Birth Blog

When You Are A Born Leader But You Want a Gentle and Quiet Spirit

by Julia West on February 11, 2015

This really has nothing to do with birth. Except maybe birth order.

 

I was talking with a family friend the other day and he made the observation that I have a similar personality to my dad. While I appreciate all the ways that this is a compliment, I felt the need to qualify the statement.

 

I was born the oldest girl with three younger siblings. From a very young age, I thought of myself as a second mama. And somehow I convinced the younger three that I deserved the authority of a parent! I used to organize them to do chores while my parents were out and reinforced any rules or instructions that my parents ordered. (I now apologize to my siblings for being so bossy and am so thankful they’re still my friends!)

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my three little victims/siblings

 

Over the years, my parents gave me more responsibility and trust and I felt very adult-like.  That dynamic helped me to gain confidence in myself and my beliefs. I held influence over my friends. I wanted to be known as the girl with the answers. During high school, my faith and my opinions were a well-known part of my reputation. The kids in school guarded their tongues around me and made confessions about mistakes they made. Once, I found out a friend of mine stole a $0.25 pack of gum from the grocery store. I drove her back to the store and made her pay for it. (You know who you are! ;)) While I think (HOPE!) that all of these people knew I spoke and acted out of love, I don’t think I said it very often. I don’t think I often came across as loving and vulnerable and sensitive. I’m sure there were times I lost influence because of my guarded exterior.

 

During my independent years, I thought of myself as a warrior for the Truth. To me, the world was a battlefield and I did not want to be caught with my guard down. I was ready and willing o help others with answers to their problems or the blunt, hard truth, but I did not trust anyone with my own struggles or concerns. Honestly, in some ways I felt tough and masculine. If there was a conflict, I was certain that someone just needed to be put in their place, to be humbled and start making changes. Well, I was right, but more about myself than anyone else.

 

Thankfully, when I was 19 I did something brilliant, my path crossed with someone wonderful.

dating pic circa 2007

dating pic circa 2007

He was the first boy to ever pursue me, but we were friends for a long time and our relationship stayed light and easy for a while. I really never expected to find someone to love at such a young age. I was sure I would have a busy career and if I met someone, I would probably be in my thirties. I just could not imagine sharing a life with someone, opening up and being vulnerable and exposing my fears and weaknesses. And even if I did, who would stick around? But as we got to know each other, dated and got married, I started to see myself through his eyes. He wanted to nurture my spirit, help me grow, know my thoughts and offer loving criticism. Sometimes I could allow him, but other times my stubborn pride kept my heart from softening. As much as we loved each other and enjoyed spending time together, when we disagreed, it was like two walls colliding. I just KNEW I was right and that he needed to ALWAYS see things my way! Then one night during an argument, he said something so simple and so profound, I’ll never forget it. He said,

“Only one of us can be the leader. Who is it going to be?”

I do not exaggerate when I say that statement changed my life. I had to ask myself, “Do I really WANT this position of authority, that is not even mine to have?” It was like a break through- I did not have to carry the load of leading my family, righting every wrong. I had to admit I really did not even enjoy vying for that position! Not only did I not have to, but I couldn’t compete for that spot and at the same time, let him become who he really needed and wanted to be. A huge weight was lifted. But now that I knew who I didn’t want to be, what role did I have?

 

It took some time, but I started to slowly form a mental picture of the woman God intended for me to be. About a year after we were married, some girlfriends and I worked on some bible class material for teenage girls. We wanted to focus on comparing the woman the world wants us to become versus the woman God intends for us to become. We made a list with the girls of traits the world pushes: powerful, unapologetic, independent, materialistic, flirtatious, etc. The world says we peek in our youth and we should do all we can to maintain it and resist age or meekness. Then we made a list of traits that the Scriptures encourage women to be. We talked about examples of women who are prayerful, humble, servants, kind-hearted, gentle in speech, etc. We talked about Priscilla teaching new Christians with her husband. We talked about Esther saving a nation by standing firm in the truth but also by showing respect for authority. We looked at the Proverbs 31 woman. She was busy serving others, without complaint. She was successful and well known, but her motives were for others and for God. She was a blessing to everyone she knew, especially her husband. I developed the vision of a faith filled woman serving her family, smiling at the day, content and joyful.

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sweet mama love, focused on someone she loves when the camera is focused on her(photo credit: Denise Cowan Photography) 

 

 

I still think of that almost every day. I think I benefited from that class more than any one!

 

As I started to really change who I wanted to be, it became easier to not always get my way. I became more content, more joyful, more peaceable, more feminine. At the same time, my husband became more joyful, more at peace, more confident. He respected me more, I respected him more. He cherished me more, I honored him more. The roles outlined in Ephesians became more attainable, and the cycle of building each other up began. It was and is a beautiful plan for families. I am so thankful I found someone strong enough to stand up to me and for me. Humble enough to thank me and brave and tactful enough to correct me. As if that’s not enough, he gave me these lovelies that melt my heart and feed my soul daily:

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I’ve thought a lot about 1 Peter saying women should have a “gentle and quiet spirit.” I believe this goes back to selfishness- resist the urge to be loud and ruthless. Quiet the need for my own gain, gently tend to the needs of others. Here are few truths that I try to keep in mind to help maintain the goal of who I want to become:

 

  • A helper does not shout commands and persecute others for wrong, even when she is right.

 

Correction is much harder to hear when it is given with disdain, bitterness, comeuppance or sarcasm. This is so obvious, but so hard in the heat of the moment! It isn’t very helpful to tear someone down, even if you hold the truth. “Love does not seek its own.” The only reason to not show loving kindness is for pride. Winning an argument is not the end goal. The only win/win is for both sides to feel heard, loved and respected.

 

  • Just because you didn’t intend to hurt someone does not mean you should not apologize.

 

For a long time, I thought of the words “I’m sorry” as an admittance of defeat and/or guilt. If I didn’t think I had to say it, then I didn’t. But I have learned that those words, genuinely spoken, can squelch raging fires of anger. I wish I could say this was easier for me! But my goal is good to get good at saying them. I’m afraid that means I need to practice!

 

  • Listen and listen well.

 

When you naturally thrive on winning debates, it is hard to really hear the other side. I know I am often too busy formulating my response to really listen. But people know when they are not being heard and it’s frustrating.

 

  • Choose words sensitively.

 

I look back and can distinctly remember words that I used in hastiness or spitefulness and I shiver. I used to think bluntness was funny, or I made points with harsh words for emphasis. Ugh…Not funny. Proverbs 12:18 likens rash words to thrusts of a sword. I have definitely thrusted my sword more times than I can count. If I could go back and change them, I would. May my future words bring healing.

 

  • Tone of voice matters. A lot.

 

“A gentle answer turns away wrath.” This is a great role for a woman, wife, mother. To bring gentility to a tense, uncomfortable or heated conversation. This is something I can do. I can bring calm and peace with my tone.

 

  • I can admit I am not always right AND that sometimes I am right.

 

Being sweet and compassionate does not mean being a doormat. It’s all about speaking the truth in love. I can be unwavering and show empathy. I can and should give consideration to other sides and can still maintain my original stance. I can show love without sugar coating. The deciding factor is my heart: Am I being humble? Am I showing love? The fruits of my relationships will show my heart.

 

  • I can give helpful information without trying to make the decision for others.

 

This is the “teach a man to fish scenario.” No one needs me to make all their decisions for them. I can give them information, my opinions, my reasons, but if in the end they are not equipped to make their own decision, I was not very helpful.

 

  • My joy should be obvious.

 

If I am going to have influence on others, I cannot be a curmudgeon. If I am irritable, emotionally fragile, a complainer, discontent, no one will confide in me. I count my blessings daily and find joy in my babies, my husband, my friends and my Lord. I can find joy, even in sorrow.

 

  • I want to be a person others can trust with their hearts.

 

Vulnerability begets vulnerability. I want my friends, husband, children to know they can trust me. Not just with secrets, but with their tender hearts. In moments of confusion, anger, sadness or shame, I want them to know I will have an unwavering faith in the Lord and love for their souls. That if we are on opposite sides, I will show mercy.

 

  • Of all the things I am passionate about, let love be foremost.

 

Obviously, I do speak out about things I believe are important and am happy to share those with others who want to hear(/read.) But I hope that my motives are clear- I love women, babies, families and souls. If people don’t believe that, the message is lost. Love must be intertwined in it all. God is Love.

I have the priviledge of knowing several older women who embody the Scriptural woman of God. They love openly, serve willingly and stand confidently in truth. I am thankful to see these truths and godly love in action and the way that they bless families. While I’d love to claim the admirable characteristics of my dad, my role and his are not the same, and I hope I am an obviously feminine version. 🙂

{ 2 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica Kaye June 22, 2017 at 3:34 pm

LOVE THIS!
Pride, my roles as a wife and submission are all things I am trying to work on.
It’s so natural for me to try and be “the leader” of my marriage because, growing up, I was taught to be independent, never depend on a man, don’t let a man or anyone ever think you “need” them and never show them your weakness. I have a hard time submitting to my husband and letting him do his job as a husband, which is lead.
Thank you for this <3

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Michelle March 15, 2016 at 12:01 am

I absolutely ADORE this post. This is how I feel so often! It is a balance for a biblical wife to lead her children and others, while following her husband.
I am grateful for a husband that follows the Lord so I can follow him.

This post was beautiful, thank you for sharing it.

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