One of the most profound commands in the Bible directed toward women is the command to be silent. To most, it does not seem profound at all. As someone who subscribes to reformed theology, I can relate to this. Scripture tells us that a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised (1 Corinthians 2:14). I had been a Christian for 13 years before God opened my eyes to the truths of biblical femininity. Though I was not in the natural, it still took the grace of God for me to see the spiritually appraised wisdom in silence.
Notice that we are commanded to be silent in specific circumstances, namely, our silence is to go hand in hand with submission:
The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. (1 Corinthians 14:34)
A woman must quietly receive instruction with entire submissiveness. (1 Timothy 2:11)
In the same way, you wives, be submissive to your own husbands so that even if any of them are disobedient to the word, they may be won without a word by the behavior of their wives. (1 Peter 3:1)
That last scripture is my personal favorite. The magic phrase is “they may be won without a word.” It implies that a man can be won over through a woman’s silence. Does that sound like tyranny and oppression? To me, that reads like a secret weapon! So secret, most women don't even know about it.
But why? Why are we told to be silent? Well, it's common knowledge: men are visual creatures. The trick is to show, not to tell:
It’s like that awful joke: “Why do I have to tell my wife I love her? I told her that when we got married!” Just as a wife would feel dreadful if her husband never demonstrated his love, a husband feels dreadful if a wife never demonstrates her respect . . . Most women appreciate it when a husband says, “I love you.” But, as I discovered pretty quickly, it just doesn’t do it for a guy to hear his wife coo, “Oh, honey, I respect you so much.” He does need to hear, “Honey, I’m so proud of you,” and “I trust you.” But beyond that, demonstrating respect, day in and day out, means far more than just saying a few words. (Feldhahn, 2004, p. 28, emphasis mine).
Feldhahn goes on to list four key areas where a woman can portray respect for a man:
1. Respect his judgment.All four of these areas of respect can be demonstrated through the powerful, yet subtle art of silence. Let me remind you that Feldhahn's book was published two thousand years after the birth of Christ. After two millennia, the author has discovered absolutely nothing that the Bible has not already told us about men:
2. Respect his abilities.
3. Respect in communication.
4. Respect in public.
Respect his judgment: The Bible says we are not to be argumentative or contentious (Proverbs 27:15-16). You may have a better idea, or feel your decision is better. But are you more concerned with being right, or being an excellent woman? If your way truly is the better way, stay silent and allow him to figure that out on his own, which bring us to:
Respect his abilities: The Bible tells us we are the helpers. Helping implies assistance. It does not mean that you take over and do everything for the man. There is a fine line between helping and controlling. When you begin to control, you have robbed him of his leadership. Resist the urge to say, “Oh, here let me do it,” or, “Will you just listen to me and take my advice?”
Respect in communication: It's not so much what we say, but how we say it. Nagging is a perfect example. While asking communicates a request, nagging communicates disappointment. It implies that the man is a failure because he did not process your request fast enough. It also suggests that you think he is too stupid to have understood it the first time, hence, the need for constant reminders. The Bible says “an excellent wife is the crown of her husband, but she who shames him is like rottenness in his bones” (Proverbs 12:4). Silence communicates trust: trust that he heard you the first time and that you believe in his ability to do the job and do it right.
Respect in public: Shaming a man and being rottenness in his bones is magnified when you do it in public. It is far better to stay silent in public when you disagree with a man or feel that urge to correct him than to speak your mind in front of everyone. The Bible talks about a man’s reputation, and how important that is to him. When you disrespect a man in front of others, especially other men, it is the ultimate, mother of all demonstrations of uber-disrespect. Consider the high emphasis the Bible places on a man’s public reputation:
A good name is to be more desired than great wealth, Favor is better than silver and gold. (Proverbs 22:1)Remaining silent is not a matter of legalistic oppression. As with submission, the decision to control your tongue belongs to you. True strength is not just in possessing power; true strength lies in your ability to harness that power. When circumstances call for silence and we choose to exercise that power, we are protecting a man's reputation and providing him with a safe environment to feel confident that he is respected. The art of silence, along with the art of submission, are skills that can be refined with practice. They will edify any man, not just a husband. The command to be silent is liberating: it will unlock the door to a man's excellence and set it free. Only an excellent woman can motivate an excellent man. Are you an excellent woman?
A good name is better than a good ointment, and the day of one's death is better than the day of one's birth. (Ecclesiastes 7:1)
Her husband is known in the gates when he sits among the elders of the land. (Proverbs 31:23)
Because of the fragrance of your good ointments, Your name is ointment poured forth; Therefore the virgins love you. (Song of Solomon 1:3)
Feldhahn, S. (2004). For women only: What you need to know about the inner lives of men. Atlanta, GA: Multnomah.