"Are you a Contentious Woman?"
by Dr. Linda Karges-Bone
"It is better to live in a corner of a roof, then in a house shared with a contentious woman." Proverbs 21:0
"It is better to live in a desert land, then with a contentious and vexing woman." Proverbs 21:19
"It is better to live in a corner of the roof then in a house shared with a contentious woman." Proverbs 25:24
"A constant dripping on a day of steady rain and a contentious woman are alike. He who would restrain her restrains the wind, and grasps oil with his right hand." Proverbs 27:15
"The woman of folly is boisterous. She is naïve, and knows nothing." Proverbs 9:13
"So is a beautiful woman who lacks discretion." Proverbs 11:22
The wisdom of Proverbs is undisputed. Short, pithy phrases. Memorable lines suitable for plaques and sweatshirts and coffee mugs. We like to quote Proverbs, even unbelievers can be heard tossing them about quite freely, but do we recognize the power and authority and enormous value of these teachings? I doubt it. Too often, we dismiss the brief admonitions of Proverbs as old-fashioned or even as too simplistic, searching instead for some flashy, complex kind of psycho-scripture that will get at the crux of our immediate concerns.
But what if I were to tell you that Proverbs 21-9 is the crux, the very center of many marital problems, career crashes, relationship disasters, and family tensions? What if our attitudes and behaviors are causing more problems for us than solving them? Now before you dismiss me as a fundamentalist teacher who is going to place blame or a redundant storyteller who is going to warn you to be submissive to your husband......wait just a minute.
My message is a fresh one. My vision is one of clear, Biblical insight into the freedom that God offers to women who choose to be responsible for their own behavior and to escape the burdens and tensions and pure misery that come from being a contentious woman.
Are you interested?
Good. Let's start with a quiz, kind of a Christian version of a Cosmo-Magazine test. Let's find out.......are we Contentious Women?
Just keep track with your fingers. There will be ten questions, so that makes most of us capable of playing along. Ready?
Okay, do you have a tally? Let's move on to a damage-control report now. Ready? Here is our rubric....a fancy educational piece of jargon that means....criteria.
If you answered YES to fewer than 3 of the items: Congratulations. You are either: (a) a saint, (b) married 15 years of longer and have figured this thing out, or (c) constantly studying scripture and praying for God's blessing on your marriage.
If you answered YES to 4-7 of the items: Caution is needed. You are treading on dangerous ground in your marriage. Your nagging and lack of respect for your spouse could result in one of the following: (a) an uneasy truce and co-habitation instead of a loving marriage, (b) outright hostility, or (c) an affair on one or both parts.
If you answered YES to more than 7 items: Your middle name is Contentious Woman. Your husband refers to you, and he isn't joking....as SHE WHO MUST BE OBEYED. You probably spend most of your time: (a) complaining about your spouse, (b) dreaming of ways to get rid of your spouse, or (c) so busy with other projects that you forget that you have a spouse. Your husband, on the other hand....has retreated to the corner of the roof, which in the 1990's translates to: (a) his workplace, (b) the golf course or fishing boat, or (c) fantasizing about (less crabby) another woman.
How did you do? What are you thinking? I'll bet many of you, especially those of you who scored 4 or more are thinking one of the following:
Actually, you are all right at some level. Each of the above items has a touch of truth in them. Scripture says in 1 Cor. 11:11: "However, in the Lord, neither is woman independent of man, nor is man independent of woman." In truth, marriage is a covenant in which both partners are to place the other's well being above his or her own. But here's a flash, there is no caveat in that scripture that says: "But you don't have to follow this if your partner isn't cooperating." As believers, and I could just as easily give this talk to a group of men, as believers....not just as women, we are not independent of our spouses.
Recently, I heard a Christian teacher utter these shocking words, when a man called him to say that he wasn't happy in his marriage, and that his wife wasn't happy either.....obviously the gentleman wanted some sort of permission to leave the marriage. This Christian teacher responded: "God isn't interested in your happiness. He is interested in your obedience." I can't get that out of my head. Obedience is more important than happiness. Yet when I examine the problems that we encounter as contentious women, I find that if we were obedient to scripture, most of the problems could be dealt with effectively. Note that I did not say.....solved. I don't think that solving the problem, much like finding happiness is available to us here and now. Instead, I offer what 1 Cor 10:13 provides: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it."
Let me stop here and get one thing straight. I'm excluding all of you who are in a physically abusive or substance-abusive situation. If you or your children are in danger.....do something about it. Probably, I'm not talking to those of you who scored 4 or more on the quiz. It has been my experience that women who are in such dangerous situations avoid any kind of confrontation. You either suffer in silence or totally displace your anger and pretend that everything is peachy-keen. Ladies, if you are in this kind of situation, don't play with fire. This talk is for those of us whose tongues and tempers could qualify under the new federal guidelines for automatic assault weapons......Contentious women are seldom abused. We are just quarrelsome, belligerent, bossy, and miserable in our marriages.
Now for the second round of reactions. It is quite possible that I don't know what I'm talking about. But I doubt it. Here's why. I have done what researchers call a "double blind" test. I have tried it both ways. I lived the first decade of my marriage as a contentious woman. I pouted. I nagged. I saw myself as the unappreciated, overburdened, wife of a grumpy, difficult, selfish beast of a man. I have, at one point, been on the brink of losing my marriage. But two things saved me: God's mercy and grace and my own decision to look for the good in my marriage instead of the bad.
I asked God to save my marriage. I asked Him for protection for my home. I literally, one dark, cold night.....went from room to room and anointed the doorways with olive oil and asked the Lord God to protect my home and to change my heart. And, praise HIS HOLY NAME, HE did. He did this because He loves me with a jealous, protective, fatherly love. And He honored my request. Ephesians 6:11 tells us: "Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places."
It is Satan's desire to destroy homes, especially Christian homes. In that way, believers stumble into sin……audultery, intimate relationships outside of marriage, violence, anger, and abuse. Children are displaced and not brought up according to scripture. They too fall into sin. Research tells us that over 80% of decisions for Christ are made before the age of 14 years. Think about it, if you are tied up in a divorce, dating, remarriage, custody and support battles.....is it likely that either parent is concerned with a child's salvation? Probably not. For years, we just struggle to survive. In much the same way, when you are struggling against your husband...living as a contentious woman, you are so busy nursing your wounds, planning your revenge, evening the score.....you are not focusing on your children nor on your own relationship with God.
In the second decade of my marriage, and I'm nearing the twenty year mark now.......things are different. I see my husband in a totally different light. Yes, he has changed but it wasn't my doing. He responded to a gradual, God-granted shift in my behavior. I'll share a story from another culture here, because it fits so beautifully.
In the true story , Confessions of a Mail Order Bride, Wanwadee Larsen, a 21 year old Thai left her homeland to marry an American professor whom she had never met. It is a fascinating story about love, patience, and acceptance. But in the beginning, the author shares insights into how her mother taught her to make marriages strong and content, without sacrificing one's own plans and dreams. This is the proverb...in Thai:
Nam ron plah pen nam yen plah tai
Fish will survive if the water changes slowly
I love that Thai proverb. Men, our men, for better or for worse, can change and respond and grow more sensitive and loving...if the water changes slowly. The "water" of the relationship must be calm, balmy, and Biblically sound. We must first decide that God knows what He is talking about here. Check out Proverbs 20:3:
He who provokes anger forfeits his own life.
Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man.
But any fool will quarrel.
Let's read that again, with a few judicious word substitutions:
She who provokes anger forfeits her own marriage.
Keeping away from strife is an honor and a challenge for a wife.
But any foolish woman will seek a quarrel with her husband.
I'm here, at the other side of my accidental experiment in marriage to tell you that it is foolish to fight against God's word. It is so powerful, His authority is so awesome that it crosses language and cultural barriers and can be found in a belief system that isn't even Christian.
Moreover, I'll share something else fascinating about this woman's marriage. She recognized that the problems plaguing their marriage, and their were some real troubles.....required prayers. She prayed daily, to Buddha, mind you, but she prayed for her husband's spiritual redemption, by the Christian Farther whom he had rejected.
Instead of demanding, nagging, threatening, or manipulating, this wise woman chose to pray for her husband. I won't spoil the story for you, but let's just say that God was honored by this woman's request, and her attitude made all the difference in the outcome of the story. How about you?
Finally, many of you are still smarting from unhappy childhoods, broken homes, or even annoyed by my theories, entrenched in your belief that it is your personality, your way to be contentious. That may be valid. In his book, Positive Personality Profiles, Dr. Robert Rohm, a Christian psychologist, yes....there are a few of them around......outlines four distinct personality profiles and attaches at Biblical character to each one. Here they are....briefly.
Type S.... the sweet, shy submissive person. The unassuming, Apostle John is the prototype
Type I.... the impulsive, inquisitive, involved person. The chameleon-like Apostle Peter is the prototype.
Type C..... the careful, calculating cautious person. The doubter, Thomas is the prototype
Type D..... the decisive, demanding doer. Like Paul......the prototype, you want things done your way....right away.
Dr. Rohm does a marvelous job of helping us identify our personality types, recognizing the positive and negative aspects of each type, but he goes a step further. He insists that any of the types can be in for troubles if the Holy Spirit is not in control of that life. The apostle Paul was a demanding, aggressive man prior to his salvation on the Damascus Road.....and he was the same man afterward. Only then, God was controlling his behavior and actions. Just because you have a particular personality type, or you suffered in a difficult childhood does not mean that you must become or remain a Contentious Woman. God almighty gives you freedom from all of that and more., Romans 6: 14 makes it abundantly clear...
" For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace."
Perhaps, at this point in the story, you may need or want to stop for prayer. You may want to pray for release from anger, bitterness, or a desire for revenge.
Now, let us consider some practical scriptural advice for overcoming a contentious nature, whether it is our personality to be that way, or if circumstances such as stress, multiple expectations, or competing responsibilites seem to push us toward contentiousness:
By your words: "A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger." Proverbs 15:1
Through your actions: "The wise woman builds her house, but the foolish tears it down with her own hands." Proverbs 14:1
With your decisions: "Pride goes before destruction. And a haughty spirit before stumbling." Proverbs 16:18 and "Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve….but as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord." Joshua 24:15
By keeping in The Word of God: "Thy word have I treasured in my heart that I may not sin against Thee." Psalms 119:11
With your loyalty and respect: "For how do you know, O wife, whether you will save your husband?" 1Cor. 7:13
With your attitude: "Put on the full armor of God, that you may be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places." Ephesians 6:11
By picking your battles: "Keeping away from strife is an honor for a man, But any fool will quarrel." Proverbs 20:3
In your obedience: "No temptation has overtaken you but such as in common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, that you may be able to endure it." 1 Cor.10:13
By choosing to live in God's grace: "For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under the law, but under grace." Romans 6:14
In searching your own heart: "The heart is more deceitful than all else, and is desperately sick. Who can understand it? I the Lord search the heart, I test the mind." Jeremiah 17:9
A contentious woman is not a happy woman. There is no peace in it. There is no victory. There is no resolution of conflicts nor control over circumstances. Sin always begets sin. And, as the Word of God tells us, the wages of sin is death.
A contentious woman can witness the death of:
Her marriage…..her friendships with other women….the respect of colleagues…. the trust and companionship of her children……..the destruction of her Christian witness. I will quote my good friend Stephen, our CPA, who is fond of saying, "I try to avoid trusting Jesus on the basis of what I see in his followers. Otherwise it would be too easy to become an athiest, and that is too depressing and empty a lifestyle."
How true ! If a non-believer were to witness your latest: conversation with a spouse, argument with a teenager, response to a request, actions at a meeting... would he or she see the bitterness of a contentious woman or the sweetness and peace of a woman living under grace????
Now let's recap. We have taken a quiz to find out if we are Contentious Women. Then, we examined the outcomes of a life lived as a contentious woman:
Now, let's take a brief and concluding look at how to escape the oppressive patterns of behavior that a Contentious Woman thrives on ..
Here are another 10 points...........and you will see a relationship to the quiz. That is deliberate. Remember, these ideas are based on: (a) Scripture, (b) Research into the physical-cognitive difference between men and women, and (c) The success stories of other women.
I'll give the scriptural references as we progress, but let me say now that this topic is right in line with new research emerging as to the actual "brain differences", brain-wiring if you will...between men and women. I'll be drawing on the research of linguist Deborah Tannen, the author of You Just Don't Understand: Women and Men in Conversation and The Wonder of Boys by Dr. Michael Gurian, a therapist who has done extensive research on the differences between males and females. Finally, it is only fair to tell you that I have been pondering some of these issues for a while, as I prepare the manuscript of my latest book, More Than Pink and Blue: How Gender Can Shape Your Curriculum.
So, are you a contentious woman? If so, what are you going to do about it?
Jeremiah 17:9 says that:
"The heart is more deceitful than all else
And is desperately sick
Who can understand it?
I the Lord search the heart,
I test the mind."
Is He searching your heart today? Is He testing your mind? Is there bitterness and strife in your home? Are you relying on your own will, your power, your nagging....to change a man whose heart and mind do not belong to you? Are you relying on the natural world, with its emphasis on seeking wholeness and happiness.....to guide your marriage?
If you choose to move from Contentious Woman to the Strength and Dignity of the Proverbs 31 Woman, here are some scriptures to help…
A gracious woman attains honor." Proverbs 11:16
"She opens her mouth in wisdom. And the teachings of kindness are on her tongue." Proverbs 31: 26
"Strength and dignity are her clothing and she smiles at the future." Proverbs 31:25
"She does him good and not evil all the days of her life." Proverbs 31:12
"Your wife shall be like a fruitful vine within your house. Your children like olive plants around your table." Psalm 128:3
"But a prudent wife is from the Lord." Proverbs 19:14
"But a woman who fears the Lord, she shall be praised." Proverbs 31:30
"The prudent sees the evil and hides himself, but the naïve go on, and are punished for it." Proverbs 22:3
The opposite of a Contentious Woman is a "Woman at Peace".
Isaiah 57:19 promises:
"Peace, peace to him who is far and to him who is near, says the Lord
And I will heal him."
A woman at peace with who she is in Christ Jesus is free from the contention and strife that once plagued her. Her husband is free to come down from the corner of the roof where he has been camped out. Her home is sanctified by the promise and hope that are found through the transforming of our hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.
God bless you all.