To The Girl Who Is Called Intimidating
Growing up in a conservative, Slavic community, I was one of the few women to go to college and graduate, and the only one who graduated from law school. One time, a few guys from my church told my grandmother, “With one degree, maybe one of us would have married her, but with two, no one will.”
Since most men in my community also tend to not get a higher education, a woman with an education is often seen as a liability when it comes to choosing a wife. So, it should not be too surprising to be called intimidating.
But I know I’m not the only one who has heard this. This year is shaping up to be the first year that women make up the majority of the college-educated labor force, and as the average age to get married continues to increase into the early thirties, more women also continue to stay in the workforce and move up in their careers.
So, if you too have been called intimidating or told you have too strong of a personality, here is what God has taught me as I’ve sought Him on all of this. Because every decision I’ve made when it comes to school, jobs or life has been consulted on with God through prayer, fasting and the guidance of the Bible and my parents. His hand has been in everything, and I call that being obedient, not intimidating.
Don’t use “This is just how I am” as an excuse
I grew up using this as the reason for every characteristic I didn’t want to change about myself: my bluntly honest way of talking, my ambition, how shy I was, and a dozen other things. So, yes, maybe you are naturally a leader, or have a big personality, or whatever other thing about yourself that people find intimidating or too strong.
Is it hurtful when people tell us these things? Yes. But they could also be correct that there are things we can work on in our personalities. For example, I can be brutally honest and that can make people feel really small. It is who I am, but it is also not an excuse to be rude, so it is something I constantly have to be aware of, and if you know me in real life, it is something I still often apologize for when I don’t guard my tongue and filter my words.
We are all sinners at our core (1 John 1:8). That’s how we were born (Psalm 51:5). The deeds of the flesh are evident in our human nature: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these (Galatians 5:19-21). That all comes naturally to us.
For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out (Romans 7:18). When I repent and believe that Jesus is my Savior, I am made new in Him and I take on His characteristics. And as I walk in the Spirit, I begin to show the fruits of the Spirit like love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control (Galatians 5:22-23).
Jesus changes who I am to become like He is. He can take the hard parts of my personality and heart and make them pliable to the work of His hands. So, don’t focus so much on how you are but seek to know the kind of woman God wants you to be. When you do that, the Holy Spirit will point out what areas of your heart and character you need to work on (Romans 8:26) and He will do the changing of your heart from the inside out.
It all begins in the heart
The feminist movement shaped my generation of women to frown upon the Bible's and the church's teachings on having a gentle and quiet spirit (1 Peter 3:4). But have you ever gone into the original Greek translation to see what those two words even mean?
Gentle is "praus," meaning mild or gentle. However, the root ("pra") of the word is difficult to translate because it means more than just "meek.” The English term for meek lacks the blend that the Greek word offers of gentleness (reserve) and strength. Essentially, it is the ability to demonstrate power without undue harshness.
Quiet is "hesuchios," which means quiet, tranquil, peaceful, serene. If you dig a bit deeper into the word study, the definition that unfolds is being steady/still/quiet due to a divinely-inspired inner calmness.
Friend, if you only knew the strength in those two traits alone. There is a saying that “still waters run deep.” Used figuratively since about 1400, the saying was amplified by Anthony Trollope in He Knew He Was Right (1869): “That’s what I call still water. She runs deep enough… so quiet, but so-clever.”
Quiet and meek was never meant to be demeaning or an instruction to keep your mouth shut and your mind blank. No, this kind of strength and serenity comes from a heart filled with His peace and deeply rooted in His word. Because when we are secure in our identity as His daughters and we walk in Him daily, we cease to have the desire to prove our point to everyone, to argue, to always be right. We are quick to yield to someone else, the first one to ask for forgiveness and willing to cover an indiscretion with grace.
Our strength is not in a know-it-all attitude or intimidation but in a quiet kind of strength that this world cannot comprehend. In His wisdom, we then know what to speak and when to speak - when something we say will edify someone or when we should refrain because our words have the potential to hurt someone or make them feel small. So, we use our strength wisely and to build others up, not to parade ourselves and our accomplishments.
Always wear humility and be grace
If reading about having a quiet and meek spirit and submissiveness makes you feel uncomfortable (because it is completely contrary to what the world, the internet and colleges teach young women today), then let’s zoom out to the bigger picture: the Bible calls all of us as Christians to be humble (1 Peter 5:5), submissive to the Lord and the elders in the church (Hebrews 13:17), and to live a quiet life (1 Thessalonians 4:11, 1 Timothy 2:2).
Put on then, as God’s chosen ones, holy and beloved, compassionate hearts, kindness, humility, meekness and patience.
More so, we are also called to submit to one another out of reverence for Christ (Ephesians 5:21). Men AND women submitting to each other as to count one another higher than ourselves (Philippians 2:3) so that Christ would be glorified in how we serve each other.
So, when we as women, who are doubly called to have these characteristics, live out life with a humble heart and extend grace to those around us, we truly live out daily the scene of Jesus washing His disciples’ feet - the Teacher serving the students. Because it isn’t about which gender is better or worthier - it isn’t about gender at all. It’s about seeing Jesus in everyone around us and in humbly counting others more significant than ourselves.
Understand where God has given different roles for men and women
There are times when the Lord calls us as women to submit to male leaders (pastors, deacons, fathers, etc..) and each one of us to our own husband. Note, this is not a call for all women to submit to all men! College feminist me revolted against any type of submission though, but in the years since, I’ve discovered the beauty in God’s design for men and women within the church and within marriage, and it’s changed everything. In God’s eyes, there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, there is no male and female, for we are all one in Christ Jesus (Galatians 3:28).
But, the Lord knows how He created each gender to be and how the two can interplay in the two spheres of our lives that are meant to put Him most on display, for the church is the Bride of Christ and marriage is an earthly example of how Jesus loves His Bride. In the church, the congregation submits to the male elders appointed to shepherd God’s people, and in a marriage, the wife is called to submit to and respect her husband and the husband is called to love his wife like Christ loves the church. For that to happen, each gender has a role to play and each role is equally important. Because in these spheres of life especially, it is not about us, but about making Him known.
Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls, as those who will have to give an account. -Hebrews 13:17
For example, I love teaching and mentoring the youth at my church, but there is a male youth leader who was put in charge by the elders, and even though we often work alongside each other, I am still called to submit to his leadership at the end of the day (and he’s ten years younger than me, so how is that for humbling?!). Is it always easy? No. Do we always agree? No. Do I sometimes think I know more or can make a better decision? Yes. But none of that is the point. Not before God anyhow.
As a single woman, the beauty of practicing that submission and respect in the church gives me the opportunity to one day prepare for my marriage. Since I will get married later in life - if God wills - and sharing a life with someone and submitting in life decisions to someone else, after being independent and providing for myself for nearly a decade, will be hard, but I’m glad God is teaching me this even now and giving me opportunities to live it out in other areas of my life before I enter into marriage.
Be strong in the things of the Lord
There are areas of our lives that we as women should be strong in, and at the top of that list is our spiritual growth. I know of women who worry that our spiritual growth might make us intimidating to men, because if you’ve grown up in the church, you’ve heard the lesson that the man should be the spiritual leader of the home. This is true, but it doesn’t mean the wife should not also be constantly growing in spiritual maturity (this article explains it so well! Also this one on whether a wife can be a spiritual leader). As wives, we have great influence in our husband’s lives, so we need to know how to pray and walk in the Holy Spirit so we can make wise decisions for our household. Besides, there is no one more beautiful than a young woman secure in her identity as a daughter of a Holy God; a girl living out the Gospel fully and faithfully in every season of her life.
There are also young women who decline educational, ministry, career or travel opportunities because they fear it will make them intimidating or somehow diminish their chances as a prospective Christian wife. But, if it is a thing God calls you to, then you must obey without fear of what other people will think of you or how it will impact your chances of marriage.
Be strong in the things that please the Lord and excel in the work He calls you to do. Because that isn’t intimidating - that is out of this world beautiful.
Strength and dignity are her clothing. -Proverbs 31:25
There is much more I can say on this topic, but at the root of it is this: seek the Lord, study His word, obey the Spirit’s leading and remain faithful in all things. When you do that, the Spirit will do his work in you and with you to transform you into the woman God created you to be, and there is nothing intimidating about that.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Yelena is the founder and editor in chief Tirzah. Yelena works as an attorney in tax and in her spare time, she is working on her first book for unmarried twenty-something women in extended waiting seasons and running Tirzah. She has a passion for pointing young women to Christ, and enjoys reading, writing, traveling, and spending time with her family.