt anyone. And this is a blessing for for the parents, because the child is willing to change (as hard as that is), to avoid hurting people. But others who have Autism are just as unaware of those around them, but do not care to even try to understand, and some just aren’t able to do it at all, no matter how hard they try. Actually, all people with Autism struggle with understanding those around them. It’s one of the hallmarks of Autism. The difference is in the willingness to try or not. That, I think, can be a critical difference in someone with an ASD being an abuser or not.

      All that being said, Lyn is right — this is a big issue in the Autism community. She is right about the diagnosis only really being understood in the past 20 years, and those who are higher functioning on the spectrum would have gone undiagnosed before that time. Before 20 years ago, Autism was diagnosed as childhood schizophrenia. Aspergers was undiagnosed all together. So there are a lot of adults out there with Autism, without supports or proper help. There may be many abuses out there that could have been prevented with proper early diagnosis. Sadly, Autism is relatively new in people’s understanding.

      • Lyn

        Thanks for the clarification, it was very helpful.
        I had got the impression that Autism Speaks wasn’t popular among those with High Functioning Autism / Aspergers. From what I can tell from blogs and forums a large part of this is due to (as you said) seeing their thinking as ” as being an alternative way of brain function, not an illness”. It is a disability though, the same as blindness is, and how the person responds to that is significant. As much as ASD people want to dismiss it as a disability is the extent they refuse help.

        There is a big issue with those who are undiagnosed – like my parents & a few friends whose husbands refuse to go and get assessed. This is where issues of abuse become a big issue.

        The unwillingness to see their view of the world as having a negative impact on others can be very frustrating – “gaslighting” and “crazy-making” are terms I’d best describe as my experience of my parents. I ended up realising I’d been psychologically abused and emotionally neglected — the ASD connection came about a year later. I don’t think they are intentionally vindictive (& my friends say the same thing of their husbands), but it is exhausting. I’d describe it like a gymnast trying to dance with someone in a full body cast – both are feeling pressured for different reasons.

        From what I experienced & read Theory of Mind (which is often described as “mind blindness”) is a significant, particularly in the hotly debated issue of empathy. Which hasn’t been well defined to link thoughts, feelings and actions – with ASD people insisting they are empathetic (which I don’t deny), but is a big complaint by those NT’s who say they receive very little empathy. ASD people consistently distance themselves from unempathetic and aggressive responses by other ASD people (often these are some form of meltdown) given as examples by NT’s with a “that’s not autism” response. My own example of that is often telling my parents “I feel…” with the reply being “no you don’t” or “you’re just being stupid”. If it wasn’t so frustrating it would be comical. Those who are dealing with a spouse or parent with ASD the issue of power is crucial to how the behaviour is experienced.

        Getting support or understanding is difficult as few understand the day to day nuances, one of my friends has simply been told to stop “enabling” her husband — if she did he would have some serious meltdowns (and has threatened to leave the marriage), as he genuinely can’t cope, but where does that leave her? The relationship is abuse because of the impact he has on her mental and physical health. Just as mine with my parents was.

  20. Harlequin Tabby

    It seems like I remember reading somewhere that Proverbs 31 was meant to be a song of praise, sung by men to / about the women. Has anyone else heard that?

    • Daisy

      @ Harlequin Tabby

      It seems like I remember reading somewhere that Proverbs 31 was meant to be a song of praise, sung by men to / about the women. Has anyone else heard that?

      Sometimes that Bible verse is used to shame Christian women into feeling that they don’t measure up to some ideal, but that was not the intent of the passage.

  21. emmellkaycee

    I, too, have grown to hate that Proverbs 31 woman scripture! … thrown about as a measuring stick for the failure-to-perform for every Christian woman, wife, and mother. It has been used mightily with a ham-fisted, hammer-headed negativity nothing short of bondage to an ideal.

    I surely would like some attuned-to-the-Spirit teacher to impart the real Truth about that chapter, and why and how I could learn to embrace it as beneficial instruction, instead of haring it for perceiving it to be an impossible and unrealistic endeavor.

    • twbtc

      I think Barbara mentioned this on another thread, but we have a 4-part series on the Proverbs 31 Woman scheduled to begin in a couple weeks.

      So stay tuned 🙂

  22. StandsWithAFist

    Excellent post–bravo.
    I too was called a tomboy, and preferred sandlot baseball, riding bikes, swimming & surfing over dolls & tea parties & bows. I wore jeans and sneakers & loved dogs & horses.

    My abuser is my MIL (mentioned in previous posts) and her first words to me upon being engaged were that her son “was finally going to make a lady out of her”.
    Her first “gift” to me was a “training bra” (sorry men, but it is something for an adolescent) with the not-so-subtle message that I wasn’t “woman enough” for a real bra, not to mention the obvious, creepy violation of boundaries.
    My own mother would never have given me such a “gift”, and it took me years–decades really–to comprehend this as abuse designed to humiliate and control.

    I wasn’t woman enough; I wasn’t a “lady”; real women shouldn’t enjoy sports, wear jeans, go backpacking, ride bikes or horses or understand baseball or even scripture, for that matter. Real ladies went to college to find a man, not to get a degree or be educated.

    She expected me to trade my soul for mindless “chit chat” (ie: gossip) on the phone, soap operas & shopping for dresses. When I didn’t, she attacked.
    Like many of us here I could fill a book with stories of unprovoked aggression designed to turn me into a “christian lady”, calculated to make HER look good to all her church-y friends. I wasn’t good enough for her, and was an embarrassment that required whispering apologies in the church pews. I was the topic of loud gossip every Sunday morning, & the other “ladies” lapped it up like a cat with cream. It amazes me that not one of those “ladies” ever defended me or chastised her for being a troublesome meddler & malicious gossip who dishonored the word of God. Neither did the men, the ushers, or the pastor.

    It was lost on all of them that a genuine lady would never have been so duplicitous to have said & done such things.

    Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher once said “Being powerful is like being a lady: if you have to insist that you are, you aren’t”.

    • Daisy

      @ StandsWithAFist
      I am very sorry your Mother In Law is so mean to you. She sounds awful.

      My mother encouraged me and pressured to a point me to be a feminine, girly girl (as well as to be very passive and un-assertive), but I hope I’ve not given the wrong message of her in my posts. My mother was not catty or mean in how she went about trying to persuade me to be a girly girl.

      In-so-far as my tom boy nature was concerned, on the one hand, when I was a kid, my mother would buy me dolls, in the hopes I’d take up more girly pursuits like that, but she also knew I liked comic book heroes and other things considered boyish, so she would also buy me Bat Man toys sometimes, for example.

      Your MIL is a piece of work, that’s for sure.

      • StandsWithAFist

        Daisy–you certainly did not give the impression of your mom being catty, & I apologize if i came across like that. I was mainly identifying with the idea of being athletic rather than a girly-girl. My own mom enjoyed sports so it was never an issue with her, & while she taught me to be kind, she also taught me to defend myself. So when I married into a malignant narcissistic family system (professing to be Christian) I had no idea what hit me, other than my MIL was a religious control freak & the original, catty “mean girl”.
        My husband loved that we enjoyed sports together, so I had no idea why MIL felt so entitled & justified in trying to “make me into a lady” when my husband married me precisely b/c I was nothing like her.
        My FIL was quite the outdoorsman, but MIL wouldn’t even walk on the beach b/c it might mess up her hair. Seriously. FIL was pleasantly surprised when I came along & shocked when I actually went skiing with him, or fishing, or camping, or golfing, but MIL did her best to humiliate all of us for getting dirty or sweaty or boisterous. Girls shouldn’t do such things!! She truly expected me to sit like a doll on a shelf, perfectly posed, with a vacuous look and utterly silent. She had perfected a lifetime of empty religious preening & saw me as a mannequin to dress up & put on display for her own perverse pleasure. I was a huge disappointment & an enigma b/c I was smart, capable & spirited–yet she nearly beat it out of me. I kept trying to be the “good Christian daughter in law”, and the church kept reinforcing “honor thy mother”, while she hated me for simply being alive & the church dismissed it as a “cat fight”.
        But I was guilty: I had “taken” her son away from her & she set out to prove she was first in his life & would remain so. She hated not being in control of the universe, so she set out to control our marriage. She resented that I had my own mind. She threatened to divorce my FIL b/c he went fishing with his son (my husband). She was / is a master emasculator: If we caught fish she refused to cook it. If we went skiing she gave us the silent treatment. If we went golfing she criticized it as a dumb game that took too long. On a trip she refused to read a map or pump gas or ride a bike or play catch. We were all just supposed to worship & adore her & sit at her feet gazing at her countenance, so everything else was seen as an obstacle. I became the target & she truly wanted me to just shut up & die. I was naturally happy & laughed a lot & enjoyed life & my family was big and loud & talked a lot, so she became hypercritical when not the center of attention, which was all the time. Every blessing she turned into a curse.
        If I was spirited, she said “Ladies” are quiet (never mind that she was bossy). If I joined in the game, “It’s not ladylike to play sports” (never mind she made sport of others); “shoes should match your outfit” (jeans and sneakers were beneath her); “you need a necklace” (never mind a necklace would whack your face & chip your teeth); “your lipstick is the wrong color” (that’s b/c it’s Chapstick).
        I was never good enough & I’m still not & never will be. It nearly destroyed me, and much of that destruction can be traced to a church that lacked the spine & the will to call it “abuse” & put her out.
        I still grieve over all the women in my home church who listened to her destructive gossip & malicious tattle-tales & devious manipulations yet never once defended me. No one ever stood up to her “mean girl” madness. They accepted it as normal. I grieve that those in leadership today refuse to hold her accountable for her ongoing abuse; she continues unabated in her evil scheming, plotting, lying, smearing, rumormongering, false accusations, unprovoked agressive, predatory behavior while the church pretends not to notice.
        Yet SHE is still described as a “sweet little old lady” while I am the grudge-bearing, bitter-filled wench wanting justice.
        Sorry for the long post–guess I needed that to pour out of me in a safe place that won’t beat me up.

      • voicewilderness1

        @standswithafist. I had a similar mother in law but the details were different. However she too played that game of I’m first in my son’s life and not you.

  23. Remedy

    Besides the accusation of being filled with pure evil for finally standing against 25 years of verbal, emotional, financial, spiritual abuse….. I am now told I am an unsaved feminist in need of a savior because I have separated myself from the spouse while remaining in the home for the sake of the children. “You used to follow the teachings of Nancy Leigh DeMoss and the like….but have now turned aside making shipwreck of your faith” is what I am told. I note that Ms DeMoss has NEVER married, nor had children. So easy for one who has never walked it to speak boldly on some things she knows nothing about…. as far as what she would do if she found herself living in a profoundly destructive marriage. She’s a very intelligent, outspoken woman. I suspect the meek mousy doormat suit wasn’t going to fit her too well and a choice to stay out of it was made. But as a woman, Scripture says she can’t instruct men, so who is left? The women. This I have no problem with if the whole counsel of Scripture will be taught.
    If these ministries are complacent about abuse, and teach others to be the same….they are to be cast aside as false teachers for Jesus is NEVER complacent about abusers / oppressors.

    • Seeing Clearly

      You are answering the question I asked at beginning of [the] comments. Can you tell us how this affects your opinion of yourself when you are given mean labels for bring proactive. What you will do if shunning plays out further? I am shunned by my sister, an abuser and a Baptist, because of my divorce. Her spouse and children hold the same line. While others sort of don’t take sides, the shunning is the elephant in the room. My best self-talk does not withstand the undercurrent well. How are you holding yourself up to be your true self. I applaud you for the steps you have taken.

      • debby

        Precious Seeing Clearly, I can so relate to your question and pain! I had to give up needing their approval. I can only give God credit for that. It was a stronghold in my life I wasn’t aware of and I have found He often uses the refiner’s fire (in your case, being shunned by those you love) to shed light on an area we are “holding onto” and we just cant see it. NOT needing anyone’s approval (it doesnt mean I dont wish I had it or want it, but it is the NEEDING it) has freed me in many relationships to see which ones are really healthy and will help me grow and become who God meant for me to be, not another person’s vision for me. As far as family events, you can either limit your contact or, when healthy enough, be gracious and act like a person who is NOT guilty, which you are (not guilty!) It doesnt take anyone’s agreement for it to be truth. I spent so many years trying to get people to “see” but now I “see” I don’t need them to “see.” God sees. Its very freeing and has actually made it possible for me to have group / family contact and just let them be who they are and what their viewpoint is. It doesn’t make it truth.

      • Daisy

        @ Seeing Clearly who asked,

        You are answering the question I asked at beginning of comments. Can you tell us how this affects your opinion of yourself when you are given mean labels for bring proactive.

        I haven’t had tons of experience with this, other than standing up to my sister, and maybe a few other minor incidents with people online, but…

        This isn’t about just standing up to people, but your whole mindset changes.

        After reading these books and blogs and mulling things over a lot the past two or three years, the way I look at a lot of things has changed so radically.

        A switch went off in my mind. I no longer care deeply about what other people think about me, and I don’t feel anymore that I need their approval. (My mother conditioned me in childhood to care deeply about other people’s views about me, and how I came across to others.)

        You come to realize how other people react to you is on them.

        You come to realize you cannot really change other people (except in some cases by erecting negative consequences to undesirable behavior – that may or may not work), and their reactions and feelings to you are their responsibility, not yours.

        You cannot control how other people react to you, how they think about you, you can’t win nor earn their approval, and it’s an exhausting waste of time to even try.

        This is also when you realize you don’t need to jump through hoops to win people over -if they don’t like you as you already are, they can get lost.

        I don’t know how to explain to you how or why this shift took place in my thinking, but it did. It’s very liberating once you stop caring so much how other people view you and stop feeling as though you need to win their approval.

        I read one book by a psychiatrist about people pleasing and she has all these case studies in the book.
        One is with a woman patient of hers who had married two or three times, and her adult brothers did not like her and were rude to her in adulthood, because their mother favored her over them when they were kids.

        This woman told the doctor she cared about what these people thought of her, and she was constantly doing nice favors for them, trying to win them over, but nothing worked.

        She was still taking verbally abusive phone calls from her two ex husbands and would be super nice to them on the phone, in the hopes she could make them see how wonderful she was, and they would be kinder to her.

        She also bent herself into a pretzel to get her brothers to like her, but no matter how nice she was to them, they still hated her. She said she had no idea why she was trying to win them over and appease them, because she disliked her two ex-husbands.

        I don’t remember the details of how she got there, but this doctor helped the woman to understand (and this is something I learned to grasp too), that how your friends, preacher, ex husbands, or brothers, (or whomever), act towards you really has nothing to do with you.

        How people treat you, if they are ignoring you or being mean, is all about them and their hang-ups, biases and issues, and it does not reflect on you or your value.

        One thing I’ve learned from reading the books by counselors is that there is really nothing you can do to win people over. You can only control you and how you react and behave.

        If your sister wants to shun you, you can try talking to her about it if you wish (or sending her a letter), but it’s up to her how to react. She may decide to keep shunning. A consequence of this is that you choose to cut her out of your life. She may then realize she misses you and try to get in touch with you. -But maybe not.

        All you can do at that point is accept how people react, respect their boundaries, and grieve the loss, if they choose to keep behaving as they are.

        I’ve had to do this with my own sister, who has an explosive temper and is verbally abusive. I confronted her about it last year, told her to knock it off, but she only dug her heels in further and blew up at me even more, so I’ve basically cut ties with her. She was not willing to hear me out and be respectful.

        My sister will still on occasion leave friendly messages on my Facebook page, but as she has not shown a change or expressed regret of her years of verbal abuse after I confronted her, I do not respond to those posts she leaves me. I know she is still the same. I know if I resume our relationship, she will only blow up at me again.

        Would it be nice if my sister would change and stop being a hot head, and was the kind of sister I always dreamed of having?
        Yes, but I tried talking to her, she refuses to change, so I’ve accepted that is the way she has chosen to be. I mourned that relationship and am trying to move forward. For the most part, I no longer expect her to be there for me.

        In one way, it’s sad my sister is no longer part of my life, but you know what? I do not miss the put downs, her screaming at me that I am a loser, the vulgar language, the blow ups.
        In some ways, my life is better with her not in it. She was not adding to my life, she was subtracting from it. She was making my life harder, not easier. When you can look at it that way, the loss does not sting quite so much.

        I wish I could convey to you how to get there, where you stop caring so much if at all about stuff like a sister who is shunning you. Reading books by therapists about people pleasing helped me with this stuff tremendously.

      • Daisy

        @ Seeing Clearly.
        P.S. Another thing too. If I were in your position, I would not even want a relationship with sisters or preachers or whomever who thought it was okay to shun me, and at that, merely for divorcing someone!

        I hope you get to the point where you realize you deserve much better than that. You deserve to have a better quality of people in your life who won’t disown you and certainly not over something like getting divorced.

        My way of thinking is such now, that if my family were shunning me over being divorced (if I had been – I’ve never been married, but if I had been and gotten divorced), I would think, “Woo hoo, it’s THEIR loss! I am an awesome person, they don’t know what they are missing out on. Oh well. I will carry on with my life and enjoy it without them in it.”

        I hope you too get to that point where how you think about yourself, other people, and situations looks like that.

        Before my outlook changed, I would find things like being ignored or shunned by family very painful.
        I would rack my brains trying to think of how I could convince the person to come back into my life, and show them how nice I really was, because surely, if they could see how nice, lovable, cuddly, adorable, well meaning and well-intentioned I was, they would want to be on friendly terms with me again.

        I managed to break free of that type of outlook and hope you can too. In the meantime, I am sorry if you are hurting that these people have turned on you.

    • Daisy

      @ Remedy,
      I am very sorry for what you’ve endured.
      I am the guest writer of the post at the top of the page.

      I have never married nor had children, but I was engaged in my early 30s and later broke the engagement off. My ex was self-absorbed and used me financially.

      My mother was a Christian who was a very codependent person and who felt that the Bible teaches that women are supposed to be doormats. Her mother (my grandmother) was married to my grandfather, who was sometimes abusive to both my grandmother and my mother, especially when he became drunk.

      I’m not quite sure where or how my mother developed her idea that a woman, to be godly, has to be a submissive doormat in life – maybe she misunderstood what she read in the Bible, or saw it role modeled by her mother (who was also a very devout Christian) and learned it that way, but she felt that Christian women are to be submissive and passive.

      Even though I’ve not married or had children, the picture of “biblical womanhood” I was given in youth – be passive, quiet, compliant, unassertive, don’t get your needs met – handicapped me over life. It left me unable to cope with mean, selfish, controlling people.
      It also left me afraid of people, because it left me helpless.

      I very much had wanted to marry, but I am single to this day.
      I think in the back of my mind, when I was a teen and in my 20s, I was afraid to date or marry, because instinctively, I realized that my mother’s parenting – which consisted in part that I should be a doormat, even in the face of being mistreated – left me very vulnerable in dating relationships, to being used or abused by men.

      So I tended to avoid men and not date them, even if they showed an interest in me. It took me a long time to figure that out and realize it on a conscious level in adulthood. (There are other reasons I can theorize as to why I am still single, but that is one reason of a few.)

      I’ve found that these “biblical womanhood” teachings, with its teachings to women of things like God designed you to be compliant, passive, don’t stand up to people, look to a man to protect you, and all the other teachings that go along with it – left me wide open to being mistreated and/or exploited at jobs, in platonic friendships, and by my older siblings.

    • Brenda R

      I’ve not read or heard Ms DeMoss speak and have no intentions of doing so. That would be like having a baby and taking instruction on bringing up baby from those who have no children. I have also turned my back on Beth Moore’s studies as over the years she does not take a stand against abuse. There was a time when she said, “abuse is not a part of marriage”. She now says, “Go home and work on your marriage”. I questioned Living Proof Ministries about this last year and was told they don’t take a stand on abusive marriages. That was very disheartening for me since they claim to be a women’s ministry. So much for that.

  24. Brenda R

    We’ve talked before about this. It is so hard to get all of the voices and untruths cleared from our minds. You are a beautiful human being, just as you are. Don’t ever forget that.

    I’ll be looking forward to the Proverbs 31 non-existent woman. There is no one that can live up to her.

    • Daisy

      Thank you, Brenda R. 🙂

  25. Seeing Clearly

    Debby, I am not looking for approval. I am comfortable in my place and abilities to make decisions for myself. I don’t second guess my decision to divorce. I don’t regret having stood up to my abusive sister when she tried to put me on a guilt trip as being the one to destroy what is left of family.

    It is more in the category of having gotten rid of a narcissistic spouse and now a ‘C’hristian sister is holding the line that I am an unacceptable human being. She spews scripture and acts like Hitler. As if I am part of a race that needs to be exterminated. Ah, did I mention she is the church piano player and the decades-long ladies Sunday School teacher? She eats, breaths, and sleeps the sainthood of Beth Moore, and has led every one of her studies at least once. The last time I met to talk with her, she was already seated in the fast food restaurant. Shoving a Big Mac in her mouth, her eyes were focused on her Bible memory card. When I asked her how long before I could be considered an acceptable person again, she quoted a proverb stating that when one has behaved badly, it takes a long time for a good reputation to be re-earned. She uses the Bible like a trump card. I did not ask her because I wanted an answer, I was just curious what her answer would be. Our parents have both passed and we are the elder generation. We cannot join together as siblings, enjoying the goodness and richness of life.

    A few friends have walked away and that is OK. Mine is not a huge family, but we can overfill a house when altogether. But when [number redacted] family members walk into a holiday dinner and blatantly ignore me, as if I am invisible for [number redacted] years! It’s tough.

    I’m certain others are experiencing this type of fallout.

    • debby

      Hi Seeing Clearly, it sounds like “limiting contact” is a wise choice with such a “highlighted-Bible-Pharisee” type of person who has lots of “knowledge” but no compassion, and I know how painful that can be. The other family members, while seeming “neutral” are siding with the abuser by not supporting you wholeheartedly. You are a blessing to us all and precious to God! Thanks for sharing and teaching here. It is all so helpful and validating!

      • Seeing Clearly

        Debby, limited contact is the best choice, I agree. I grew up with extended family gatherings on traditional dates, so it is an important part of family life. There are not as many reunions as older generations pass away, but family contact is important to me.
        After our mother’s passing in [earlier 2000s], I called this sister once a month, but that stopped more than a year ago. My siblings live in close proximity, but our children are very scattered. I am proud of the efforts these cousins are making to get together. And so this was a year of more gatherings. However, this Christmas was the end of my presence at these gatherings. I know that it will dampen the spirits of many members and that is partly why I have joined in. But no more, until my sister relents in passing such harsh judgement.

        ACFJ has impacted me immensely so that I am learning how I deserve to be treated. I appreciate your comments to me today as well.

      • Seeing Clearly

        Hi Debby,
        A couple years ago, when I was very upset about those conversations with my sister, my therapist wrote a small sentence and handed it to me, I can protect myself from (my sister). It took quite a while for it to sink in. I was hoping for my other sister and brother to stick up for me, take my side, sit on her and tell her to knock it off. While they affirmed a sadness for me that our sister was behaving badly, they were not protecting me. So it has been an important part of healing to realize I can and must stand up for myself. At the same time, I think it is true that they are in some ways agreeing with her in their silence.

        A positive part of the dynamics with my sister is the illumination of how the inner circles of fundamental churches are suffocating the church. She is deeply rooted as a culprit. I was raised in the fundamental church and detest what has / is happening. ACFJ is helping me sift through [over five decades] of memories and experiences to get to the root of my hurts and confusion. While I continue to have ties through friendships, I am involved in a much freer church situation. But I have a great heart and passion for the wounded.

        I know that how she is treating me is the way many many many other people are being treated by ‘c’hurches claiming to be servants of God. Uuugh.

    • Daisy

      All I can say is that you cannot change your sister. It may be painful or infuriating that she is handling this as she is, but that is her choice.

      Beyond having at least one heart to heart talk with her (if you choose to do so) and tell her how painful you find her behavior, and ask her to reconsider, there is nothing you can do. Once you have made your concerns and feelings known, the ball is in her court. She may never decide to let you back into her life again.

      I do not look at my sister with rose colored glasses and hope that she changes and becomes like how I want her to be. I have accepted her as she is.

      Yes, it’s sad I’ve had to cut her out of my life like this. It would be nice if she were the kind of sister I wanted to have, but I had to mourn that fantasy is dead, it’s not going to happen, accept reality as it is, stop concentrating on her, and enjoy living my life as it is.

      I no longer expect anything from her one way or the other, and it has freed me.

      With each passing month, cutting her out of my life has become easier and easier. I don’t find myself missing her that much.
      As a matter of fact, cutting her out of my life has been a bit of a stress relief, because I am no longer subjected to endless nasty phone calls where she screams at me or complains for hours about how hard her life is, how much she hates her boss, etc.

      When you realize there is nothing you can do to change these people, and realize how they react to you is not a reflection on your value and worth, it becomes easier to let go of it all.

      Your sister sounds mean (like mine). If I were in your shoes, I would not even want to be around her. I would get to the point where I don’t even want or need an apology from her.

      I have learned to accept me as I am, and I realize I am okay as I am. I do not need my sister’s company, friendship, approval, apologies, validation, explanations for why she does what she does or thinks how she does, nor do I need her apologies.

      I wasn’t getting that stuff from her before anyhow, I was just beating my head against the wall trying to please her, to be the sweet kid sister, and all it got me was screamed at by her.
      And because I now realize I don’t need that stuff from her, she has no power or control over me, and I can enjoy my life without her in it. And the fact that I’m not in her life anymore is her loss, not mine.

  26. Daisy

    Hello everyone. It’s me, the guest poster.

    I was using the name “missdaisyflower” before, but I went into my WordPress blog preferences page about a month ago (I did not know there was such a thing until recently) and changed my display name to “Daisy.”

    (The blog owners can compare my IP# to my other posts to confirm it’s me. I’ve been posting as “Daisy” at Julie Anne’s Spiritual Sounding Board blog ever since I changed).

    Anyway. I remember I was asked back then if my post could be featured, and I said sure. It’s surprising to visit and see it featured. Wow, I am long winded! I don’t mean to talk so much.

    I am over 40 years old and have never married, which I’ve explained on some of my older posts here. I don’t normally post on here too much, because I don’t want to be an interloper or interfere, since the blog seems more for married ladies who have been abused.

    I was in a long term serious relationship with a guy years ago, and we were engaged, but I broke up with him. He did not physically abuse me, but he exploited me financially, he was very self-absorbed. He expected me to meet his needs (and I sincerely tried), but he never tried to meet most of my needs most of the time.

    My mother passed away a few years ago. She was my best friend, so losing her has been very difficult. I love my mother, but she was very codependent (she did not have boundaries and believed that having them was selfish), and she raised me to be that way.

    I have been reading books and blogs by psychologists the last few years that explain codependency and other things like that, which have helped me.

    I discussed some of my other problems I’ve had with some church people, friends, and family since my mother has passed in an older post on this blog, in a January 2015 thread, Losing friendships because of the stress of abuse. If you visit that page and go to the comment area, you can see several posts by me (when I was posting as “missdaisyflower”).

    I hope that my posts have been helpful to someone out there in some way.

    And the kindness I was shown on that last thread (the one about friendships) meant a lot to me. There are people on this blog and a few others who have taken the time to listen and care, which is more than what my real life family has done.

  27. Barely Reformed

    Daisy, just found your article. When you’ve appeared on the Aquila Report, you know you’ve arrived. 😉

    Many thanks to the folks running this blog for posting Daisy’s long comment as its own article. I can really relate to some of what she wrote.

    I’ve had to maintain something of a distance from my Dad, although we do occasionally talk on the phone. I’ve had one “friend” (who was a LOT like Daisy’s older sister) I finally had to cut out of my life completely even though she claimed to be a Christian. It was a little tougher in that situation to figure out how to handle forgiveness toward someone who never really repented of how she had treated me. I had verses from the Bible like the one spoken by Jesus about how if you do not forgive, God will not forgive you going through my head. Yet forgiveness was such a long process. I had a lot of anger bottled up after not being allowed to express it lest I trigger another raging tantrum. That previous post about how the abuser has a problem with YOUR anger was spot on.

    • Daisy

      When I say I cut my sister out of my life, it’s been around 99%, not 100%. I realized after I confronted my sister (and I was polite about it with her) about how her behavior upsets me, that I expect her to treat me in a more civil fashion, she just blew up even more. She sat there and justified her mistreatment of me. She feels entitled to yell at me and run me down. I got the sense that she likely has no intention of changing, so I did the only thing I could do and cut down contact.

      Regarding your comments about forgiveness,

      it was a little tougher in that situation to figure out how to handle forgiveness toward someone who never really repented of how she had treated me

      I came to realize (and books I later read by counselors and Christian psychiatrists and so on confirmed this), that forgiveness does not mean having to reconcile or associate with the person who has hurt you.

      You can forgive the person in question, but that does not mean you have to allow him or her in your life again. You don’t have to invite them over for Sunday dinners, attend church with them, send them birthday cards, or whatever.

      Forgiveness does not mean you do not have to open yourself up to repeated abuse!

  28. Christianity Today have quoted this post here [Internet Archive link]. Once you’ve clicked on the link, look for the heading Passivity, Submission, Bullying and Christian Womanhood.

  29. loves6

    I read this post the other day and was going to comment but just didnt have the time, as I need privacy when on this blog.
    Today I was reading the New King James version of Ephesians 5 in regards to wives submitting to their husbands. I read this over and over again. I started getting anxious. It took me back to what I have been told in the church we were in for many many years about how I am to be with my husband and in marriage.

    [Note from Eds: prepare yourself for possible triggers. Hold your skin and flesh firm against arrows from the enemy. 🙂 ]

    Wives submit to your own husbands, as unto the Lord (my husband has told me off for submitting to other Christian men when they have asked me to do something, he says I am to submit to him only and no other man)
    For the husband is the head of the wife, as also Christ is head of the church and He is the Saviour of the body
    Therefore, just as the church is subject to Christ, so let the wives be to their own husbands in everything
    (Ok, so this is a very big thing for me as a wife to have to do with my own husband and in everything, I have endeavoured to do this for many many years)

    I realised this afternoon that this is why I have allowed my husband to control me, abuse me in all sorts of ways. This is why I have not had a voice because I though I was doing the will of God by living out these scriptures.

    Then I read about the husband… this comment will be very long if I type all of the verse out. Basically what I got out of the NKJV was …. he who loves his wife loves himself ….. love his own wife as himself and let the wife see that she respects her husband

    This is God’s Word and I am angry… Why am I angry? I think because I have tried to live this Christian life, as I thought I should in this marriage.

    I then read the Message version: (Some people dont like The Message but I like this chapter)
    Wives, understand and support your husbands in ways that show your support for Christ. The husband provides leadership to his wife the way Christ does to his church, not by domineering but by cherishing. So just as the church submits to Christ as he exercises such leadership, wives should likewise submit to their husbands.
    Husbands, go all out in your love for your wives, exactly as Christ did for the church – loved marked by giving, not getting. Christ’s love makes the church whole. His words evoke her beauty, Everything he does and says is designed to bring the best out of her, dressing her in dazzling white, radiant with holiness. And that is how husbands ought to love their wives.

    I can also relate to this mentioned in the post:…
    It is biblical or good for a girl or woman to be passive
    Getting one’s needs met is selfish; showing or feeling anger is wrong and un-Christian
    One should always care about other people’s feelings, needs, and wants more than one’s own

    …. Sorry for the long winded comment… I think reading that scripture today has triggered me, not sure. I am still working my way out of the fog.. I think I am making progress then I feel like I regress ..

    • Dear Loves6, thank you for sharing this. I think that what you have articulated is what many of us (me included) can relate to very intensely. The eye-balling with scriptures that have held us bound, by our unbalanced understanding of them — usually taught by the church and reinforced and further unbalanced by the abuser. . .

      I think you are making great progress. To face this stuff square between the eyes, to examine and analyse it! That takes courage. It takes fortitude. It takes guts. “I have looked the enemy in the eye” — and he was not quite the giant I though he was! He rattled his sabre a bit, and threatened me with his familiar tirades, but I am still standing! Still breathing! And I have looked at another way of seeing this, and I am able to THINK off my own bat, I am not longer just a puppet following the dictated teaching of those who have put and kept me in bondage. And I’m angry!

      Hey, isn’t anger good when it comes like this? It gives the zeal and the courage to step beyond the known, the familiar, to put our neck outside the cage and think of the liberty that could be ours. . . and then the tenacity to work towards that liberty.

      Bless you! I want to send you a cyber hug.

      Hope my comment is not too presumptuous. Trash any of it if it doesn’t hit the mark.

      • loves6

        Awesome comments Barb. I was worried I had overstepped a mark commenting like that.
        I’m alnalyzing and I am angry. I guess today I received more revelation from God.
        Yes it is good anger. Yes it does give that zeal. You are so right.
        Thank you

      • Seeing Clearly

        Loves6, you have done a lot of hard work today. It brought back to me a prayer I began using from time to time. “God, let me see it because if I can’t see it, I can’t deal with it”. And then God and I would work together, discovering a lie I was living in, and replacing it with truth. That is oversimplified, but that is the process. It sometimes happens rather quickly, sometimes it opens up a whole new chapter. But I have a sense that God protects my heart and mind with this prayer. The prayer is 20 years old. It seems a prayer such as this is on your lips today. Bless you.

  30. Tsungilosdi (formerly Jul)

    I have to admit that I have backed away from Scripture because of passages like these. I have lived under legalism (actions and emotional legalism, i.e. “if you dont feel on fire for God, you are not right with him….” So Scripture has been used to beat me with for so long, that I dont love to read it. I have been delving into Grace preaching just so I can feel safe with God again and so I can have Grace goggles on when coming back to Scripture.
    We women have been beaten over the head with the “submit” passages, yet pastors gloss over the “love your wife as Christ loved the church.”

    • Jeff Crippen

      Tsun – This is a sad and not uncommon effect of these wicked abusers, some of whom stand in pulpits. They alienate people from God’s life-giving Word by perverting it and framing a twisted paradigm in our minds through which we perceive the Scriptures. That paradigm always distorts truth and we end up seeing or reading something false. The Lord is in the process of renewing our minds however, and can restore a love and thirst for His Word in us eventually.

  31. Anonymous

    This article so resonates with me. I have repeatedly changed myself and my behaviors to accommodate others bad choices. All for the sake of “doing it right”. I must add, those who inadvertently taught me this behavior, taught it out of love. Because they believed it was right. I adored my mother, she has been gone for years, she loved and served from the bottom of her heart. If she was unhappy, we never knew it. But I wondered if she struggled under the weight of co-dependency. God bless her. I’m grateful for healing in my life, that only Jesus can bring, and a healthier way to serve HIM! This article is so dead on, I could’ve written it. It’s beautiful and validating in my healing. Thank you!!

  32. Kind of Anonymous

    I can SO relate to this guest post’s description. I have a very hard time with being assertive. Most of my life has been about being put down, expected to sit quietly, invalidated – this from my family regularly. I have had a number of incidents where I was seriously mistreated or treated in a violating way and each time my family took the side of the violator and blamed me. My own sister is often arrogant and demeaning and seems to need to one up me, put me in my place and demonstrate how truly superior and more accomplished she is. She will often control by withholding.

    So I guess I am starting to realize my life has been weak, quaking doormat city. I am totally lost when it comes to knowing how to deal with someone who is intentionally dominating and controlling a situation. I am not good at being a manipulative bully pulling strings and I tend to get decimated. I seem to have befuddled ideas about how to be a Christian and be a person too. Ideas about submission, what it means to be loving, what it means to have grace. In fact somehow both grace and submission wind up becoming being a sappy sucker and a weakling and bring [being] walked all over. I am realizing that I have grown up in a system based on intimidation and devaluation and I know my place in that system. Being a grovelling nobody that doesn`t anger anyone or risk being disliked or disapproved of. I would really like to no longer care what my sister thinks or need her affirmation. And I would like to not be afraid and dependent on others as in codependent too.

    • Hi, Kind of Anonymous! Nice to hear from you. 🙂

      It sounds like you are having some good realisations about the conditioning you received in your life.

      You mentioned being ‘codependent’. I encourage you to look at this link which is one of our FAQ items.
      Are abuse victims codependent?

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