A lot of women, women like me, have come to a full stop when reading in 1 Peter 3:3-4, where he challenges us:
“Your beauty should not consist of outward things like elaborate hairstyles and the wearing of gold ornaments or fine clothes. Instead, it should consist of what is inside the heart with the imperishable quality of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very valuable in God’s eyes.”
A gentle and quiet spirit? Uh-oh.
Some of us have thought, “Oh man. I’m sunk. Is that what it means to be a godly woman? Gentle and quiet?”
Others have wondered, “But God! You made me with a big, loud personality! Why would Your word call me to be something other than who I am?”
And still others have fretted, “If a gentle and quiet spirit is valuable to God, what does that say about us party girls who love to laugh?”
Good news! A gentle and quiet SPIRIT is different from a gentle and quiet PERSONALITY. The Greek word for spirit is different from the word for soul, or personality. Our spirit is the part of us where God dwells, where He makes His home. A woman can have a dynamic, energetic, live-out-loud personality—and still glorify God in her gentle and quiet spirit.
If you look up the meaning of the words “gentle” and “quiet” in the New Testament’s original language, a treasure awaits—especially for us not-so-gentle-and-quiet personalities.
The Greek word translated “gentle” actually means meekness. Too bad we have no English word that properly translates this word. Meekness is seen as weakness or mildness. It’s not.
It’s more like “power wrapped in gentleness.” Or “strength wrapped in love.” Remember Arnold Schwarzenegger in the movie “Kindergarten Cop”? It’s not the actual movie, but the idea behind the title, that I think illustrates meekness: when a big, strong, burly man has to restrain his strength because he is dealing with very small children.
The concept behind meekness is, “Don’t be fooled by this gentle exterior; there is strength and power underneath.”
Meekness is the result of a strong trust in God, when we are able to accept His dealings with us as good, and therefore we do not resist Him or dispute how He deals with us. Meekness is closely linked with humility. It means not fighting against God, and because we trust in God’s goodness, we don’t fight against men either—even evil people.
Meekness is the opposite of self-assertiveness and self-interest; it is a settled, balanced spirit that is neither high on self nor down in the dumps, simply because it’s not occupied with self at all.
There is a picture of a meek woman in Proverbs 31:25 – “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.” She can laugh because she trusts God and knows He is good, and she doesn’t fight Him as He deals with her.
The greatest example is the Lord Jesus, who said, “Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am meek and lowly of heart.”
And then there’s the matter of a quiet spirit.
This is not about being an introvert or being a woman of few words, but of a tranquil spirit, where the tranquility arises from within. The root word means “firm, immovable, steadfast.”
A quiet spirit is tranquil because it believes God for who He is. A woman with a tranquil spirit knows how to rest in her trust in God. Many women exuding the beauty of a tranquil spirit are very familiar with Psalm 91, the great antidote for tranquility-stealers.
God says that a gentle and quiet spirit is of “great worth” in His sight. That’s a pretty weak translation. It means VERY precious, of great price. The same word is used of the spikenard ointment that Mary lavished over Jesus’ feet when she anointed Him just before His death. It was worth three years’ wages, and it greatly blessed the Lord that she poured it out on Him. A gentle and quiet spirit blesses Him the same way.
A woman with a gentle and quiet spirit is NOT passive, and she is not weak. She has a lot of power inside her because she is yielded to the Lord and takes great joy in trusting Him. She expects that His dealings with her are all good, and it gives her a great peace and tranquility.
One of the best things about a gentle and quiet spirit is that it’s contagious. It can whet the appetite of others to trust God in the same way, with the beauty of an intimate love and trust that brings a calming influence to those she touches. Others go away thinking, “everything’s going to be okay,” because she lives it.
So . . . whew. On behalf of us not-so-gentle-and-quiet personality types. . . It’s all good!
This blog post originally appeared at blogs.bible.org/engage/sue_bohlin/gentle_and_quiet_whaaaaa on September 23, 2014.