CTBHHM: The Proverbs 31 Woman Served Her Husband

Created To Be His Help Meet, pp. 114-116

Proverbs 31 defines the virtuous woman. She is NOT a mousy, voiceless prude. She is confident, hardworking, creative, and resourceful.

In this section, Debi examines Proverbs 31. For those who may not know, Proverbs 31 is a poem about a virtuous woman whose “price is far above rubies.” Evangelicals are quick to hold the Proverbs 31 woman up as a model for women to emulate.

Debi begins her discussion of the Proverbs 31 woman as follows:

Her first virtue is that the heart of her husband is safe with her. That is, he can trust her with his thoughts and feelings, never fearing that he might use the private knowledge she has of him to hurt him in any way.

This is actually really good relationship advice for people of both genders.

A man whose heart is not safe with his wife will never tell her what he intends to do or how he feels, because on previous occasions she has assumed the role of overseer by taking it upon herself to be his conscience and the manager of his time. She reminds him of what he has said he was going to do in a manner that says, “I am holding you to it, What is wrong with you? Are you a sloth or something?” He finds it more peaceful to keep his own counsel. Wives, never use your special knowledge of your husband as leverage to get your way.

Wait. Knowing, say, your husband’s plans for the weekend—to clean out the garage or get the next section of the garden started—counts as “special knowledge”? Also, it’s patently false that reminding your husband of something he said he was going to do is going to make him withdraw and stop telling you his plans—and if it is, that’s something to work out, because that’s not healthy.

But I think there’s a bigger point to be made here. Debi is reading an awful lot into the Biblical text. Here is the actual section she draws from here:

The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil.

She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life.

Given that most of the text talks about what a good economic agent the virtuous woman is, I read this as saying that the virtuous woman’s husband trusts her in economic matters, not as saying that the virtuous virtuous woman’s husband trusts her to never reminds him that he said he was going to do the dishes. For all her talk of reading the Bible straightforwardly, Debi does it very badly.

Next Debi turns to discussing, once again, the problems with “spiritual” women.

If this passage in Proverbs had been written from our modern perspective, it would have extolled her for having a “quiet time” and being a “prayer warrior,” teacher, or counselor. In all the Scriptural profiles of righteous women, including Proverbs 31, no such concepts are ever mentioned. In our culture, we have lost a clear understanding of what constitutes a virtuous woman. We have accepted the modern idea of the “spiritual” woman circulating in the realm of religious power, and have forgotten that God does not see them in this same “glorious” light. What we think is spiritual, God labels “Jezebel.”

Debi talks about women being prayer warriors, reading the Bible, and serving as teachers or counselors and then says that “no such concepts are ever mentioned” in Proverbs 31. I don’t actually think that’s true, strictly speaking.

She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness.

Other translations say the “teaching of kindness” is in her tongue. Granted, there’s nothing in the text about prayer or about going to church or reading the Bible, but to say there’s nothing in it about instructing or advising others, or that the passages indicate that she is to be silent (as we shall see shortly), would be false.

Interestingly, nowhere in this passage does it say the virtuous woman is submissive to her husband. And given that Debi is quick to note that the passage doesn’t talk about prayer and Bible reading, this seems important and relevant. So let me say it again: Nowhere in Proverbs 31 does it say the virtuous woman is submissive to her husband. Not surprisingly, Debi chooses to ignore this.

At least we finally get to learn what Debi thinks true spirituality looks like:

A woman working beside her husband is a spiritual force for them both. A woman providing her husband good sex and fun company is offering her husband a spiritual benefit. A woman preparing healthy meals and cutting the grass so he can go fishing on Saturday is a spiritual woman, because she is placing him above herself.

At last we finally know what being “spiritual” is. It’s not having a prayer life or reading the Bible or having a close relationship with God. No! It’s serving the physical (and sexual) needs of your husband. How very convenient. Interestingly, this must mean that being spiritual is gendered—i.e., that it means something totally and completely different for a man to be spiritual than for a woman to be spiritual. I’m going to go out on a limb and guess that men actually get to do that whole relationship with God thing. Women? They get to cook and clean up after their menfolk. Yay?

Outside of this single paragraph, Debi says literally nothing about the huge swaths of Proverbs 31 talking about the virtuous woman’s industry and economic prowess. Here is what I’m talking about:

She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.
She is like the merchants’ ships; she bringeth her food from afar.
She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens.
She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard.
. . .
She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night.
She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff.
. . .
She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant.

Interestingly, nowhere in there does it say the virtuous woman asks her husband’s permission to do any of this. In fact, it doesn’t discuss the whole “help meet” thing at all. Instead, it describes a strong and intelligent businesswoman who makes her own decisions and whose husband is proud of her. If Debi had written these lines of Proverbs 31, it would have read like this:

She buy fabric after checking with her husband, and works willingly with her hands on all his projects.
She has her children go without veggies rather than getting a job when her husband is unemployed.
She cooks appealing meals and keeps them warm for her husband lest he go elsewhere for food.
When her husband considers buying a new house, she keeps silent so as not to influence his decision.
. . .
She is careful to be submissive: she works late into the night unless her husband wants sex.
She lays her hand to the quarter inch plumbing supply line, and her children learn to fear the sight of it.
. . .
With her husband’s permission, she starts an etsy account and sells decorative knickknacks.

The end of this passage makes an odd turn, focusing on how repelled men are by masculine traits in their women and how important it is to maintain femininity—”devoid of dominance or control.” What this has to do with Proverbs 31 I’m really not sure, because that passage seems to have little to do with the sort of femininity that is passive or submissive.

Dominance and control are always masculine characteristics. It is important for a woman to understand that she must be feminine (devoid of dominance and control) in order for her man to view her as his exact counterpart, and thus willingly respond to her protectively, with love and gentleness.

Look, a man is totally capable of relating to a wife as his equal rather than his submissive “counterpart.” And the idea that a man will only be protective of a woman and treat her with love and gentleness if she’s properly “feminine”? This is the sort of rhetoric that is used to show that having women in the army will destroy male-female relationships. Also, it’s bullshit. It only makes sense in a world where men treat other men with harshness and women with gentleness, and if that world exists it’s wrong. Is it so much to ask that people relate to each other as individuals and see each other as equals? But then, I don’t think Debi actually thinks that’s possible.

A woman who criticizes her husband for watching too much TV, playing too much golf, or indulging in any frivolous activity is expressing dishonor.

Part of the function of marriage as I see it is for the couple to help each other grow and become better people. If my husband was a lazy slob and I did nothing about it instead of trying to help him correct that, I would be being a bad partner. And vice versa! And sure, my husband could refuse to change—that’s his right. But that doesn’t mean that seeking to help him improve himself is, in and of itself, dishonoring him.

When the relationship is properly balanced, a wife can make an appeal at the right time and in the right manner, and it need not be a challenge to his authority. We will speak of how to make an appeal in due course. But know of a certainty that when a woman continually tries to assert her own will against her husband’s, throwing it up to him that he is wrong, she is usurping authority over him, lording over him, and dishonoring him. A woman who continues in this behavior blasphemes the Word of God and can expect God’s sure “reward.”

“Properly balanced”? Seriously, how is a relationship where a woman has to “make an appeal” and phrase it in such a way as to “not be a challenge to [her husband's] authority” properly balanced? And can you really see the Proverbs 31 woman “making an appeal”? I sure can’t. She seems like a woman who knows her mind and isn’t afraid to say it or act on it—and it strikes me that this is part of why her husband calls her blessed. Is this so hard for Debi to understand?

A man cannot cherish a strong woman who expresses her displeasure of him. You say that he should model Christ’s love regardless of how she acts. Is that what you want? Is that what Christ wants? Do you want your husband to be forced to seek supernatural power just to find a way to love you? Do you want to be another of his trials—his greatest example of overcoming adversity?

Those who endorse patriarchal or complementarian relationship formulas emphasize that a wife may be required to submit to her husband, and that a husband is required to love his wife. I’ve pointed out before that this isn’t even for a variety of reasons, including the fact that submission is an action while love is an emotion. It’s easy for a man to say he loves his wife even when it doesn’t look like it and that his actions and decisions are for her own good, but it’s not so easy for a woman to claim she’s submitting when she’s, well, not. Here Debi is suggesting that it’s unfair for a man to have to love an unsubmissive wife. Which is interesting, since she insists over and over that women should submit to unloving husbands. It’s conditional in one case and not in the other? Seriously?

And then there’s this, which is similarly centered around the man:

The homefront should not be a spiritual battlefield; it should be the place where a man relaxes and can be vulnerable with the woman he cherishes.

Really? Really? Here, let me fix it:

“The homefront should not be a spiritual battlefield; it should be the place where a man a couple relaxes and can be vulnerable with the woman he cherishes each other.”

Much better. But of course, Debi’s not through yet:

Men will always want to reclaim those times when love was fun and free, with no demands, like the times when she would smile at him with that sweet, girlish, “I think you are wonderful” expression. She was so feminine then, so much the woman. He wanted to hold her just because she was a bundle of delightful joy. He would do anything for her.

Debi seems stuck on the honeymoon jittery feelings sheep eyes sort of love. It’s not that none of that remains, but if it doesn’t become something more than that the relationship is probably not very mature. In a mature relationship between two adults, there is give and take, there is growth, there is cooperation, communication, and an ability to find compromises. And sometimes there are periods that suck, but ultimately the relationship grows and deepens through that (or ends, but that’s another post entirely). In Debi’s view of the proper relationship, though, there’s simply lots of batting of eyes.

Besides, why is this so gendered? I treasure all the times Sean has looked at me with his “I think you are wonderful” expression!

Debi finishes by making a final comparison:

Jezebel Profile

  1. Prophetess
  2. Teacher
  3. One who pities
  4. Religious
  5. Controller

Virtuous Woman Profile

  1. Help meet
  2. Silent
  3. Encourager
  4. Prudent worker
  5. Submissive

The virtuous woman of Proverbs 31 is neither silent nor submissive. And what in the world is up with contrasting “religious” with “prudent worker”?! God doesn’t want women to be religious or spiritual, Debi says, God just wants them to work hard serving their men. Lovely.

In the end, I don’t feel like Debi actually read Proverbs 31. I mean, let’s think about what she actually says about the Proverbs 31 woman: She doesn’t criticize her husband or mention his faults, she doesn’t teach or counsel others, she labors in an effort to serve her husband, and she is properly feminine, lacking in masculine traits like control. Somehow, that’s not what I get when I read Proverbs 31. But then, what do I know? I’m only female, after all.

About Libby Anne

Libby Anne grew up in a large evangelical homeschool family highly involved in the Christian Right. College turned her world upside down, and she is today an atheist, a feminist, and a progressive. She blogs about leaving religion, her experience with the Christian Patriarchy and Quiverfull movements, the detrimental effects of the "purity culture," the contradictions of conservative politics, and the importance of feminism.

  • NeaDods

    Cutting the grass so he can go fishing. Wow. So that’s how Mi- I mean Debi got from “she works willingly with her hands” to “she does all the grunt work so he can have fun.” Because that’s what life is to be for a guy, isn’t it, an endless whirl of honeymoon fun and if she doesn’t go out of her way to make it so, well, hubby is quite justified in dumping her in a duplex.

    Or at least in not taking out the trash. Anyone else surprised that Debi’s life lesson that the trash (and probably any other chore) is not the man’s job hasn’t shown up again? It’s such a natural for the rest of this scripture-twisting, woman-blaming section. Surely Michael had the revelation that the Proverbs woman was blessed by her husband because she STFU about the trash and did it herself so he could so something more fun.

    • NeaDods

      “Do something.” Expletive-deleted predictive text…

  • Alexis

    An interesting note about Proverbs 31: in Hebrew it is called ‘A Woman of Valor’. I’m going to bet that Debi isn’t too fond of women posessing ‘bravery in battle or combat’, which is the literal translation.

    Also, in Judaism, this proverb isn’t meant as a guideline or checklist. It’s written in the style of a heroic poem, celebrating the inherent power and valor of every woman. It’s traditionally sung by men on the Sabbath as a way of reminding them and the entire household of the worthiness of their wife/mother/other female figure. The Hebrew, ‘eshet chayil’, is used as a blessing among women in a similar way as ‘girl power’ or ‘you go, girl!’ I really don’t think Debi realizes what a Woman of Valor really is.

    A Woman of Valor challenges those around her to be their best; she doesn’t sit idly by and let people make stupid choices without saying something.

    A Woman of Valor stops people from trying to harm her family and children, even if they are her husband.

    A Woman of Valor is able to go out into the economic sphere and make sound financial choices.

    I really don’t think Debi gets it.

    • tesyaa

      In the observant Jewish world, the Eshet Chayil / Woman of Valor song is sung at the beginning of the Sabbath, after the observant woman has spent a full day or days preparing foods and cleaning the house in honor of the day of rest. In Orthodox circles, it is an acknowledgement of her homemaking efforts, but it is hardly a feminist manifesto.

      • Alexis

        I guess I experienced it differently, being raised in a Conservative Jewish congregation and not an Orthodox one.

      • Rachel Heston-Davis

        Feminist manifesto or not, it sure ain’t what Debi says it is. And really, HOW can Debi be overlooking the fact that the Proverbs 31 woman was CONTRIBUTING FINANCIALLY TO THE HOME?

      • Cathy W

        And yet the mere acknowledgement that preparing the house for the Sabbath is hard work that the rest of the household should appreciate and thank the women for is still dramatically more feminist than anything Debi Pearl has written. It’s a low bar to clear, I know…

      • tesyaa

        Acknowledgement and appreciation is certainly better than nothing :)

    • grindstone

      And more: The part everyone skips, is that this is what his mother told him. It’s what a mother-in-law wants in her daughter-in-law, for her son, King Lemuel. I’m guessing, and this is where I read into the text, that no woman would be good enough for her son.

      • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

        i’ve wondered that, myself :D

      • Cathy W

        Yes! It’s not directed at women in any way, shape, or form. The plain, clear meaning I take away from the text is this: “DUDE. If your family is well-fed, well-dressed, and generally prosperous overall, it is because your wife has been WORKING HER ASS OFF. She is talented and industrious. She spends money wisely. She has good fashion sense. Give her the credit she’s due – at a bare minimum sing her praises to your friends.” Getting that out of it didn’t even require the English-lit-class effort to find the Deep Hidden Meaning; it says all that pretty explicitly….but then I’m an atheist and a feminist, so what could I possibly know about reading the Bible?

  • Lisa

    I want to add something: In P31, it is also mentioned that her children called her blessed. Now, Debi stresses how important it is to stay at home and how terrible your kids will turn out if you work outside the house. So how come the biblical woman has kids who love her for being a strong businesswoman? I mean, after all she seems to work all day, and works somewhere where she doesn’t have THAT much time for the kids (farming, making linen, selling goods at the market, buying things, heck that’s a full day with not much room for the kids!). By Debi’s logic, I’d expect them to say something along the lines of “Her children are spoiled brats who curse at her because she worked outside the house”. Ahhh, don’t you love how some people just ignore things they don’t like?

    • grindstone

      She considers a field and buys it, out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.

      She didn’t ask Michael.
      She didn’t get Michael to co-sign.
      She didn’t use Michael’s money, she used, gasp, her own earnings.
      She has enough guys working for her that she can start a vineyard.

      Oh, and she has servant girls….one assumes she hires someone to take out the trash.

  • http://loosviews.livejournal.com BringTheNoise

    “You’re a bad Christian wife if you’re religious!”
    The rest is horrible as well, but that one really stuck out at me. That’s some IMPRESSIVE cognitive dissonance there.

    • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

      so much freaking cognitive dissonance in those circles, when you get out of them it hurts your head to think about everything clearly. i have to write things down in graphs and charts and pages of freewriting to see what’s actually logical, because once that confusing cognitive dissonance is well into your head, it is hard to shake out.

  • Jurgan

    “If this passage in Proverbs had been written from our modern perspective, it would have extolled her for having a “quiet time” and being a “prayer warrior,” teacher, or counselor. In all the Scriptural profiles of righteous women, including Proverbs 31, no such concepts are ever mentioned.”

    Paraphrased: If only the passage had been written today, I’m sure it would say what I want it to say, not what it actually says. Now let’s go on assuming I know what it really means. This is what they call literalism?

    • Sally

      That was what I was expecting her to say after she said, “if this passage had been written today.” But she actually *didn’t* do that. She went on to write a version that is all wrong in her own eyes. It’s bizarre. She’s basically saying if the Bible were being written today, it would be all screwed up by people who have the wrong idea of spiritual women.
      How can the Bible have been written correctly more than 2,000 years ago correctly in their culture but our culture would screw it up? Wouldn’t God be able to make sure it said the right things in whatever time it was written? (I’m actually a huge skeptic, so I mean that question rhetorically.)

      I hang out on a Christain homeschooling forum where I’ve seen people complain about the screwy theology of the Pearls. Boy were they right!

    • Kate Monster

      “If the Bible was written today, it would say that I’M the perfect woman and the ideal wife! Hooray! Michael, do you cherish me now? Do you? Please?”

  • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

    Hmm, as a Christian I must say you’re much better at explaining proverbs than Debi is. I would even add that if this is fundamentalism and supposed to be ‘staying true to what the bible literally says’ there is some serious cognitive dissonance going on…

    Almost nothing of what you quote has anything to do with the text, which says more like the opposite of what she wants it to say. The question is then where does it come from? And why does she as a woman who should be silent and submissive in her worldview feel the need to write this kind of pseudo-christian rubbish and push it unto others?

    • Rachel Heston-Davis

      Have you read any of the other posts in this series? We have had some spirited discussions on those very same baffling questions. :D My personal theory is that Michael wrote this book to justify his abuse and ordered Debi to affix her name to it.

      • http://bramboniusinenglish.wordpress.com Brambonius

        Did read some of the posts but not all of the comments… Maybe if I find the time I’ll read them all. If I don’t get too angry at the woman (Debi I mean, not Libby)

    • Baby_Raptor

      Libby is doing a deconstruction of the entire book, as I’m sure you gathered by the title. I would highly suggest going back and reading all of them; with just a little reading between the lines, a lot of her motivation becomes evident.

      And both Libby and the commenters have done an awesome job dissecting it.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    “He wanted to hold her just because she was a bundle of delightful joy.”

    A “bundle of joy” is a phrase commonly applied to babies. Which makes sense, as Debi doesn’t seem to see women as grownups, but as children who must always defer to the “adult” (the man).

    • tatortotcassie

      “bundle of delightful joy”
      Yeah, because men hate it when women are bundles of depressing joy. *eyeroll*

    • Hat Stealer

      But Debbi Pearl beats babies…

      Wait…

      • Rilian Sharp

        Michael beats Debi?

      • Whirlwitch

        Yes, he does. This is made fairly clear in her recounting of the trash incident.

  • Parisienne

    I don’t think Debi’s being all that complimentary about men, either, to be honest. She seems to take it for granted that they are lazy slobs who would rather be having a good time than doing their fair share around the home.
    Now I grant that *some* men are like that, but you know what? If I was dating someone who was going to treat me that way, I wouldn’t marry him in the first place. (Methinks we’re back to the story of the trash here…)

    • Ella Warnock

      Something must have been broken about her in the first place to think that kind of behavior was the sign of an ultra-strong, godly, manly man. Her description of the way he acted when they first got together would have had me running for the hills. Or maybe she was just horribly naive. And even if I had done something stupid like marry him, the first time he suggested that I HIT MY BABY to “train him up,” would have been the last time he ever had any parenting input for the rest of that kid’s life.

      • NeaDods

        I think both; she is naive still, and quite likely broken, and had little support from family/friends, because who wouldn’t throw up warning flags at that hasty marriage?

        But more than that… she was in lust. From the beginning she wanted him; her story about how thrilled she was that he touched or noticed her at all shows how much she wanted him. Well, she got him. And guess what; those romantic fantasies didn’t last an hour past the wedding.

      • Shaenon K. Garrity

        She developed a crush on him when she was 13; when he proposed, she was 20 but clearly very inexperienced. It doesn’t seem like she had any idea how a happy adult relationship works, and Michael certainly didn’t want her to find out.

        In my dark little heart I wonder how many random young women in his congregation Michael approached with his oh-so-romantic out-of-the-blue proposal before he found one who thought it was flattering rather than weird.

  • Stev84

    I really have a hard time believing that she takes all that crap seriously. Sometimes I think she just writes some shit because she knows it sells in her circles.

    Or more likely, it’s really her husband being the ghost writer.

  • wanderer

    I know this is the whole point of the book, and of Debi’s life, but I’m finding myself sick to death of being told how much everything in life needs to revolve around men. I feel like screaming “get a fucking LIFE, lady!”

  • Mel

    I’m starting to wonder if the real reason Debi Pearl wrote this book was to convince herself that being married to an emotionally unstable, abusive and severely immature Michael Pearl was part of God’s Plan…..

    • The_L1985

      Yeah. If she weren’t peddling this harmful rubbish to others, I’d have genuine compassion for Debi.

    • http://abasketcase.blogspot.com/ Basketcase

      I’m wondering if Michael wrote it, and just put Debis name on it so it sells better – womanly marriage advice should look like it comes from a woman, after all.
      But then maybe I’m just getting cynical in my old age.

  • The_L1985

    It always amuses me how little the folks who talk about the “Biblical” way of doing things actually know of the Bible.

  • Christine

    Debi does a really good job of making Jezebel sound like someone to aspire to be like.

    I borrowed a friend’s copy of “A Year of Biblical Womanhood” (I should have known better), and I was shocked to discover that Proverbs 31 is taken as a checklist of what to do in some circles. It doesn’t read like one. You need to approach it with the idea that it’s a list of instructions to see it as such, because otherwise it’s very obviously straight-out hyperbole and praise. Despite that, the fact that the acts it praises, and uses to show how great an awesome wife is are very much the acts of a partner show that, to at least one author of the Bible, women acting independently and even *gasp* thinking was considered a good thing.

    • Saraquill

      Yeah, that comparison list did a piss-poor job of making a virtuous woman sound good.

      • sylvia_rachel

        Right?

        She’s supposed to homeschool her kids while being silent and *not* being a teacher? o_O

        Reading down the list again and putting the numbered items side by side this time, I’m now wondering about the juxtaposition of “one who pities” and “encourager” — I think by “pities” she maybe doesn’t mean a woman who feels compassion for / is compassionate towards others *in general*, she means a woman who thinks her husband is pitiable or pathetic — she’s actually going for something more like “contemptuous”, par opposition à “encourager”, a woman who thinks her husband is great and encourages him.

        Which, if you could make the list non-gender-specific and have it go both ways, would be a fine idea (because nobody wants to be married to a person whose chief feeling about them is that they deserve to be pitied). And provided also that a line is drawn somewhere such that spouses aren’t encouraging each other in dangerous, irrational, and/or illegal behaviour.

        It goes without saying, I’m sure, that Debi’s list does not go both ways and does not allow for selective encouragement of only those things it’s actually healthy and helpful to encourage :P

    • Leigha7

      Mmhmm. My version of Christianity (pre-atheism) was largely centered around the ideals of Focus on the Family and a moderately conservative church (women weren’t allowed to speak in church, but were allowed to have jobs and wear pants and nobody had more than 5 children), and Proverbs 31 was treated as a checklist and an admonishment. “This is what the Bible says a virtuous wife is. This is what it takes to have a husband who loves you. You want to be virtuous and loved, right? Then copy this. Be like the Proverbs 31 woman.”

      Even when I believed (almost) everything they taught, I didn’t quite see what they were getting at with that one.

  • Fina

    The whole description in Proverbs 31 reminds me of Katharina of Bora – the wife of Martin Luther (reformation, renouncing the catholic church etc.)
    She managed their whole household on her own, and turned it from “barely above the poverty line” into “one of the wealthiest in town”. She turned their house into a hospice/inn that was frequented by a lot of religious thinkers of the time – current research agrees that that was crucial for the success of the reformation (exchange of minds and all).

    Of course she was also a run-away nun, never hesitated to debate with her husband and got plunged into poverty a while after his death because people didn’t trust a mere woman properly (she always had to make purchases in her husbands name before).

    • Sally

      Interesting. Thanks for sharing this.

  • http://musings.northerngrove.com/ JarredH

    A woman who criticizes her husband for watching too much TV, playing too
    much golf, or indulging in any frivolous activity is expressing
    dishonor.

    Yes, better to dishonor the children who are failing classes because their father is never around to help them with schoolwork by letting them continue to fail. Just to offer one alternative.

    When the relationship is properly balanced, a wife can make an appeal at
    the right time and in the right manner, and it need not be a challenge
    to his authority.

    Why do I get the impression that “the right manner” involves being passive aggressive and other forms of manipulation?

    Men will always want to reclaim those times when love was fun and free, with no demands,

    So men want to continue to act like spoiled and selfish children? Seriously, Debi, you need to start hanging out with a better class of men.

    • Sally

      I feel like we’re reading a novel and the point at which she explains how to make an appeal is going to be the climax.
      I’m on pins and needles.

      • Kate Monster

        Chapter Whatever Number: How to Make an Appeal
        Why are you trying to appeal to your husband? He is the God-ordained head of the family! Maybe you should just do some more chores and silent praying, and THINK about what you’ve [thought about but not actually] DONE, you Jezebel!

  • Bleeb

    Seems as though she is threatened by what it actually says, and wants to explain away the uncomfortable implications.

  • BobaFuct

    “She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands.”

    I hope she didn’t worketh them into the same garment!!! (Leviticus 19:19)

    • Sally

      Excellent point. That’s just crazy talk if she did!

  • Kit

    Does anyone else just really pity Debi at this point?

    I feel sad that she’s never met a man who will look at her as a person. I feel sad that she clearly has never met a man who was self-confident enough not to be “challenged” by a criticism. I feel really sad that she’s clearly never experienced the greatness of a mature relationship which naturally develops after a few years where both of you communicate and work together to get things done. Many hands make light work, and when you work together you get more creative solutions.

    Every time I have to remind myself that she’s peddling this garbage to other people in order to lessen the pity I feel for her.

    • Saraquill

      I would pity her more if she didn’t bully children and other women.

      • LL

        Exactly. She is responsible for profound harm done to children and other women, so I can’t conjure much pity for her, even though I tried.

  • sylvia_rachel

    Wow, that is … that is …

    That is NOT what Eishet Chayil is about. Holy moley, that is some serious reading-your-own-agenda-into-the-text going on there, especially for a self-proclaimed literalist. (I am gradually learning that “biblical literalists” don’t actually take biblical texts any more literally than the rest of us do — they just interpret them from a different angle.)

    • Sally

      Yes, I think they intend to take them literally but then so frequently don’t (because they can’t). It’s intellectually dishonest and a terrible witness, imo. I know many would claim they don’t want to be intellectual at all. Well, OK, then it’s just dishonest.

    • JohnH2

      I find that most literalists don’t read the Bible without having a companion text to go off of. How reading what someone else says about a particular passage is supposed to be a literal reading of a passage is something I haven’t figured out.

  • http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/ lana hobbs

    ugh, the twisting of that passage to make burdens and make it say things it doesn’t remotely say. having had that thrown at me all the time, from everything to controlling my thought like (she does him good and not evil all the days of her life was taken to mean that she doesn’t cheat on him emotionally, even before she met him), the stuff about being productive means she should find a way to make money, only at home and while doing all the other things…. anyways, i blogged some about my frustration and an alternate understanding of the passage as a poem meant to praise women for every day sorts of valor. http://lanahobbs.wordpress.com/2013/04/08/that-proverbs-thirty-one-btch/

  • Jenna

    When my mom read this book, it actually caused some huge problems in her marriage, because instead of talking with my dad about her feelings, she just kept trying to “submit.” So she did things that made her unhappy because she thought he wanted her to, and he couldn’t figure out for the life of him why she was so upset. I didn’t know what was up either until I found this book on her shelf and flipped through it. I told her to throw this load of garbage in the trash! I’m not sure why the Pearls felt the need to spread their weird ideologies to the world.

    • Sally

      Wow, good for you! Did she drop the teachings of the book and get back to normal? Did your dad find out what caused this, and if so, what did he say (if you feel comfortable saying so)?

    • LL

      I’ll bet if Debi got a hold of this information, she’d simply tell your mother that she submitted WRONG. She’s supposed to be genuinely joyful that she is spending her entire life doing things that made her unhappy…

      My mother received a similar book from my godmother (a more Catholic-friendly version, though, I can’t remember what it was now). She packed up some of my books when I was moving and it somehow ended up in my stuff. I found it and immediately called my mom asking why she had such a hideous piece of trash in her book collection and I “hoped to God” – sorry one of my favorite default expressions – she didn’t actually try using it. She said it belonged to my godmother, she never opened it and that she actually wanted it back. My partner and I had hours of fun reading passages to each other before I popped it in the mail.

      About 3 months later, said godmother’s second marriage ended in divorce. She cheated on her first husband and her second husband cheated on her after she refused to leave him when he first wanted a divorce. But she is a “model Catholic woman!” (her own words – literally) and thinks gay marriage is evil and anyone who doesn’t believe in the sanctity of marriage is possessed by demons (again, literally).

      I love irony. It is delicious.

  • Rachel Heston-Davis

    Here are the thoughts I had as I read the excerpts you included:

    The way that women emotionally hurt men is by nagging them about household chores? What?? That’s the hurt to his heart that a man fears when he won’t confide in his wife?

    Having a quiet time and being a prayer warrior are BAD things that God DOESN’T want women to do? They do, in fact, make a woman a JEZEBEL?

    Spiritual women prove they’re spiritual by doing household chores? And having sex? And being fun company? I know a lot of atheist women who do all those things.

    Debi CAN’T talk about the woman’s economic prowess because it would prove that a woman is allowed to make her own decisions, and the man doesn’t rule every moment of her day. (You know what? As per my previous conspiracy theory, let’s just say MICHAEL can’t talk about a woman’s economic prowess, because I pretty much just assume by this point that he wrote the main points of the book).

    “You say that he should model Christ’s love regardless of how she acts…is that what Christ wants?” YES. Debi, you asked it sarcastically, but it was actually the right question!!!

    Jezebels pity other people? Well then Debi is the least Jezebel-like person I know, because she pities no one, not even the abused women who read her book.

    • NeaDods

      “The way that women emotionally hurt men is by nagging them about household chores? What??”

      $5 says that’s how Michael said she hurt his fee-fees when she asked him to take out the trash.

    • Whirlwitch

      “You say that he should model Christ’s love regardless of how she acts…is that what Christ wants?”

      That’s what Christ explicitly said he wanted, multiple times in the NT. I am maybe just being a poor wicked woman here, but if you’re going to call yourself a Christian, as Debi does, and uphold the Bible as your holy book, as I confidently presume she claims to, shouldn’t the actual words of Christ from said book be important to you? Like in the Bibles where all the words of Jesus were in red, to make them stand out.

      I think Debi wouldn’t know what Christ wanted if it honked her nose and took out the trash.

  • Whirlwitch

    Proverbs 31:17 ” She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms.”

    Proverbs 31:25 ” Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come.”

    Strength is mentioned as a desirable attribute three times in two short sentences there. Debi spends the whole book trying to convince women that strength is unladylike and men don’t like strong women. I’m assuming she’d deflect the dissonance by explaining that being so consistently submissive that you ignore your own wants, needs, opinions, personality and so forth is in fact a sign of strength. But absolutely nowhere in the Bible does the word “strength” mean this. The verses I quote are using the same language around strength that is used for men.

    From Wikipedia: “The term “gird one’s loins” was used in the Roman Era
    meaning to pull up and tie one’s lower garments between one’s legs to
    increase one’s mobility in battle.” This phrase is used elsewhere in the Bible for men, in just the way the Wikipedia quote mentions. Strength or power to the arm is also a phrase used for men, and for God himself in Psalm 89:13. Proverbs 31:17 uses both of these. The strength this woman is being praised for is not a uniquely feminine variant.

  • Kate Monster

    If they could program that Asimo robot with a girlie giggle and a perpetual uterus machine, I’m pretty sure the Pearls would be selling them as Ideal Christian Wives.

    • sylvia_rachel

      They probably think The Stepford Wives is a utopian fantasy instead of a dystopian one …

  • Arresi

    I’m gaping. I mean, I’m reading Proverbs 31 right now, and I’m pretty the woman it’s describing is a good businesswoman, who works hard and makes sure her family, employees, and the poor are taken care of. I mean, it’s an ideal, so of course as well as being hard-working, good at trade, and charitable, she’s also strong, honorable/dignified, good-humored, wise, and apparently is big on the “law of kindness” (given that particular line is also translated as “faithful instruction,” I’d bet that mostly means she tells other people to follow the golden rule).

    And let’s not even mention that fantastic prologue: “Stop drinking and partying, son. Your job is to take care of the poor, persecuted, and oppressed. And don’t even think about judging them for drinking – they’ve got actual problems, and deserve a little pleasure.” I’d say the queen mother is advising him to marry someone who can provide for him and his family and has a great reputation throughout the city/country, so that he can focus on being a good judge and passing laws on behalf of the poor, and not have to hustle for money or popular support. And it’s not exactly bad advice, either – the Proverbs 31 woman is about as close to an ideal First Lady as can be imagined. (Of course, I’d say that it works equally well gender-flipped.)

  • Baby_Raptor

    I cannot help but compare my own relationship to what she says in this book. It is usually a complete opposite.

    My boyfriend and I have been together 2 years come October, and recently went through a small break-up. This came out of nowhere, and lasted about a week. Boyfriend then came back in tears, apologizing and explaining that said break made him realize that he had been scapegoating me with all the recent stress in his life and that not having me around was denying him what was holding him together. I can only imagine what Debi would have to say about this.

    Oh, and as to “men won’t cherish women who express displeasure with them”…I’ve been ragging on Dear Boyfriend to shave the small animal he has growing on his face for almost two months. Can’t stand it. That didn’t stop him from considering me his rock.

    I can only imagine what life with Michael must be like.

  • Mogg

    How on earth does “She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness” mean that a virtuous woman is silent?! And how is wisdom expressed in a way that is not counsel or teaching, if she’s not allowed to be a counsellor or teacher? Does she just emanate wisdom like magical breath or something? (Ew!)

    • CarysBirch

      I’m guessing she translates “opens her mouth with wisdom” to mean “knows when to keep her mouth shut” and then just applies her own standards to it: when does Debi think it’s wise for a woman to keep quiet? Always!

  • ako

    You say that he should model Christ’s love regardless of how she acts.
    Is that what you want? Is that what Christ wants? Do you want your
    husband to be forced to seek supernatural power just to find a way to
    love you? Do you want to be another of his trials—his greatest example
    of overcoming adversity?

    Debi tells a wife to ask nothing of her husband and model Christ’s love regardless of how he acts. Is that what he’s supposed to want? Are husbands supposed to want wives forced to seek supernatural power just to find ways to love them? Are husbands supposed to be happy to be another of their wives trials – their greatest example of overcoming adversity? Because everything she’s recommending involves pushing wives into a position where they can’t have their feelings taken into consideration (even if the husband wants to treat his wife considerately, it’s not like he has much of a chance to get around the lack of communication), and have to rely on a sense of spiritual obligation to get through day after day of endless household chores, feigned cheerfulness, and obligatory sex.

    • sylvia_rachel

      You know, when you put it like that, it doesn’t sound very attractive.

      Oh wait … it already didn’t. :P

  • http://tellmewhytheworldisweird.blogspot.com/ perfectnumber628

    I remember for so long I didn’t want to read Proverbs 31 because people at church always talked about how it’s about “being a good wife” and I figured it would say how much the “good wife” submits to her husband and all that stuff… but then I finally read it and I was shocked! I was like, wow she is a freakin’ entrepreneur! So strong and independent! And the husband is only mentioned maybe once or twice in the whole passage.

  • c

    I don’t even know WHERE to begin with Debi…normally my first response to her teachings is anger and indignation, but it actually broke my heart a little when I read the quote that said:

    You say that he should model Christ’s love regardless of how she acts.
    Is that what you want? Is that what Christ wants? Do you want your
    husband to be forced to seek supernatural power just to find a way to
    love you?

    YES, yes this is what I want and what Christ wants! This is in fact the very definition of marriage and human relationships according to my Christian faith. The Bible demands a radical kind of love for one another: that we love our enemies, that we pray for those who persecute us, that we turn the other cheek, that we submit to one another in love, that a wife respects her husband, that a husband love his wife as Christ loved the church, that we lay down our lives for our friends because there is no greater love. This kind of sacrificial love is a Herculean task that can only be done with supernatural power. There is no other way to achieve the patience, selflessness and compassion to love each other in this way. Christian marriage is a testimony and a picture to the world of how God loves us–it’s highly unusual for two people to say “I’m with you forever, no matter what, for better or for worse…” and so marriage can be a beautiful picture of joy through sacrifice.

    But then again, Debi doesn’t even hold Christian marriage to these standards. Divorce seems to be always an option for a Godly man when his wife isn’t fun and playful enough. Aggggggh……

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001411188910 Lucreza Borgia

      Love without respect means nothing.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        ^^ I was going to type out something long and probably overly verbose, but you caught the essence of what I wanted to say. Wives love and respect husbands, and husbands love and respect wives. Both people need both.

      • C

        Oh believe me, I agree. I’m just saying that even if you read some of the New Testament passages as directives about how wives should treat their husbands and vice versa (as many from Debi’s camp would, and not as directives towardboth spouses/all people) both parties need supernatural help to honor each other in marriage.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Why? Why are we incapable of love, respect, honor, and mutually helping each other (codependence but not in a bad way) without some sort of supernatural aid? That’s the part that doesn’t make any sense to me.

      • c

        I see that– I don’t think people are incapable of love without supernatural aid, but I think God asks a lot of Christians but promises to give them grace to achieve what he requires. From the standpoint of Christian beliefs, Debi is so far away from what the Bible actually says.

      • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

        Well, I agree with you on the Debi part anyways! She (or Michael talking through her like a puppet) is very good at completely misreading and twisting Bible verses.

      • C

        Yeah I didn’t mean to step on any toes, I think we are all here because we agree on the Debi part! This book is abominable.

  • LizPage

    I just recently discovered your blog and I’m really enjoying it. It is ridiculous that Debi contrasts being religious/spiritual with being a hard, prudent worker. What about the New Testament story where Jesus praised Mary for sitting and talking with him while her sister Martha scurried around making lunch. He flat out said that Mary made the better choice.

  • able

    how many of you women are happy fighting with their husbands all the time, you go on and pitch it, “I am your fucking equal”, man is not wanting another “man”, he wants a woman. comparing man and woman for equality is like comparing apple and orange, they are different. there is something a man can do, he is designed for it and there is something only a woman can do. we are made different for a reason like ying/yang complements, when women take up the role of a man, viola all hell is loose. There are verses in the Bible on how a man should treat his wife and vice versa, it helps in a harmonious family life. well, if you dont any of these teachings, well you are free to screw up your life…

    • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

      Lived experience says you’re wrong. I’ve never met a man who wants a doormat, and I’d be a very bad doormat anyways. I have opinions, I express them, and I expect to be taken seriously. I’m very smart and educated, and I’m not going to pretend otherwise to stroke some guy’s ego. The only thing I can do that guys can’t is have babies and bleed out my crotch once a month. The only thing guys can do that I can’t is piss standing up.

    • Mogg

      I wouldn’t know – my partner and I don’t fight. We haven’t gotten around to it yet – we’re too busy being two unique but equal individuals with different abilities, preferences and desires who are in a loving relationship. Our roles have nothing to do with gender, and everything to do with what needs to be done, what we want together and as individuals, and who is better or able at what. That may mean that he cooks muffins on a Saturday afternoon before servicing the car, or I mow the lawn and pay the electricity bill before stacking the dishwasher. Neither of us use our genitalia for those tasks, and there have been no reports of Hell breaking out or lives being screwed up in our general vicinity.

      On the other hand, my sister who is in a biblical (for one interpretation of biblical) “man is the head, woman submits” marriage fights with her husband all the time.

    • NeaDods

      man is not wanting another “man”

      I know a lot of men who would disagree with that statement…

  • Sean Moneyperson

    I know I’m coming to this a bit late, but does anybody else find “bundle of joy” to be a fucking creepy way of describing an adult woman? I’m pretty sure I’ve only ever heard that used to describe infants before.

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