What Submission Really Means


I remember the first time my husband told me “no.”  He actually wasn’t my husband yet, but we were just a couple months shy of the wedding and we’d gone to pick out my wedding band. I was super excited – I’d been Pinteresting like a mad woman for the weeks leading up to this moment and I was ret-to-go. 

We got to the shop and, after some deliberation, I settled between two bands. Similar styles, but one had slightly bigger stones and was, therefore, more expensive. I thought, “what’s a couple/few hundred dollars more? This is an investment, after all. I mean, shouldn’t I get the one that’s going to make me the happiest? Plus it’s more shinier. (yes, more shinier.)” Clearly, very logical reasoning. 

After a few moments of me being indecisive, which depending on the day and how hungry or tired I am can be my brand, we decided to take a lap around the mall we were in to think and talk it over. I brought up all of my very logical reasons for getting the flashier band. He, however, was not so sure. He had real silly things to say like, “but we should get one we can pay off quickly since we’re just starting out.” And, “We can always upgrade down the road.” 


Who has time for sensible thinking when diamonds are involved?! Just as I was about to state my case one more time I thought, Ok…this is the guy you’re going to marry. Perhaps it’s time to practice relinquishing what you want in favor of a decision this man is making on behalf of our future.” And so, I acquiesced. I did not like it. Truly. We purchased the smaller band (which is beautiful and perfect and I still love it so all’s well that ends well. We paid it off along with some other debt ages ago – which we were able to do because we aren’t still paying for the ring I just had to have I suppose) and that was my first foray into this whole submission business. I’m not going to lie and say it’s always comfortable and I’m not perfect at it. Sometimes I be runnin my mouth ya’ll.  But it is worth it when you work it right.


I’d heard a lot about “submission” while I was single and, girl, I had questions. I needed to know what exactly was being expected of me – what did actual submission look like? Popular culture makes it seem like a ludicrous idea. Why would one woman be a doormat for a man, succumbing to his whims and being his servant? And yes – why would any woman do that? So, don’t do that is my point.

In my experience, most of the people who question this ideal as a way to try to make you see how silly the Bible can be have no idea what book it’s in, what the context is, what the rest of the chapter says or anything – they just like to hang on the word “submission” as if that’s all they need to prove their pointless point.  Or they use it to tell women that they should give up their identity and, essentially, serve men.

The term submission is not what people make it out to be – the idea is much bigger than what culture gives credit for. This is a combination of ideas from a sermon I heard on the subject that gave me the best understanding of how this works in real life by Ken & Debbie Prillimen,  plus my own personal study. I’m not an expert, but I got some thoughts. Here we go: 


Ephesians 5:22-33 New International Version (NIV)
21 Submit to one another out of reverence for Christ. 22 Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. 23 For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church, his body, of which he is the Savior.

First, let’s understand what the scripture says. It says wives. Not women. It says husband. Not boyfriend, that one guy you like, or men in general. Wives & husbands. That’s it. If you are a woman with no husband then your only submission is to God. Period. Not all the dudes. Not any dude. No ma’am. And the both of ya’ll are submitting to one another. Ok, let’s continue….


25 Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her 26 to make her holy, cleansing her by the washing with water through the word, 27 and to present her to himself as a radiant church, without stain or wrinkle or any other blemish, but holy and blameless. 28 In this same way, husbands ought to love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. 29 After all, no one ever hated their own body, but they feed and care for their body, just as Christ does the church— 30 for we are members of his body. 31 “For this reason a man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.” 32 This is a profound mystery—but I am talking about Christ and the church. 33 However, each one of you also must love his wife as he loves himself, and the wife must respect her husband.


The technical stuff: 

The Greek word translated that translates into the word “submission” is Hupotasso.
In non-military use,it was “a voluntary attitude of giving in, cooperating, assuming responsibility, and carrying a burden”.

So it doesn’t mean, “a weak woman who does whatever her husband says and gives up all rights to a brain of her own.” It describes a mutual & voluntary agreement of cooperation. 



Means “Head” – as in the husband is the “Head” of the family. Also a military term, it suggests that he is the leader of the army – the first into battle or harm’s way if any threat is present. 

I think we can go further in that, as he’s described as the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church. In Mark 10:42 it says: 

42 Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. 43 Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. 45 For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”


Yes, there is a position of authority – but authority means serving. It means being last. It means laying down your authority for the good of many. 


So do I as a self-respecting, 21st century woman submit to my husband? Yes. 

I can freely do that for a few reasons. For one, I know what submission is not.

Submission is not

Setting aside my spiritual gifts

“A submissive woman does not abandon her influence.” – Debbie Prilleman 


When I decided to say yes to my husband’s proposal, I did so because I deemed him someone I could submit to. I knew he had his own relationship with God that he was actively pursuing. He is the kind of man who submits to God’s word and was before we got together and respects that I have my own relationship with God and I hear from the Holy Spirit, too. He respects me and my intelligence, discernment and opinions, my gifts and talents. I feel totally comfortable with him making the bulk of decisions for our family, following his lead because these things are in place. The key is to follow your husband as he follows Christ.


I knew he was someone I could submit to because I could be confident that he would take my well-being, needs, and desires into consideration by discussing the situation with me. I’m able to speak my mind without fear or trepidation and I feel I will be heard. And sometimes the decision we come to together is that I should take the lead on something, or that I’m right about this or that. Submission doesn’t mean one voice always wins. 


Furthermore, I tried to make sure I understood what his mission and vision for his own life was and for his family. Part of submission is agreement. If his mission was something I didn’t want to be a part of or didn’t see myself agreeing to help make it flourish then that would be a sign that this wasn’t a match. I trust him with all of that because I know we have a unified vision for our family & our lives. 

“The first steps to submission are vision & unity.” 


I also think of “submissive” as supportive. Look – not every situation is going to yield the intended results. That’s just life. And, also, I understand that just because there is something I want and feel that it needs to happen ASAP doesn’t necessarily mean that that’s the decision that’s going to be made. Whether it’s the route I wouldn’t have chosen or an outcome from a decision he made that didn’t go the way we expected, I still do my best to support and affirm him. 


If he can trust me to do that & not kick him while he’s down and I can trust him to always have me in the forefront of his mind and not shut me out – well this whole submission business is actually a beautiful thing. It makes us stronger together, which is its intended purpose. 

In the event your husband is not necessarily in the same place you are spiritually, which happens:

1 Peter 3:1-4
The same goes for you wives: Be good wives to your husbands, responsive to their needs. There are husbands who, indifferent as they are to any words about God, will be captivated by your life of holy beauty. What matters is not your outer appearance—the styling of your hair, the jewelry you wear, the cut of your clothes—but your inner disposition.

Basically, it is your lifestyle that can ultimately win your husband’s heart for the Lord. Him not following God is not an excuse to ignore him or not be a wife. This scripture is not saying don’t be cute…always be cute, girl. But “keeping a man” – which is a misleading phrase as it is, involves more than getting your hairs did. As hard as it can be – your inner life is a light that can turn it all around for you and your family. Get support from other women trying to be the same wife you are trying to be.



What are your thoughts about submission. Have you heard it explained a different way? 

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